Sivvy ‘Gar ‘Papcamping, hike

A Friday night bus saw me heading to Crathie then up through the forest heading for Gelder Shiel bothy. The moon was out and chilly but bright, but not quite bright enough to really see how much snow was lying higher up.

Occasional dots of reflected eyes in the trees, this one staying as I got closer
Headtorch off to walk by moonlight

I’d fully expected the bothy to be dark and cold and to be alone – but not to be – full to the rafters with ‘bothy destination’ socialisers/boozers, which is becoming more common nowadays. I had to find a niche on the floor to make bed, and had to stay up late to join in the banter although I’d wanted an early start for tomorrow’s route to get finished and back home for a night out in a pub (the correct location for social get togethers and booze ups). The stove had been roaring so I slept in the bag liner with the bag draped over me as too warm.

Somebody’s home (many)

Alarm went for 6.30 and the floor had even more bags on it – more folk had arrived even later. I cooked breakfast, packed my kit and then headed out. I’d planned on leaving my large rucksack/bag/mat here and collecting later to save weight, but too much chaos, mess and random folk, be too easy for it to be ‘misplaced’ so cached my kit in the woods nearby instead.

I changed into my ultimate direction fastpack, got the headtorch on and started heading along the landy track towards Creag Liath, then on to a faint path as the slope steepened. Sunrise approached but low cloud and gloom stifled it to grey quickly.

Frosty grass stems
Iced puddles
Sun up but no colour
Found a stalker’s path. Post for leashing pony

As I climbed into the gloom the odd white blob moved amongst the rocks. I’d planned on hitting the top of Creag Liath but rather than chase off the hares who guarded it, turned left and started up the bouldery side of Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe (“Sivvy”)

Two hares clear in white against the heather
Weaving through boulders
“Sivvy” top

The top of the hill is a jumble of large boulders and I had a good rummage around for any howffy nooks, with a hill later today also having one to search for. I made my way down carefully off the west side, car and fridge sized boulders with leg-trappy gaps between. A quick coffee break at the bottom amogst some light snow showers, then started up the north-west rounded ridge of Lochnagar. It also turns into a jumble of boulders higher up.

Jumbled boulders of north-west side of Lochnagar

I’d entirely expected to remain in gloom for some hours until much lower down again, but as the ascent levelled off and I turned to the final short climb to the top, blue sky began to break through.

Approaching the top from the north-west

At the top, big waves of cloud were slowly rising and spilling over from the corrie, but in the gaps I could see I was almost above the low cloud layer

Almost up above the clouds
Corrie clouds deflecting up and spilling over the top

I enjoyed the spectacle for a while and spoke briefly to another chap who had come up from Crathie. I’d pondered ‘short-cutting’ down the north-east ridge but peering down it into the gloom, it didn’t look much fun, steep and loose, so stuck to what I knew best and headed around the corrie rim.

Past Cac Carn Mor, the sun a faint bead

I spoke to a couple chaps heading up, who had big wildife cameras, and one suddenly got down on hands and knees to ‘stalk’ a ptarmigan that was spotted nearby.

Ptarmigan stalking with camera

At the boulderfield descent past Central Buttress, where’d I’d encountered the weasel on the last trip here, I could see the cloud motion more clearly; cloud forming in the cool corrie spilling over the edge and hugging the terrain smoothly until turbulence ripped them apart heading further west, backlit by rays from the early morning sun.

Cloud layer heading up and over..
.. flowing across the corrie edge..
..spilling and fragmenting heading down the other side
Looking back at the corrie

Above the ladder I could see various parties below heading up. I knew some friends were looking to do some climbing int he corrie but couldn’t see them.

Ptarmigan and me at the top of the ladder watching the various folk below

As I made my way down the ladder, the corrie was beginning to clear of cloud and I could see the top was now entirely clear, ach.

My next target today was to have a more thorough explore around Meikle Pap. Oft ignored, I do usually make an effort to get it’s view down to the lochan, but I’d never really had a look around it’s far sides and a club member had said on a trip years ago they’d found a ‘howff’. I started slowly ascending heading around clockwise, doubtful if I’d find it as there’s lots of huge boulders and scrambly terrain.

Being watched from among the boulders
Looking back to the lochan from the north side

I did find what I think they may have been referring to: a large overhanging rock under which 4 or 5 folk could sit, not really a howff though as it didn’t appear to have been built up in any form. A good view north but not of the lochan, there’s probably spots on the west side that could be better with the classic view.

North side shelter stone, not really a howff

From here I made it to the top and had a look through the tors, then down around the east side and back up.

Looking back to MC Sivvy, also now clear, pah.
View north
Meikle Pap tors are often missed by those heading to Lochnagar
Around east and back up through a gap
Lochan view

I’d spotted another outlying outcrop and was away to head over when I heard a friend’s distinctive accent below and headed down to catch up.

After a cupp and a chat, they headed to the corrie to make their way around to their gully, and I headed off back to the bothy to collect my kit.

Grouse photobombing the view north
Icicles along the track
Grass fronds becoming ice baubles
Bhuird crags

Looking back there was some nice light and fronds of cloud in the corrie

A’ Chioch zoomed beyond Ripe Hill
Back past the bothy
Almost back to Balmoral, timing to sunset nicely

The Balmoral bus stop was busy with castle-day-trippers, one chap had a ‘serious ice axe’ and had been up looking to climb (but not “in” had done the Stuic) and I had a good blether with him waiting for the bus back to town.

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