LOCHNAGAR, & HER LITTLE SISTERS
9 August 2005, 4pm Loch Muick Car Park.
Pouring with rain, all other occupants of the car-park were getting out of their wet gear and leaving for warmth and comfort elsewhere.
I'd just come from there, a business meeting in Aberdeen had given me the opportunity to 'bag' Lochnagar I thought, and that was pretty much all the thought I'd given it, along with randomly throwing some clobber in the boot. But otherwise my thoughts had been all on getting through the Agenda, then glibly notifying the assembly that I was now going to climb Lochnagar.
And ninety minutes later there I was, with thick banks of cloud hanging menacingly only a few hundred feet above me in a rapidly emptying car-park.
Well I'd better do something, I thought, having driven all this way.
I got out to buy the car-park ticket.
Rain not affecting the midges then.
I looked in the boot to see whether the necessaries had managed to come with me.
Fell-running shoes, good,
big bottle of water, good,
pair of shorts, good.
In the day-bag: an orange, stick of liquorice from many a year ago, and the midges were getting too much to delve any deeper.
No sign of my running kagoul. And the compass was in the pocket. Oh dear. Oh well. Better do something. In my t-shirt.
and I'm off! grey casual t-shirt, pair of shorts and a random selection of items in a green back-pack.
I remembered the book said 3hrs 10 minutes for Lochnagar's ascent. I could beat that running, if I took an hour off maybe I could be up and down in three and a half hours.
7:30 return? that would be OK, listen to the football on the way home.
Really heavy rain, had to wipe my eyes clear every few seconds, vaguely making out the last departing walkers behind waterfalls cascading from hoods. Various tuts and comments of madman. Probably right.
out of breath, rain easing, swig of juice and look at map. Big track all the way so far and probably at 700m . Cool, doing well. Confidence high, fuelled with adrenalin of being so exposed, man v elements.
Into the cloud, visibility maybe 50 yards. Noted a monument, nearly 900m up, doing well. Good path, knew I could retrace steps easily so I'd be OK. Then a boulder field on steep ascent with an edge to my right. Peered over cautiously, got the sense of a huge volume of cloud hanging there. Shiver: climb on.
Wonder if I can half the time in the book? I'm on the summit plateau now. Keep near the edge and I'll not go wrong. Another steep ascent and I'm over 1100m. Big cairn looms out of mist to left: is that the top? No OS pillar: decide this must be Cac Carn Mor. There is either a big sandstone sill or a wide trail just to the west. It's a trail. I know where that's going. Jog along: 5 minutes later I'm there! Lochnagar is climbed! Munro 190! Much relief and joy. Quickly back to Cac Carn Mor, now a big decision to make, heart v head: look at map. It's not at all far west to Carn A'Choire Boidheach. If there's a good path I could go for it, it is only 5:40, but then again I am soaked, shouldn't be here, last one on hill, no gear, no compass….
Good path towards Carn A'Choire Boidheach, without a compass I'm relying on logic, knowledge of landforms, contours and the fast deteriorating map.
Map says after a fall and a rise the summit is off to the left, but there's no path.
I reach the point at which I think I need to branch left. There is no path, and visibility is down to 30 yards.
Leap of faith: off I go into pathless fog. Will I ever find a path again? Calmed self with rational logic. Loads of people climb these munros (not like this they don't! Shut-up)
300 yards later I'm there: Carn A'Choire Boideheach. Much relief. Control sense of isolated panic. Spot path: follow back and soon I'm where I was before launching off into the wilds.
Now I really should go back, but it' is only a short jog and a little drop and climb to Carn An T-Sagairt Mor: do I really want to come all the way back here because of a half hour diversion?
Re-assured by encountering streams shown on the map.
Slip in stream, well I was wet already, but that could have been worse than a graze to my leg. Control panic by running on.
I'm soon once again at the break from the path point. Why is there no path to the top? Never mind: this is a dome shaped mountain: keep going up and you'll get to the top. OK.
It doesn't take long, ten minutes of climb /walk and I'm there. Three in an evening! Unprecedented! Quick: how to get home. Seems now that I've come this far the best way back is to go on: but that involves another two munros separated by a couple of kilometres of trackless waste, could be tough navigation, and that would be 5 munros, this evening? Ridiculous! Let's go.
Spy man with dog! There is someone else out here and he's on a path! Give whoop of delight and wave hands manically. Man looks panicky, grabbing dog. Remember 'old man of Lochnagar' stories and run on.
dipping below the cloud and getting glimpses of hillsides nearby. Think: I'm going to survive! Then map disintegrates into paper pulp.
Dash to the top of Cairn Bannoch. That's four, and I'm in no doubt I'll keep going!
It stops raining! After three hours in it I'd given up hope, but now the cloud is breaking up and I can see Broad Cairn ahead. Remember it from a friend's photograph years ago, chide self for thinking this is a reasonable way to navigate in the Scottish mountains, old photo's indeed. Can't run so fast anymore, and alternate running with walking. Start thinking about the descent and what time I'd told Diane I'd be home. About now.
Then I'm there, Broad Cairn. I can see the track leading down to Loch Muick. Decide to look in pack to see what's there apart from the water and that Orange that's been banging against my kidneys: a pair of Diane's gloves, too small for me to get past the knuckle. A pen. A Glasgow to Milngavie train timetable. Oh and that liquorice. Now seems like a good time. Then let's get down.
Damn what a long descent!! It's 8km and that's only half of it in an hour. I'm still alternating running with walking, but when descending my left knee is really hurting and I'm slower than optimal. Adrenalin subsiding, tiredness coming in. Wondering if I can stay awake to get home…
cursing with the pain, limp back to the car just ahead of my self imposed deadline. That was 5 munros in less than 5 hours. A new record for me, and not to be repeated.
Peel off the wet stuff, put work clothes back on and achingly adjust self into car for trip home.
Get mobile signal: call home, Diane thought I was watching the football in Aberdeen. No worries there then, best not tell what I've actually done. Now three hour's driving!
I'd no idea there were such remote lonely roads in south Deeside. (Somewhere north of Fettercairn, misty forests to one side, open heath on the other. Hundreds of frogs crossing the road.)
What will keep me awake? Decide on Rush's 2112.
At full volume: "WE ARE THE PRIESTS OF THE TEMPLE OF SYRINX". Ow!
Home at last. Did it. Tell Diane about the football. Offer Orange.
Contributed by: Paul Fisher
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