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Lochnagar - Page Text Content

S: Lochnagar

FC: A Pictoral Anthology by Bob Tebbutt

2: It has long been a desire of mine to hike to the top of Lochnagar, the highest peak on the Balmoral Estate. The Cairn marker registers 1155 metres (3789 feet). I have made three attempts to reach the summit; the first was in October 1993 accompanied by my brother-in-law, Rob Tompkins. The conditions were awful; heavy, low cloud and constant rain. On reflection, we should not have been on the mountain in such conditions. The second attempt was in July 2008. This time the weather was perfect and my wife, Sharon; my younger son David and my brother John made up a foursome. We took the shorter but steeper route up (along-side Glas Allt) but John and Sharon never made it to Glas Allt Falls leaving David and I to go it alone.

3: Unfortunately, two factors caused us to abandon the quest for the summit - time constraints (we had started out too late) and my developing several very painful blisters which got worse as we made the long trek back to the Car Park. My third attempt was in August 2010 going solo (although it being another perfect day, there were hundreds of hikers on the mountain). And I did make it to the top finally. The red dots on the map show the route taken in both 1993 and 2010. The short green dotted section indicates the approximate point at which we made a risky decision to leave the path that ran along the ridge and scramble down a slope towards the Glas Allt burn that we could hear but could not see as visibility was less than 30 metres. The blue dots indicate the 2008 up and return route.

4: South of Tomintoul, A939 Nairn to Ballater road, passes through gloriously wild and open

5: country with gradients and turns to test a driver's nerve and the capability of the vehicle.

6: As one approaches the A93 main road the preferred choice is to take the short B976 road which allows for, on a clear day, striking views of Lochnagar (previous pages). | The home seen here is "Rhynabaich"; then owned by the Fraser family, affectionately known as Dod and Ma.

7: Its location, above the A93, affords clear views of Lochnagar (except for the clouds on this occasion). Climb Geallaig Hill, behind Ryhnabaich (above), on a virtually cloud-free evening and the characteristic shape of the mountain is easily recognised. Apparently, Rhynabaich is the only surviving house of thirteen original buildings. But its origins stem back to the 9th Century. A Celtic apostle, St. Manire established a church on this site but all that remains is a 'standing stone' lying a little west of the house.

8: The adage "ignorance is bliss" is rarely true and that proved to be the case with respect to the 1993 attempt. We started off in steady rain and we were soon into the low cloud and strong winds. Hypothermia, a turned ankle on a wet rock, disorientation - all very possible in such conditions and had any of these or other mishaps occurred we

9: would have been in serious difficulty since we were the the only humans on the mountain that day. The odd grouse would have been no help. The two photos that we did take show us at Fox Cairn Well (left), the first real steep section and at the end of the hike (above), a few hundred metres from the Car Park.

10: Despite the cold and the wet, there is still a beauty to the Scottish Highlands in such conditions. Add the colours of Autumn and one can sit and admire the drama that a sunny day rarely allows. "Soon shall I see them, the mist-covered mountains of home." yearned John Cameron. | But when your opportunities are few and far between, as are ours, a nice sunny day is the preferred choice to attempt this type of endeavour,- and such it was in 2008 when I, my wife, our younger son and my brother, embarked on venture number two to reach the summit. As alluded to already, a late start (it was around noon when we began the hike) pretty well guaranteed that reaching the summit was a vain hope. The Glas Allt path is the shorter route to the top but to reach the start of the path up at the far end of Loch Muick, requires close to an hour's walk along the north shore path. Add a 30 minute break for lunch part way, it was around 1:30 pm when we began the steep climb to the Falls and beyond. We also spent a little time admiring Glas Allt Shiel, a modest (by royal standards) house owned by the Queen which serves as a home from home when the Royal Family wish to "get away from it all" when holidaying at Balmoral. And so, we began the climb in earnest on up to Glas Allt Falls. But brother John's knee began to take exception to the climb and Sharon took a fall which caused some discomfort resulting in their decision to return to the car, leaving David and myself to press on after agreeing that we would be back at the car before 5:00 pm. After the Falls the path levels out somewhat and progress becomes quite swift but I was beginning to develop those wretched blisters which began to slow my progress. This, plus David having the advantage of forty-plus years over me, meant that I began to fall behind and when we reached the next steep section, I called it quits and we reluctantly turned around to head back to the Car Park.

