Those who know me will know our hill days have been getting shorter over time due to a deterioration In musculoskeletal health (his, not mine). It was therefore a bittersweet day as we set out for either Lochnagar or Conachcraig, settling for the latter as the pain was too much. However, the bionic man is on the horizon and all being well he’ll be back out stronger than before after an extended layoff.
The Slow Road Out
We set off later than usual after a wee lie in, got diverted by a road closure, took some minor roads, and finally made it to Ballater. Thankfully we were both feeling pretty chilled out and the longer journey didn’t phase us. We’d planned a stop at the Byron Bakery for an early lunch, but were drawn into the local market in the square. Some local cheese (Cambus O’May Cheese Company) was purchased – it went down very well on our return home; we also bought a few beers from the Twisted Ankle Brewing Company, one of the which was consumed at the top of the hill.
Finally, we were made it onto the road out to Loch Muick. Bruce did his good deed by giving someone a lift along the road (much to his delight as he wasn’t trying to hitch) and we set off on our way.
Left or Right?
It was a beautiful day, very little breeze (so the midges were out) and the forecast cloud was notably absent. It was hotter than anticipated and I later regretted not having my sun gloves, one hand getting burnt, the joys of vitiligo!
I think we already had an inkling which way we’d go, but we left the decision until further up the track, hearts saying Lochnagar, heads Conachcraig.
Before long we’d reached the cairn indicating the path heading off to Lochnagar. We sat and took on the views, chatting to a couple of folks that passed, before taking the opposite path and heading for Conachcraig. Heads won. We will do Lochnagar again one day!
The path to Conachcraig is significantly less trodden but still very easy to follow, less of a scar than the Lochnagar path that is very apparent looking across. Usually a winter walk for us, I was amazed by how quickly we reached our top.
Going ‘Big’ Isn’t Always Necessary
Today was about being among the hills and we reflected at various points about how this might look going forward. All being well, we’ll be out in the mountains together again but it will take time, patience, hard work and healing. We therefore spent more time than usual at the summit, drinking in the views and enjoying the peace and surroundings.
The views across to Lochnagar are stunning on a fine day like this, but even better in winter when the top has a covering of snow, hence it being one of our favourite winter walks.
Heading Down: the alternative route
Having previously ascended Conachcraig by a different route on a trip to Lochnagar, Bruce suggested we head off this way. We took a bearing, avoiding the small rockier sections and headed off. It became apparent as we progressed that while this had been a good way up in January, in August with the heather in bloom and the ground spongy it maybe wasn’t the best option. However, we were out and enjoying the walk regardless.
Finally reaching the main track we retraced the way out back to the ranger station, partaking of a cold drink from the wee shop and a bench to sit on ahead of the car park.
As with all good hill days, we stopped for coffee on route home, this time at The Bothy in Ballater. A great day, we’ll feast on memories of these shared experiences until he’s good to go again. Just like the movies, he’ll be back! Wish him luck!