Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Lochnagar.Meikle Pap.Braemar Weekend.Day 3.

I,ve saved the best for Last.On the Sunday morning It was decided to drive round to Glen Muick.Most folk seemed to have either done the numerous Munro,s here or simply fancied a social day out.The Corbett Conachcraig would receive a mass ascent with everyone present keen to bag it.Alex would have plenty of company for his third Corbett of the weekend.Overnight the wind seemed to have changed direction.Instead of coming gift wrapped from Siberia it was now howling straight down from Iceland.Fortunately we were sheltered at first in the glen and then the path led up through trees past the estate buildings.With the sun out it was the warmest walking yet.Tropical in fact.
Crossing streams is always good fun when the boulders are covered in ice.At this early stage you don,t want wet feet.The veteran members are still pretty nifty at this I have to say and we were across first.Alex forged on ahead,the prize in his sights while I stayed  behind with John to help the others,some without gaiters.
For some reason we seemed to end out in front again.I could see the slopes of the Corbett in front of me and to be honest,yet again it didn't appeal.Just a round lump to my eyes.However Lochnagar with its ring of icy cliffs just peeking up on the other side did. If I was going to go high I reasoned I might as well enjoy it by attempting the most spectacular mountain  in the area.I was surprised when there were no other takers for this fine peak,waving a goodbye to John before he followed Alex up the Corbett.The natural thing seems to be do the Corbetts after the Munro,s.Sadly always seeking the sun and best views,even if you have done them before is a much lonelier occupation.Most clubs have to book or arrange trips to areas well in advance so have to take whatever weather  they get.I don't mind going out myself now and again but its always better with company.
However I seem to be in a club of one at the moment as I follow the golden orb around Scotland.I,m starting to feel like one of those biblical hermits in the wilderness.

The Land rover track up was the usual sheet of ice but if you stuck to the heather it was fine. I went left just past here to start the path up Lochnagar.Lord Byron composed a famous poem about these cliffs ahead of me."The steep frowning glories of dark Lochnagar" is all most folk can remember of it including me.
It started well enough and after another 40 minutes or so I was just about on the ridge.The wind by this time was howling over the slopes about 50 to 60 miles an hour  and the gusts made it hard to see never mind walk in a straight line.Still in my autumn gear and frame of mind I wasn,t really prepared for the sheer ferocity of the conditions up here.I didn,t have thermal long johns with me under the trousers,snow goggles, crampons or a face mask,only a thinsulate hat and gloves. The top half was fine but my legs were freezing even with waterproof trousers on which told me the windchill must have been pretty severe.At a guess about -20 to -30 on the summit slopes.Maybe more.I could have done with my pull on woollen  face mask balaclava.Not trendy but still one of the best items of kit for conditions like these.This must have been what those Corbetts were like.I thought too myself.Only lower and  more boring :)
I was glad I,d given them a miss.I looked across at where the rest of the club were but couldn't see anything through the conditions.There was a fair amount of high speed spindrift and hailstones hitting me in the face by this time with much darker conditions approaching.I took a photograph of the summit area while it was still clear.
This was my high point.I,d already done Lochnagar a couple of times anyway and when I was blown off my feet for a second time,just missing a boulder and falling awkwardly I thought stuff this.I,m experienced enough to know when to pull back and my reaction times are not nearly as fast as they used to be if I go over suddenly.On my own up here I wouldn't last long in this wind.I could hardly feel my face and legs anymore so I turned tail and descended into a hailstone shower now blowing uphill straight  into my eyes again.Typical wild ridge conditions. The summit  then disappeared in cloud behind me.
Keen to get out of the wind I cut down into the corrie for a closer look at the cliffs.I hunkered down in a hollow waiting for it to clear again.One good thing about a strong wind is that mist can,t stay in one place.  Eleven long minutes later........
This is Eagle ridge.The first time I climbed Lochnagar was as a Munro Ascent.The second time was up this ridge in the middle of the picture.In summer its a 750 foot severe grade classic rock climb..A Fantastic mountain experience.In winter conditions  its normally grade V1 6. Way beyond my limit. Not the first time someone has been benighted on it attempting it in winter.Imagine being stuck up there in the dark on a  tiny ledge.Scary stuff.
I was still in the relentless wind down here though so kept going up the shoulder of the outlying spur of Meikle Pap.This is a satellite peak of Lochnagar with a grandstand view of the corrie.Here I found a boulder to hide behind to give my legs and face time to recover.Its a long while since I,ve been out in conditions like this.It used to be a regular occurrence.Oh, How I,ve missed it :)
After ten minutes and a couple of almond slices I staggered my way to the Tor like summit of Meikle Pap.
Relief came quickly as I dropped off the back out of the wind and had an uneventful descent apart from one unexpected ,legs up in the air back flop after a slip on hidden ice under a thin coating of fresh snow.Luckily I landed on my rucksack, Mr Kipling and my half frozen water bottle taking one for the team instead of my spine.
I got a good view of nearby Broad Cairn, spindrift ripping in long sheets off the summit.Its a big round beast of a hill but its hidden asset is its northern cliffs.Creag An Dubh Loch.The single biggest face in the Cairngorms.At  almost a thousand feet high  in places and close to a mile long I,ve only climbed here once.Mousetrap VS.600 foot of near vertical crack lines and slabs.Alex has climbed here too at HVS or E1  I think.Along with Black Mamba VS these are the easy routes here.Needless to say I haven,t been back.
When I arrived back at the car park everyone else had gone.Alex had been waiting  for an hour but as it was his car we,d used  for the weekend he had a  warm place to sit at least.It would be getting dark soon and there had been another light fall of snow making the roads icy.We didn,t waste any time heading for home just in case it snowed further and they shut the snow gates at Glenshee. This was the highest point the road reached on the drive home.Its a ski resort but it was a couple of weeks too early in the season for ski-ing.Plenty of ice but not enough snow.
The Perthshire town of Blairgowrie looked really nice with all its Christmas lights up.We stopped here for petrol and munchies briefly.The heads of countless jelly babies were bitten off and savagely swallowed on the journey home before small soft  bodies slithered wailing down the pit to join them.
Hard conditions breed hard men! Men with no mercy!