12: This is Allt-na-giubhsaich, the dwellings at which the paths divide; one going through a small wooded area leading to the Fox Cairn Well; the other, along Loch Muick shoreline.

13: The Boat house at the northern tip of Loch Muick

14: Lunch along the way

15: arriving at Glas Allt Shiel

18: exiting the trees that seclude Glas Allt Shiel

19: As we continue to climb, the mantle of trees that surround the Shiel are almost an anomaly being the only trees growing on this vast area of the Balmoral Estate.

20: Looking down on the southern end of Loch Muick

21: southern end of Loch Muick

24: Looking back from above Glas Allt Falls one can see the path on the right, the receding Loch Muick and a hint of Gllas Allt Shiel.

25: It required maximum zoom to capture these two sentinels on film

26: Now well above the Falls and enjoying a relatively level section, it was still warm work causing a jettisoning of the shirt.

27: Glas Allt in the foreground with a small tributary coming out of the unpronounceable Coire an Daimh Mhoile

28: A "Where's Waldo" challenge. David, showing mo mercy, had scaled the steep section in the foreground leaving me far below

29: Even at a 2x zoom, I am barely visible. The very keenest eye may be able to discern other hikers in the top right corner of the picture.

30: Time and blisters had taken their toll and we were forced to abandon the summit to return to the Car Park to rejoin Sharon and John

31: By now, a familiar view, but each time I have been at this point of the hike, I still recall that first ever sighting in 1993 when suddenly, out of the mist Loch Muick appeared. Magical!

32: Again, a familiar view as we approach the Falls.

33: David also finding the effort warm. Note the path visible in the centre of the picture

34: Glas Allt Falls

35: Yet another familiar view looking toward Corrie Chash. At this point I was walking with such difficulty that I had little interest in taking anymore photos. I just wanted to get back to the Car Park and deal with the blisters.

36: And so, to 2010. On this occasion, I pre-determined that time and blisters would not become an impediment to my quest to reach the summit of Lochnagar.

37: I made an early start and shod myself with comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

38: Shortly after passing through the wooded section by Allt na Giubhasaich one is confronted with this modest burn. In 1993, however, it was a raging torrent and took some time to find away across.

39: I wanted to include the personal touch by including the odd video clip of yours truly. I brought along my mini-tripod and ran the camera, later editing out the parts that show my back as I rush to the chosen start point of the scene. | One of the difficulties of filming "blind" as it were is to position the camera to make sure the subject aka. me (on this occasion) is within the viewing screen. I got that right but I did make a blunder - can you spot it?

40: I am about two-thirds toward the summit at this point and from here the climbing really begins in earnest.

41: Between the rocky foreground and the spectacularly scarred face of the ridge beyond lies the loch - also named Lochnagar. | A little closer and more of the ridge face becomes visible. Also visible at the far right is the summit of the mountain.

42: The climb up this 30 degree gradient is probably the most demanding section. After this part is completed the path does a gradual loop around to the right and eventually along the top of the far ridge. | Several stops to catch one's breath and to rest weary legs affords the opportunity to marvel at Creation. When and how were such diverse features brought into being. One minute, one is surrounded by vast areas of purple and pink heather; the next one can hardly see any vegetation for the boulders.

43: And what monumental earthly convulsion birthed this bowl-like formation - and reflecting the sky, the rich blue of the loch, contrasted against the greens and greys of its surroundings, paints a true water colour. | I had now reached the point where the two paths meet; the Glas Allt path coming up from the left.

44: The final few hundred metres to the summit are virtually level with a final effort required to reach the summit indicator and cairn.

