Sunday, 9 October 2011

Wester Cairn, Mount Battock, Hill of Saughs Circuit

Friday 7th October,

I was on my own today since Mo had been threatening with flu all week so I decided that, after the success of last week, I'd get a bit of height under my boots again this week. Mount Battock is a hill I'd never climbed before but I had photographed it from afar on the many occasions we'd walked in Glen Dye or when we'd climbed Clachnaben, so I felt that today was as good an occasion as any to put that right.

Mount Battock from Clachnaben

I was comfortable with the start point at Milden in Glen Esk but when I had a look at the route I intended using on the Walking Highlands website it was pretty apparent that the O&S map was a little bit behind in keeping up with the new estate roads being built, so I took the precaution of printing off a copy and taking it with me. This turned out to be a wise move. The route starts at a small car park on a side road just where the road up Glen Esk crosses the Turret Burn.

Car Park & phone box!

Although it was raining when I set off I was confident that things would improve since the ever reliable forecast was for a "getting better" day. In the meantime however I was in full waterproofs. A little way up the tarred road I passed an old watermill, although the waterwheel there now looks more like a garden feature than anything more practical. After leaving the road and passing the front of Muir cottage, the path breaks out into less cultivated countryside and drops down to cross a feeder stream for Turret Burn.

Old Mill

Easy Crossing

The path follows the Turret Burn now for the next while, climbing steadily but it's easy walking on good well maintained estate roads. When the path forked I checked out the right hand fork where it crossed the burn since this was an alternative route out. The O&S map shows a footbridge but the Walking Highlands description warned that it may not be there and that it would be wise to check the level of the burn. I decided that it was probably crossable with a little effort but that I'd make my mind up nearer the time. The path now veered away from the burn, continuing up at an easy but steady pace onto the flank of a wee hill called Allery. I stopped here for the first time today since the hill brought a bit of relief from the wind that had been increasing in force the higher I got. The views south east down the Glen were hazy under the low cloud but promised to improve as, (or when), the weather improved.

Looking towards Glen Esk

As I cleared the flanks of Allery the wind was straight into my face and the rain, which had been coming through in heavy squalls, felt a bit like hail. It wasn't pleasant and I had a few choice words for the MET office  The upside however was that I was treated to a nice bright rainbow that stayed with me for a while as I trudged ever upwards.


I passed another new path that may have confused me had I not taken precautions and began the first of two steep climbs that would take me up towards Wester Cairn. Walking uphill hurts but I'd argue that it hurts less when you don't need to pick out each step or worry about loose rocks under your feet so the estate track, although unsightly in the big scheme of things, was welcome because I needed all the help I could get. Eventually the path picks up a row of what must be the poshest shooting butts I've ever seen and as I neared the top of this first climb I picked out one of them to shelter in while I had some more juice and chocolate.

Posh Shooting Butt

By now the intervals between the rain showers were getting longer but the strength of the wind seemed to be increasing and was still almost directly into my face until I took a sharp right hand turn to climb up onto Wester Cairn, (717m). The path now changed from estate track to a wide, muddy hill track that made its way up onto the summit, giving the first decent view of Mount Battock.

Mount Battock from Wester Craig

From the summit the path dropped downhill for a bit before heading up through an electric fence towards the summit of Mount Battock, (778m). I reached the top in the middle of a torrential squall where the wind was so strong that I don't think any of the rain actually hit the ground. I was not happy!

Nearly there!

Mount Battock trig point

Fortunately there is quite a good shelter cairn at the top so I tucked myself down out of the wind, had my lunch and waited out the squall. Once the rain went off I managed to take some photos but the cloud was too low over Mount Keen to get anything meaningful in that direction.

Mount Keen - honest!!

Towards Clachnaben

Loch Lee in the distance

Now that the sun had finally made an appearance I wandered about the top for a while but the wind only seemed to be getting stronger so it was time to decide on my route back down. I could of course simply head back the way I'd come up but, encouraged by the fact that I could see another estate track at the top of The Hill of Saughs, I decided to try for a different descent. The downside to this was the peat bog that sat between me and the track!

Chosen route down - hopefully!

As luck had it I came across a path heading down towards the bog and I could see what appeared to be the beginnings of a path at the end of the track on the other side. On the way down I flushed then photographed a couple of ptarmagans, which I reckoned meant that I'd made the right choice!


The passage through the peat bog was a wee bit of an anti-climax in that it wasn't nearly as wet as I'd expected it to be with all the rain we'd had. I picked up the estate path, (not shown on the O&S map), and it ran parallel with the path I'd used in the way up only now I was a couple of hundred metres higher as I passed over the summit of Hill of Saughs, (656m). With Mount Battock behind me I was now well sheltered from the wind and the long slow descent on the estate track made for pleasant walking.

Mount Battock from Hill of Saughs

From left to right - Wester Craig, Mount Battock, Hill of Saughs

A combination of being on the south side of Mount Battock and losing height meant that the wind was becoming less of a chore and I was finally able to take off my waterproofs. The only problem left now was the crossing of the Turret Burn and it did look a bit wider and deeper now that I had to cross it than it did when I had a look on the way up! However being a veteran stepping stone leaper I made short work of it once I'd had a look downstream and found a likely spot.

River crossing

I stopped again for a while to finish off the chocolate and to enjoy the sun before retracing my steps back down past Muir Cottage and the old mill to the car.

I had left the car around half past nine and arrived back around half past three. This was probably between an hour and an hour and a half earlier than I would have been had Mo been with me. There's also the possibility that had she been with me we'd have arrived at the top of Mount Battock in blue skies!!
Ah well never mind it had been a good day out.

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