Sunny days and frosty nights

Day 1 Glenmore – Glen Avon – Cnap a’ Chlèirich

Day 2 Cnap a’ Chlèirich – Ben Avon – Beinn a’ Bhuird – Beinn Bhreac – Derry Lodge

Day 3 Derry Lodge – Carn a’ Mhaim – Ben Macdui – Glenmore

Day 1

Glenmore – Glen Avon – Cnap a’ Chlèirich

05 November 2011

22.2 km/1281 m/07:30 hrs

The best weather forecast for the Cairngorms in weeks, if not months made the decision easy: Perfect conditions for a second attempt at Ben Avon, and on the way back I would try and bag the two Munros east of Glen Derry.

I parked at the end of the road to Glenmore Lodge and walked up the forest track towards An Lochan Uaine, The Green Lochan.

At the path junction I turned right and followed the path to Bynack More.

Looking back to Ryvoan bothy.

Strath Nethy.

The path which in the past turned into a boggy mess a km or so after the footbridge across the Nethy, is being improved at present, and it made for almost effortless walking up to the large plateau north of Bynack More.

View back to Meall a’ Bhuachaille.

Bynack More and Bynack Beg.

Where the path to Bynack More leads off to the right, I kept walking straight ahead into Coire Odhar.

Descending to the stream down in the glen, the Barns of Bynack came into view on my right.

Bynack More, seen from the south.

The recently refurbished Fords of Avon Refuge.

At the refuge, I turned left and followed the River Avon downstream.

Looking back to Beinn Mheadhoin.

Shortly before the Allt Coire Ruairidh joins from the south, I forded the River Avon.

Looking down Glen Avon.

After crossing the Allt Coire Ruairidh, I climbed towards Cnap Leum an Easaich, just south of the Spion Rocks.

Northwest to Creag Mhòr, with Bynack More behind.

In the light of the setting sun, the Barns of Bynack looked almost like an ancient castle on the hillside (zoomed).

View northeast from Cnap Leum an Easaich.

Once on the north ridge, it is an easy walk to the North Top of Beinn a’ Bhuird.

After collecting water from one of the streams in Coire Leum an Easaich, I cut across the plateau to Cnap a’ Chlèirich.

It took me a while to find a good camp site because the terrain is covered in granite rocks with only small grassy patches in between, and I needed a sheltered place as the wind had started to pick up.

The light was fading already, when I eventually managed to find a pitch a few hundred metres east of Cnap a’ Chlèirich, where my tent would catch the morning sun.

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Day 2

Cnap a’ Chlèirich – Ben Avon – Beinn a’ Bhuird – Beinn Bhreac – Derry Lodge

06 November 2011

18.3 km/675 m/08:00 hrs

Munros: Ben Avon, Beinn Bhreac (Nos. 205 + 206)

While I was having breakfast (in bed) in the light of my head torch, I suddenly noticed a reddish shimmer of light on the grass under the flysheet. I opened the tent door and looked across to Ben Avon’s summit tor.

Now it doesn’t happen very often that I get to see a sunrise, especially from a mountain top – so I had to look outside every few minutes and got carried away a bit taking photos!

Sunrise.

And another one 🙂

The night had been freezing cold, I had to put on a fleece and my Primaloft jacket to stay warm in my sleeping bag, and in the morning my wet boots and socks that I had left in the porch, were frozen solid. Thankfully I had a spare pair of socks, and I managed to get into my boots with a bit of effort.

But the views and the exhilarating feeling of being up on a hill, in gorgeous weather and pretty much in the middle of nowhere, made it all worthwhile.

After packing up the tent, I left my rucksack behind a large rock and descended to The Sneck carrying only a small daypack.

Looking back to Cnap a’ Chlèirich.

Approaching Ben Avon’s summit tor.

Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe, the summit of Ben Avon.

On my first attempt at this Munro in August, I didn’t manage to climb to the top of the summit tor, because it was raining heavily at the time and the granite felt too slippery. This time I found it quite easy to scramble to the top – but on the photo above it looks as if the “tower” on the far right is slightly higher…

Looking down from the summit tor.

View northeast.

I climbed down again and tried to find a way up the other tower. I walked around it and started climbing from different directions, but each time I came to a point where it would have taken some proper rock climbing moves to get any further.

The closest I could get, was climbing up from the gap between both towers, but on the right a big chockstone was in my way, and on the left I couldn’t get my arms around a large rounded rock to haul myself up it.

After wasting almost an hour with my futile attempts, I finally gave up. I knew that even if I came back another time, the weather conditions could never be better than today – I just didn’t seem to be able to climb this Munro!

The frustrating feeling of having failed again stayed with me for the rest of the day, and when I got home two days later, I started a discussion on Scottish Hills to find out some fellow Munro bagger’s thoughts about the matter. In the end, most of them seemed to be of the opinion that I could claim Ben Avon as “bagged” – so that’s what I did 🙂

Returning via The Sneck.

Boulders on The Sneck.

Slochd Mòr to the north.

Looking back across The Sneck to Ben Avon’s summit plateau.

After picking up my rucksack, I walked across the wide plateau to Beinn a’ Bhuird’s North Top.

