Lochnagar to Dubh Lochhike

With Aberdeen Hillwalkers returning to Glen Muick there was a choice of a number of routes, and I’d pondered whether it was time to head around the White Mounth circuit of 5 munros again, the last time being a grim day of rain. The forecast the evening before wasn’t promising: warm, and no chance of rain, but very high wind.

Through the trees, swooshing with wind above
Getting near Meikle Pap, stopped and chatted to a few coming down

I decided on a curtailed route of the first 3, then I’d head down for a sheltered and scenic return via Dubh Loch. Shorts and trail trainers were the order of the day for a ‘fast and light’ hike in the heat and distance. As I headed up towards Clais Rathadan, I passed lots of walkers coming down early: a bad sign and I chatted to a few, all with the same tale of getting to the bealach/ladder above the lochan and nearly getting blown away. I continued onwards and would see what could be done; maybe head up the NE ridge, perhaps even around to the NW side. If all else failed I’d take the Monelpie Moss path around to Little Pap and forego any higher activity.

Before the Meikle Pap col I stopped to ‘batten down the hatches’ before entering the full force of wind fury. Baseball cap was stashed (no way it’d stay on and not be lost) windproof jacket on (suspected that although warm there’d be enough windchill and that putting on/off gear would be difficult, ate and drank.

I headed to take a snap of the lochan, then made for the ‘ladder’ and the buffeting was intense, very turbulent and heading right across the ladder’s prominence over the lochan; there was definite danger of getting tumbled into the boulders. I doubted that the NE ridge would fare any better and didn’t fancy it’s steepness exposed to this. I could however see 2 folk on the skyline further left away from the usual path. I decided to contour up gradually off-path, carefully threading through boulders and vegetation and after a few 100m traverse from the ladder the extra distance had diminished the turbulence enough to make it a goer.

Quick view of lochan barely able to hold camera steady

On to the plateau and the moment of truth as to whether a retreat was needed: After venturing forward along a slight dip, I thought it was difficult but manageable: the wind was more a constant blow rather than wildly fluctuating. I headed onward keeping well away from the corrie and staying in the ‘steady state’ wind. A useful lesson in the dynamics of wind and how it behaves due to terrain in it’s path.

At the very top, the wind was violent and I met the two folk who I’d seen earlier, two runners who’d also thought to do the 5 circuit but were now having doubts. They headed off, one getting blown over, a reminder to stay on ‘fallable’ terrain (grass, heather) in such conditions and stay off of ‘ouchy’ stuff (boulders) when possible. I carefully descended from the indicator. Nobody else was visible on the plateau.

Cac Carn Mor whistling with the storm
Careful clamber up the last few lumps
Classic view snap and quickly heading on to get lower

I had a look towards The Stuic, then ‘short-cutted’ the corner to Carn a Coire Bhoidheach (bad idea: boggy tussocky: stay on the path). I decided against Carn an t-Sagairt Mor thinking my available time better spent exploring spots in Dubh Loch glen. Another short-cut contouring around the southern slope of Bhoidheach was more successful, mostly avoiding the boggy terrain below before joining the Allt an Dubh Loch.

Loch nan Eun and The Stuic
Carn a Coire Bhoidheach
Threading through rocks and rivulets down to Allt an Dubh Loch. Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn behind not getting visited today
Dubh Loch sitting between Creag an Dubh-Loch and Eagles Rock
Lunch view by the slabs
One day I’ll explore under the waterfall, will require a swim through the pool
It seems to go back further than the top of the falls would suggest, there’s white water from some ‘inner waterfall’

After exploring for a camp spot in the area (future plans for winter) I found a lovely spot for lunch in the sun with the water tumbling over the slabs, looking down to Dubh Loch and with the impressive crags left and right, it’s a cracking scene. I watched somebody unusually scrambling up the left (ranger surveying?) and a family ambled past asking for an easy way to cross the stream to get to Creag an Dubh-Loch, probably looking to reach Cairn Bannoch and somewhat misplacing it. Two of the club walkers came down from said hill and I joined them in descent.

More slabs further down
Young hare hiding but keeping an eye on me
Dark crags

The wind whipped spray over the loch and towards the end where the terrain made a throat the wind whipped past again. I had a look at my potential paddle pool hidden behind a hillock near The Stulan, It’s pretty deep, I couldn’t see the bottom. The second pair of sunglasses lost this year were likely laid down temporarily here and forgotten, glad I only buy cheap ones.

Rippled loch with spray whipping over the water
The Stulan
Loch Muick in sight

At Loch Muick hordes of strollers were enjoying the sun, with the wind not intruding rudely lower down. We headed along the south shore. I wanted to see the path repair that The Cairngorm Club had donated thousands for (and received no thanks either, I’d been against sending money to an ultra-rich estate with no need of it, but it had went ahead).

west end loch view
A zoom back to Broad Cairn
south side path
I think this is the path repair

The southern path is lumpier and slower but less of a ‘road trudge’ than the north side. I was glad I’d worn trainers to today, the feet would have been hot and throbbing by this point in boots.

Lumpy in places compared to the smooth road on the other side
Zoom to Falls of Glas Allt
Zoom to zig-zag ‘path’ and Allt an Dearg gully to be explored in future

I took a slight detour to nosey the boat house on this side and look inside, and also through the larch wood nearby, hoping for but not finding any bolete mushrooms.

South side boat house
It’s all locked off behind gratings. Boat inside
Boat house built by Gurkhas. It’s operated by Ballater Angling club
The stand of larch is dying out: there are no successional young trees due to the high deer density here. Each years more of the old larches succumb to storms
Sparkling Loch Muick with Broad Cairn distant
Lenticular cloud forming above Lochnagar as the temperature (and dew point) begins to fall?

Everybody was back at the bus in good time, some of those doing shorter options having baked in the sun for some time. A cold pint in Ballater was most welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *