BB1040 : Three Old Men Of Lochnagar

Monday 25th October 2010

It was a glorious day as we drove north, through an autumnal Scotland looking its finest. Snow capped tops could be seen in the Cairngorms and Lochnagar looked superb from the Dee valley.  No wonder the local police put up warnings telling you not to stop. And to think that some folk think these signs are there because it's the only place from which you can see Balmoral!

Lochnagar from near Balmoral

My prinicipal objective for the trip was Lochnagar.  I have visited the area many times but have never had the opportunity to climb the hill.  Bryan was keen to bag as many Monros as he could.  Stan has stopped counting as his Monro list is not up to date but this was an area that he had not visited.

What a pity we had been unable to travel the previous day as the forecast for our first opportunity, Tuesday, was grim.  Wednesday sounded better, unless you were likely to be put off by 100 mph winds with “mobility tortuous” as the MWIS was predicting.

For a little warm up stroll, having arrived at the lodge, we climbed Craigendarroch- a short steep pull through birch and oak to emerge at an excellent viewpoint overlooking Ballater.

Scotland in Autumn

Comitibus: Craigendarroch

Lochnagar from Craigendarroch

We stayed in that evening to watch Leeds United get thrashed by Cardiff.  Watching Leeds always brings out mixed emotions in me.  I want to sport the team of my wife’s hometown- a place of which I am fond due to having been there at University and having been followed there by daughter Emma.  But my time was during the Revie years and they were a hard team to like in those days.  The memory lingers on.

We dined on carry-out pepperoni pizza which was tasty but bizarrely had a base with a rolled edge in which had been filled with some sort of jam.  Stan found a copy of Charlie-boy's Old Man of Lochnagar and looked at the pictures.  Much to our surprise, HRH hadn't done the artwork.  It might have been better if he had!


Tuesday 26th October 2010

Tuesday morning was expected to be a write-off so we had a lie-in.  In fact, we woke, late, to a not too bad a day.  Grey and damp but not the downpour we had expected. Consequently there was a change of plan.  We drove to the Glenshee Ski Station and attacked the three Monros behind it.

Ski Station Cafe

The first required a climb underneath the chairlift.  Now, I know from ski experience that chairlifts do not take the walker friendly route up the mountain.  This was no exception. It reminded me of Steel Fell without the fence with which to haul yourself up.  

Once at the top of the chair, it was a relatively short and easy climb to the summit of The Cairnwell, our first Monro.

Just before the summit we saw the athletic looking young man who had set off just before us from the car park.

Chair lift start point

The Cairnwell summit

We saw no-one else (and, given the mist, not much else) on what seemed a long haul to our second Monro, Carn a Gheoidh.  We were slightly disorientated for a short while on the summit plateau but whom should we see (thereby hinting the direction to return) but our car park friend.

Lohchn near Carn nan Sac

Comitibus: Carn a Gheoidh

It seemed just as far on the way back but it was reassuring occasionally to find evidence of our footprints from the ascent.  

Stan raising Carn Aosda

On reaching the ski boundary fence, we turned left and followed the motorway more or less to the summit of number three, Carn Aosda.

Stan decided the cairn wasn’t big enough so set about rebuilding it but Bryan and I thought it was too cold for such frivolity and set off back.  

The descent to the car park was straightforward (aided by signs for skiers).

Having travelled light and without sustenance, we dropped into the café for lentil soup.

It had been a quiet day for the waitress. No other customers, although a family did call in later.  Revived, we returned to the car just before the athletic young man arrived.  He had knocked off the same three Monros but must have been quite deflated to find that he had been seriously outpaced by three old men.  What would he have thought if he knew we had been in the café for half an hour? !!

Afterwards, we visited the Linn of Dee, which came as quite a surprise to Bryan and Stan.  The force of the water down the narrow gorge is quite remarkable. The flow of the water in the pictures below is from right to left.

The upper Dee valley is beautiful.

Upper Dee Valley

We had hoped to dine at the Station in Ballater but, on checking, they were no longer opening evenings except for Friday and Saturday.  The girl recommended The Alex(andra Hotel) so we took her advice, wandering down later for a couple of pints and some wholesome pub grub


Wednesday 27th October 2010

A beautiful morning but the speed at which the few clouds were scurrying across the sky reinforced what the met office had said about gale force winds.  Lochnagar was, we thought, too exposed.  Mount Keen, the most easterly of all the Monros, was a better bet.

We parked in Glen Tanar and walked past the abandoned village of Braeloine with its little church, St Lesmo's and up through the magnificent forest glen with its many bridges.

