Dave and I descended off the slopes of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor and headed towards the Dubh Loch (black, or dark loch), now clearly visible ahead. The loch is really obviously of glacial origin, formed as a corrie glacier ground off the high hills of the Mounth and gouged out the bowl of the loch. The additional weight of ice would have gouged deeper to form the dip which later filled to be a loch, and the corrie lip where the ice poured over to join the larger glacier forming Glen Muick is visible at the outflow end of the loch.
Descending towards the loch the best line is to keep fairly high on the north side of the approach (the left hand side in this image) to avoid boggy ground above the head of the loch. There are some beautifully planed-off granite slabs on this descent together with a burn which forms a long waterslide at one point on its fall to the loch.
On the south side of the loch is the steep cliffs of Creag an Dubh Loch........
......and on the south side are the crags of Eagle's Rock.
Eagle's Rock is a 150m south facing granite mass which has some fine summer rock climbing routes. Being south facing, it thaws early in winter but nevertheless has some classic ice routes up a waterfall. We noted what looked to be a fine low-grade gully towards the right of the crag as an obvious line.
Creag an Dubh Loch is both higher and colder. Facing ENE, the crag reaches 270m in height and has 1.5km of continuous cliff rising 200m or more. It's the highest continous cliff in the Cairngorms and one of the highest in Britain.
Seen across the Dubh Loch in early winter conditions, Creag an Dubh Loch is an imposing sight. Split by a left slanting scree gully (Central Gully), the crag is composed of overlapping and compact dark granite giving some very hard climbs. Names such as Sword of Damocles (E1), Mousetrap (VS), Sabre Edge (HS), King Rat (E1), Predator (HVS) and The Naked Ape (E5) give a hint of the grade and nature of climbing on this crag. Unsurprisingly, there are also excellent winter routes, but these require long days and good conditions.
Seen from the outflow, the Dubh Loch looks much the same as it must have done shortly after the ice retreated. For me, this dark jewel is one of the special places in the Cairngorms area and well worth a visit whether in winter or summer.