Beinn a’ Bhuird (and almost Ben Avon…)

Day 1 Corgarff – River Gairn

Day 2 River Gairn – Beinn a’ Bhuird – Ben Avon – Corgarff

Day 1

Corgarff – River Gairn

01 August 2011

33.1 km/863 m/09:15 hrs

The “shortest” (but still very long) route to these remote Munros is from the South via Gleann an t-Slugain, but I wanted to try something different. My plan was to start from Corgarff, walk over Ben Avon and Beinn a’ Bhuird, and return via Glen Builg.

According to MWIS, heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for late afternoon and evening, but I was hoping to get the two Munros done before the weather turned.

I started at about 10:15 from the Corgarff Castle car park just off the A 939, and walked west on the single track road along the River Don.

Shortly before the bothy at Inchmore (private and locked), the road turns into a track which winds its way through heather and moorland.

After passing a little gorge…

… the impressive shooting lodge at Inchrory is reached.

I crossed the bridge over the Builg Burn und followed a rough track up the hillside.

On my way up the ridge, the dark clouds ahead began to look more and more threatening.

With the weather forecast in mind, I stopped to have a closer look at the map. I realised that there was no escape route from the plateau until I got to “The Sneck”, the bealach between Ben Avon and Beinn a’ Bhuird, which was several hours away.

I didn’t really want to get caught in a thunderstorm on the plateau, so I decided to turn back, find a sheltered camp site in one of the glens and walk back over the tops the next day.

After crossing the bridge again, I followed the Builg Burn on a good path.

Thistles in Glen Builg.

Loch Builg.

When I had another look at the map, I noticed a building marked as “Bothy” about 4.5 km down the River Gairn, beside Corndavon Lodge. It was in the opposite direction of where I was heading, but the prospect of a night with a proper roof over my head was just too tempting.

In the meantime, it had started to rain heavily and I couldn’t wait to get to the bothy.

When I arrived, I found the bothy boarded up 😦

Great, so it was back to Loch Builg and I had wasted two hours, walking to the bothy and back!

From Loch Builg, I continued in a southwesterly direction along the River Gairn, looking for a camp site. Where the glen narrows between Creag an Dail Mhòr and Creag an Dail Beag, there were lots of grassy flat patches on both sides of the river, but when I came closer, I saw three large red tents pitched there already. I walked a bit further upstream and found a place, out of sight of the other tents.

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Day 2

River Gairn – Beinn a’ Bhuird – Ben Avon – Corgarff

02 August 2011

32.8 km/1398 m/12:00 hrs

Munro: Beinn a’ Bhuird (No. 179)

There had been no thunderstorms whatsoever during the night, just a bit of rain. The forecast for today was for showers only, but also a 70 % chance of cloud-free Munros, so I was hoping to do the Munros in good visibility and only the occasional rain shower.

The morning started with midge hell – they were waiting for me…

I packed my rucksack inside the tent, covered myself up completely and got out of the tent. Within seconds, I was covered in midges, and when I had finished packing up the tent, I even started walking with the headnet on, something I never had to do before.

Looking back to my camp site.

Soon it started to rain, and it didn’t stop until late afternoon. But the visibility was still good at this point, walking along the Quoich Water I got a good view of Beinn a’ Bhuird.

Local wildlife.

Approaching “The Sneck”, the bealach between Beinn a’ Bhuird and Ben Avon.

I left my rucksack between some large rocks on the bealach and made my way up to Cnap a’ Chlèirich.

By the time I arrived on the plateau, the clouds had lowered and the visibility was down to a few metres. From the large tor on Cnap a’ Chlèirich I took a compass bearing to the North Top of Beinn a’ Bhuird, aiming off a little to the South towards the cliff edge.

The summit area is very flat, and I had to wander up and down a bit until I found the summit cairn (which is about 100 m away from the edge)…

Back to Cnap a’ Chlèirich and down to the bealach, where I collected my rucksack and started ascending towards Ben Avon. On the way up, I got some glimpses of Slochd Mòr which leads into Glen Avon.

The summit tor of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe (Ben Avon).

I went through the gap in the middle and started climbing up the tor from the other side. It was raining heavily, and the water was streaming down the granite blocks, which made the surface quite slippery. I must have been two or three metres away from the highest point, when I just couldn’t go any further. I would have had to ascend an outwards sloping slab, which is probably easy in dry weather because of the friction of the granite, but in these conditions it didn’t feel safe, and if I had slipped, I would have fallen several metres.

The highest point of the summit tor – so close and yet so far!

Looking down from near the top.

This was somehow frustrating, considering that I had come all this way and then couldn’t get to the top! It meant I would have to return – but then again, Ben Avon seems to be a great hill (at least what I could see of it!) and it would be worth coming back in better weather and actually enjoy the views.

After climbing down again, I spent the next few hours stumbling across the plateau, following compass bearings and counting paces.

The only entertainment were the strangely-shaped granite tors dotted across the plateau.

When I arrived at East Meur Gorm Craig, the clouds suddenly began to lift, and I got some views down into the glen of the Meur Gorm.

A bit further along the ridge of Carn Fiaclach, I could see Glen Loin on the opposite side of Glen Avon.

On my way down the ridge, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

Looking back to Ben Avon.

On my walk back along the River Don, I had the best weather of the whole trip. It was sunny and warm, and I was wondering why it couldn’t have been like that during the last two days??

For my second attempt at Ben Avon I am going to wait for a day with really good weather, and I think next time I will start from Invercauld in the South – I am looking forward to it already!

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