Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
8th August 2009
A traverse of the high Plateaus of Ben Avon and Beinn A'Bhuird
The weather was forecast to deteriorate during the afternoon so I decided on an early start to the day. The Invercauld estate near Braemar allows good access to the hills of the eastern Cairngorms and shortly after pulling into the car park at Keiloch I had my bike out of the boot and I was ready for the off, it was almost 7am. The cycle ride starts along the tarmacked estate track up through pine woods and past Invercauld house. After leaving the estate grounds it was a steady climb up through Gleann an t-Slugain, the early morning mist was still hanging over the burn of the same name. Some short rugged sections of chunky rock and a couple of lively burns provided for an entertaining test of balance. After about an hour I reached the top of the Slugain at a point where the track splits in two. I usually leave my bike here and take the lower track up through the fairy glen but today decided to continue on with the bike along the upper path. This however meant more pushing than cycling as the gradient increased quite sharply. Having passed above the Slugain ruin I continued until the paths rejoined before dismounting from the saddle with some pleasure .
The mist was now confined to the lower glen behind me as I headed out onto the grassy moor. Following the fine graveled path I headed off in the direction off Beinn A'Bhuird's eastern corries.
Blue Harebells and Beinn A'Bhuird
The path runs under the western slopes of Meall an-t Slugain and the Carn Eag Dhubh before it starts to gain height on the approach to Cnap a' Chleirich. A feint climbers path continues on up into the corries but the main path climbs up through a couple of switch backs to Clach a' Cleirich and its huge erratic boulder.
As I reached the Sneck, a bealach between Ben Avon and Beinn A'Bhuird, I could now feel the force of the strengthening wind. After admiring the fine views down Slochd Mor I started my final ascent up to the Ben Avon Plateau.
Slochd Mor from The Sneck
The large plateau is fairly well vegetated with deer grass but it is obviously struggling to gain a hold on to this exposed shale covered surface. It is well worth a trip up here in the later months of the year when the deer grass lends a multitude of autumninal colours to the landscape.
Ben Avon summit tor
The summit of Ben Avon, Leabadaidh an Daimh Bhuidh, is one of a number of large granite tors that populate this high alpine tundra. After a wee scramble onto the top I settled down behind the tor out of the wind to enjoy a spot of lunch, although checking my watch I found it was still only 10.30am. I retraced my steps back across the plateau toward the Sneck, the huge bulk of Beinn A'Bhiurd was spread out before me with its shear cliffs to the north dropping deeply into the depths of Garbh Corrie.
The Sneck and Beinn A'Bhuird
After gaining some height I worked around the hillside above some crags and over onto Cnap a' Chleirich. From here views into Beinn A'Bhuird's southern corries now opened up with Dubh Lochan nestling in the raised corrie floor beneath the rocky spur of A' Chioch.
Beinn A'Bhuird's south top
I took my time wandering along the cliff tops looking down into the boulder strewn corries below. I left the cliff edge for a short distance to visit the summit cairn which sits on the northern part of this flat tableland.
Dubh Lochan Beinn A'Bhuird
As I started toward the south top, which lies 3km from the north, I could see a mass of grey cloud heading my way. Sure enough the mist came down before I reached my destination but I managed to find a bit of shelter while a heavy shower past by. After taking the opportunity to have a biscuit and finish my tea I started my descent after visiting the south top. I continued south down the rounded ridge of Bruach Mhor, straying across a boulder field higher up before finding some easier going as I came out of the mist. A large grey bird of prey took flight from near a pile of boulders and white streaks on the ground added to my feeling that this may have been a Goshawk. I toyed with the idea of contouring back round the hillside to pick up the path that runs down the western side of Carn Fiaclach but decided to continue on. However as I dropped lower I was thinking this would have been a better alternative than negotiating the deep heather that I had run into.
Pines above Quoich water
After a bit of a struggle I made my way through outlying pines to pick up a good path near Quoich water. The path deteriorated through the forest, becoming a bit feint and boggy in places, before improving again as I emerged from the trees. Some stepping stones helped while fording the burn to start the short pull up to meet my outward path. It was now just a short walk back to the bike at the head of the Slugain before the cycle back to Keiloch. The first section required full use of brakes as I tried to control my speed and balance down some steep rocky sections. I was doing quite well until I caught a larger rock that sent my front wheel off at a tangent me toward the ground with a sinking feeling. Fortunately there was no damage done, just a couple of scratches, although a large bruise appeared on my thigh later in the evening. The rest of the ride out was swift and painless and a lot less effort than the journey in. All in all it had been a long but very enjoyable day out, all the more so because it had been my first for good few weeks.
A misty Beinn A'Bhuird
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