Lochnagar via The Royal Bothy

23 10 2015

Sun 27 Sep 2015
As Richard hadn’t done Lochnagar, and as it was on his list of desired Munros, he honoured me with his company for this one. Unfortunately for him, I wanted to do the longer route from the north this time – partly because I’ve already done the much shorter route from the south but mainly because I wanted to see the ‘Royal Bothy’ at Gelder Shiel.

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Richard’s photo

(click on photos for full size/resolution – Richard’s photos as marked)
Last time I’d done Lochnagar, it was on a Munro Top-bagging expedition so, in addition to the main Munro, I’d gone off all over the area bagging all the various tops and a nearby Munro. I’d managed them all except the northern Top of Meall Coire na Saobhaide – that had looked like a ‘top too far’ on the previous visit. Also, due to the large amount of peaks I’d been bagging that time, I’d ignored the lovely-looking Corbett of Conachraig which lies a very short distance from the initial col. As this col is reached by both the northern and southern routes, I decided that this was the time to put things right and visit it.

Conachraig from Lochnagar Approach
Conachraig

Richard has no interest in Corbetts but decided he’d bag the nice-looking Munro Top of Meikle Pap instead.

At the start of the walk, I wasn’t totally sure exactly where the route took off from Easter Balmoral and the small area of parking near the Distillery so set off initially down a road which said ‘no entry’. I was assuming that meant no entry to cars but, on reaching and being stopped by a policeman (the Royals are in residence during September), I had the correct route described by a local hiker he was chatting to. I returned to the car and picked up Richard and we set off – it’s easy to see which is the correct route – while all the others say ‘no entry’, the route in question just says ‘no entry to unauthorised vehicles’ – there’s a few cameras about though…

We were soon past the pretty estate housing and into the forest proper. The path rose steadily past a very steep sided ravine and then, within the first mile, there was a fork in the paths. We took the left fork as directed which, after a very short descent, rose to the forest edge and out onto the open hillside. I love the Cairngorms and found the scenery lovely and enthused about the views in all directions.

View across The Gelder

Lochnagar from Northern Approach

Richard wasn’t so sure however… especially about the very long route ahead to our distant col which is in view for the whole of the very long track.

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Richard’s photo

After plodding for quite some miles along the track, we decided we’d have been better to have brought the bikes – the track is superb at least until the first junction for the bothy. At that junction, we met a man with a very small boy walking out from the bothy after obviously spending the night there – quite a walk for such a young lad but I’m sure he found it very exciting.

Just after the junction, we noticed a post with a ring attached – I jokingly called it Prince Albert’s Ring!

Eventually, we reached the col at the crossroads of tracks for Lochnagar and Conachraig. We had a quick sit and coffee and then went our separate ways – I said we’d meet on the col overlooking Lochnagar’s corrie loch.

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Meikle Pap – Richard’s Photos
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I was surprised how short and easy the route to Conachraig’s summit and how pretty the summit area was. It had scenic tors which made excellent foregrounds for photos of Lochnagar.

Lochnagar from Conachraig Summit

I could see someone stood on the tors at the top of Meikle Pap already – was that Richard? I thought I’d best not hang around…

I shot off back down the hill and continued across the crossroads to take the good path up to the col before ‘The Ladder’. As I reached it, I noticed Richard sat overlooking the corrie by a large boulder and went over to join him. He was just having another hot drink and a snack so I joined him. He said he’d only just got there so it wasn’t him I’d seen on the summit of Meikle Pap after all…

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Black Spout on left of (Richard’s) photo

We were amused to see a girl up there in a very skimpy dress having photos taken – a modelling shoot perhaps? A bit chilly for such attire at that height though!

Lochnagar across Corrie Loch

We plodded off up The Ladder where my chest started to get rattly and grumpy – I ignored it and carried on – it soon shut up when the ground levelled out. Where you reach the lip of the corrie is where, exactly like last time, absolutely everyone else on the hill sets off on a silly path up the back of the peak away from all the views. You can see from that point that there’s a perfectly good path goes around the corrie edge and up the peak but everyone ignores it – no idea why. As we both clicked away with our cameras, enthusing about the view, we muttered and laughed about the ‘sightless masses’ who just bag the hill with no interest in the views whatsoever – weird!

Lochnagar - following Corrie Rim1

Lochnagar Crags to Loch

Lochnagar - Corrie Rim Exciting Part

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Richard’s photo looking back to Meikle Pap

We worked our way up the peak on the very edge of the corrie, me being pretty careful on the loose path.

