The Royal Mountain & The Mounth April 2013
"It's a grand thing, to get leave to live" - Nan Shepherd
Once more we made the pilgrimage to the Scottish Highlands. This time to the eastern side of the Cairngorms and the cluster of peaks around the high plateau of the White Mounth. Chief amongst them the proud sentinel of Royal Deeside: Lochnagar. Three friends, four days of adventure, and a lifetime of memories.
Driesh & Mayar
Rising from the forested confluence of Glens Clova & Doll, the route criss-crossed the Kilbo Burn on its way to the snow covered Shank of Drumfollow and thence to the high ground of Driesh ('Bramble') and Mayar ('Obscure Hill' or perhaps 'My Delight' depending on the translation). The weather was a classic 4-seasons-in-one-day Highland brew.
On Driesh we were battered by hail and high winds. It was utterly bleak but made us feel utterly alive.
It was equally ferocious as we approached the summit of Mayar...
...but beautiful, as the spindrift glittered in the morning sunlight.
From the summit we whooped as we slid down the snow covered slopes and then faced a heart-pounding snow traverse over a waterfall before descending into Corrie Fee.
Corrie Fee was misty, dark & deep with stands of old pine muffling the sound of water cascading off the peaks.
"England! thy beauties are tame and domestic To one who has roved o'er the mountains afar: Oh for the crags that are wild and majestic! The steep frowning glories of the dark Loch na Garr."
- Lord Byron
We gingerly edged our way up 'The Ladder' - made quite treacherous by ice on its steep gradient which led to a few nerve-jangling moments. At the top we drew breath and took in the wide-ranging views, including this Ptarmigan perfectly at home amongst the snow and wind. Life never fails to amaze.
Cac Carn Beag (1155m)
& Corrie Lochan nan Eun
When the sun shone we were transported into a world of ice blue. It was absolutely glorious.
At the end of a long day we wearily descended via the great glacial trench of Glen Muick to the loch below, eyes agog at the scenery all around us.
There & back again
Mount Keen: cardinal mountain, being the lonely easternmost outlier of Scotland's Munros. Standing it's lonely vigil at the head of long Glen Tanar it's a long walk in... and a long walk back out again. The route climbs through lovely Caledonian forest, then miles of moorland before this shy giant reveals itself, all the way accompanied by the Water of Tanar and the whispering of the wind.
The Halfway Hut
Gateway to the upper Glen
Monadh Caoin (939m)
As we climbed onto the summit snowfield the panorama was immense: West, the high ground of Lochnagar, and East to the sea.
Braving the icy blast on the summit. All smiles but the day was only half done. The way back became a race against time to get back to the trailhead before nightfall on legs made weary by Lochnagar.
"Leave it as it is. The ages have been at work on it and Man can only mar it."
- Theodore Roosevelt
The end of the trip. Glen Shee Ski Area like a scar on the flanks of The Cairnwell and Carn Aosta. We climbed through a landscape scarred by ski runs and littered with the detritus of ski lifts and empty cafés whilst touring coach parties sipped tea in the tourist centre below.
Beyond, the wilder country of Carn a'Gheiodh. The wind cut like a blade of ice and squalls of hail swept over us as we drove into the hinterland: a vast open moorland of big skies and - to the north - the hulking plateau of the Central Cairngorms.