St Lesmo's Church

Moonlight in Glen Tanar!

The Half Way Hut

Comitibus: Glen Tanar

Another Glen Tanar bridge

The so-called Half Way Hut was reached after 4½ miles, only to be told by Bryan that it wasn’t.  

He was right.  

After emerging from the forest we followed the river up the valley for a couple more miles, worrying about the third river crossing.  

The first two were by bridge but the guide book said that the third was a ford and if the river was in spate, it was better not to cross at the second bridge.  The terrain looked energy sapping and the river not too full so we took a chance.  

Imagine our relief that there is now a footbridge at the third crossing, as there was no way we could have crossed the beck without getting rather wet.

Emerging into the open

Mount Keen and the relief bridge

Looking back down the Tanar Valley

Now the path started climbing for real, and after it reached a col got even steeper. A rainbow suddenly appeared, one of many we would see in the next couple of days. 

Rainbow from Mount Keen

As we got higher, the wind became ferocious and the last 200 feet over bouldery ground was particularly difficult (albeit not dangerous).  At the top, I was relieved to find a very deep shelter where we were able to take lunch in relative luxury.

THe Mount Keen Shelter

Lochnagar from Mount Keen

Mount Keen summit looking north

Mount Keen summit, looking west.

Having marched us 9½ miles to the top of the hill, Bryan, in true Grand Old Duke of York style, marched us back down again.  It was a relief to regain the valley path in the relative lee of the hill.

Inside the Half Way Hut

Crossing the river

We stopped for coffee in the Half Way Hut then completed the journey through the forest, past the little loch and back to the car.  Apart from two sets of cyclists, we hadn’t seen a person on the hills all day.

Glen Tanar Loch

Later that night, we thought about Tony as we tucked into our reward- Steak and Chips in the club restaurant!


Thursday 28th October 2010

The weather forecast had suggested that unless we started early we could forget all about Lochnagar.  However, when the alarm went off at 7:15, I could happily have turned over and slept for another four hours.  Last night’s steak was lying heavy and my legs were weary from the day before.  Nonetheless, we assembled at 8:30 and parked up at the Loch Muick car park on schedule at 9.  

Lochnagar, from approaching the car park

There was a bit of cloud on the top of Lochnagar but we felt confident it would clear. Most of Monday's snow had melted. Lochnagar was go!

After crossing the plain, we took Queen Victoria's track to Balmoral.  Initially this was through woodland, then emerged to a difficult river crossing.

Queen's path through the woods

A tricky ford

The trail rose steadily into a tiring headwind- maybe not quite as strong as yesterday’s but a few degrees colder.  Turning west, we could see Meikle Pap which seemed quite modest from afar but now seemed to grow in stature.  

Lochnagar and Meikle Pap from the Queen's track

Suddenly a rainbow appeared.

Rainbow before Meikle Pap

Eventually we reached the col and could look down into the Corrie of Lochnagar.  

The Corrie of Lochnagar

Bryan atop Meikle Pap

We climbed Meikle Pap in order to get a better view.  The wind was now so strong that any thought of standing on its top was out of the question.

Retracing our steps we took the granite staircase to the summit plateau.  Whoever has worked on these paths has done a great job- much better than many of the Fix the Fells routes in the Lake District.

After the minor top of Cac Car Mor we soon reached the summit of Lochnagar, more properly called Cac Carn Beag.

Looking back to Meikle Pap

Rounding the plateau edge

Bryan and Stan inspect a gully

Comitibus: Three Old Men of Lochnagar

The Stuic and Loch Nan Eun from  Cac Carn Beag

At 3,786 feet, this is the highest I have been in the UK and there is a fine orientation stone to help you identify the distant peaks.

Just behind it out of the wind was an excellent natural shelter.  We did not stay very long as we could see the bad weather seemingly racing in and cloud started to form around us.

Upper Dee Valley and Cairngorms

The orientation stone

We descended another granite staircase down the long Glas Allt, past a splendid waterfall before emerging at the queen’s summer house at Glas-allt-Shiel on Loch Muick.  

The staircase down Glas Allt

Loch Muick comes into view

Loch Muick

Glas Allt falls

Approaching the Queen's Summer House

One window was neither shuttered nor curtained, revealing a very poor state of internal repair.  Presumably the current Royal Family is not disposed to visiting this fine house.

The weather was holding, just, so we had a second stop here before following the loch back to the car.

