Date: Friday – Sunday 25th-27th September 2015
Distance: 14.6 + 14.2 + 22.3km
Ascent: 980 + 630 + 600m
A September holiday weekend – as always looking to the west, but the forecast was pushing us east. Decided on a Cairngorms 2-nighter, as is often the case the plan was somewhat flexible.
As we drove up to Braemar we were debating whether to park at Invercauld, Linn of Quoich or Linn of Dee.
Plumped for Linn of Quoich, on NTS land therefore no stalking issues to worry about. Left the car after noon aiming to find a pitch on Beinn a Bhuird (or Ben Avon).
A pleasant walk up Glen Quoich – a while since we wandered up this glen.
The river decided to go on a wee stravaig itself in the floods a few years back so there is one area where the path needs to hug the river bank to rejoin the vehicle track. This bit is a bit loose and may not hold up very well if not repaired.
A few showers were passing by as we walked, not enough for waterproofs.
A group of hen/juvenile black grouse started up from near the road as we passed – one landed in a pine tree.
On through the attractive pine trees at the head of the glen before starting up the path up An Diollaid. A well made path at an easy gradient makes this one of the most benign approaches to significant elevation in Scotland.
The horrific zig-zag track scar from the pre-NTS era is fading – offers hope for abominations such as Simpson’s Achnasheen scar, but the repair took a lot of work. Well done NTS.
Watched a juvenile Golden Eagle skimming the terrain of the south top before heading off towards Beinn a Chaorainn. Ever so often we were fringed by a shower.
Once up to the 900m mark there are great views over to the Cairngorm Plateau – a less seen angle.
Once the bealach between the north and south tops is reached the bland nature of the south and west of Beinn a Bhuird is replaced by the phenomenally dramatic north and east side.
By this point negotiations had morphed the plan – we had thought about a pitch on Beinn a Bhuird followed by a wander west to the plateau and a second night.
Hang on we said, why walk to the bit’s of the ‘Gorms we know well when we’ve seen much less of Bhuird and Avon?
Point taken we planned to wander on the eastern pair.
Headed round to A’Chioch off the South Top – a fine tor and viewpoint. Spent a wee while poking around.
Pitch sites on Beinn a Bhuird and Ben Avon are innumerable, however pitch sites with panoramic views are much fewer, the exposed flat summit terrain being usually Cairngorm grit and stones.
Found a spot 30m below the South Top for the first night. Water was taken from the spring west of A’Chioch.
The tent was pitched quite early so we had time to wander around and enjoy some pleasant evening light.
Sunset was masked by cloud to the west. A breezy evening was followed by a calm night. Initially part-clear skies however were replaced by clag by about 2200.
Dawn was a grey affair.
Had a long lie – but no sign of the cloud lifting so we set off at 0930 for an atmospheric exploration of Beinn a Bhuird.
Headed across to the North Top and past the unremarkable summit cairn before heading on across Lag Buidhe an Damh towards Garbh Coire.
Stob an t-Sluichd has been on the to-visit list since our last Beinn a Bhuird camp just north of Cnap a Chleirich. An eye-catching toothed ridge heading north.
We were wandering slowly in the hope of the base lifting, and so it began to do, rising progressively off the tops, albeit with no sunshine.
There is an aircrash site on Stob an t-Sluichd – an Airspeed Oxford crashed on 10/01/45. I’m glad I didn’t know the details – in particular that one of the five crew survived the crash but perished in the Cairngorm winter sheltering in the fuselage in the clothes of his comrades. Very sad.
Carried on along Stob an t-Sluichd, at the end was the remains of a red grouse picked nearly clean by an eagle.
A few tors are below this summit – left for our Tomintoul-Inchrory loop of Avon and Bhuird in the future.
Headed back along Stob an t-Sluichd to wander round Garbh Coire’s edge. A few climbers were starting up the rock on the south side of the coire – seems a popular spot.
Wandered past our previous pitch site before descending the Sneck and ascending Ben Avon. Suddenly there were quite a few other walkers around (for a short while).
Wandered past Leabaidh an Diamh Bhuidhe, leaving it to the clutch of walkers. We fancied a wander out to Stob Bac Fhurain on the N of Ben Avon. This had been unvisited on our walk along the length of this hill a few years back.
A couple of nice pitch sites were noted on this arm, but we’d identified a spot at the 1136m tor NE of the summit to put the tent down. In the absence of sunshine we decided to get the tent down and have a rest.
Passed by one late walker heading towards Bhuird with a camping pack. Settled in for the evening. A good data signal had us acquire an MWIS forecast that predicted a far finer day for Sunday.
The initial plan had been to head out either via the Culardoch track or Carn Eas and Carn na Drochaide to give a wide loop. Once again the plan morphed – if there was going to be a better day then we’d reverse route across Beinn a Bhuird to get some of the quality views we’d missed out on in the gloom.
The wind got up from near dead calm to pretty gusty at around 2200. This seemed to start tearing the cloud cover up exposing the near full moon. Got up at 0100 to a clear sky. A big moon really lights up the terrain and we could see quite a lot of detail of the surrounding landscape. Too windy for steady night shots unfortunately.
A very fine hour or two as the sun came up…..pretty much why it’s worth summit-camping….at last.
Sat around and enjoyed breakfast before packing away a nice dry tent. Back across to Beinn a Bhuird it was then.
Had a quick scramble up Leabaidh an Diamh Buidhe – this time I reckon the N top of the tor is higher. Still, both are decent spots for some photos.
Had the place to ourselves before heading off to Beinn a Bhuird across the Sneck.
A bit of hazy layering to the south.
The glen approach to the Sneck is not one I’d pick of a preference – renders the Red Route to Ben Avon rather enclosed in all but the final 1km.
Once up the west side of the Sneck we headed south to the promontory south of Cnap a Chleirich – as expected this gave excellent views of the big Coire of Bhuird.
Link to larger pano
Then made our way north to Cnap a Chleirich. Had our tea here on the previous visit.
As with much of the Cairngorms there are few spots that give great views in all directions. The nature of more rounded hills means a need to wander offline a ways to get the views of the cliffs and coires.
Cnap a Chleirich pano:
Link to larger pano
From Cnap a Chleirich we headed SW to pick up the cliffline of the North top to maximise the views into the coires.
Bypassed the N top cairn, surprised to see a group having lunch at it – with such limited views I’d rather sit on the cliffline.
We had our lunch a little further round near the cliffs. Passed by a hunting Peregrine as we ate.
Lots of time left we headed down to the top of the Dividing Buttress between Coire an Dubh-lochain and Coire nan Clach. It had caught the eye on Friday.
Heading back up to the bealach and the return track we spied a rock that looked like an animal’s head.
This seems to be the Bloodhound Buttress of Beinn a Bhuird so I presume this is the Bloodhound.
A last wander round to enjoy the coire views before the relative blandness of the return.
Coire an Dubh-Lochain and A’Chioch pano:
Link to larger pano
As we descended we dropped from breezy summit chill to still glen heat. A really nice day.
Back to a mere 500m we dropped back towards the pine woods and a bit more wildlife.
The wood ants were amazingly active – last orders is approaching and they’re stocking up.
From there a pleasant evening amble back down the glen.
A shockingly unaesthetic route – but in essence adapting to achieve what we set out to do with a proper exploration of Beinn a Bhuird with the bonus of a visit to Ben Avon.