A loop from the west taking in Mona Gowan and Morven on a bright and breezy spring day.
Date: 12th April 2014
Hills: Mona Gowan (Graham), Morven (Corbett)
Weather: Very breezy with plenty of sunshine
Route: Click to view on Social Hiking
It was blowing an absolute hoolie when I parked up in the modest sized layby besides the A939 above Glen Gairn. I got my stuff sorted in the shelter of the boot but even so there was still a danger of losing stuff as anything loose blew wildly around. Still, there was sunshine and fast moving clouds and it felt good to be back in trail shoes with a view of hills all around.
This was just to be a fairly quick round, taking in the Graham of Mona Gowan and the Corbett of Morven which dominates the north side of Deeside as you approach Ballater from the east. A short stretch along the road leads to a vehicle track heading off towards Glen Fenzie. This was followed a short way to a ruined cottage where I turned north to follow the easy track up Tom Dubh.
In the quick, bright air the views were fantastic and soon I was looking behind me towards Mount Keen and Lochnagar, snow streaking their northern edges.
I gained height easily and was soon looking across the watershed towards Strathdon. The wind increased height and it was very difficult to walk in a straight line as it cut through the heather.
After the top of Tom Dubh a line of fence posts led me eastward first to the cairned summit of Scraulac with views back to Ben Avon and the eastern Cairngorms.
From here I could now look eastward along the ridge to Cairnagour Hill and then Morven in the distance commanding a lofty position above the lower hills of middle Deeside. In the far distance Bennachie was a dark outline amongst the rolling green hills of Aberdeenshire.
With the strong wind to my back and a good track winding its way through short cropped heather it was easy progress to Cairnagour Hill, the views of Morven drawing me forward as bright sunshine picked out hazy details. A guy and his dog passed me briefly but I overtook them again on the long pull up to the featureless summit of Cairnagour Hill.
There were panoramic views across Deeside to Lochngar now resplendent in the sunshine.
There was now a reasonable dip to the bealach before Morven though it was nice to be sheltered briefly from the wind and I took the opportunity to lose a layer and change out my hats. Then it was a long pull back up to the summit of Mona Gowan.
The substantial cairn on Mona Gowan was reached after passing through a gate in the fence. The wind was severe up here and after taking a few shaky photos I huddled down in the lee of the cairn for a drink and some food, looking east to Morven.
Again it was nice to drop off to the east to find some shelter but the ridge extending east towards the Slack of Glencarvie was soon exposing me to the wind again.
I took the opportunity of shelter above the Slack to enjoy lunch, lazing around in the pleasant sunshine. It felt pretty springlike. After this I dropped down into the Slack and scrambled up the far side, emerging back on the ridge where I found the wind to be more ferocious then ever.
I picked my way along to the cairned summit of Mullacdubh but was soon descending as it was impossible to stand in the teeth of the wind. The views of Morven were beautiful from this side and I was soon starting the ascent up onto its western shoulder.
In the wind it was fight to get up the final slopes and it was a relief to gain the summit of the Corbett and find some shelter in the big windbreak behind the cairn. The views again were spectacular, a wide panorama of hills and landscape from the sea to the Cairngorms.
After some more food it was time to be heading down. The wind wasn't showing any sign of easing and from now on I'd be walking into it to get back to the car. My plan was to descend south from Morven and pick up the track that runs west to Glen Fenzie. The strong winds made the going quite tortuous on the upper slopes and I ended up angling across to the reach the relative shelter of a burn dropping down to the southwest of Morven.
The going was mostly easy, stopping beside a chattering burn to refill my water bottle and then picking my way through scrubby bushes to finally reach the track running to the south of Morven.
The track offered easy footing but it was hard work walking into the wind. The views were still good though and soon I was dropping down towards the wide bowl south of Mona Gowan where Morven Lodge and its associated farms sits.
I picked my way through the maze of tracks, crossed the Morven Burn and then skirted the boundary of Morven Lodge to reach the track running up the hillside on the far side of the trees.
It was then a case of following the track across the lower slopes of Tom Liath before dropping into Glen Fenzie, crossing another burn and then dropping down past the ruin to the road and then the car.
It had been a great day out on the hills, despite the ever present and at times maddening wind. I also took some video footage and have put together this 10 minute film which captures a bit more of the wind!