Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
2nd & 3rd July 2011
A weekend backpack through the eastern Cairngorms, taking in the massif's of Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuird followed by a traverse of Beinn Mheadhoin.
Hoping to make the most of the decent weather forecast but not wishing to travel too far we elected to head for the Cairngorms for a weekend backpack. A loose plan was hatched as Nat suggested a trip over some of the tops she had not yet covered, Ben Avon, Beinn a'Bhuird (North top) and Beinn Mheadhoin. The first two hills are quite often climbed together while Beinn Mheadhoin would provide a "wee" bit of an extension to our circuit. The weather started much better then predicted with plenty of blue sky but on approaching Braemar the cloud cover had started to increase. Our starting point was to be at Linn of Quoich and we arrived around mid morning, shouldered our packs and headed on our way. Passing through Allanmore we followed the track toward Keiloch as far as the turning for Gleann an t-Slugain. Near the top of the Glen a track not marked on the map caught our attention as it looked like it would lead up between Meall an t-Slugain and Meall Glasail Mor. After continuing on past the end of the track we picked up the path running east alongside the river Gairn on its way to Loch Builg.
River Gairn Below Creag an Dail Mhor
It already felt like we were in quite remote country as we passed between the craggy tops of Creag an Dail Mhor and Creag an Dail Bheag. It was very pleasant walking along this section of the river passing what would have been some ideal camping spots. The ground now opened up to reveal an extensive area of moor leading over to the broad southern shoulders of Ben Avon. Leaving the path a while later we cut over this grasses to reach and cross Allt an Eas Mhoir. Ignoring the indistinct path along this section we decided to climb directly up onto the Ben Avon Plateau emerging on the ridge leading to the Tor on Stuc Gharbh Mhor.
Clach Choutsaich - Ben Avon
Impressive Granit Tor's are dotted about the plateau and help give Ben Avon an unusual but special atmosphere. Following a vague broad ridge of high ground we passed by the Tor's Clach Choutsaich, Pt 1122, Pt1136 while making a sweeping arc to Ben Avon's Summit Tor, Leadaidh an Daimh Bhuide. After an easy scramble up the Tor it was time for a spot of lunch before making the crossing over to Beinn a' Bhuird. The Sneck is a high bealach that over looks Garbh Choire and connects the two mountains together.
Heading down to the Sneck
Dropping down to the Sneck we noticed 3 tents sitting in the lee of the hillside but seeing no one assumed the occupants were still out on the hill. A large granite finger of stone stood at the bealach and seemed to be defying the laws of gravity leaning as it was to one side. After heading up some gravely slopes we made for the crags of Cnap a' Chleirich from were the main Beinn aí Bhuird plateau stretched over to its Northern top and summit. The vegetation up here is sparse as it struggles to gain a hold in the granite shale. After crossing a small defile we followed the cliff edge gazing down into the deep corries.
Corries of Beinn a'Bhuird
At the modest summit cairn we rechecked the map for viable camping spots before heading west down toward the Moine Bhealaidh. Next to the largest of a jumble of small lochanís in the upper reaches of Coire Ruairidh we found a suitable place to pitch the tents (NJ079012). It was with some relief that I realised that we were to be left in peace because despite the lack of a breeze there seemed to be no midges. It was a pleasant evening and although some mist rolled in to cover some of the central Cairngorm tops the higher cloud base began to clear. It wasn't a spectacular sunset but there were still some nice tints of orange and gold in the corner of the sky. After washing and eating it was time to settle in for the evening and after climbing into my sleeping bag I relaxed peering out of tents open door. I was tempted to leave it open overnight but in the end closed up before drifting off to sleep. Needing to leave the tent at around 3.30 in the morning I was greeted by a clear sky already starting to brighten. I could here Enzo being evicted from Nat's tent at around 7.30 so decided it was time to make a brew and enjoy the morning sun.
