Hills: Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Carn a' Choire
Bhoidheach and Lochnagar
Thursday 20th June 2019 and Friday 21st June 2019
Company: Myself and Ann-Marie
Distance: 29.9km, Ascent: 1425m
Time: 10Hrs 45Mins
In the run up to the summer solstice, I kept a
close eye on several weather forecasts in the hope of undertaking an
overnight walk in Glen Affric; daily mention of thundery downpours always
gives cause for concern. On checking the final forecasts prior to setting
off from home, they indicated considerably better weather to the east.
Instead of Glen Affric, I therefore opted for a repeat of the Lochnagar
Horseshoe taking in Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, Carn
a' Choire Bhoidheach and Lochnagar. Having walked the Lochnagar Horsehoe
twice previously, and also various other combinations of these hills, this
would be familiar territory.
Prior to parking-up at the Spittal of
Glenmuick, we had a good feed at 'India on the Green', in Ballater. Top
quality Indian food, will definitely be going back. Shortly thereafter, on
arriving at the Spittal of Glenmuick car park, I was conscious we still had
ample time to spare if we were to witness the solstice sunrise from the
summit of Lochnagar. Regardless, we decided to head-off early allowing us to
walk at a more relaxed pace and build-in some contingency time should
walking in the dark take longer than anticipated.
From the car park, we set off along the south bank of Loch Muick with a
view to undertaking a clockwise circuit. As we walked along the lochside, we
could see and hear numerous Greylag Geese down on the loch. After walking a
couple of kilometres along the track, Broad Cairn, our first Munro of the
walk, came in to view. It looked a long way off.
Looking along Loch
Muick towards the summit of Broad Cairn:
walk round Loch Muick is a fantastic low-level walk in itself. On reaching
approximately half-way round the loch, we took the excellent-quality track
leading up towards Broad Cairn. During the ascent we stopped several times
to take photographs.
Broad Cairn from Loch Muick track:
looking back, the weather to the east looked fantastic. On looking west, the
same could not be said.
View looking back along Loch Muick:
reaching the top of the track, we could see rain showers above the White
Mounth hills which were heading in our general direction. The combination of
showers and sunlight provided some great atmospheric views. It was nice to
look across to the Glas Allt waterfall and also the Allt an Dubh loch.
View across Loch Muick towards the White Mounth:
didn't take any photos during the next few kilometres due to showers and
lack of good views. On reaching Sandy's Seat, we stopped to use Sandy's Seat
and have a drink. Broad Cairn was now not too distant. After our brief rest,
we set off to ascend Broad Cairn.
Ascending Broad Cairn:
arrived at the summit of Broad Cairn at 22:15. Unfortunately the cloud was
now dropping, limiting views of the surrounding hills. I remained positive,
trusting the weather forecasts would be correct, with cloud dissipating to
provide a cloud-free night. Fat chance
nice to see the wonderful steep crags of Creag an Dubh-loch once again.
At the summit of Broad Cairn:
the summit of Broad Cairn we next made our way towards Cairn Bannoch.
Looking back to Broad Cairn:
En-route to Cairn Bannoch, we could see more incoming cloud and expected to
get a soaking. As it was now after sunset, the light was fading due to the
dark clouds and the moon not having yet risen. Fortunately, these clouds
passed-by without showering us with rain or snow.
reached the summit of Cairn Bannoch, our second Munro, at 23:00. A short
distance beyond the summit, we stopped to put on another layer as it was
getting cold. The temperature, with added windchill, felt more akin to
walking on a winter solstice than a summer one.
Looking across to
Eagle's Rock waterfall from summit of Cairn Bannoch:
camera stayed mostly in its bag for the next few hours of darkness as I was
not carrying a tripod which would have been required for the required long
While ascending Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, we got out our
headtorches switching them on shortly before reaching the summit. Once into
the low cloud, the beam of the headtorches was reflecting back like driving
a car with full beam in fog. We had to therefore reduce the power of the
beam of our torches in order to see where we were going. We were both
carrying not only spare batteries but also spare headtorches, a good move
when planning to walk overnight.
