Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
5th & 6th October 2013
A wild and windy overnight camp on Ben Avon
Itís a long approach to Ben Avon from Tomintoul but the use of a bicycle along the good estate tracks makes light work of it. The surface of the track improves dramatically after an initial descent from the Queens View car park onto the tarmacked surface of the road that pleasantly follows the river. The cycle up the glen itself is an enjoyable way to start the day. One of the estate workers was positioned in his landrover part way down the final slope before the fork in the road below Inchrory. I enquired about stalking activities and he advised me that (unusually) they had guys on the hill along the main ridge (from here) up toward the Ben Avon Plateau. A change of plan was required so after checking it was ok and leaving my bike by the bridge, I headed up Glen Builg. The change of route was fine as it offered an approach to Beinn Avon that I hadnít used before.
A rough track lead most of the way to Loch Builg but a final section was across a stretch of boggy moor. Reaching the south end of the loch I stopped for a lunch break, heating water for some soup to warm against the slight chill.
I found remnants of a stalkers path as I headed through the heather to gain the ridge running from Carn Dearg to Carn Drochaid. I enjoyed views across to the corrie and the falling waters of Allt an Sgoir Riabhaich. A short drop across a boggy col and I was on a more defined path as it climbed toward Stuc Gharbh Mhor. Near the top I watched a Golden eagle as it swooped low across the hillside and out of sight.
Brown Cow Hill & Culardoch
It had been a sheltered approach to the plateau but now I soon realised there was a bit of a blow. It appeared that the strong winds forecast for Sunday had arrived early but although it was blowing a bit I was not to concerned about the ability of the tent to withstand them. As a precaution though, I decided to pitch behind the Granite Tor of Clach Choutsaich. My only concern was that the ground was a bit gritty and I would have been happier if the tent pegs felt a bit more secure. As added security I loaded the guys with rocks. By now a mist had lowered and the dusk had set in, any thoughts of retreat to the glen were put aside. I settled down and after my evening meal lay back and listened to some music. The wind was coming in increasing gusts and I decided to go out and check the guys and with everything in place returned to try and sleep. After a while the flapping of the tent increased and on opening the inner I discovered the outer door had unzipped. I re-closed the door but within 20 minutes it had opened again so I tied it in place. A little while later the ground sheet seemed to have unseated and the top of the tent was partially collapsing. A venture outside and I got a feel for how strong the wind now was and it was a struggle to get the tent anchored down again. Two of the pegs holding the ground sheet had come out, one of the guys had snapped after rubbing against the abrasive rocks I loaded on top of it. The pocket holding the crossover pole had also developed a hole after abrasive rubbing and the pole was poking out and flysheet had ridden up. After struggling things were now back in place but it didnít last. I would have needed to reposition the tent slightly to have a chance of the groundsheet pegs regaining some hold. Returning to the tent interior I found that the door had obviously opened again and I discovered that my quilt was missing, the wind had gotten in and with the rattling of the tent had managed to lift it and carry way into the night. I decided it was time to abandon ship! I miraculously managed to pack up without appearing to lose anything else to the wind. After packing I tested the winds strength by venturing out from behind the tor only to discover that it was just as ferocious as I thought. It was 2.00am, dark, misty and blowing a hoolie; I decided the safest thing to do was stay put and wait for dawn. I found a position behind the granite boulders to get as much shelter as possible then donned my spare layers and waterproofs and lay back on my rucksack to wait it out. The mist was carrying a fair amount of moisture as it whipped around the side of my relatively sheltered position. After a while I started to feel the cold creeping in as damp earth started to draw away the warmth from lower reaches. I carefully extracted my tent footprint and sleeping mat from my sack and managed to stake out one side of the ground sheet and wrap it over me and my mat. Rucksack as a pillow I was now feeling far more comfortable. After a couple of hours I managed to rouse myself and get my stove out to make some hot chocolate, a very welcome warming from the inside. Eventually a grey dawn lifted my spirits further and my thoughts turned toward breakfast.
The wind had by now definitely eased and was now only gale force! Well not quite, it had eased enough for me to decide that I would head over to the summit instead of just fleeing to the glen. I had just about packed when I noticed a lovely warming of the sky to the east, the pinks soon turned to reds and it looked like there was fire rolling in over the hillside. It was an amazing sight and one I couldnít capture with the camera to do it justice. The mist floating up from the glen was backlit by the colours of dawn from the east.
Fire in the sky
Ben Avon Plateau
Ben Avon Summit Tor
The Sneck from Ben Avon
My route out was going to be my intended route in but I decided to follow the direction of the wind and drop into corrie north west of my campsite.
Making my way along Mullach Lochan nan Gabhar a short way before turning west and descending toward Allt an Sgoir Riabhaich.
Tor North of summit
There was a large flock Ptarmigan in their winter coatís sheltering in the corrie, possibly the largest number I had seen in one place, maybe upward of twenty birds. While walking I did keep a look out for my long departed quilt just by some amazing stroke of luck I would spot it (fat chance). After detouring to get views from atop the waterfall feeding Feith Laoigh, I decided it was possible to follow the falls down into the corrie.
Above Feith Laoigh Waterfall
Although steep the going was fine and I kept to the side of the burn all the way down and across the corrie floor.
Waterfall Feith Laoigh
I eventually left the burns side to pick up the estate track near the north end of Loch Builg. I took a relaxed lunch break near a small ravine surrounded by trees.
Lunch spot beside the Builg Burn
Another couple of kilometres and I was back at the bike and the start of a pleasant journey following the Builg burn back out to Inchrory.
A last effort was then required to pedal up the hill to the Queens view car park after what had been quite an eventful overnight camp.
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