Getting to the top means your only half way there. “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” Ed Viesturs

Getting to the top means your only half way there! You still have to get off the mountain. With Bill Batson on Lochnagar.

The photo above is after a wild day on Lochnagar a magic mountain. Yet it has always taxed me to the full on several occasions especially winter climbing. It seem that when the wind blows it can be so bitter, more so than other hills.

It also has great hil lwalking and the circuit of 5 Munros is a classic day. In winter its a big test of stamina and in poor weather navigation.

Lochnagar (Cac Carn Beag) (1155m, Munro 20)
Carn a’Choire Bhoidheach (1110m, Munro 42)
Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (1047m, Munro 84)
Cairn Bannoch (1012m, Munro 117)
Broad Cairn (998m, Munro 142)

Yet though I climbed the Munros circuit many times I was attarcted to the Coire of Lochnagar Dark and foreboding. It is a place of historic routes and climbs and one where I have had many adventures. Many years ago when I was climbing regularly Lochnagar was a favourite. Yet it involved a big walk in 2 hours plus to the Corrie. Even the drive up the Glen in snow can be tricky. I climbed here a lot when I was stationed at RAF Buchan on the East Coast. I started a mountaineering club and took a few climbing. Looking back I was very fit I had just done a 3 week walk across Scotland. Most of the club were complete novices and yet we climbed a few good mountains and routes. We even held a 5 day winter course on the mountain with big walk in every day.


This is a superb Mountain and the view of the huge cliffs and the lochan below are special. I had several epics here and some wild flights in by helicopter in the past. We always got battered by the wind here and had some crazy winter days. With a strong windS and snow this can be a fearsome place. I had a big scare in the late 70,s after an ascent of Raeburns Gully where the weather was so bad we could not get the gear off harness etc as it had frozen on until we reached our bothy at Crathie! It was one of the hardest days ever and we had a fight to get of that hill. In the early 80’s I was avalanched nearly down to the loch when two climbers brought a cornice down by walking over it as we descended from a wild day on Black Spout Buttress. Again it was a big walk out fairly battered.

Classic Lochnagar.

A bit more detail:

On a wild day (this was the 70’s the weather forecast were not so accurate) After a climb we hit a big storm on the plateau. Lochnagar has can have a huge rim of massive Cornices in winter that you have to be aware off. What followed was an epic getting of the hill safely. My two young companions were inexperienced and were exhausted after our climb yet we got back to safety just and no more. I had led the climb all day climbed the huge cornice and then navigated off. On the top in the blizzard we could not get the ropes of they were frozen. It was a pretty close run thing for me.

It was a long walk out in deep snow and whiteout once we got out the wind things improved. It was very late back and one of the party had slight frostbite. I wore glasses all the time and had an epic reading the map and the compass. It was impossible to speak to each other but looking back the rope kept us together as I tried to keep away from the huge Cornices in the white out. It was a massive day of learning but I was amazed how exhausted one of my party was. On the summit I could see he was running on empty.

I was younger then and not so wise. I thought I knew this hill well it was our local mountain at the time. I had climbed it then over 20 times. I had lots to learn as we all do.

Big Cornice on Lochnagar,

The weather when it hits Lochnagar can be brutal as bad if not worse than anywhere. So it well worth remembering “getting to the top your only half way there” Over the years this mountain brought me much joy and sorrow when I lost two pals on Parallel B a classic ice climb. It took me years to climb back in that Corrie again. Yet this mountain has everything, great climbing and the Dark Lochnagar. Its an area that I love and learned so much from and always will.

Dark Lochnagar

The tight road, stags and hinds nearby.

Park and leave the woods.

Mr Oswald the cheery keeper long gone.

The bothy still stands, the sign still there.

The flats, more deer and wild animals.

The Royal bothy, unused?

Scots pines, the small wood

Safety after a long day.

The grind up the track never- ending.

Familiar names

the ladders, fox’s well, comforting.

Then the view   Dark Lochnagar

Brooding formidable,

Historical and familiar climbs.

Summer and winter battles.

Steep  granite and dark gully’s.

Laughter, joy and sorrow.

Wind, rain, snow and tears

Lochnagar and Teallach

Sit in the peace and wildness.

Dark Lochnagar 

For Neil & Mark

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory .Ed Viesturs

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.