clock-wise from Spittal of Glenmuick
|Estimated net time||5-6 hours|
|Difficulty||Easy hike on fine path.|
|Drinking water||Many sources of running water through the valleys.|
|GSM coverage||Coverage above approximately 800 metres, and patchy coverage down by the lake (September 2012).|
|Parking||Room for many cars at the trail head car park. Fee per 2012 is £3 per day.|
|Start height||410 metres|
|Vertical metres||905 metres for the roundtrip.|
|Trip distance||19.7 km|
In the village Ballater, where road A93 does a 90° turn, drive east across a bridge, signed for "South Deeside". At the T-junction after the bridge turn right onto road B976. Drive 1.0 km and leave B976 to the left, where B976 does a right turn, and it's signed for "Glen Muick" more or less straight ahead. Follow this road 12.4 km to the large car park, and park here.
Start your hike by following the gravel road south-west, across a bridge and then towards the houses. Turn right in the junction less than 300 metres from the car park, following signs for "Lochnagar path". Cross the valley and locate the path into the forest to the left of the stone building, again following signs for "Lochnagar path". Follow the path through the forest, and continue west, a total of 3.0 km from the start of the path. In the path junction fork left onto a more narrow path and follow this path across the small pass and then west towards the obvious saddle at 915 metres. From the saddle turn left and continue on the path up the man-made stone steps called "the Ladder". This will take you up to the small top at 1075 metres. The path gets a little vaguer, but is well marked by cairns. Descend a little and follow the path west across a flat section, before climbing north-west towards the plateau of Cac Carn Mor. From here you will see the distinct little summit of Lochnagar, called Cac Carn Beag, towards north. Follow the obvious path across to the summit, which is marked by a concrete cairn.
Descend by reversing back to Cac Carn Mor, and continue another 550 metres to half-way down the slopes towards the flat saddle where you ascended. In the junction make sure you fork right and follow the path south-east down the valley, all the way down to Loch Muick. Turn left when you get to the gravel road on the north side of the lake and follow this road 2.7 km to the lake's north end. Turn right and cross the valley, and then turn left to follow the gravel road back to the houses and then the car park.
30. September 2012
After having spent a night in Aviemore, Elisabeth and me drove to Ballater with the purpose of hiking Lochnagar. And with nice and sunny weather, as opposed to the previous days, this was the right day to take on this long walk.
But the hike wasn't without its challenges; the first being that that parking at Spittal of Glenmuick was a pay-and-display car park, and the machine only accepted coins. With practical no coins we started to ask others at the car park if they could give us coins in return of a five pound note, but none had that much change. However, I was advised to walk across a tourist shop closer to the lake, were I was likely to get change. But I didn't find any open tourist shops, and had to return to the car park. I was getting a little desperate by now, and we agreed to just put a note in the car saying we hadn't paid because we didn't have any change. Just as I was about to find pen and paper, a young man, whom I had asked for change when we first arrived the car park, came across and offered me £2.90 in coins. Exactly what we needed! I offered him my five pound note, but he refused to accept, and explained he and his girlfriend had scraped together the coins they had. We were of course overwhelmed, and it reminded me of a time 25 years back when a foreign family only had US dollars to pay for their Hardangerfjord ferry crossing, but the ferry company rejected the dollars, even at a favourable exchange rate, and I was able to help. The second challenge was the very strong wind. At first it was just a little annoying, but when we got higher up, and in particular while ascending The Ladder, it was straight forward dangerous, with the danger of us getting blown off-balance in the gusts. We were happy when we found that a family with three small kids turned around. The wind was obviously also an issue while taking photos at the summit, and I simply wasn't able to find a position where I had sufficient shelter to be able to do a 360° panorama.
After a relatively short summit stop we headed back to the point Cac Carn Mor, 450 metres south of the main summit, to see if we could find shelter here, but with the same furious wind we decided to have our lunch stop further down into the valley. Down in the valley it was better, and we enjoyed our sandwiches.
The whole hike, apart from the wind, was indeed nice, with excellent views from the summit, nice terrain once you get onto the mountain properly, and a very nice stream running along the path where we descended.