46: And so begins the return following Glas Allt down to Loch Muick. The bottom photo is taken from the spot where two years earlier my son and I turned back. | The path can be clearly seen to the left of the burn. In the far distance (not visible) is the foot bridge which is a convenient spot to take not only a breather....

47: ...but to replenish one's water bottle with fresh, cold water (ignoring the fact that many animals inhabit these hills and all that that entails). And this is where I made my major should have been bottles. As unbelievable as it seems, I actually ran out of water later in the day. | In 1993, we couldn't get away from the stuff. If we weren't walking in mini-rivers, it was oozing out of the ground around our feet Scotland is well-known for its frequent rains but not during the summer of 2010, it seems.

48: I include this view, yet again, to show the point out where the path that I took as an alternative route back to the Car Park. From where I am standing the path snakes down to run alongside the tree line. Once at lake level the path skirts the edge of the Loch. One of the foot bridges crossing a burn coming down from Dubh Loch can be seen top right

49: I was beginning to struggle a bit at this point. It was taking much longer to reach the bridge over the Black Burn than I had thought. These pictures of the burn are not from 2010 and are only included for the sake of the view. In 2010, the water level was much less and I could not climb down to the burn to refill my long empty water bottle.

50: As much as I was regretting taking the longer route back, my spirits perked up when I saw the reason that I had come this way. First, a splendid view of Glas Allt Shiel nestled in its blanket of evergreens.......

51: ....and second, being able to capture a photo that shows the path I had already negotiated, the still visible Shiel and the two watercourses; on the right, the Stulan Burn flowing out of Loch Buidhe and Allt na Duibh Loch on the left.

52: Yes! this one is a little deceptive as it is a photo taken in 1990 of my wife, son Andrew at the age of 5 and my mother. What is legitimate (for 2010) is the location; Loch Muick, the south shore path, close to the Car Park. An evening sun adds an appropriate time element as it was early evening by the time I arrived back.

53: I was very weary and probably a little dehydrated and most of this final stretch was an endurance test. I had lost the pleasure of the journey and had only one thought on my mind =- how much further is that pesky Car Park, until...... | ...I rounded a bend and saw these magnificent creatures that had come down to the river for their refreshment. Out came the camera and all weariness disappeared and I spent some time watching and filming their grazing.

54: Close by was another photographer with a dog both of which were exhibiting a keen interest in the herd. For the man the interest was strictly photographic; for the dog an opportunity for a playful chase. The dog was quivering with anticipation and, unable to contain itself any longer, made a rush toward the herd .

55: The owner barked a rebuke which stopped the dog dead in his tracks - but it was too late. The deer were rattled and were already in full flight scurrying across the path seeking the refuge of higher ground.

56: Scurrying, I was not! Neither had I any further interest in reaching higher ground and the only refuge I sought was....

57: be found in the cold, fresh, soothing waters of a mountain stream.

58: I had finally achieved a long-standing goal! Since my first trip to Deeside at Hogmanay 1964/65, I have returned there over a dozen times and even lived and worked in Aberdeen for a year during 1968. Would I like to repeat the climb? Most definitely! Is that likely? Probably not! Having emigrated to Canada in 1970, the opportunities are far fewer than were I still living in the UK. Add to the fact that in 2002, I was diagnosed as having developed Parkinson's Disease - the symptoms of which I had begin to notice two years earlier. Add further that this third attempt was made four months shy of my 65th. birthday, it would, therefore, seem the odds are against another try. But, despite the demands on aging legs, it was an exhilarating experience never to be forgotten. Indeed, the flesh is weak but, more importantly, the spirit will always be willing. Bob Tebbutt - Dec. 2011 In case the first reference to a "blunder" (photo of me crossing the first burn) that I ask you to spot is causing you sleepless nights, it is that I had (of course) already crossed the burn to set up the camera and had removed my backpack. To give the impression that I was crossing the burn only the one time, I should have been carrying the back pack.

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  • By: Bob T.
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  • Title: Lochnagar
  • A pictoral anthology of the three attempts to hike to the summit of Lochanagar
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  • Started: over 6 years ago
  • Updated: over 6 years ago