We reached the summit of Carn an
t-Sagairt Mor at midnight.
At the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor:
the outset of the walk, it had been my intention to walk from Carn an
t-Sagairt Mor to Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach via Carn an t-Sagairt Beag. It
was however now slow progress given the low-cloud and ability to see only
several metres ahead. We followed a compass bearing to reach the col. I then
decided to drop down another 50m to make use of the track skirting round
Carn an t-Sagairt Beag which would allow for faster progress. Before long we
reached the path, passing some aircraft wreckage en-route.
the path, it was again fast progress onward and upwards towards our fourth
Munro, Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach. We reached this fourth Munro summit at
At the summit of Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach:
the summit of Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach, the route out to Lochnagar was
undertaken in low cloud. We followed the good path the whole way which made
for fast progress despite a lack of visibility.
Before long we
reached Cac Carn Mor and then proceeded onto Cac Carn Beag, the summit of
Lochnagar. We reached the summit of Lochnagar at 02:20 i.e. circa two hours
This was my eleventh ascent of Lochnagar, my first
ascent was in 1982/83 with the school hillwalking club.
After visiting the toposcope, we both also visited the trig point and summit
rock. We spent quite a bit of time at the summit faffing around attempting
to take photographs. The quality of photos was however poor, owing to it
being dark, not having a tripod and being in low cloud.
Myself at the
summit of Lochnagar:
Ann-Marie at the summit of Lochnagar:
we were engulfed in low cloud at the summit, I thought it was pointless to
wait a further 90 minutes with only an off-chance of witnessing the sunrise.
We therefore decided to begin our descent with a view to hopefully
witnessing the sunrise from a lower vantage point. This turned out to be an
excellent plan .
On walking round the coire rim at circa 3am, we were surprised to see
two other walkers heading for the summit. I suspect they missed the sunrise.
Lochnagar c.45 minutes before sunrise:
we progressed round the final section of coire rim, we could see some
wonderful pre-sunrise colours beyond Meikle Pap. With circa 45 minutes
remaining until sunrise, it was now a case of step-up several gears to
descend to the col and then ascend Meikle Pap in time for sunrise. I
ended-up almost running up Meikle Pap, en-route passing a ptarmigan doing
the broken-wing act in an attempt to lure me away from its chicks.
Pre-sunrise light beyond Meikle Pap:
Thanks to the increased pace, I arrived in time to witness the pre-sunrise
colours and was shortly thereafter joined by Ann-Marie and two other walkers
who had seen me legging-it up Meikle Pap. The two other walkers had intended
ascending Lochnagar but failed to locate the start of the path up the
Awaiting sunrise on Meikle Pap:
was wonderful to just sit for twenty minutes watching the sun come up.
Pre-sunrise view from Meikle Pap:
Pre-sunrise view from Meikle Pap:
few minutes before sunrise:
seeing the sun come over the sunrise, the Beatles song "Here Comes the Sun"
popped into my head, a song I last heard being covered in the Cavern Club in
Liverpool. A great song for a great spectacle.
sunrise, "Here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo)":
wonderful sunrise was good not only to the east but also to the west as the
first rays of the summer solstice sunrise lit up the Corrie of Lochnagar in
a deep red.
First rays of summer solstice sunrise lighting up the
Corrie of Lochnagar:
First rays of summer solstice sunrise lighting up the Corrie of Lochnagar:
After witnessing the sunrise, we made our way down Meikle Pap and back out
the standard walking route to the Spittal of Glenmuick. The track in this
direction remains fairly poor with lots of stones just dumped on the track
to prevent erosion. Hopefully, car park monies will be spent to help repair
this track to a quality similar to that ascending Broad Cairn and the Capel
A wonderful overnight walk. Think I need to walk overnight