Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Winter backpacking on the White Mounth - from ice to fire

As we descended from the Dubh Loch into the large glacial trench containing Loch Muick (loch of pigs) we could see our destination for the night marked by the stand of pines and larches on the cloch shore.  The descent is on an easy-angled stalkers path and relatively painless on the knees.  The burn draining the Dubh loch (the Allt an Dubh Loch) can be seen on the right of this image.  It zig-zags down to Loch Muick in almost continuous whitewater;  I have heard it referred to as the "streak o' lightning" due to its appearance from across the loch.

Approaching the trees we walked into welcome sunshine, warm on the back.  The larches were glowing in the late sun, showing up well against the contrast of the pines.

Our accommodation for the night.......well, almost.  Glas Allt Shiel (shieling of the grey water) is shooting lodge built for Queen Victoria and is still in very occasional use.  An outbuilding to the rear contains a bothy maintained by Dundee University Rucksack Club, run on very similar lines to MBA bothies.  Dave and I have stayed at Glas Allt Shiel previously.

 We made hot drinks and went to the loch shore to enjoy the last of the late afternoon sunshine.  The view down the loch is very fine from here.  We then set about collecting firewood, picking up branches blown down in the recent gale.  Between us we'd also carried coal and kindling on our journey over the mounth so we would have a good fire.  The previous open fireplace in the bothy has been enhanced with a very effective solid fuel stove - we got it lit and by the end of the evening had the whole bothy up to 18 degrees Celcius; not bad in a granite outbuilding with outside temperatures below freezing!

Whilst we were sawing up our firewood a Common Vole (Microtus arvalis) repeatedly appeared to eat a few blades of grass.  It allowed close approach but if we strayed too close and it disappeared into one of its runways through the grass.  It seemed quite a fiendly wee thing, but would have a colder night than we would!


  1. Another dramatic landscape, Ian. The glaciers knew all about sculpturing! Speaking of fire, it's cold and windy in the "Lakes" we lit the three whiskey stave candles. Made all the difference. :) Best wishes to you and Linda. Duncan.

  2. Hi Duncan, the glaciers did some of their best work here and in the Lakes :o)

    Glad that the cask wood gave a warm atmosphere - you'll need to learn to love the former contents of the wood, which can also have a distinct warming effect!

    Kind regards to you both