Lochnagar

My first outing of 2018 – a winter sortie up Lochnagar, a traditional Cairngorm Club January trip. It’s generally a popular one, a larger coach than normal today over 20 folk involved.

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Forecast is excellent – great visibility and blue skies all day, albeit at the expense of biting cold. On arrival in the car park, vehicle thermometers are reporting minus 9. The light looks great just before sunrise with pink and blue.

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The temperature reading is -9c. Going to be a cold day out. Making our way down to the Glen the first rays of the day are striking the top of the hills

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Making our way across Glen Muick we scatter a deer back into the forest

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Leaving the forest and we get a better idea of snow coverage, along the trail it’s about 6″ to a foot and well trodden already, there’s already a stream of folk in front and behind us.

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I crack on ahead of the main body of the party, they’ll soon catch up as I take a few photos.

I end up chatting to a nice chap heading up to Conachcraig, he’ll get a great view from there today.

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The moon is right in front and I notice it’s setting, and heading towards Lochnagar’s rim peeping over the surroundings

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I wait at the turn off left and just as the rest of the party arrive I get a long zoom shot of the moon setting behind the crags, lucky timing. I climb a bit higher and the snow is way deeper off path in places; right up to my thighs.

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Here comes the rest of the crew

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Quick cuppa n snack

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The snow has been been blown into some interesting patterns

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Lots of folk tramping up to meikle pap

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At the saddle after the stairs I get the classic view, though with the sun low it’s mostly in shade. The wind is funnelling through here and is biting so don’t hang about too long

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I’m tempted to go up meikle pap for an elevated view and bimble around the tors, but on short winter days need to crack on

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A few folk have headed down and around the lochan to try the ascent via the black spout. I’m half tempted but it looks avalanchy; I’ll stick with the regular route. Garry the party leader comes up the steps

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Heading upwards again

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Over the boulders

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Almost up

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Up on top looking down into the corrie

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The wind is really biting now up here, mask and goggles on – any exposed flesh is stinging with the cold. If we take the starting point of -9c, then use the altitude approximation of losing 0.6 per 100m ascent, this gives maybe -13, then with wind chill it’s below -15. It’s certainly the coldest I’ve felt skin wise in memory before donning the mask n goggles. I’m reasonably snug on legs n body; on the legs burly decathlon softshell trousers over a base, top: merino base, fleece, lowe alpine frozen sun polartec alpha jacket. I’ve a berghaus extrem 7000 belay in the rucksack as while this is fine on the move, it won’t be enough at rest.

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Looking SW as we make our way up past central buttress.

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I love to go where

glowing rows of sky

and seas of snow

flow as far as the eye can see

in hues of blue

and gold to indigo

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Final bit of lumpy climbing

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And looking back to the corrie

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Past the cairn on Cac Carn Mor, spindrift whipping along the ground

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Frosty

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The peak at Cac Carn Beag looks like an anthill with hikers swarming over it

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A wee look over the edge of the spout, not too close one never knows how stable the snow overhanging bits are

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Almost up at the top

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Trig point at today’s highest point, 1155m

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Cold face. On with the berghaus puffa

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Up on top of the mound, everybody seems to have disappeared but are huddled down like penguins on the lee side.

I’ve not followed my own tip to pack my lunch close to body,  so it’s some pretty ice chilled sandwiches. Where’s Garry with his mulled wine when you need him? My fingers are going numb even with liners still on, so can’t hang about.

Quick look West

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A lot of the party are deciding against the planned second leg down to Glas Allt and along the loch, and heading back the same way. We press on, I’m keen to see the waterfall and the loch.

The snow heading down here is a lot deeper; we make good progress but expend a fair bit of energy wading through it. Snow shoes would have made short work of this.

Down at the burn curves and blobs of snow ice and water

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The waterfall – the patches of snow and rock make for a busy picture. I don’t have a grad filter to try and extend the exposure, but press my goggles into service which allow a longer exposure but soften the result and throw the colour all over, ach well; the phone pano turns out best.

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My companions had headed onwards reckoning we’re running short of time and wouldn’t make the agreed 4pm bus time, I’ve dallied with the camera and will need to make up time.

Quick look back, a few we passed earlier now making their way down

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The steep wee path down to the loch is icey in places where water has flowed over and not a place to rush

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Overlooking the loch

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Back along the loch I shed layers and half n half run/fast walk, tough going with a heavy winter pack, and the La Sportiva Trango boots

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Past the boat house still a fair bit to go..

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A last snap as the sunset dwindles

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As it turns out my mad dash has been pointless as there are still others out on the hill and overdue; nonetheless good exercise in heavy gear. The La sportivas have done a good job, feet are fine despite today’s exertions.

We regroup in Banchory for high tea. Feeling quite tired I have a pint of coke to get a bit of caffeine and sugar, but naturally round the day off with a pint of Arran gold; a bit flat and old-school real aley. A big haddock n chips, followed by cakes, scones n coffee replaces the many calories burned today.

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