Last Saturday’s forecast could have gone either way, but seeing how bad it was for Sunday John & Ann decided to head into the hills to see what was on offer. A bright and sunny morning soon deteriorated as we got up Deeside and a quick U-turn soon after Ballater got us up Glen Muick for the first time this year. On the way in we noticed three things: 1, it was much windier than forecast, 2, for most of the time Lochnagar was missing, and 3 there was a very nice looking snow-filled and sunlit corrie on the NE side of Conacraig.By the time we had got through the woods on the walk-in we had confirmed numbers 1 and 2, and were not feeling very enthusiastic about heading straight into the wind to get up Lochnagar by a route we have done many times before in much better conditions. So number 3 swung into action. We headed straight up the side of Conacraig and after 10 mins of deep heather-bashing reached the first snow. Progress improved dramatically and we were soon up onto the plateau-like summit area.
|Skinning up. Loch Muick in the background|
At this point we realised how sheltered we had been because we struggled to make any progress into the wind. Soon we turned around and headed for the NE corrie. The combination of icy snow and the wind meant that this didn’t take long; even with skins on we shot along, almost out of control at times.
|Wind-assisted blast across the top|
Once at the top of the corrie and in as much shelter as possible (not much) we engaged in a session of the winter equivalent of the Mad Midge Dance, the Slap Yourself Around the Head with Sticky Skins Dance. It also decided to snow and rain on us at the same time, a novel experience. That done we had a brief spell of responsibility digging a snow pit and found some surprisingly deep weak layers, but not that weak for a slope that was only between 20 and 30 degrees. We had a great descent on fantastic ski-anything snow and got down to about 550 m, which would be about as far down as you would want to go anyway. An early first lunch in warm sunshine prepared us for the skin back up. This didn’t take long and we cut over a shoulder to get back to our ascent route. Being on the south side the snow was much more spring-like and we had a fun time linking steep patches to get as far down as possible.
Altogether a great little day out considering the weather; we didn’t get too wet, had most of the day in sun, had two wonderful descents, got to the Ballater butcher for a pie and home in time for the rugby.