Central Buttress is the easiest buttress route on north-east face of the 1155m high Lochnagar, one of the foremost Scottish winterclimbing venues situated in the southern Cairngorms. In Summer the 300 meter route is classified as a 'Moderate' (approx. F4a/b) and in Winter it is generally a Scottish grade II climb. In winter the route offers a very enjoyable introduction to the mountain and mixed climbing as well as some technical turf climbing. Slamming the axes into (semi)frozen bits of turf is a very enjoyable, if at first somewhat unnerving, experience!
Lochnagar itself is situated just to the south-west of Ballater which is just under two hours from Aberdeen by car. From Ballater one follows the road towards the parkingplace at Spittal of Glenmuick. Depending on conditions and your fitness the walk-in from Glenmuick to the tie-in point at the foot of Lochnagar can take anywhere between 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
As with all the other routes on Lochnagar you follow the 'Lochnagar path' from the parkinglot towards the col between Meikle Pap and the south-eastern ridge of Lochnagar. From there walk towards the tie-in point which is located just under the Centrall Buttress and is recognisable by the large metal chest which contains first-aid and avalanche gear.
The tie-in point at the foot of Lochnagar.
Standing at the tie-in point described above the start of Central Buttress is very easily located. Through the foot of Centrall Buttress runs a large and easily recognizable cleft and it is through this small couloir that you begin the route. Head up towards it over easy terrain and climb gully to the top. From here, the guidebook advises you to swing right and up towards the ridge immediately. However, there are plenty of options on the left flank of the buttress, with the easiest terrain and some escape oppertunities on the furthest left. So follow the summer line by going immediately towards the ridge or make your own way up, picking a harder or easier line as you feel fit.
Be aware though that in lean conditions the turf can be a little untrustworthy and make the climbing much harder. As with all winterclimbing, be well informed about the snow/ice conditions, recent snowfall, temperature, weather forecast and avalanche danger. We followed a line on the left flank of the buttress and enjoyed some steep passages followed by a steep snowfield (about 60degrees at steeptest point) just under the summit. There are generally some fine oppertunities for belays and runners. More experienced or bold climbers may enjoy climbing most of the route unroped.
Upon reaching the broad summit plateau of Lochnagar enjoy the short walk towards the actual highest point of this fine Munro and walk back down towards the col and follow the same trail you came up on to get back down to the carpark.
Top of the small entrance-gully.
Winterclothing: full waterproofs, good gloves, an extra warm item of clothing etc is essential.
Gearwise; a medium-sized rack of nuts, a couple of hexentrics, slings and a warthog or two should see you through. Take a few friends but be aware that they might not be that useful if the crack is iced up.
Helmet, rope, crampons, 2 ice axes, snow goggles.
Bivvy and avalanche gear recommended!
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 388: Lochnagar, Glen Muick & Glen Cova
Guidebook: The Cairngorms Volume 2 by the SMC.
Tjerk enjoying some fine turf! :-)
I found the forums and route descriptions over at UK Climbing to be very useful.
Tjerk and myself on the broad summit plateau.