Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beinn a' Bhuird and Ben Avon

King of the Castle II
Me on Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe.

Summer in the Cairngorms..

Munro #121 : Ben a' Bhuird
Munro #122 : Ben Avon (Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe)

Date : 27/07/2011 Distance : 39km Time : 7hrs 45min Flickr Set : View GPX Route : Download

There are a number of different ways to approach these two hills, none of them short. To allow us to penetrate as far as possible by bike, we started from Keiloch, on the Invercauld estate. There's a good size car park at Keiloch with toilet facilities. There's a £2.50 charge for parking so make sure you take change with you.

The quality of the estate roads are excellent, and we made good progress past Invercauld House. There are lots of tracks around the estate but the route is well signposted. Follow the signs for Gleann an t-Slugain. After a few turns, we reached a gate (not locked) which led into Gleann an t-Slugain. The low cloud which had hung over us since we left Alford now started to burn off and the temperature began to rise as we cycled up the glen.

Entering Gleann an t-Slugain.
Leaving the Invercauld estate roads and entering Gleann an t-Slugain.
Gleann an t-Slugain
Brian cycles up Gleann an t-Slugain.
There are a couple of streams to be forded on the way up the glen, and the track gradually becomes rougher as you gain some height. Eventually, you come to a spilt in the track. We noticed on our return that this is the point where most people leave their bikes and continue on foot. We decided to persevere with the bikes for a little longer.

Looking at the map, the split track joins again after a kilometre or so. We decided to take the lower track into what is known as The Fairy Glen. This was a mistake. The Fairy Glen is beautiful. Narrow and steep sided, a stream runs through the gorge with meadows perfect for camping. It was lovely to walk through, but the path soon narrowed and it was unsuitable for bikes. The narrow, steep path made pushing a bike along it hard work and we began to regret our route choice.

The Fairy Glen
The Fairy Glen.

Soon, we came to a ruined building. Presumably an old hunting lodge. By this time it was getting hot, so we stopped to shed layers and apply sun-tan lotion. It was going to be another shorts and tshirt day. While we were doing this, the light breeze dropped and the midges descended. Suffice to say, we didn't hand around for longer than necessary. We pushed the bikes the short distance out of the Fairy Glen and got our first good look at Beinn a' Bhuird.

Ruined Lodge I
Ruined hunting lodge in the Fairy Glen. Beinn a' Bhuird in background.
Ruined Lodge II
Ruined hunting lodge in the Fairy Glen. Beinn a' Bhuird in background.

We headed over the bealach and into the glen with the impressive east-facing corries of Beinn a' Bhuird ahead. There's a fantastic gravel path all the way to the head of the glen - some 4 kilometres away. The track up the glen is cyclable, but large, well-built drains cut across the path at frequent intervals. Hardy mountain bikers would probably cross these with ease - not us. There was a lot of dismounting required to get over these which soon became tiresome. Still, on balance, it was probably still a lot quicker than walking.

Heading towards Beinn a' Bhuird.

Eventually, about 1/2 a kilometre from Clach a' Cleirich we chained up the bikes by the side of the path and continued on foot. The bikes had been a great help and had allowed up to cover the first 12.5km with relative ease.

Rather than follow the path uphill past the Clach a' Cleirich, we went left, following the Allt Dearg, aiming for a gap in the crags onto Cnap a' Chleirich. The going underfoot here was rougher and mainly pathless and I suspect usually very wet. Soon we were gaining height, and had some great views back along the glen and into the hanging corries of Beinn a' Bhuird.

On Foot
On Foot, approaching Cnap a' Chleirich.

Dubh Lochan I
Brian looks towards the Dubh Lochan.

Brian and Dubh Lochan
From the slopes of Cnap a' Chleirich, looking back to the path in.