Frozen stream on the way.

Looking down Coire nan Clach.

Beinn a’ Bhuird’s North Top with Ben Avon in the background – “slightly” better views than I had in August!

From the North Top, I walked in a westerly direction down grassy slopes to the Allt An Aghaidh Mhilis.

Looking across to Cairn Gorm and Bynack More.

The Mòine Bhealaidh with Beinn Bhreac in the centre of the photo.

When I arrived on the Mòine Bhealaidh, a large boggy plateau between Beinn a’ Chaorainn and Beinn Bhreac, I had to make a decision. My plan had been to climb Beinn Bhreac first, then Beinn a’ Chaorainn, descend its SW spur to the Lairig an Laoigh and find a camp site in Coire Etchachan, preferably by Loch Etchachan itself.

But after losing an hour on Ben Avon and generally taking a lot more time than I had estimated, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get off Beinn a’ Chaorainn in the daylight. The ground seemed too boggy to camp high, and to ensure I’d make it down to the glen before dark I had to give one of the Munros a miss. I decided against Beinn a’ Chaorainn, because I still have to do Beinn Mheadhoin (same story as Ben Avon, attempted it in bad weather and couldn’t get up the summit tor!) and could possibly combine these two on a future trip.

Beinn a’ Chaorainn and Beinn a’ Chaorainn Bheag.

It was just before 15:00 when I reached the summit of Beinn Bhreac.

From the summit, I descended first south, then southwest to Glen Derry.

The last section through the trees was hard going on waterlogged ground with deep, ankle-swallowing holes hidden in the tall grass, and it was quite a relief when I finally reached the path.

A group of tents were already pitched by the footbridge across the Derry Burn, so I walked further along the Luibeg Burn, again looking for a camp site that would benefit from the morning sun. I found a perfect spot sheltered under some trees, a bit downstream from the farm at Luibeg, and put up my tent in the light of my head torch.

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Day 3

Derry Lodge – Carn a’ Mhaim – Ben Macdui – Glenmore

07 November 2011

17.8 km/1236 m/08:00 hrs

Another freezing cold night with clear skies, but as soon as the sun came out, my tent warmed up very quickly. I even managed to defrost my gaiters by spreading them out in the sun while I packed up my tent.

I followed the excellent path along Glen Luibeg.

Beinn Bhrotain in the distance.

Approaching Carn a’ Mhaim.

Luibeg Bridge (which I have never used, so far I always managed to ford the Luibeg Burn), with Sròn Riach in the distance.

I was going to walk along the Lairig Ghru, but I expected it to be lying in the shade. Besides, on a day like this it seemed like a waste not to go over the tops, so I decided to climb over Carn a’ Mhaim and Ben Macdui instead.

There was no wind at all, and the sun was blazing down – the steep climb was hard work and it felt a lot warmer than on many “summer” days this year!

Climbing towards Carn a’ Mhaim.

Soon I got the first glimpse of the Devil’s Point and Cairn Toul.

Glen Geusachan with Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mòr.

Glen Dee.

Looking NE to Derry Cairngorm.

Carn a’ Mhaim summit.

Devil’s Point and Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir.

Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir and Cairn Toul.

An interesting ridge connects Carn a’ Mhaim and Ben Macdui – Braeriach is visible left of centre.

View down to the Lairig Ghru and Corrour bothy (zoomed).

Ben Macdui and Sròn Riach.

The Lairig Ghru and Braeriach. I was surprised to see the Lairig Ghru “bathed in sunshine”, but I was still glad I went for a high level walk.

Approaching the bealach between Carn a’ Mhaim and Ben Macdui.

In the meantime I had run out of drinking water, and the lochans on the bealach seemed to be the only water source around. I walked along the streambeds leading east from the lochans, but they were dried out and I didn’t want to lose too much height by following them further down. Luckily, I found a spring on the lower slopes of Ben Macdui.

At first I could follow a clear path, but soon it disappeared in a seemingly never-ending boulder field.

A rather steep boulder field, actually…

Eventually the summit plateau came into view, with the ruined hut SE of the summit.

Looking SE from near the summit.

The summit area was quite busy, at least compared to where I had been the last few days.

Ben Macdui summit trig point.

On the summit.

It was very windy on the wide plateau, and the summer feeling of the ascent was quickly lost. But the views were still stunning.

Walking towards Cairn Lochan, Lochan Buidhe on the right.

Looking east to Beinn Mheadhoin.

Lurcher’s Crag.

The moon over the Fiacaill ridge.

Loch Morlich and the ridge of Craiggowrie, Creagan Gorm and Meall a’ Bhuachaille in the low-lying sun.

The crags above Coire an Lochain.

Meall a’ Bhuachaille and its neighbours again, just before sunset.

I was in a bit of a hurry because I wanted to catch the last bus at 16:40 from the Ski Centre to Glenmore, to save me a long walk in the dark back to my car. But on my way I caught up with a hillwalker with a dog who was on her way back to the car park and who offered me a lift, which I gladly accepted. She didn’t only drive me back to Glenmore, but dropped me off right beside my car at Glenmore Lodge – a big thank you, once again!

A great end to an amazing trip 🙂

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