The Glebe Blog said...

Sublime to Ridiculous, or is that from one extreme to the other Bob.
I'm not sure what fits.
Certainly extreme weather you met up there, and you've missed it? I believe you.
Glad you got down in one piece.I loved Blairgowrie forty years ago.

In your last post,The Burn o vat looks interesting but sounds like a Holyrood statute.

And snap! Almond slices were dished out on our Saturday walk.

Great pictures Bob.

Anonymous said...

Some cracking pictures there Bob. I happen to love wild and wintry days like that, not sure why. We once battled to the top of Bheinn Liath Mhor Fannich in similar conditions and one of my mates was most unimpressed. He arrived at the ice blasted summit to see me grinning from ear to ear playing air guitar with an ice axe. He promptly turned round and went down in a huff. Takes all sorts I suppose

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Jim.
I,ve been out in far worse years ago but I was better dressed in full winter head to toe thermals and face mask and they are back in the rucksack after that trip.
Compared to the weather of the last week mind you we got it easy.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy.
I used to love a tussle with the elements as well but after 40 0dd years of rain outside at work and rain at play I decided I like a view if I go up a hill or at least some enjoyment on my day out.Mind you I used to have a lot more friends when I slogged up hills in all weathers.
I honestly believe Most hillwalkers
aren,t bothered if they get a fine day.The chance of a warm sunny day on the Scottish west coast is like a hedgehog under a steamroller.Slim and soon forgotton.I plough a lonesome groove in my quest for a land of heat and honey.It,s the folk who love getting soaked and cold that are the norm.I,m deeply puzzled!

Neil said...

Great report Bob. Lochnagar is a must if in the area, best of the group of Munros around there by many miles. I've always meant to explore the coire but never got round to it...the summit always draws. Cheers


blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Neil.
Doing the Cairngorms again after so long feels like exploring new hills.Only downside is the walks feel much higher and further now.
Age never sleeps.

Anonymous said...

Great series of posts Bob!

Chuckled as your sense of adventure increased over the 3 trips especially when we we getting to the falling over/blown over stage on Day 3.

I must admit you would never get me up there in those conditions. I don't move fast enough to generate sufficient body heat (lol).

My trip to Lochnagar was on a warm day in May...much more sensible...and there was still snow!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ken.
Yeah I thought I,d better do something on the last day.I cant get motivated nowadays for just a big lump in those conditions,it has to be interesting or good for photographs to be worth the extra misery of going high level :)

Carol said...

By 'eck lad - that looks cold! Sounded it too... I can cope with a bit of winter walking (although I'm afraid it isn't my specialist subject! ;-) ) but that much ice coupled with that wind strength and windchill - definitely not for me!

Love the photo after the shot of your boots - the one with the streaming cloud - great!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol.
Normally I like winter days when they are calm and clear.Struggling along in Howling whiteouts no longer holds much appeal for me but a trip to the Cairngorms was different.