Friday 17th & Saturday 18th July 2020
This weekend we were off again. We set off late after work, drove for approximately 2 hours before reaching Lochnagar: ‘a little hill of laughter or noise’. Lochnagar is located about 5 miles south of the River Dee near Balmoral.
Setting off from the car park at the Spital of Glen Muick at 7.30 pm just south of Ballater we were once again off to spend the night in the middle of the mountains.
Our plan was to undertake a group of 5 Munro’s which form a high-level circuit around Loch Muick. This would involve some long distance walking over 19 miles approximately, on the extensive and exposed route of the White Mounth plateau which should take us around 9-11 hours in total to complete.
The start of our walk took us through the Balmoral Estate near the banks of Loch Muick.
It is here that Queen Victoria built the impressive Glas Allt Shiel after the death of Prince Albert. It is a beautiful scenic, peaceful spot…surreal.
Queen Victoria supposedly summitted Lochnagar on the back of a pony (I’m pretty sure that does not count!), and Queen Elizabeth II has climbed Lochnagar on foot several times, though always with a ghillie in tow!
The evening was still, the sun was shining, conditions were just perfect. We have summited Lochnagar before but never undertook the 5 Munro Circuit. I love this place. The walk up was generally leisurely, on good paths. The scenery spectacular. Encouraged by the beautiful evening and good trail conditions we decided to get a good few hours under our belt or should I say boots and seek out a camp spot en-route rather than plan one in advance.
We hit the base of Meikle Pap, at just over 2900 feet and were almost at Munro height status when the sun began to set.
From here it gives you a first view of the famous coire. The tall cliffs and lovely lochan do look incredible and provide an amazing spot for some photos…or to just simply breathe it all in.
The landscape began to change, the colours were mesmerising…and my goodness what a sunset we had, I will never tire of a sunset.
We pressed on towards the summit of Lochnagar. After a short but steep climb of around 20 minutes we reached the expansive plateau and were met with strong winds, almost unmanageable but not quite!
I can guarantee you that we had better views than our neighbours in Balmoral. The views over the Cairngorms and Deeside were immense.
I can also categorically say that our ‘castle’ sat higher than theirs , right on top of the mountain!
Who needs bricks and mortar when you can have this for free. This is what FREEDOM feels like right here, right now in this great feeling of space!
We played about on the summit whereby there is a trig point and a granite toposcope.
It was cold. With great difficulty we pitched our tent at the side of the cliffs, the wind was crazy. I must admit I did think for a minute this might be a pretty crazy spot to pitch our tent as with one huge gust of wind we possibly might have experienced a real sense of flying without wings. Bearing this in mind we gathered rocks, lots of rocks and laid them over our tent pegs…to be extra safe I guess!!!
We were treated to such a sight when a female deer appeared against the skyline with a huge stag beside her.
They decided to keep us company, grazing surprisingly near our tent. The sight was something else especially the male, strutting his stuff with huge impressive antlers, looking spectacular and proud. We watched them, mesmerised before reluctantly heading indoors for the night, it was 11.30 pm after all.
As we got tucked in for the night Andy provided me with a rather pleasant surprise…It came in the form of a thicker sleeping bag which he had secretly carried all the way up in his rucksack. All around us it was blowing a hoolie and it was once again cold, even in the thicker sleeping bag…but who cared…it was just us against the elements on this beautiful mountain top once more and it felt good.
We woke early as we usually do whilst camping with the wind still blowing strong outside and the morning was cold.
We wrapped up warm before making breakfast and packing away our things.
Then we were on our way. Our friends, the doe and stag, were still by our side, continuing to graze whilst keeping their eyes on us.
We have seen many a herd of deer before but we have never experienced this before with wild deer and this stag in all his glory, it was pretty special. Usually once they catch sight or scent they are off, so this was a one of a kind, a real treat and a truly unique moment. It was hard to walk away.
We headed towards our next Munro Carn a’Choire Boidheach. Things were starting to heat up, we found a stream to fill up our water bottles and removed some layers. We were pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy we found it getting from Lochnagar to Carn a’Choire Boidheach.
From Carn a’Choire Boidheach we then made our way for Carnan t-Saigart Mor, these hills are also known as the ‘White Mounth’ at this point the wind was picking up again.
Our next section of the walk was out to Cairn Bannoch which for us felt quite flat ground with only a small climb to reach the summit. We were welcomed with impressive and exquisite views into Dubh Loch and across the valley.
Eventually we were off to our final Munro of the day Broad Cairn, which has a really broad cairn!!! Again this felt like another straight forward walk and easy enough ascent.
The views from here were beautiful. We had scenery of all sorts from steep banks, cliffs, corrie’s, mountain tops, the vast waters of Lock Muick really setting the scene aswell as the stunning wild life.
Some of these summits were the finest I had seen, especially as we had been blessed with fine clear views and pretty decent weather.
We reluctantly left our spot, descending very steeply to Loch Muick with such stunning scenery and surreal weather all the way, it felt almost perfect, too good to be true – lockdown has played with my brain.
Then we were eventually walking back out along the lochside to Spittal of Glen Muick.
This circuit of five Munros had been highly enjoyable with amazing scenery and fantastic views….and the company was pretty decent too!
This is a must do circuit, with stunning dark beauty steeped in history, myth and folklore.
It combines scenery of all sorts to satisfy any mountain climber….and going to sleep with your head in the clouds is just too good an opportunity to pass up!