Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
15th February 2009
A hard trudge through soft snow to gain the top of the spectacular corries of dark Lochnagar
Some of the stags in Glen Muick were just starting to move around as I neared the car park at the end of the single track road. The bluish early morning light was now turning into a world of black and white (and grey). It was just above freezing but felt relatively balmy after two weeks cold weather and sub-zero starts to the day. The warmer conditions proved to be a bit of a misgiving as I headed out from the Spittal of Glenmuick. The snow was soft and unsupportive and each step found an uncertain landing. It had penetrated the canopy of the wood at the foot of Canachcraig but a narrow runnel of a path gave slightly firmer footing.
Stags in the early morning at Loch Muick
This only proved to be a short intermission as the track following Allt na-guibhsaich was tough going and I had to keep to the edges to stop sinking knee deep into the white stuff. I started to try and occupy my mind with something other than the effort it was taking to climb the path. However my thoughts strayed toward the fact that a pair of snow shoes would have made things so much easier. But then I was trying to figure out why the hell I hadn't brought them! I guess I thought that with the recent cold snap the ground would be a lot more stable.
Toward Loch Muick
Reaching the bealach between Lochnagar and Meikle Pap I was greeted with a face full of ice particles blown with some force by a strong wind. The heavy gusts had stripped the surface down to a vanier of ice in places and I had to pick my way round them as I ventured toward the top of Meikle Pap.
The summit boulders were perfectly glazed in places, green lichen on the rock surface appeared behind a glassy sheen.
Lochnagar from Meikle Pap
I returned to the bealach and then headed up the "Staircase" toward the summit plateau of Lochnagar. After managing to kick steps into the icy surface for a little while I decided to stop and don crampons. I first put on an extra layer while trying not to loose things in the strong wind. The better grip now improved my route options but the wind forced me a little way from the cliff edge, which was just as well as there were some substantial cornices on view.
The plateau had a good covering of snow but I decided to leave my crampons in place just in case. I was enjoying looking at the spectacular corrie head walls and sheer cliffs although the mist came down for brief periods turning the world white on all sides. After gaining the top of Cac Carn Beag it was time to dig myself in and enjoy a warm brew and a bite to eat. A guy from Glasgow joined me for a while, he had taken a more adventurous approach and come up via one of the gully's. He was soon up and on his way and I watched him traverse around the cliff edge as I packed my things before following on.
Wandering around the Corrie head of Lochnagar
I decided to take the usual route down by following the Glas Alt. By traversing the side of Cuidhe Crom I thought that the hillside would hold less deep snow than the Glen below. This proved to be the case to start with but I was soon up to my knee's again. The way ahead looked a bit boulder strewn so with a clear run downward I decided to attempt a bit of Glissading. I had to paddle with my hands to gain some momentum but with the snow building in front it was hardly an effortless decent. It was however easier going than trudging along and made for an entertaining break. Once down near the burn it was then a case of plodding along trying to find as firmer ground as possible. It was hard going and any rhythm gained was occasionally interrupted by a lurch to the side as one leg disappeared to the hip. A struggle to extract myself was then followed by brushing off excess snow and so it continued.
Loch Muick viewed from above Glas Allt Shiel
Eventually I was down at Loch Muick but only after negotiating the narrow and testing path around the waterfall above Glas Alt Shiel. The good track along the side of the loch was of course still covered in slush and so the hard work continued all the way back to the car park.
Looking toward the head of Loch Muick
There was however some good views to be enjoyed along the length of the loch especially near its outflow. The world still appeared in monochrome and the waters looked cold and dark but were contrasted by the white streaked hillsides at the far end. Oh joy, back at the car and removing my boots was heaven. I followed this pleasure with a mug of hot chocolate and could feel that the exertions of the day were already receding. It had been a while since I'd had such a hard day in the hills and it will probably be a few days before the aches go away, but no doubt by next weekend I'll be rearing to go again!
Top Of Page
© 2007-2008 Paul Sammonds. Template Design by Andreas Viklund.