Lochnagar Corrie Rim - Long Way Down
(my photos)
Cuidhe Crom from Exciting Rim Path

We saw a set of climbers below and watched them briefly. Although I now climb outdoors, I looked at the crags on the east face of the corrie and was pretty horrified at how huge and steep they looked – and also how loose! Not for me I’m afraid…

Lochnagar - Huge Crags

There are all sorts of hollows all the way around the rim of the corrie as the corrie wall is very convoluted. Each hollow was fascinating and had superbly dramatic scenery. More of Richard’s photos…

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and more of mine…

Lochnagar - looking back across corrie

Unweathered Section of Crag

Lochnagar Gully Exit

Across Black Spout Exit

We broke off momentarily to join the sightless masses at Carn Cac Mor before returning to the corrie edge. As I’d briefly considered ascending the peak via The Black Spout – a very steep but supposedly simple route to the summit, I wanted to have a look down it. It was pretty steep when we looked at it and I wasn’t sure I’d have liked it – I may still give it a go sometime though.

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Looking to the foot of Black Spout (R Wood)

Top of Black Spout
my photos of the top of the Black Spout
Black Spout Exit

Before visiting the main summit of Carn Cac Beag, we continued on around the final section of corrie. Here we found another exciting hollow – it was the one with the pinnacles you see in postcards with someone posing atop one of them. I went for an explore and found you could indeed quite easily get onto most of the pinnacles into spectacular-looking situations from easy routes at the back. However, the wind was blasting here towards the drop at the back and I found it very offputting. I decided against the final pinnacle I could have got to as I really wasn’t happy being blown around over a huge drop. Richard got a photo but I was disappointed not to get onto the next tower for it (Richard’s photos)…

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me setting off for an explore
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We then trudged off up to the main summit to join the folks not interested in the scenery. I had a bit of a sneer at them, took a couple of photos of Richard at the summit trig and then we settled down the back out of the wind and away from everyone for a quiet break in the sun. I pointed across the corrie to The Stuick – another lovely peak which the baggers completely miss in favour of a rounded lump of Munro summit with a name I can’t be bothered to remember.

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Richard’s photos of the summit
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While we were having our break, I studied the area for our ongoing route and northern top. I have to say that, for quite a while I got it completely wrong and was going to have us set off for what I call ‘Meall Toenail’ (one of the many Scottish peaks called Meall Tional). We both suddenly realised that wasn’t our peak and that ours was briefly out of sight – I’d remembered ours had a rocky comb along its ridge.

We soon set off down for our final peak, finding a path heading down the steep slope.

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Richard’s photo

I knew we had to head north-west here or we’d meet crags on the descent. When we saw them, they were quite some crags – a large area of flaky slabs which would have been very nasty indeed. I found them fascinating though and had Richard take loads of photos of them (I’d run out of both my films by now).

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As we reached the boggy col between the peaks, I noticed another Munro Top-bagger on the summit of my top – I was amazed as not many people bother to do Tops unless they are on a normal Munro route. We were surprised to see that, minutes later, as we neared the summit, there was no-one to be seen in any direction. It was at this point we saw a very small glider pass just above the summit and out over our descent – surely that couldn’t be him? (The next day we saw, on a visit to Muir o’ Dinnet, lots of gliders and remembered there’s actually a gliding club at Aboyne).

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There was no real path down the side of the hill to the end of the track going back down to Gelder Shiel so we picked our way down the holey heather and wet, slippery ground very carefully.

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We were relieved to eventually hit the track not far from its end. From here it was a short walk to the bothy. I was thrilled to see the bothy at last but a bit disappointed that the Queen wasn’t at the little cottage beside it as she was the other week when a fellow blogger was bothying there.

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We had a look inside the bothy and a sit in the sun on the royal bench outside the cottage. I had a good drink from the burn and Richard refilled his water bottle as we were finding it quite a hot day for a change and had drunk much more than normal. I had to laugh at Richard a bit here as he won’t drink out of burns but filled his water bottle from the tap behind the bothy – wonder where he thinks that water comes from? πŸ˜†

We then set off for the long walk down the rest of the track back to the car. All day we’d been finding dead bumble bees – now I found a dead dragon fly 😦

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We toyed with the idea of driving to Ballater for a quick drink but decided it was pretty late and that we’d just go back and get cleaned up and fed instead. A great day out but I’ll stick to the shorter, southern route via Loch Muick and Glas Allt Shiel next time unless I’m staying at the bothy.

