White Mounth Munros + Conachcraig

Thursday 29 May 2014:

Spittal of Glenmuick – Fox Cairn Well

Friday 30 May 2014:

Fox Cairn Well – Burn of Gowal

Saturday 31 May 2014:

Burn of Gowal – Spittal of Glenmuick

Day 1, Thursday 29 May 2014

Spittal of Glenmuick – Conachcraig – Fox Cairn Well

8.0 km/673 m/03:00 hrs

Corbett: Conachcraig (No. 72)

When I went back to work after the TGO Challenge my left knee was still sore and I kept limping all week. I should have probably given my knee some rest on my days off, but the weather forecast was just perfect and I couldn’t wait to get out walking again. So I decided to give it a go, after all I could always abandon the walk if it got worse, and I also took my knee support with me, just in case.

I finished night shift at 07:00, and after sleeping a few hours, as well as having lunch, a shower and packing my rucksack, I was finally on my way at 16:45 (including a detour to Tesco as I had forgotten to buy CupASoup when I did some food shopping during my last tea break). Two hours later I arrived at the car park at Spittal of Glenmuick and wondered how to pay the fee for the next two days as the day tickets are only valid 24 hours. In the end I just bought two parking tickets and wrote the dates on them.

It was sunny and warm with a light breeze when I started walking, and I felt only a slight discomfort in my knee. Even that disappeared miraculously after about half an hour and I was free of pain for the rest of the walk – must have been the endorphins because I was so happy to be out 🙂

River Muick. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Signpost at Allt-na-giubhsaich. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Evening sun shining through the trees. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cuidhe Cròm and Meikle Pap. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I left my rucksack at the path junction to Lochnagar and made the quick detour to Conachraig. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I reached the summit 20 minutes later, it was a little colder at the top but it was still a nice evening. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Lochnagar from the summit of Conachcraig. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Interesting clouds over Cuidhe Cròm. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I collected my rucksack and followed the path to Lochnagar. It was time to look for a camp site but I couldn’t find any water, all the small streams crossing the path were dried out. When I left the path to have a look at the memorial to Bill Stuart, I noticed an area of flat mossy ground a little higher up.

On closer inspection it was even better than expected, apart from a good pitch it also had two small streams flowing down either side of it (the Fox Cairn Well). It was now 22:00 and daylight was fading quickly while I put my tent up, and after the sun had set it became quite cold. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Back to top

Day 2, Friday 30 May 2014

Fox Cairn Well – Lochnagar – Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach – Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr – Cairn Bannoch – Burn of Gowal

23.6 km/1428 m/10:15 hrs

Munros (2nd round): Lochnagar, Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach, Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr + Cairn Bannoch (Nos. 35 – 38)

Munro Tops: Meikle Pap, Cuidhe Cròm, Little Pap, Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe, Creag a’ Ghlas-uillt, Eagles Rock, Carn an t-Sagairt Beag, Fafernie, Cairn of Gowal + Craig of Gowal (Nos. 37 – 46)

I woke up to another wonderful morning and a great view of Mount Keen from my tent. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The night had been so cold that my tent and the ground were covered in frost, but it all melted away quickly in the morning sun. In fact, it soon became so warm inside that I had to sit outside the tent to do the packing.

Camp below Meikle Pap. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The first day walker passed at 08:00 (!), and I was ready to go an hour later.

