Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
13th March 2010
A trip by snow shoe into Coire Lochan nan Uan below the Stuic buttress.
We headed out from the car park at Keilloch across the main road to ford the river Dee via Invercauld bridge. The main track into Ballochbuie forest was relatively clear but we were soon travelling along a snowier route as we headed deeper through the trees and it wasnít too long before we decided that our way would be eased by the use of our snow shoes. A little further on we arrived at a crossroads and choose a right turn which accidently took us on a more circuitous route than originally planned. Our white walkway took us on a very pleasant meander through the tall pines and it was only after a little while that we realised our error. The view up the glen was not quite as expected and when we came upon a small Norwegian style log cabin pleasantly situated on the edge of what appeared to be a small frozen lochan we knew we had detoured.
Glenbeg, Ballochbuie Forest
There are two maps required for this walk, the major part of the walk on the map I had brought but of course our current position was just off this one and on the map that I had left in the car, doh! We didnít consider this a problem but it would have been nice to confirm that our decision to carry on would eventually lead us back round onto our intended route. After a while our path started to descend so we decided that a short cut was in order; the good snow cover allowed us to cut easily across the hillside between the trees and onto our intended track. There was still some climbing to do before we eventually broke out of the trees and onto more open hillside. The plentiful grouse could be heard calling as they frequently shifted their position on the heathery moorland. Occasionally we could see them land on open patches of snow before, after a little hesitation, realise their exposure and scurry off into the nearest patch of heather. We took a little break at a small corrugated shed and firmed up our next plan of action. I took the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the hillside behind the shelter trying to capture mountain hare or grouse with my camera; I just managed a quick shot as a hare broke cover.
The panorama laid out before us was stunning, smooth broad snowy slopes lead on up between the hills into Coire nan lochan Uan, while Lochnagar with its steep cliffs towered at its head as large white clouds rushed at speed across deep blue skies. The burn beside the track, normally crossed on stepping stones, was completely filled with snow so I had to wander downstream a little way before filling my water bottle. The firm ground made pleasant going as we shooed our way upwards into the corrie.
En Route to Coire Lochan nan Eun
The route up here usually traces the Allt Lochan nan Uan but like most of the countryside this was also buried. Sandy loch came into view, or at least a depression in the snow that gave a way it position. The only break in the white carpet was a small section of water at the outflow from the loch.
Sandy Loch and Lochnagar
We continued on up into the corrie toward the bottom of the Stuic buttress. This can provide an entertaining scramble up onto the summit plateau but would be quite a serious undertaking under the current winter conditions. The wind was fairly whipping through the upper corrie so we dropped to the leeward side of the buttress onto the edge of Lochan nan Uan. We sheltered here as best we could while we had a bite to eat and a warming drink.
I ventured back out into the strong icy wind to see if I could locate the small group of Ptarmigan we had spotted earlier. I found them nibbling at some exposed heather in between the granite boulders. It was hard work keeping the camera still and blurred watery vision wasnít helping either. I managed to get a few shots but struggled to get in close, the birds always edging away as I closed in. They were also having trouble moving about in the strong wind, occasionally being blown backward as they tried to grip the frozen ground.
Leaving them in peace I returned to our lunch spot to thaw out after albeit brief but biting exposure to the elements. Packing are bags we decided to retrace or inward path, following the tracks left by our snow shoes the strong wind having dissuaded us from venturing higher up onto Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach.
Coire Lochan nan Eun
We were grateful to leave the cool shade of the cliffs; the wind also dropped significantly as we made our way onto the broad slopes below Sandy loch. A group of skiers passed slightly higher up the slopes as we made our descent back to the path next to Feindallacher burn. We paused for a snack at the shelter near the burn before making the long descent back through the forest to the car. A fine day was rounded off nicely with a meal and a glass of wine at Ann and John's on the way back.
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