Date: Sunday 26th June 2016
Company: Just myself
Distance: 8.6km, Ascent: 645m
Time: 3Hrs 30Mins
Having injured my knee a few weeks ago (over-extension on going down a grass-covered hole in the ground) I was really keen to get back out on the hills but at the same time not make the injury worse. I therefore decided to ascend a relatively close-to-home hill such that if I had to turn back after walking a few hundred metres, it would not be a long, wasted car journey.
Despite Morven being visible in the distance from my house, I had only been up it once previously back in 2003. My previous ascent was in a traverse from Donside via Mona Gowan and Morven through to Ballater. This time, I would go in from the East from near Groddie.
From the small parking area, I walked a short distance back along the road before following the track leading to the ruin at Balhennie.
Beyond Balhennie, I made my way up some wet ground towards an information board welcoming people to the moor.
Welcome to the moor:
I now had two choices: i) a short, steep direct ascent or ii) a longer, more gradual ascent. I opted for ii) the longer, more gradual ascent as this would hopefully put less strain on my injured knee.
During the walk in, I encountered lots of wildlife but failed to photograph most of it! At Balhennie, Lapwing were circling overhead and I spotted a Curlew and an Oystercatcher. I could also hear but not see numerous drumming Snipe.
Ascent via lower path:
During the ascent of Morven, I passed not one, not two, not even three but four families of grouse with chicks. The chicks were all able to fly so photographing them, as they
suddenly and noisily flew out from the cover of the heather, was fairly impossible.
Looking back during ascent of lower slopes:
I also saw and unsuccessfully managed to photograph several Mountain Hare and a Common Lizard. The wildlife were too quick and/or I was too slow at getting the camera out.
Ascent towards top of gully:
The wildlife highlight however was spotting a Golden Eagle in the distance, albeit it was too far off to get a good photograph. The following photo is at full zoom and cropped.
A distant Golden Eagle:
On arriving at a series of Grouse butts, I also came upon a fairly new, wide, bulldozed track that was not marked on the map. I followed this new track uphill for a short distance before taking to the pathless hillside.
Grouse butts on Morven:
Wide track not marked on OS map:
During the ascent, I stopped several times to photograph Mount Keen and Lochnagar. Lochnagar is one of my favourite hills.
Mount Keen (zoom):
I felt quite sad on passing a small bog with the remains of a recently dead lamb and sheep. I wondered if the lamb had perhaps fallen in and the mother had went in to try to rescue it but both then failed to get out. Instead of Morven, I thought Mordor and the dead marshes. Was I ascending Mount Doom and would I come across Sauron or Gollum?
Dead lamb and sheep in bog:
At last, during the ascent of the final slopes, I managed to photograph a hare which kindly sat still instead of tearing off across the hillside.
A mountain hare:
Final ascent of Morven:
On reaching the wide ridge, I followed it to the large summit cairn marking the summit of Morven.
View from Morven ridge:
I spent around fifteen minutes at the summit looking at and photographing the surrounding hills. While I can see Morven from my house, I could not see my house, or village, from Morven.
The Buck O'Cabrach and Tap O'Noth were both visible to the North-East.
View towards the Buck and Tap O'Noth:
At the summit of Morven:
Trig point from atop the summit cairn:
Mount Keen (zoom):
While it was nice to see Ben Avon in the distance, I would have liked to be on it ascending some of its tops as well as neighbouring Beinn a'Bhuird and some of its tops.
Ben Avon (zoom):
Before starting my descent, I put the camera on the trig point and took a ten-second timer pic.
Myself at the summit of Morven:
Looking towards Lochnagar from the summit of Morven:
I opted to descend via the more direct, steep route. This was not as pleasant as my inbound route and I saw no wildlife, with the exception of one hairy caterpillar, going this way.
Looking towards Loch Kinord during descent:
Descent from Morven:
I did however meet three other walkers who were just starting to head up as I was making my way down.
Looking back during descent:
View during descent:
View during descent:
Looking back at steep descent:
As I was back to the car by midday, I decided to visit nearby Burn O'Vat. I have passed the Burn O'Vat car park countless times but had not previously stopped to visit the Vat.
Thanks to ClareSkyfall on Twitter for recommending a visit to Burn O'Vat and also nearby Loch Kinord. I will visit Loch Kinord on my next visit to Ballater.
The Burn O'Vat is an impressive geological feauture - a large hollow carved out by millenia of flowing water. It is definitely worth a visit.