Situated on Royal Deeside, the mountains of Lochnagar stand guard over Balmoral Palace and the towns of Ballater, Braemar and Balmoral. The mountains are popular all year round with walkers, rock and ice climbers and mountaineers.
The open countryside here is idyllic and the mountain views are expansive, however, to appreciate these views you need to ascend to the summits! From the ground you'll see lots of green hillside and perhaps the odd cliff - from the summits you'll see mountain ridges, rivers, lochs and if you ascent to Lochnagar the impressive cliffs that are so appealing to rock and ice climbers.
All grid/map references have been taken from OS Landranger 44, " Ballater, Glen Clova & surrounding area".
The Easy Way
It is normally true that there is an easy way and a hard(er) way to do most things and climbing Lochnagar is no exception. The start of the normal route is reached by car via Ballater. The car-park is at the head of Glen Muick.
From the carpark (pay) at ref 310852 follow the Landrover track (& signposts!) through the patch of forest and up a gently inclining slope until you reach 273861. It's quite a long walk to this point but it is all on the Landrover track so the gradient isn't very steep and you gain 600m quite easily.
Head off west towards the col beneath Meikle Pap (980m) at 259 858 - it's well worth descending into the corrie short distance - the cliffs are awesome! This is a useful spot to take some notes, too, if you are planning to come back here in the winter.
From the col head upwards and around the rim of the corrie - the two peaks are Cac Carn Mor (1150m) and the summit, Cac Carn Beag (1155m).
Descend the same route you went up.
The Longer Day
If you want to have a longer day and see a great deal more of the mountains here you can either:
- Walk into Glen Gelder (parking near Crathie Kirk) which is just south of Braemar - there is a landrover track from Crathie through the forest to the head of the Glen. From here you can ascent into the corrie beneath Lochnagar before ascending easily to the shoulder at Meikle Pap and then around the corrie to the summit.
- Or from a few miles (4) north of Braemar from a small car park marked near the edge of the map (Landranger 44) at ref 206912. Heading south from the carpark and following the landrover track beside Feindallacher Burn towards Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047) and Carn an t-Sagairt Beag (1044) before traversing Carn A' Choire Bhaidheach (1110) and up towards Lochnagar.
- An alternative walk from the carpark at 206912 follows Allt Lochan nan Eun up to Sandy Loch beneach Loch nan Eun and the cliffs of The Stuic. The ascent to the summit of Lochnagar (Cac Carn Beag) is, however, very steep and quite long.
These are likely to give a very long, very quiet, but peaceful and enjoyable day...
Ballater is 16 miles from Braemar heading towards Aberdeen - this makes it about 40 miles from Aberdeen itself. You need to leave Ballater by the bridge marke on OS Landranger 44 at 372 956 and head south towards Glen Muick/Spittall of Glenmuick. There is a carpark at the end of the road (310 852) which costs £2 (Upper Deeside Access Trust).
So, how do you get there?
- From Inverness
- A9 south, turn off to Granton-on-Spey and Tomintoul. Over the Lecht, turn rught to Garinshiel and down to Ballater. Thanks to Ian Davies.
- From the South
- Head for Perth
Don't leave Perth by the A9 unless you wish to drive through Dunkeld or Pitlochry (which are very nice) along the way. Take the "old road" which is the A93 on the other side of the River Tay then head north through Glenshee and Braemar until you reach Ballater.
In summer, anyone who can use basic navigation techniques will not have a problem, even in mist. Until you reach the cliffs of Lochnagar there is little objective danger and the path is very big (Landrover track) - the mountain is also very busy and it's hard to get lost with loads of people around.
In winter much of the area becomes featureless white and any paths/Landrover tracks vanish without trace. Careful navigation in these conditions is essential to your safe return to the car park. Even in clear conditions the land can be disorienting simply because it's all white - patches of forest/peaks might be your only visual clues and in poorer conditions you'll need to rely on reading the gradient/orientation of the land to navigate from one point to another.
Much care is required around the summit area of the mountain and all around the top of the cliffs - it is likely that thre will be climbers in the area enjoying the gullies etc and you should be aware of their presence. You should also note any cornices and steer clear - summer visitors will note that there is a line of cairns leading around to the summit - these are some 20m from the rim of the corrie - intended to be behind any cornice fracture line!
In my opinion it is very wise to visit the mountains in summer before visiting them in winter - you get a chance to see the true state of certain slopes and estimate where cornices will form and which slopes are possible escape routes in bad conditions - ok, you can gues this kind of thing from a map but its easier to orientate yourself if the surroundings are at least partially familiar!
- In summer walking is very popular and all the usual items are required. A day on Lochnagar is likely to be a long one so be prepared...
- Good boots, waterproofs and perhaps a hat
- Map & compass + knowledge of how to use them!
- PLENTY of water and enough food - dehydration is a serious problem
- Sunscreen?/Insect Repellant
- Winter and the presence of snow/ice make this mountain a serious proposition.
- Mountaineering boots & suitable crampons / ice axes
- Appropriate clothing & wind/waterproofs
- Practised winter skills (ice-axe self-arrest; step-cutting)
- Map & Compass and the ability to navigate in white-out conditions
- Common sense and experience
- Survival/Bivvy bag and preferably a Snow Shovel
- The Braemar MRT recommend using avalanche transceivers
There are two local towns and Aberdeen is only 40 miles away. Locally in Ballater there are all the usual facilities associated with a town driven by tourism - B&B's, hotels, fuel, shops, outdoor shops, pubs and apart from that the town is very pretty, as is Braemar 16 miles down the road.