Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

The Mounth

The weather over the last few weeks in Scotland has been very wet & miserable (way beyond dreich) but mountain withdrawal had set in; I had to get out & do something or take up white-water rafting.  I decided a wise plan would be to plot a route that avoided bogs, substantial river crossings & be preferably on good tracks/ paths.

The drove roads across the Mounth came to mind so I plotted a route from Aboyne over the Fungle down to Tarfside; back over the Mounth to Ballater; up Glen Muick then over to Glen Callater & down into Braemar; 80km & 2700m ascent.

Day 1 – Sunday 23rd Nov

I finally got started around 9:30am & got a move on since I knew it would be pitch black by 4:30 – 5:00pm.  Crossing over the bridge out of Aboyne the Dee was flowing well, ideal conditions for canoeists but not for wading rivers in the hills.

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It didn’t take long to be up through the forestry & out onto the open moor.

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The sunshine & open space soon began to recharge the ‘batteries’ & it wasn’t long until I was descending into the Forest of Birse.

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The footbridge over the infant Feugh seems to have suffered a mishap since I last past this way & may not last the next spring thaw; I suppose in spate I could have always cut across the pastures to the bridge a little further downstream.

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Tarfside was surprisingly pretty dead for a sunny Sunday afternoon with only one car in the small carpark.  As I headed across the old road to Inver it was getting quite gloomy the sun having already dropped below the skyline.

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I’d thought about pitching up in the ruins by the old road just east of Westbank but I dawdled on up Glen Mark to finally pitch up in the pitch dark by ‘Queens Well’ at around 5:00, a nice patch of short level grass with ‘Royal’ water on tap.  The legs ‘knew’ they’d marched 29km with 890m ascent.

After a lazy dinner & chocolate all there was to do was get horizontal, plug into a podcast for an hour or so & stare out of the open door of the Duomid at the clear night sky….brilliant.  I did get disturbed later by a diesel engine  a high power spot light sweeping the glen, likely the keeper out after foxes.

Day 2

7:00am, first light & the cackle of grouse got me on the go, breakfast in bed then out into a frosty morning for the ablutions; I was quite impressed with the ‘Royal’ pitch.

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The sunrise down the glen was more impressive though.

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I finally got away around 8:30 with Glen Mark & Craig of Doune glowing in the morning sun.

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I bypassed Mount Keen, been there done that many times, & strolled down into Glen Tannar down the eroded ‘motorway’.  The ‘camp ground’ near the footbridge really stands out against the brown heather at this time of year & the farmstead ruins provided as convenient spot for a quick stop & a snack.

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Finally stopped for lunch (the usual butteries, cheese & chorizo) at the shooting hut up on Craig Vallich (NO 380920), a bit dank but out of the wind.

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On the descent towards Ballater I decided on a short cut down through the woods to bypass some road walking.  I headed off down cross country towards gates in a deer fence which looked to provide a passage through birch forest to a track down from the ruins of Rinasluick (NO 357932).

The gates turned out to be locked & had a notice “Warning – Stag Enclosure – Keep Out”, I ignored it & climbed over.  I did see a couple of stags in the woods, going away quickly, & soon met the track from the ruins down to another locked gate a short distance from the main track to Birkhall.  Must admit to being quite intrigued as to the purpose of the enclosure, can’t imagine that it’s for shooting, the words ‘fish in a barrel’ came to mind.

I didn’t really enjoy the next bit, 9km on the LRT up Glen Muick, not really anything to occupy the mind other that ticking off the next feature on the map & countdown the mileage to go.

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I reached the Allt-na-giubhsaich at around 5:00; I didn’t feel like stumbling around in the trees in the dark looking for a good spot so I pitched up right by the side of the track, I’d covered 26km with 940m ascent & my feet were sore (the first time out in boots for nearly 8 months).

The wind really got up later and gusts could be heard roaring through the trees building like an approaching train before rattling the Duomid for a while then dying away, a couple of minutes later the next train would come down the glen.

Day 3

Despite probably nodding off around 8:30pm it was 7:30 before I stirred, well stirred I mean rolled over struck up the Kovea & then snuggled back down for a few minutes.

The rangers probably wouldn’t have approved of my choice of pitch since it wasn’t exactly stealthy & they’re known to be a bit discouraging of camping in the glen.

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I planned an easy day so after a second coffee & a slow pack I was finally on the ‘tourist’ track up towards Lochnagar by 9:00.

I’d dawdled up to the bealach overlooking the corrie & low cloud was starting to envelop the summit….. no glorious panoramas today.

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Once on the plateau the cloud had come down & it started to snow but the well trodden path made it almost impossible to go off route

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The mist & snow brought to mind a little winter mishap I had up here about 25 years ago;

From the bealach I descended into the corrie in thick mist & falling snow reducing the visibility to 3-4m heading for Raeburn’s gulley.  Once down through the boulder fields I headed off towards to opposite side of the corrie only to find myself ‘sometime’ later on level ground?  It took a few seconds to take this in…….then it came to me…..a quick scrape down with a boot confirmed it…..I was walking on water…….well ice…..I was on the lochan……s**t.  I gingerly headed south……the bank came into view after a minute or so…….& then the inevitable happened……I went through the ice up to the waist.  A bit of a hasty exit ensued followed by stripping off boots, socks & leggings, wringing them out, redressing & then heading off back down the hill much chastened.  I suppose it could have turned out a lot worse.

I lunched out of the wind amongst the summit tors before ambling through the mist towards Carn an Sagairt Mor, I’d given up the idea of visiting the other tops on route……I didn’t see the point of visiting any more cairns in the clag.

The snow turned to light rain as I descended into Glen Callater but soon the bothy came into view

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I arrived at the bothy before 4:00, no one at home (or in the Lodge) but the place was clean & tidy, gave a couple of seconds thought to ambling down to Braemar but decided to get a brew on a settle in.

Disappointed the bothy book had recently been replaced, they always seem to while away an hour or so browsing through the entries.

Day 4

A bit of a dull day & cloud hung across the tops up the glen

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All that was left was an easy stroll to Auchallater, across the foot bridge then down the old road into town for the midday bus.  I did run into the night porter of the Fife Arms out for a morning stroll & was interesting in hearing of the forthcoming closure (for refurbishment) & the impact on the 30 staff, not a good time to be out of work in Braemar.

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2 comments on “The Mounth

  1. Fellbound
    November 29, 2014

    Enjoyed that, thank you.

    • Paul Atkinson
      November 29, 2014

      Thanks, not an awe inspiring or difficult route but just wandering the hills has it’s pleasures.

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This entry was posted on November 28, 2014 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .
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