Ben Avon from Bridge of Brown. Summit camp April 2011.

Date: Saturday – Sunday 16th-17th April 2011
Distance: Sat – 19km + 2km wandering. Sun – 18km
Ascent: Sat – 1100m + 300m wandering. Sun – 550m

A fabulous forecast for the weekend had gone off a wee bit with a prediction of a cloudy Saturday. Best weather east had us dusting off the nearest thing we have to a bogey hill.

We’d fancied a wild camp on Ben Avon for a while but 3 previous attempts had faltered – one abandoned due to weather, one altered to a high Beinn a Bhuird camp.

The last had seen us start this route from Cock Bridge 6 weeks before but a not fully healed twisted ankle had protested at the heavy packs so we retreated after 1 hour.

Left Braemar at 0900 – an overcast day. Parked at Cock Bridge – there is a car park at Corgarff Castle.

A cold wind was blowing from the west. Set off on the track to Inchrory with a degree of trepidation – 4th time lucky?

This hen pheasant slunk into hiding on the other side of the fence.

The glen would have benefitted from some sunshine – it looked better in february. Still the oystercatchers and Peewits were entertaining. These hills must be resplendent in August with the heather bloom.

The head of the Don is up here – the gorge down to Inchrory suggests that water once flowed W from the Feith Bhait basin. Possibly a glacial lake outflow?

Great to watch 4 Ring Ouzels competing for territory – normally very shy we got quite a good look. Great to see the summer migrants back.

Inchrory took 105 minutes on foot – presumably a short cycle ride on the decent track. The Lodge here is a sumptuous affair, set in the deep glen heading N to Tomintoul.

Followed the track south 600m to cross the bridge over Builg Burn. Sat for a while having a snack here. Ravens were nesting on the cliffs opposite and a few ouzels were singing. Quite a nice spot.

The next 3km does most of the climb – a track runs up to Carn Fiaclach and then on up to Meall Gaineimh. A couple passed us to pick up some bikes at the foot of the hill. It was still fairly overcast and cool at that point.

Down to glen from ascent:

Clach Ban (on the right) from approach:

Rather than climbing to the top of Meall Gaineimh we wandered out to Clach Ban – a very complex large tor. Some huge cups carved into this one.

Meall Gaineimh from Clach Ban:

Clach Ban:

I’ve read that the pool in the Clach Ban (Woman’s Stone) was visited by pregnant women to bathe in the pool there in the hope of an easier delivery. Not a bad effort to get up there frankly.

Did find a pool on the west side.

Conditions were improving as we climbed over East Meur Gorm Craig and on to Big Brae.

Cliff line East Meur Gorm Craig:

More tors:

The day allowed plenty of time for diversions to tors – time was not an issue. Sat in warm sunshine on Big Brae and had a snack.

Tor on Big Brae:


Clach Choutsaich:

Spotted 2 Golden Eagles circling at altitude to the S. Long lazy circles at about 4000ft.

About 3km on easy terrain from here to the summit tor. Started to see ptarmigan pairs from here – the males seemed to be standing on rocks over their hens – not quite nesting yet.

We’d had the whole length of Ben Avon to ourselves – now we started to see folk – a few kitted for camping and a number visiting the summit tor.

The final 500m to Leabaidh an Diamh Buidh:

Beinn a Bhuird from Leabaidh an Diamh Buidh:

Leabaidh an Diamh Buidh:

We spent a while looking around the summit tor for a pitch site out of the breeze. Could have dropped a bit into the high corries but found a flat pitch about 200m E and 30m down.

Set up the tent and proceeded to relax – wandered around and explored, cooked tea and then wandered a bit more.

Sunset was blocked by clouds to the west but our summit remained cloud free. There was another walker camping but he was about 100m downhill in the corrie S of the summit (a sensible pitch).

Retired after sunset and got some kip.

Looked out at 0300 – moonlight was patchy due to cloud. Should have got up but went back to sleep instead.

Woke to the Ptarmigan alarm clock at dawn.

A cracking sunrise had us wandering around the summit again – an hour of this before starting on breakfast and striking the camp.


Beinn a Bhuird:

Beinn a Ghlo and Carn an Righ behind tor:


Glorious weather – sunny, warm and only a light breeze. This is what we’re after.

From the summit we cut ENE across the shallow corrie and its beautiful snow-melt stream to head for Clach Choutsaich – a towering tor.

Didn’t manage to get up this one last time – managed on the third go this time with a bit of effort. Just as well this isn’t the summit.

Wandered to Stuc Gharbh Mor and said goodbye to the view west as we dropped NE following the boundary line marked on OS heading for Carn Drochaide. Ptarmigan and Plovers here and there along the way.

Skein of geese passing Bennachie:

There are cairns on this route – they eventually meet a stalkers path tackling the steep slope up this way from Carn Drochaide.

The terrain remained good over Carn Drochaid to Carn Dearg – we dropped SE from the 772m point to take an easier descent line. An overgrown pony path led from some grouse butts at NJ 812 020 towards the lodge.

Lochanagar over Culardoch-Carn Liath bealach:

Brown Cow Hill:

Loch Builg:

Had lunch at the lodge ruin – a very nice camping spot if needed.

From here we ascended the flanks of Brown Cow Hill. This is heathered and potentially hard work. We took the green line of an Allt for a way and then patches of heather burn.

Lizards here and there in the grass.

Made a fairly direct ascent to the bealach between Meikle Geal Charn and Carn Sawvie. From there a track runs along the summit ridge to the other 2 summits.

Quite expansive views although impaired by the roundness of the hill.

Ben Avon from Brown Cow Hill:

Saw 6 dotterels running along the track line plus numerous Plovers whistled at us.

From the summit headed NE towards Carn Oighreag. The peat hags were tiresome here – not good on tired legs.

Picked up the track south of Carn Oighreag to take us direct down to Cock Bridge and the car. An icy bottle of Bundaberg Lemon/Lime bitters went down very well.

Great to have finally camped on Ben Avon. Even better to have done the tour of the hill from the NE. A nice diversion to loop over Brown Cow Hill given the Cock Bridge start too.


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