Gavin's recent domestic adventure to Lochnagar | Tiso Blog
Lochnagar, Grampian Mountains, October 2019, late start.
As the clocks go backwards, the nights get longer and the days get busier as you try to cram more in! You have to be good at managing your time on the hill around this time of year, otherwise you will have to walk in the dark; something that the majority of people are not big fans of!
But for this wee round trip, we thought it might add an element of fun! We weren’t wrong, but weren’t exactly right either.
Myself and Euan Moir finished work the other week on a Wednesday night, around 6ish. The plan was to go to Glen Coe, however, there was a massive weather front moving in so we decided east was a safer option.
We left Edinburgh and drove up north to the Glen Muick Car Park, just south of Ballater. It was already pitch black when we arrived at 10pm and when we stepped out of the van felt the 30mph winds, gusts of 50mph and fair amounts of rain.
The plan was to get to the base of Lochnagar, and do the famous Eagle Ridge the next day. Waterproofs on, packs packed, overnight warm gear, food and full trad gear at the ready and let’s not forget the whisky! We’re definitely going to need that to dry off when we finally get the tent up!
It was an interesting slog, the wind kept pushing us and our over-packed bags around, but we had put the speaker in Moir’s pack, so had tunes blasting all the way (not something you can usually get away with during the day). Arrived at the wee Lochan at the bottom of Eagle Ridge around midnight and somehow managed to find the one relatively flat-ish bit of ground, not bad for slightly orchestrated manoeuvres in the dark!
Waking up in the morning was a sharp and subtle contrast to the arrival. For a start, it was daylight, and you have this amazing view of the huge amphitheatre of Lochnagar! Still a touch windy, but clear skies!
We geared up and headed to the start of the route, a 200 meter severe. Not going to lie, should have gone to bed earlier, but we were able to make do! The first 100 meters….very little rock, it just seemed to be a very wet, very slippery grassy embankment, steep no less, but a bit off-putting. Finally you come across a teeny-tiny ridge and then you are on to the rock properly, which was much better! But alas, still absolutely ringing wet, so rock shoes were a no go! A lot of belly flopping and graceless climbing followed. But in a couple of hours we were up and looking out at a very impressive view! Nothing finer than seeing the surrounding hills getting rained on while your one just sits there smiling back at them all, with the rock being wet but the mountain dry.
A short quick march down a big gully, brought us back to the loch side. We followed this for about 10 minutes, but then came across a huge section of rock sitting in the waters As there was no way for us to cross it without ending up in the Lochan, so up we went again and around to get over that part.
I really enjoyed the walk out as I had never been there before. So when you arrive in the dark, you have a huge sense of the unknown and feeling unnerved, but getting to see it all on the return, you realise, walking around in the dark, isn’t actually that bad after all. So maybe for your first outing in the dark, go somewhere you are familiar with.
P.S: Moir had the Petzl Nao+, it put my Petzl Myo to shame, so if anyone is considering getting a late crack for an early start at things this time of year, yeah, bring a decent head torch!