Carn an t-Sagairt Mor - 1047m
Saturday 22nd November 2008

Weather/Conditions: Snow down to Braemar, powdery although not overly deep. Fair amount of cloud, base at 950-1000m. Strong, cold wind from the north.
Accompanying: Up A Mountain MC

I was back to the Cairngorms sooner than I had expected. This was thanks to all at Up A Mountain MC who had me along, and a brilliant and eventful weekend it was too. I travelled up on Friday night and the six of us stayed in Rucksacks Bunkhouse, Braemar.

From Braemar

We had a fairly early start the next morning, and a couple of inches of snow lay in Braemar. The summits didn't have much more on them, however, and it seemed the wind had whisked much of it off. The original plan was to head up to the Cairnwell pass and climb a couple of Munros there, however the snow gates were shut and we headed up Glen Clunie on foot. Perhaps we'd walk over some of the tops to the east of the valley or maybe Morven to the west? However we'd make a decision later on. We began at 10am, first walking through the town before starting up the A93.

The views up Glen Clunie made the ambience of the Cairngorms all flood back. When I was here in October the snow hadn't fallen yet, but now the hills were very bleak but beautiful all the same. Hills rolled over in succession down the glen and I could stare through clear winter air to the hills beyond. I find there's something captivating about watching spindrift being whisked off the high plateaus. I know with some clarity as to why I find the Cairngorms such a striking place and I was glad to be amongst them.

A walk along the A93 brought us to Auchallater where a track headed up into Glen Callater. We were all moving quickly, so the next goal was to get up to the loch. The track up to Lochcallater Lodge was long, but the ever widening views were something to be remembered. There were some blue skies about and the day was turning out to be nicer than had previously been thought. It took a fair amount of walking, but we arrived at the loch. The decision had been made to head for Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. Usually climbed as the third in the sequence of the five Lochnagar Munros, it wasn't too far away from here and a path led almost to the summit.

We ascended above the lodge, following the path that led around the side of Creag an Loch. From here, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor came into clearer view. Cloud obscured the summit and a cold wind blew stiff any exposed fingers and so taking pictures was difficult here. The spindrift was numbing one half of my face. It was a pretty inhospitable place and was probably the first time I'd experienced such cold conditions. I don't ever remember struggling to keep heat in on a winter hillwalk before. Such days I've had before were tamer in comparison but I was still enjoying myself here. Not to mention the great views up to the head of Glen Callater...

We headed around the hillside and then up the final slopes of Sagairt. The going was tougher, boulder fields and snow were about and several points arose where the ground just kept rising ahead. As I (and others) began questioning when it would end, the ground flattened out and ahead a cairn came into view. This was the north (not summit) cairn, and it was an easy walk over to the top where we arrived at 1.35pm.

Descent and back to Braemar

We didn't stay long, it was far too cold to hang around, and headed back the way we came. Shortly off the summit, the cloud cleared and we headed downwards to the lodge again. It was traversing these slopes above Loch Callater once more that the glen became bathed in a dull blue glow. It was certainly a beautiful sight and while the sun was hidden, blue skies were above us. I could have sat and watched for a long time.

Back at the lodge, I felt fatigue creeping in. I threw back some chocolate, all of which was absolutely rock solid, and we set off down the glen. It felt longer to walk on the way out and the day was ending too. It was apparent that some of the walk would be in darkness - another first for me. By now, the walk was mentally over and I was feeling like just getting back. In fading daylight we walked down the track, and arrived at the road. With the road now open and traffic moving again, we took the parallel minor road running back to Braemar. By now night had fallen upon us and we walked onwards with several kilometres between ourselves and the bunkhouse. We arrived back at 5pm.


The rest of the night was spent in the bunkhouse and, well deserved, at the Fife Arms Hotel. Both the previous (Friday) night and Saturday night only saw me asleep by 2am and with a couple of beers down my throat. Both mornings started early but I felt fairly okay. The journey back to Glasgow on the Sunday was eventful - the roads were gritted but not ploughed and taking steep roads in such conditions called for caution. The excitement hadn't ended by the time we were beyond the Cairnwell pass but we stopped in Blairgowrie briefly on the way down.

It was another couple of hours until I was home, but the chaos on the roads had ended by the time we were beyond Blairgowrie. I was exhausted on the Monday but such things didn't bother me, certainly not with the weekend I'd just had. It was enjoyable, rewarding and fulfilling, even with shut roads and standstill traffic. Many sincere thanks to go all at Up A Mountain MC that were there, particularly Dave who got me up to speed with things initially. There's something special to me about doing what I'm doing in these mountains and I'm grateful to be given an opportunity to come along - not to mention to the Cairngorms, in winter. They're some beautiful mountains and there's so much more to be experienced. I'll also need to have a go at all this bunkhouse stuff in the future...

Written: 2008-11-27