Return to Home Page
About The Club
Muir Cottage
Club Activities
Meets Calendar
Past Meets
Club Membership
Club Contact Information
Club Forum
Miscellaneous Items

Last updated: 15/10/10


"When push comes to shove..."
6 January 2008

It all started so well - time to recover from holiday lassitude (or from winter flu), a good weather forecast for once, 30-odd cheery(?) faces in the 7am bus – as we trundled out the Deeside road en route for the annual New Year pilgrimage to Lochnagar. Past Aboyne, the hills were shining white, and the weel-kent view past Camus o’May showed Lochnagar gleaming above the trees. The first hint of trouble came at Ballater, where the toilets proved firmly shut at 8.30 am; but at least that meant that only the Sunday Post brigade held things up.

Undoctored photo, honest!

Turning up Glen Muick, the first hints of ice on the road became apparent, and our driver Seumas began to take things very canny.

Then, just short of Linn of Muick Cottage, a retreating car driver brought news of a mishap beyond, and, sure enough, at an icy spot just short of the Allt an t-Sneachda bridge, the boot end of a small car was to be seen poking rather rudely from the ditch. Ten units of Club brawn soon had the chap back on the road, and off he drove, apparently little the worse for wear. But the rise just beyond the bridge was equally icy, and the bus, with no momentum, ground to a halt. It transpired that the vehicle was not well equipped for the situation: no winter types, spade or sand, and changing gear seemed to involve a complex sequence of button-pressing, not easy to communicate to a bunch of sweaty bodies at the rear. Eventually, a mixture of local supplies of grit, heather and yet more muscular power was applied, and forward motion was resumed.

After this, out on the level moor, the hope was that all would go well, even though the surface snow was thickening: surely a bus could go where several cars had obviously preceded us that morning? But much the same thing happened a little later on, and probably only the horrendous thought of reversing deterred Seumas from throwing in the sponge. Soon the car park trees came into sight, and hopes rose that the day, though now shortened by an hour or more, would allow Plan(s) A. But then disaster struck: on an apparently level stretch, the bus slid gently into the left-hand ditch, and all efforts – now at a high level of efficiency due to previous practice – resulted in only a few inches of to-and-fro rocking, and an apparently seized-up (or shorted?) gearbox.

Ken leads the team off

Heave from the front Heave from the back
Bus stuck where we are

So, at around 11am, Plan(s) B went into action; Alec gallantly volunteered to stay with the bus, while the rest of us dribbled off in various groups and directions. The majority headed remarkably fast for the Spittal’s toilets, only to find that they too were locked (what is it about Scottish tourism facilities?!): most checked out the local red squirrels instead, before heading round to Allt-na-Guibhsaich, with the Lochnagar corries whiter-than-white ahead, but now, near mid-day, sadly out of reach. Turning back down Glen Muick, Kenny and Claire (now reprieved from Leading the President’s Party) shot up Conachcraig, while a dozen or so more wandered along towards Inchnabobart, for a very pleasant track-side lunch in the sun (even a fly!).

Other groups headed over to Glen Girnock, up the Coyles of Muick, or past the falls and down the glen, while on the “bus” side of the glen, some ventured up the slopes around the Allt an t-Sneachda.


Summit of Coyles of Muick

Off the tracks – and even on them –underfoot snow conditions were sometimes unpleasantly soft, but the splendid weather and views made up for much, and perhaps the sight of some high cloud and spindrift on the top of Lochnagar made the loss of the summit more bearable.

All eventually gravitated towards Ballater, guided by the wonders of mobile phone technology (when service available, and switched on!).


Coyles of Muick

On top of Coyles of Muick

Meanwhile, Alec had secured the services of the Aboyne bus firm of Allan & Black, whose proprietor came up the glen personally, collected Alec and the gear left in the bus, and deposited same in a Ballater pub where one of his buses would pick us up at 5.30pm. So, in dribs and drabs, the chickens came to roost, even being able to change clothes in the hall behind the pub before a welcome drink. Bang on time, the Allan & Black bus turned up and whisked us down to Dinnet, where another glass or two were forced down as the meal was served. Then off by 7pm to our homes in Aberdeen, with a memorable if “different” January meet behind us.


Heartfelt thanks to Alec and to Allan & Black for retrieving an awkward situation so well!

Post Script: For those interested in what happened to the bus - First Bus managed to retrieve their vehicle on Monday and it was towed back to Aberdeen. A defective solenoid is suspected as being the reason why the gears would not engage.


Snowy road

The far-off Coire

Looking to Ballater from Coyles of Muick. Note Bennachie on the skyline

Author: Ken Thomson
Photos: Ken Thomson and Bruce McAdam -
more photos available here compliments of Bruce