Distance: 20 miles
Time: 8 hours
OS Map: 43/44
Yesterday was only going to be a moderately ambitious day, with one or possibly two Munros climbed from Braemar. However in the end I did an epic traverse of the Mounth, adding Lochnagar to my journey and exiting several miles from Braemar at Crathie.
Catching the 07:45 Stagecoach from Aberdeen I was heading down the A93 towards the Glenshee Ski Centre a little before 10 am this morning. Retracing my steps from the day up Carn An Tuirc last month I left the A93 and headed down the beautiful, wild Glen Callater, stopping about an hour into the walk by the shores of Loch Callater. The weather was so far on my side, with sunny spells between clouds which were blowing gently through on an easterly breeze. It wasn't exactly warm but I certainly didn't need the extra layers that were required last week on the climb of Lochnagar.
After a stop to admire the sparkling waters of Loch Callater I started my climb, leaving the main track just before the fence around Lochcallater Lodge and following the well-made stalkers path up the side of Creag an Loch. At a burn the track turned left and gave a spectacular walk along the side of the hill above the Loch. I could now see all the way up to the head of the Glen and the dramatic snow-capped mountains surrounding it. I stopped for tea on a rock with the whole of Loch Callater spread out below me.
As I rounded the corner to head north-east I started to meet the first snow of the day. In the snow it had melted quite significantly so was grippy but slushy. The track now meandered its way across a patch of boggy land between Creag an Loch and my first target of the day, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, which stood much higher on my right. Eventually the track was lost beneath the snow but a set of footprints headed towards the summit and it was these which I followed as they found the surer ground.
The climb was long, heading up through snowfields of various consistency but eventually the summit cairn appeared on the horizon and I was up. The view was incredible with the mountains of the Mounth stretching out all around me, and beyond them the Cairngorm Massif including Macdui, the Cairnwell and Ben Avon. I paused here for lunch whilst I considered my options. The easiest choice would be to retrace my steps to Braemar, but with so much climbing done already it seemed sensible to make the most of the height gain and stay on the plateau. As I ate lunch a dark cloud which was troubling the summit of Lochnagar dispersed and I could clearly see a route across there giving the the option of a complete traverse.
After lunch I headed off the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, a steep descent through snow, and headed east. This took me first to the top Carn an t-Sagairt Beag (1044m) from which I could see the hard rock of the Stuic buttress, and the rounded peak of Carn a Choire Bhoidheach which was my next target of the day. At 1110m this was my second Munro of the day and marked the point where I had to decide my route home.
On the windswept plateau, with a clear route to the summit of Lochnagar I decided to make the most of the good weather and headed that way. Again I was following a confident set of footprints that took my back towards the Stuic, then across the gentle dip in the plateau to the slopes below Cac Carn Mor. From here I ascended, veering slightly to the north and west so that after a few minutes of steep climbing I came out with only a short stretch of the plateau between me and the summit of Cac Carn Beag.
it was a slippery climb along a well worn track to the summit but it was worth it with stunning views all around, including the route I had taken across the plateau. There were dizzying drops all around and I was able to refer to the viewfinder to identify the peaks around me unlike the previous week when all had been hidden.
From the summit I know retraced the route we had taken the previous week, this time taking my time to look over the cliffs and down to the frozen lochan below. A solitary snowman kept a watchful eye over the last few people to leave the summit. After a last view of the dark cliffs and corries I descended the ladder which was much more tricky without the benefit of near blindness. From the col it was then a simple matter of descending to the track and heading north to Crathie. The difference was that I got some stunning views of Lochnagar as I walked out.
After a slightly complicated bus route home, a couple of pints in Ballater, and a fish and chip supper I put my weary legs to bed, reflecting on an epic day in the snowy mountains.