The year got under way with the annual Cairngorm Club trip to Lochnagar, and our coach (half capacity for social distance) disembarked in the slippery car park into a perfect winter morning. Various people had travelled by car and once organised we set off, faces to the alpenglow.
We’d lucked out with conditions: recent snowfall repairing a patchy snowscape degraded by the warmest start to the year, and the forecast was for only a mild breeze.
The first obstacle to the 16 or so of us heading for the top, the ford across the Allt na Giubhsaich, was treacherous with ice on the stepping-stones: the key is to not go for boulders proud of the surface but choose those just under which hold no ice.
The snow on the track heading up to Clais Rathadan was spot on: this high-volume path soon turns to trodden ice but at this point was still gripworthy
A break was taken at the turn-off, but myself and a few other pressed on to take in Meikle Pap as a small addition to the route
We headed up to the tors to have a clamber and then savour the view back
We headed down to join the rest who had now caught up and we set off up the ladder, intermingled with others also out ascending, and a few early birds coming back down who must have climbed up in darkness
Up on to the plateau, the wind picked up but not too bad, no need for goggles or a buff over the face, I guessed a windchill of around -10
We made our way around the corrie and I could hear sounds from below: climbers out on the crags. Above black spout, what looked like it maybe skiers investigated the entry past the huge cornice
Our large troop made for the top before hogging the space for lunch. The last time we did this the windchill was ferocious and soon drove us on, but today we measured -12c which was OK and was no match for my Bergans Sastrugi jacket. It would have been doubly so if I’d not forgotten my flask of hot chocolate which at this moment was forlorn back in my kitchen. Ach, there’s always something.
I was going to take a photo of the indicator: laid by the club in 1924, and being a bit rough around the edges, and heading towards the 100th anniversary, we had thought of possibly renewing it. Buried under a thick layer of frost it escaped inspection today.
Discussion ensued about the way down: Ken planted the seed of an idea to go explore an irregular way along a rarely visited ridge. I had pondered a solo blast over to the previous snowhole location, but this was a useful compromise. A few rebels committed, while the majority stuck to the normal Glas Allt path.
I had tried to pull the bearing of the group slightly south to get eyes on the snowhole gully, before the group resisted any further deviation away from a target of Creag a Glas-uillt
I thought this was the snowhole gully but mistaken by the gentle white curves: instead another promising area for such activity: Coire Boidheach
Once correctly reorientated on the map further on I could see some of Coire an Loch Bhuidhe, and it too was gathering snow depth.
Across the Loch Muick / Dubh loch glen, I could hear rotors and a rescue helicopter was on the move, hopefully nothing serious.
The clouds over there seemed to be drifting over the ground, I almost wished for stronger wind so that I could get a carpet of spindrift passing which is always a magical sight.
The downslope of the ridge was a boulder field mostly, but held some angular attraction to the eye if not the feet, coupling blown snow and a low sun.
Occasionally deeper drifts brought short spells of post-holing
We headed off the side down to the burn beside the footbridge where we’d seen the main group proceed slightly ahead of us, they’d encountered deeper snow which was fortunately fairly well trodden along the path.
Once past the waterfall the path was at it’s iciest and all told the microspikes should have went on (carried both crampons and those today) as I teetered carefully along the path high above the burn.
A short break was taken loch-side rather than in the bothy. My feet, unaccustomed to the stiff winter boots, were beginning to throb, but Loch Muick track must be trudged.
We reached the coach at a quite reasonable time and all accounted for , headed off to Aboyne for a meal, a beer and ‘high tea’, all calories well accounted for.