Camp Coire Ruairidh & Bynack More
Someone was obviously feeling a bit tired because it was a little while later before Nat finally stirred a little apologetically. There was no need, I had been quite happy taking time over breakfast and having a little wander up a nearby knoll to take in the panorama of the high central Cairngorm peaks. We steadily made ourselves ready and decided that our route over to Beinn Mheadhoin should start by heading down to the River Avon. We were continually trying to avoid stepping on the many frogs that sprung from the undergrowth as we made our way and stopping at one pool in which they had dived for cover we spotted one of these cousins, a newt.
Working our way over the damp hillside while trying to avoid the longer heather we joined the Allt Coire Ruairidh and after crossing followed the west bank to the river. The river Avon at this point is reasonably wide but fortunately not very deep, there were plenty of stones to step on but we couldn't quite find a line to make a full crossing. So boots off we began our paddle across to the north bank; the water was not too cold but a lot of the underwater rocks were smooth and slippery underfoot.
Nat Fords River Avon
The path we picked up allowed for much quicker progress and although boggy in places way largely in good order. Our destination, Beinn Mheadhoin, was now framed by the hillsides on either side of the river but still looked a little way off. The path eased up above the river for a while as the water was squeezed through a narrowing gorge.
River Avon & Beinn Mheadhoin
As we approached the fords of Avon the way opened up onto broad grassy moorland. Pausing at the fords of Avon refuge we contemplated what it would be like spending a night here and decided that it would only really be contemplated in an emergency.
Fords of Avon refuge & Beinn Mheadhoin
Taking a fairly direct line we headed over then up the steep north eastern slopes of Beinn Mheadhoin. After passing a band of crags on our right the way eased as we turned the gnarly cliff face of Sron Ghorm before making for the first of a number of Granite Torís. Soon after we arrived at the summit and like Ben Avon it was marked with another granit Tor.
Cairngorm from Beinn Mheadhoin
The scrambling to get to the top of this one required a little more thought and although not hard required a bit of care on the way back down. We settled down for lunch enjoying the views back across over Beinn Chaorainn toward yesterdays hillís, Ben aí Bhuird and Ben Avon. We were joined for a while by a well travelled hill goer who regaled us with a few of his hill stories and recited part of a poem that he said had been discovered at Ryvoan Bothy. After a brew we headed out along the ridge marked as the Barns of Beinn Mheadhoin until we were gazing down on Loch Etchachan with the bulk of Ben Macdui forming an impressive backdrop to the scene.
Barns of Beinn Mheadhoin
After crossing the outflow of the loch we started our descent into Coire Etchachan and the Hutchison memorial hut. It was now on down to Glen Derry and along to Derry Lodge. Legs were now starting to become a bit weary and the realisation was sinking in that the route back is as ever much longer in reality than it seems in memory. Into Glen Lui and we seemed to be making good headway but we still had to return to Glen Quich. Our friend on Beinn Mheadhoin had suggested taking the track that lies 200m past black bridge to rise up onto Doire Bhraghad. The skies threatened a bit of a downpour as we followed the heather lined track and the lowering sun illuminated the red bark on some of the gnarled Caledonian pine making a stark contrast with dark sky Continuing on at a crossroads we were soon down to Mar lodge for the last 2km along the road and the car, which we reached with some relief.
Doire Bhraghad Pine
Here is the poem found in Ryvoan Bothy during the 1939-45 war.
I shall leave tonight from Euston
Buy the seven-thirty train
And from Perth in early morning
I shall see the hills again.
From the top of Ben Macdhui
I shall watch the gathering storm,
And see the crisp snow lying
At the back of Cairngorm.
I shall feel the mist from Bhrotain
And pass by the Lairig Ghru
To look down on dark Loch Einich
From the heights of Sgoran Dubh.
From the broken burns of Bynack
I shall see the sunrise gleam
On the foreheads of Ben Rines,
And Strathspey awake from dream.
And again in the dusk of evening
I shall find once more alone
The dark waters of the Green Loch
And the pass beyond Ryvoan.
For tonight I leave from Euston
And leave the world behind
Who has the hills as lover
Will find them wondrous kind.
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