Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Tuesday 4 September - Lochnagar (nearly)

From the moment we set out from the Spittal of Glenmuick we knew there would be difficulties high up. They were apparent enough on the track to Allt-na-guibhsaich. On two occasions I was brought to a halt by the wind. Of course strong, gusty, winds aren't exactly rare in Scotland and it's something you get used to. In fact a calm day on Scottish hills is likely to elicit more comments than a windy one.

The Scots pines at Allt-na-guibhsaich brought a welcome, if brief, respite before we took to the open hillside again. At 500m I was blown from one side of the track to the other; Lynne was blown back down the track. There was no shelter but it was a gloriously beautiful September morning which made all the difference.

In due course we arrived below Meikle Pap and set off upwards without a pause. It was a struggle to stay upright and I resorted to moving crab-like across the boulder field. Lynne was doing no better lower down having been blown backwards clean off her feet and deposited on a flat boulder, luckily unhurt. On her arrival beside me, we conferred briefly. This was an accident waiting to happen we reckoned so we retreated without further discussion. Not even a wistful look back as we descended to the mossy col to view the cliffs and loch, take some pics (with difficulty) then nip up Meikle Pap as a consolation summit. It was more sheltered here but I didn't risk standing on the highest rocks. The wind still roared and continued to do so all the way back to the Spittal.

90mph+ we've since been told. As a rule I don't like turning back unless conditions are obviously dangerous and today we were maybe a bit too cautious, although the decision felt right at the time. A gust, a bad landing and fun can turn to broken bones so easily. Worse still, a head injury. I must be getting old! It's not me in the poem below though. Honest.

ANTE MORTEM by Syd Scroggie

I will attempt the Capel track
Old, stiff and retrograde
And get some pal to shove me on
Should resolution fade,
For I must see black Meikle Pap
Against a starry sky
And watch the dawn from Lochnagar
Once more before I die.
The golden plover whistled there
Before the fall of Man
And you can hear the brittle croak
Of lonely ptarmigan.
No heather there but boulders bare
And quartz and granite grit
And ribs of snow, bleak, old and grey
As I remember it.
And if I do not make the top
Then sit me on a stone,
Some lichened rock among the screes
And leave me there alone.
Yes, leave me there alone to hear
Where spout and buttress are
The breeze that stirs the little loch
On silent Lochnagar.

Sent from my BlackBerry®


  1. The hill will be there on another day, Gibson. I've pushed on in the past, on days when it was a complete misery; I'm less inclined to do so these days.

    Soggy maps and lukewarm cups of tea and rainwater seem to have lost their appeal.

  2. The OS has it as An Socach - I guess this was just a typo on your part.

    It is a wise person who can decide when to turn back on a mountain and coming to that conclusion, with your experience, I am sure it must have been pretty bad.

    I have turned back for wind twice; firstly on Aonach Meadhoin above Cluanie when within 200m of the summit, and secondly on Halls Ridge on Blencathra in The Lakes when I was taken off my feet and carried some distance - my map departed like a kite at great speed, and no doubt ended up in Penrith or Carlisle.

  3. Can we not get something done about these darned boulder fields in Scotland? They need a good tidy-up. Maybe we could build some walls with them? Perhaps they could be used as ballast in the concrete foundations for all the turbines?
    I've taken a few tumbles on boulder fields when carrying a pack. Not funny at all.

  4. Hi G and L. 90mph! More than enough wind speed to stay off the tops. I don't think it has anything to do with age just common sense. It will be better tomorrow.

  5. Great little poem! Glad to see you're in my neck of the woods...

  6. Great stuff Gibson. Good to see I'm not the only one who has been defeated by wind on Lochnagar (as well as numerous other hills)!

  7. Hi Martin - I'm sure we are not alone in being chased off a hill or two by strong winds. With Lynne and her Mum in Perth today I at last have time (peace!) to catch up on your trip.