Glas Alt Shiel

Loch Muick

The Queen's slipway

The River Muick commences

Farewell to Loch Muick and Lochnagar

In the evening we had intended to eat at the Itlaian restaurant in Ballater but when we got there, it was fully booked. The waiter recommended the Alex, so the Three Old Men of Lochnagar returned for an excellent celebratory haddock and chips in the bar.  This place is a find!


Friday 29th October 2010

With a forecast of 100mph winds and difficult walking even at low levels, the Three Old Men did the sensible thing and went home!

Bryan had ticked off 5 Monros- as indeed had Stan and I but we aren’t counting.  My two main objectives of Lochnagar and Mount Keen had been achieved. One day I would like to visit Dubh Loch and possibly its four Monro round but that will have to wait for another year.

 Don, 29th October 2010



Don and Bryan in front of Meikle Pap


Bryan near the corrie edge, Lochnagar





25 Oct

26 Oct

27 Oct

28 Oct


in miles:






Feet climbed:








The Carnwell
Carn a Gheoidh
Carn Aosda

Mount Keen

Cac Carn Beag


Other Features:







Bryan, Don, Stan


Click on the map for an enlargement.

If you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow the route in detail by downloading BB1040

To see which Wainwright top was visited on which BB outing see
Which Wainwright When?

For the latest totals of the mileages and heights see: BB Log.



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2010 Outings

BB1001 :
The Most Perfect
 Winter Day
Thursday 7th January

BB1002 :
 Potter Fell
Thursday 14th January

BB1003 :
A Snowy Equipment Test

Thursday 21st January

BB1004 :
Leave It To The Professionals

Thursday 28th January

BB1005 :
That's A Lyth Record
Sunday 31st January 

BB1006 :
Reasons To Be Cheerful
One, Two, Three
Thursday 11th February

BB1007 :
Can You See Clearly Now?
Thursday 18th February

BB1008 :
In Memory Of
Thomas Williamson
Thursday 25th February

BB1009 :
Almost a Mountaineer!
Wednessday 3rd March

BB1010 :
The Beginning Of The End
Thursday 11th March

BB1011 :
The Free Men on Tuesday
Tuesday 16th March

BB1012 :
We'll Get Them In Singles,
Thursday 25th March

BB1013 :
The Fools on the Hill
Thursday 1st April

BB1014 :
The Windmills on the Moor
Wednesday 7th April

BB1015 :
By Lake, Ridge and Wainwright
Sunday 11th April

BB1016 :
The Ten Lake Tour (+5Ws)
Thursday 15th April

BB1017 :
The BessyBOOT
Thursday 22nd April

BB1018 :
The Kentmere Challenge
Saturday 24th April

BB1019 :
Winter in Springtime
Thursday 14th May

BB1020 :
Red Screes and Sausages
Thursday 20th May

BB1021 :
The Mile High Club
Thursday 27th May

BB1022 :
What A Difference A Day Makes
Thursday 3rd June

BB1023 :
Something Brutal
Thursday 10th June

BB1024 :
Rendezvous on Haycock
Thursday 17th June

BB1025 :
The Men of Gragareth
Thursday 24th June

BB1026 :
The Smardale Round
Thursday 1st July

BB1027 :
Don't Shun The Shunner!
Thursday 8th July

BB1028 :
All Around the Edge
Thursday 29th July

BB1029 :
The Return of Uncle Jamie
Thursday 5th August

BB1030 :
The Examination Results
Thursday 12h August

BB1031 :
Nick by Haggis
Thursday 19th August

BB1032 :
And Then There Were Two
Thursday 26th August

BB1033 :
A Surplus of Sheepfolds
Thursday 2nd September

BB1034 :
A Good One For Tony
Thursday 23rd September

BB1035 :
The Wainwright Triathlon
Tuesday 21st - Thursday 23rd

BB1036 :
The Nine Standards
or The Battle Of Birkett Hills
Thursday 30th September

BB1037 :
This Is The Way
The Wainwrights End
Thursday 7th October

BB1038 :
A Return To Sanity?
Thursday 14th October

BB1039 :
A Succession of Scars
Thursday 21st October

BB1040 :
Three Old Men Of Lochnagar
Monday 25th - Friday 29th October

BB1041 :
A Whinash Winterscleugh Wander
Wednesday 10th November


BSB2010 :
boys in Zillertal
Saturday 30th January
to Saturday 6th February

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or related large picture.




To see which Wainwright top was visited on which
BB outing see
Which Wainwright When?.

To download a log of heights and miles and which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of BOOTboys
click on BB Log.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!