• HOODWINKED ON LOCHNAGAR - A MUNRO CIRCUIT OF LOCH MUICK

    Published 10th May 2015, 12:32

    NEVER mind the General Election - Scotland’s weather would have sent the swingometer into meltdown last week.

    I suppose it was it inevitable the mini heatwave we had been experiencing would disappear just in time for our week-long expedition to the Cairngorms. But we didn’t expect such a dramatic turnaround.

    The summer gear had hardly been out of the bag when winter came roaring in for a last hurrah. The forecast was for wind chill of -15 and snow showers every day. 
    It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to wake to blue skies and sunshine on the Sunday. Maybe the forecasters had called it wrong, maybe it was just a temporary reprieve, but we were going to take full advantage.

    We set out for Lochnagar from a strangely deserted car park at Loch Muick. Someone spotted a deer feeding on the flats by the approach path. Then another and another. Suddenly there were dozens of them, perfectly blended in a sea of brown and yellow, ignoring this breakfast intrusion.

    It was still calm when we made our way up the rocky staircase and round on to the plateau, past the minor protrusion of Cac Carn Mor - complete with miniature icicles - and on over the snowy terrain to the main summit.

    Loch nan Eun and the guardian rock faces of The Stuic sparkled and shadowed alternately in the ever-changing light, their moods slipping back in time to January.
    The party split here; those who had thought the plateau was out of reach with the predicted weather delighted to have escaped unscathed, the others ready to push their luck further.

    The next two Munro summits - Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach and Carn an t-Saigart Mor - are easily won in decent visibility, nothing more than a stroll with gentle rises to rounded tops. We had originally planned this to be the extent of our day, bailing out down by the Dubh Loch or  by a return round by Lochnagar and the Glas Allt path down by the waterfalls to Loch Muick. But then I casually mentioned it was just as easy to complete a full circuit by crossing two more Munros.

    The baggers among the party were immediately alert. Interest was starting to win over scepticism. It couldn’t be that easy surely?

    Among our number was Jane, who had already walked more Munros today than she had in all her previous hill days. She had been comfortable with the trek so far, so I made the case for both sides and it was agreed we would continue.

    Cairn Bannoch was soon reached, no problem. Perhaps, though, a weariness was finally settling in because Jane looked across to the final peak, Broad Cairn, and began to have doubts. I tried to reassure her. “Not far now, just another couple of hours.” I think she had been hoping for 15 minutes. There were daggers in her eyes pointing at those who had suggested this. Or, as she so eloquently put it: “I think I’ve been hoodwinked.”

    As we made our way across the plateau, the sky behind us was filling in fast with towering black clouds. Jane’s looks were getting blacker as well. As we made down off Broad Cairn heading for the track home, the wind picked up and brought the snow with it, and as we hit the pony shed at the junction of paths, the flakes were coming thick and fast.

    We decided to take the lower option and dropped down fast to the shores of the loch. It was a good move - the snow stayed on all the way.

    We were walking snowmen when we reached the car park. All that was needed was a carrot for a nose, but I’m not sure that’s where Jane would have stuck mine.