Conachcraig. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I left my rucksack behind a boulder on the bealach and climbed to the rocky summit of Meikle Pap, the first Munro Top of the day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe, one of Lochnagar’s Tops. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Gelder Shiel, a bothy that I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time – maybe on a future TGO Challenge? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Conachcraig. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Meikle Pap is regarded as a great viewpoint for the Corrie of Lochnagar – and it certainly is! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA “The Ladder” route up to the plateau. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I returned to the bealach, collected my rucksack and climbed up the well-constructed path which really seems more like a staircase than a ladder! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The steep ascent felt like hard work in the hot sun, but soon I could look down on Meikle Pap. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cliffs and buttresses above the loch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When I reached the grassy plateau, I thought I could quickly bag the next two Tops. The first one, Cuidhe Cròm, was easy indeed. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But on the way to Little Pap there is an obstacle… a large boulder field. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Again, I left my heavy rucksack behind, but it still took me a long time to reach Little Pap. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But it was worth it for the views – Broad Cairn in the distance and deer on the snow patches on the slopes of Creag a’ Ghlas-uillt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Spittal of Glenmuick. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Deer cooling their feet in a snow patch… I would have liked to do the same! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Climbing up the boulder field was a bit easier, and soon I was back on the plateau and on my way to Lochnagar.

Looking back to Cuidhe Cròm. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cac Carn Mòr. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The busy summit of Lochnagar, Cac Carn Beag. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Coire Lochan nan Eun. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA From the summit Meikle Pap looks tiny in comparison. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I descended from the summit in a NW direction and found a place to hide my bag, then I descended N to the boggy bealach before Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe. This was easier than it looked from above as there were traces of a path. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Meikle Pap and the Corrie of Lochnagar. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I was pleasantly surprised to find a path leading around the E flank of Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe and up to its summit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the way back I got a good view of the steep cliffs below Lochnagar’s summit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Loch nan Eun. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Before I headed over to the second Munro I made a quick detour to the two Munro Tops Creag a’ Ghlas-uillt and Eagles Rock. Both are really just grassy lumps and easily bagged on the way.

Creag a’ Ghlas-uillt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA View towards Glen Clova from Creag a’ Ghlas-uillt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Eagles Rock. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The cliffs of Creag an Dubh-loch, as seen from Eagles Rock. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA From Eagles Rock I contoured around Coire Boidheach, stopping by the Allt a’ Choire Bhoidheach to fill my water bottle. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach with The Stuic in the background. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA “Crossroads” between The Stuic and Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I walked over to The Stuic to have a look into Coire Lochan nan Eun with some impressive cornices along its edge. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Loch nan Eun and Lochnagar. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cliffs above Loch nan Eun. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Looking back to Lochnagar. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Broad Cairn, Creag an Dubh-loch and Cairn Bannoch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Creag an Dubh-loch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA To ascend Carn an t-Sagairt Beag I used a path along a line of fence posts that I had spotted on my way down from The Stuic.

Looking back to The Stuic from the path. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This path leads straight to the aircraft wreckage near the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Aircraft wreckage. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA From the distance I really thought this was someone with a rifle, sitting in an Argocat…! 😯 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA But it turned out to be just the northern one of the two cairns, the summit is the one on the skyline. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr summit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On my descent from Carn an t-Sagairt Mòr I met two day walkers on their way up to the summit. They mentioned that their car was parked by Glas Maol, and later I was wondering if they were actually going to walk back over the hills, or if they would just walk out along Glen Callater and hitch-hike back to their car (it was 18:20 by now)…

Dubh Loch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the path towards Cairn Bannoch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I left the path to visit Fafernie, the first of Cairn Bannoch’s three Munro Tops. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cairn Bannoch is only a few minutes away. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Cairn Bannoch summit. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The next Top, Cairn of Gowal… OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA … and an easy stroll over to the third Top, Craig of Gowal. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ten minutes later I reached the summit of Craig of Gowal. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Evening sun over Glen Clova. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I started looking for a camp site near the bealach between Cairn of Gowal, Creag an Dubh-loch and Broad Cairn and found a suitable spot at 20:45 by the upper reaches of the Burn of Gowal. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Back to top

Day 3, Saturday 31 May 2014

Burn of Gowal – Spittal of Glenmuick

12.5 km/308 m/04:30 hrs

Munro (2nd round): Broad Cairn (No. 39)

Munro Top: Creag an Dubh-loch (No. 47)

When I woke up I wasn’t feeling well and I kept alternating between freezing and sweating. The cold that I had managed to suppress with medication during the TGO Challenge had finally caught up with me.

