Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
27th March 2010
Over the White Mounth and Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach
After an early start from Aberdeen I arrived at the car park in Glen Muick at around 7.30am. I enjoyed a brew and a Danish pastry while preparing my pack for the long day ahead. The hills appeared to be shedding their recently complete snow covering and patches of heathery hillside were breaking through so I decided to leave my snow shoes behind; inevitably a decision I would regret on occasion sometime later. Hopping onto my bike I headed for the shores of Loch Muick and the good track down its north bank. It was fairly windy even here but deep blue skies and splendid sunshine made for a fine start to the day. One or two remnants of snow drifts had to be avoided as I cycled along the track but I was soon at the west end of the Loch. After passing through the pine trees and past the lodge at Glas Allt Shiel I left the bike behind and followed the rising path that breaks away from the loch circuit to head up toward Dubh Loch. A short rainbow illuminated the glen as a sudden light shower preceded grey clouds rolling in on the strong wind. Rays of sunlight occasionally succeeded in breaking through to bounce off the dark cliffs of Creag an Dubh loch.
Creag an Dubh Loch
The loch itself was almost completely covered in layers of ice and snow; there was just a small break in the cover near the lochs outflow. After dropping to the shore to get a couple of photos I cut back on myself slightly taking a shallow rise over the heather up the hillside and onto the ridgeline above the loch.
Creag an Dubh Loch
The gradient increased as I followed a feint path up through the now boulder strewn slopes. I tried my best to close in on some Mountain Hares but they always managed to keep a good distance ahead. They would sit side on as I closed the gap apparently unconcerned before hopping off up and out of sight. On reaching the top of eagles rock I strayed over toward the edge to take a look down on Dubh Loch but kept within the confines of the granite rocks wary of the snowy precipice beyond.
Creag an Dubh Loch from Eagles rock
As I stood admiring the views a flash of white caught my eye as a Ptarmigan Hen sort better cover away from my side. She didn't move very far and kindly kept position as I crept around gingerly taking some pictures. The strong wind didn't help when trying to keep my camera still but may have contributed in the hens decision to stay within the confines of the stones.
All around green lichen covered granite was interlaced by snow and ice giving a nice contrast to some of the dark clouds above. I moved away leaving the Ptarmigan in peace and made my way around Coire Bhoidheach heading onto the rounded ridge that runs south east ridge from the Stuic. Before me was a spectacular vast white plateau, seemingly flat but whose contours and undulations were occasionally highlighted as shadows were cast by the racing dark clouds above. There was hardly a blemish in the cover, just the occasional rock braking through the firm white crust.
Lochnagar from the White Mounth
The walking was easy although the cold wind had me dipping into my rucksack for an extra layer. The fine views I had enjoyed a couple of weeks back of Lochnagars western cliffs now came into view. My vantage point this time was from above the Stuic rather than from the base of this fine buttress.
The winds had stripped away sections of snow to reveal some slippy ice glazed surfaces but there was still enough firm footing to allow steady progress as I gained cover behind some boulders. I was glad to be out of the wind enjoying one of the few places on the walk that would afford some shelter. After tea, a sandwich and some fruit loaf I headed over to the top of Carn a' Choire Bhiodheach. I had just reached the Cairn when a snow shower brought the visibility down to a few meters. After returning to near my lunch spot I weighed up my options; continue around my intended circuit or head down out of the mist. Increasing visibility, although maybe temporary, persuaded me to go on, I still had plenty of time and wanted to make the most of the day. Keeping near the corrie edge I dropped down and onto Carn an t-Sagairt Beag as the snow occasionally gave way to grass. I had a chat with a couple of snow boarders as they passed en route to Lochnagar; we didn’t linger as it was too cold to be stood for long.
Snow boarders on the way to Lochnagar
My progress however was halted again shortly after as I spotted three more Ptarmigan, a Hen and two Cocks with impressive red eyeliner! Soft snowy slopes lead to a bealach before more slushy slopes made the short climb onto Carn an t-Sagairt Mor a bit of an effort.
A couple of walkers appeared so I paused at the top for another quick chat before they headed off to find some cover to take lunch. I was now on my inward leg as I headed off toward Cairn Bannoch.
Dubh Loch from Carn an t-Sagairt Mor
Being at a lower elevation than the White Mounth the snow cover was now less supportive in places. I'm not sure if it was harder work when every foot step was into soft snow or when one leg disappeared just occasionally and unexpectedly. It was at this point as the hard work continued that I was wishing I had brought my snow shoes. I took another break on the rocky top of Cairn Bannoch topping up my energy levels with some more fruit loaf. I followed and stepped into the line of another walkers footprints as I headed for my final top, Broad Cairn. Although my predecessors boots had made fair imprints following in them certainly didn't give rise to that sinking feeling I had earlier. The far side of Broad Cairn presented less snow cover and I picked my way easily through the boulders and the onto a broad level ridge. Almost sliding down through the last snowy section I was soon at the animal shelter and the top of the path that leads steeply down to Loch Muick. I then traced the loch shore back around to Glas Alt Shiel and my bike before I enjoyed a swift wind assisted return along the length of loch Muick.
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