Stats: 17 miles, 3676 feet of ascent, 8 hours 10

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22 responses

29 10 2015
Mark

A good way to mop up those Munro Tops. The bothy now looks like it would be worth a visit, “a bothy without a fire is a shed.”

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30 10 2015
mountaincoward

Like that ‘shed’ comment πŸ˜‰ Very true! I’ll definitely be cycling in to visit the bothy sometime (and no doubt going up Lochnagar again) πŸ™‚

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27 10 2015
fedup

looks nice rocky walking country – total lack of cowardice too?

Cheers Simon

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30 10 2015
mountaincoward

I’d have been even less cowardly if it hadn’t been blasting across those rocks. Never mind, I’ll get further next time!

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27 10 2015
Paul Shorrock

Great report Carol! I haven’t been to Lochnagar in years – when I was in the Royal Marines and based at Arbroath, we had a few recreational mountain days out that way. I think our best trip was one where we bivied on the summit of Meikle Pap then climbed Eagle Ridge the next day in perfect weather – I must be due a return trip πŸ™‚

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30 10 2015
mountaincoward

Which wall is Eagle Ridge on? That huge, crumbly-looking one below the summits?

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4 11 2015
Paul Shorrock

It’s sort of middle-ish. If often has a snow field at the bottom, even in summer

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27 10 2015
Blue Sky Scotland

Stayed at the bothy a few times, not the royal one, and enjoyed Lochnagar and the walk in. Knew someone who carried a driver and 10 golf balls to the summit once to hit them into the lochan below. Not very eco friendly but it was the 1980s. Great mountain.

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30 10 2015
mountaincoward

It’s definitely one of my favourite Munros…

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26 10 2015
Rowena

I considered going up Conachcraig from this way but the long boring track put me off. Did you visit all the Conachcraig tops?
I once wandered out that way to see the bothy (before it was done up). How is it looking now? Is there a fireplace? I did read CairngormWanderer’s post but can’t remember. Did you see Prince Charles’s entry in the bothy book?
I really fancy going up the Stuic – it was on my list this year, but there was always other unclimbed hills to do instead.

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30 10 2015
mountaincoward

Prince Charles’ visit was after mine – I missed him by about a week and was very annoyed about that! There is now a stove installed in the bothy…

I didn’t visit all the Conachraig Tops as Richard was only doing Meikle Pap and I didn’t want to keep him waiting – I probably will next time though. It is a long walk in this way but you could definitely cycle quite a long way on the good track.

Someone I know scrambled up the front of The Stuick and said it was easy and well within my capabilities so probably worth a look if you do it.

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31 10 2015
Rowena

Yeah I think I would cycle it if I came in again via that way. I wouldn’t mind a stay in that bothy sometime.
Yes I’d heard the Stuic was easy – sounds an appealing way to get up there.

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25 10 2015
tessapark1969

Nice report. Lochnagar is a cracking hill, definitely one I’d do again.

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25 10 2015
mountaincoward

I’d do it again and again – easy, pleasant and scenic – what more could you want? πŸ™‚

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25 10 2015
Robinho Outdoors

Been up there twice, and never deviated up Miekle Pap.

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25 10 2015
mountaincoward

It’s well worth a visit – the tors at the top are great fun and the views of Lochnagar’s corrie from there are superb!

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24 10 2015
chrissiedixie

I’ve always fancied Lochnagar but never got round to it yet. Definitely a ‘dogs on leads’ summit round that edge though!

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24 10 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah it would be best. The dogs would love the walk in though from either direction. Lochnagar is one of the Munros I’d do again and again. Easy with superb scenery.

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24 10 2015
McEff

I’ve been climbing mountains since 1975 and have not once seen a young lady in a skimpy dress. I’m very disappointed. The only other person I saw on the day I climbed Lochnagar was a Dutchman in full waterproofs.
That’s interesting about the royal bothy. I hope the Queen’s a paid-up member of the MBA.
Great pictures, Carol. Love the ones of you on the top of the crags because you add a bit of scale. You should try the skimpy dress next time.
Cheers, Alen

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24 10 2015
mountaincoward

If I’d been in the skimpy dress up there, it would have been up around my mush with the high winds! πŸ˜‰ I’ve been up mountains in the buff before though πŸ™‚

The Queen has had the bothy refurbished a few times.

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24 10 2015
Gaslight Crime

And lovely pictures too

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24 10 2015
mountaincoward

Thanks John πŸ™‚

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