At least today I would only have a short and easy walk to do, and after packing up I climbed the short distance up to the bealach and over to Creag an Dubh-loch.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarefully I walked a little further to have a look down the steep crags.

Waterfall on the Allt a’ Choire Bhoidheach.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn my way towards Broad Cairn I was surprised to see three mountain bikers coming towards me across the boulder field. We had a brief chat and they said they were doing the whole Lochnagar round, descending to Glas-allt-Shiel at the end (which I found quite impressive).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the summit I met another walker and we also chatted for a while.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen I continued first down the boulder field and then along the wide track to the pony hut.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the pony hut I stopped for a break and ten minutes later the place became very busy. First I was joined by a solo walker, shortly afterwards another couple of mountain bikers arrived, then a hill runner and a group of about ten people and half a dozen dogs turned up, all spreading out around the hut.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was time to move on and I decided to walk along the track that runs high above the loch.

W end of Loch Muick.
The track above Loch Muick.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACorrie at the end of the loch with the Allt an Dubh-loch and the Stulan Burn.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGlas-allt-Shiel, zoomed.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe track descends steeply to the Black Burn, crosses a bridge and then follows the bank of the loch.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last half hour I walked with a Belgian hillwalker living in Aberdeen, and with our interesting conversation on the way back to the car park the time passed very quickly.

Deer near Allt-na-giubhsaich.

On the drive home I stopped at the tea room near Corgarff for coffee and cake which was a nice end to a successful and enjoyable trip.

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8 thoughts on “White Mounth Munros + Conachcraig

  1. I ended up missing the northern top of Lochnagar – didn’t realise it was so easy – it looked like a big extra effort and I was trying to get all the others. I too visited The Stuic – I was very surprised how many didn’t as it’s a superb viewpoint and no effort at all on the way to the second Munro! I ignored that path up the back of Lochnagar from Cuidhe Crom as it misses all the best bits – there’s a better one right around the edge of the spectacular corrie all the way.

    I don’t mind missing that top out anyway as my friend Richard wants to do Lochnagar and I’d like to try the Gelder Shiel approach next time and also do Conachraig.

    I came down from Broad Cairn and its top via the Dubh Loch but I had terrible weather so certainly didn’t get the lovely views and photos you’ve got there 😦 I have to say I’m getting fed up of mountain bikers nowadays. I tried to walk up the Lairig Eilde to do Beinn Fhada (top) the other day and couldn’t get near the path for them! Also, they’re really wrecking all the Lake District paths as we have proper zig-zag paths there and, of course, they just go straight down them. Some of my favourite routes are nasty, gullied and eroded now 😦

    Certainly was worth doing your trip with that weather – superb. You’ve got really great photos there 🙂

    • Hi Carol,

      Many thanks for your comments! I “had” to do all the Tops because of my own rule of climbing the Tops on the same day as the Munro itself, so I couldn’t just leave one for another time 😉 (I actually did Meall Dearg a few weeks ago but it took me so long that I didn’t have time for the rest of Liathach – that means I’ll have to go back and do it again, together with the whole ridge!)

      The Gelder Shiel route is one I would also like to try sometime, maybe on a TGO Challenge.

      I suppose the problem with mountain bikers is worse where you live, but up here I actually don’t see them on the hills that often. What I find much worse is the damage that the motocross riders do around Fort William every year just before the Challenge…

  2. Oh yeah – and Little Pap is a nightmare of boulders isn’t it – luckily I finished off my walk over it and descended to Glas Allt Shiel afterwards. I wouldn’t fancy those boulders in both directions!

    • Yes, I didn’t exactly enjoy that one, but I found it easier and quicker to ascend the boulder field on the way back than to descend it!

      I was also thinking that it might be easier to climb Little Pap from the path leading down to Glas-allt-Shiel, but unfortunately I wasn’t going that way…

      • I did the Broad Cairn side as a separate walk on another day. I’d like to do the full round though (but miss most of the tops next time) – it’s a bit of a classic isn’t it…

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