Soon we reached the summit plateau. The plateau here is a gentle convex slope and we had around a kilometre to go to get to the North Top - the summit of Beinn a' Bhuird. Even on a clear day such as this, it took us a while to spot the small summit cairn. I wouldn't like to have to hunt for it in low visibility. The summit of Beinn a' Bhuird was strangely dissapointing. The cairn lies a long way into the centre of the plateau which hides much of the surrounding views. There are however, grand views over towards Bynack More and Cairn Gorm, and to some of the more distant hills, such as Beinn a' Ghlo.

The summit was windless and very hot and the cairn seemed to be a meeting point for flies so we didn't linger. Soon we were off - the strange tors guarding Ben Avon our next target - 5km to the East. The walk across the plateau was easy going and we were soon approaching on of the highlights of the walk - The Sneck.

Beinn a' Bhuird Summit II
Brian on Beinn a' Bhuird North Top.

Ben Avon from Beinn a' Bhuird I
Ben Avon from the summit of Beinn a' Bhuird.

A Time for Reflection
Brian pauses for reflection on the way across the summit plateau of Beinn a' Bhuird.

Ben Avon from Beinn a' Bhuird II
Ben Avon from Beinn a' Bhuird.

The Sneck is the bealach which joins Beinn a' Bhuird with Ben Avon and from it the views North into Slochd Mor and out to Speyside were magnificent! The descent to the bealach was moderately steep and care was needed on the gravelly surface on the steepest section. There's also a small section of slabs to detour round. Take care as the path will lead you onto them if you're not careful.

The Sneck I
The Sneck.

The Sneck III
The glen of Slochd Mor, from The Sneck.

The ascent onto Ben Avon was not quite so steep, but just as loose and gravelly. Soon, we had reached the Ben Avon plateau. Only a small dip stood between us and the summit tor of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe. I hung back to take some photographs of Brian from below, then joined him on the summit. He returned the favour by descending first and taking some snaps then we sat at the base of the tor for some lunch. Since my sandwiches were safely in my fridge in my kitchen, Brian graciously shared his with me. Here we met the first of only a few other walkers we were to see today.

Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe
Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe, the highest tor (of many) on Ben Avon.

Looks can be Deceiving
Brian tries to find the highest point on the tor. This isn't it.

Brian on Ben Avon Summit
Brian finds the highest point.

Ben Avon Summit I
Me on summit of Ben Avon (Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe)

Tor View II
Looking South to Lochnagar and Braemar.

King of the Castle II
Me on summit of Ben Avon (Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe)

King of the Castle II
Me on summit of Ben Avon (Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe)

After we had been fed and watered, we returned to The Sneck. From this side, there were great views across to Garbh Coire. At the low point on the bealach, we turned left (South) and followed the good path back to Clach a' Cleirich and our bikes.

Return to The Sneck
Descending from Ben Avon back to The Sneck. Beinn a' Bhuird in background.

Garbh Coire I
On The Sneck. I look North towards Speyside. Garbh Coire and Beinn a' Bhuird in the background.

Descending from The Sneck
Brian descends down The Sneck path. Ben Avon on the left, Beinn a' Bhuird on the right.

The return to the Fairy Glen was relatively quick. For much of the return, we resorted to a one-pedal, side saddle style of cycling to try and lessen the hassle of constantly mounting/dismounting the bikes and it worked well for sections where there seems to be drains every 10 metres or so. This time we took the high road above the Fairy Glen. It was rough and steep and much bike pushing was done until we reached the junction. After this, the return to the car was swift and we arrived at the car exactly 8.5 hours after we had left.

The Fairy Glen from Above
Taking the high road back above the Fairy Glen.

As had now become traditional, we drove to the Inver Hotel for a refreshment and sat outside against the whitewashed gable end of the building, enjoying the afternoom sunshine. The thermometer at the hotel read 23 degrees centigrade.


Plumbago said...

Nice write-up and great pictures. Not sure about the shorts though! ;-) Anyway, if you've got it, you should post your GPS data for your hikes - like you showed me before.