I couldn't face it much longer. Having purged my route of every munro but one, and with only two opportunities left, I decided I would bag at least one today. The original plan was to summit Lochnagar and then continue on the track westwards and then southwards, adding 3 or 4 more summits as well.
The initial climb was going well. When I reported in to Challenge Control the day before on Braemar, I'd been warned that the weather was going to deteriorate once more, but there was a chance the summits would still lie beneath the clouds. About three quarters of the way up a layer of fog rolled in, but I was above it by the time I reached 1000 meters. Making my way to the cairn marking the smaller summit at 1150 meters, the weather quickly closed in around me. At the first cairn I encountered 4 challengers who were from Italy. Having just came the way they planned to descend, I was in the middle of outlining the path on their map when two local gentlemen appeared from the mist who were headed the same way.
Setting of for the short dash to the actual summit at 1156 meters, the wind and the rain picked up dramatically. Reaching the cairn, I took cover among the rocks and fully outfitted myself for the worst. I decided that more high level routes would be dangerous in these conditions, and ditched on my plans to bag more munros. Talking a compass bearing of southeast (visibility was about 5 feet) I quickly descended down what I hoped to be the path to Loch Muick. By the some I was out of the clouds and in tolerable weather, ice was forming on my shoulders and pack. I made my way down the Glass Allt and took a much deserved break. When I met Anthony and Ian in Braemar yesterday, they both has the plan to come over Lochnagar, only from the west side. It worried me to think they must be up there in that storm.
With rain on the horizon I took off for the Loch Muick visitors center, where three challengers awaited. One was Weird Darren (Whitespider1066.com) and another was Jenny Wheeler, who had come to be called Jenny Headscarf because she always wore a bandanna. The third I cannot remember. The final leg of today's jaunt included a tiny track up a gorge valley which eventually died out.
The bothy, unfortunately, lie on the other side of a large peat bog and was tucked into the hill. Its said that you can follow either stream around the hill and run right into the bothy, but with so much rainfall and extra streams I was worried about losing my way. So I took a compass bearing of 111 degrees and trompt off through the bog. Coming to the edge of the bog and with the bothy's steam in sight, I wad concerned that I had somehow lost the bothy. Taking two steps forward revealed that the bothy was a mere 10 feet away.
The Shielen of Mark Bothy is incredibly tiny. There were 4 of us there that night, myself, Steve Smith, the 80 year old Barbara, and her daughter, with several more outside. I was relieved to see Anthony and Ian both arrive in good time. We were all concerned about the stream, however, as it was in spate and very difficult for even a strong person to cross. All we could do was hope the stream would lower by the morning, and we formed a pact to all cross early and together, it was the four of us in the bothy as well as Jenny Headscarf, Graham, and Barbara's niece.
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