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Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty


Postby GariochTom » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:47 am

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Beinn Mheadhoin, Derry Cairngorm

Date walked: 08/06/2013

Time taken: 17 hours

Distance: 41 km

Ascent: 1718m

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Day One: 19km, 844m ascent, 7.5 hours
Day Two: 22km, 874m ascent, 9.5 hours

Day One

loch-avon--beinn-a-chaorainn.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


We didn't set off from the Linn of Dee car park until gone 11am, despite our intention to walk up Beinn a' Chaorainn in the heart of the Cairngorms. Not having to worry so much about timescales is the beauty of the bivvy, I thought to myself, as we walked through the woodland and up Glen Lui.

Image
Scots Pines in Glen Lui by GariochT, on Flickr

One less beautiful thing about bivvying is the weight of my rucksack on such trips. Despite not carrying a tent, my rucksack still weighed a ton, with food, water, cooking equipment, tarp, and everything else I needed for an overnighter in the hills.

The weather was sublime - just a few clouds in an otherwise blue sky. Sun cream was a necessity.

We reached Derry Lodge within an hour and had a rest on a fallen tree, once we were away from the multiple tents that were scattered around the lodge. Then we continued up Glen Derry, towards one of my favourite views - the trio of hills, Sgurr an Lochan Uaine, Stob Coire Etchachan and Beinn Mheadhoin.

Image
In Glen Derry by GariochT, on Flickr

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Glen Derry by GariochT, on Flickr

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Glen Derry by GariochT, on Flickr

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Survivors by GariochT, on Flickr

As usual, I faffed around trying to find an easy place to cross the Glas Allt Mor, and eventually just paddled through, trusting my gaiters more than stepping stones to keep my feet dry.

Our initial plan had been to leave our bags near the junction of the track up to the Hutchinson Hut, head up Beinn a' Chaorainn, then retrieve our bags and camp either by the Hut or by Loch Etchachan. However, we instead decided to keep hold of our bags, ascend that Beinn and then descend its northern slopes and camp either by the Fords of Avon or at Loch Avon.

We started to regret our decision half way up Beinn a' Chaorainn - only because it was hard work ascending a hill with heavy rucksacks on our backs! However, our efforts were rewarded higher up where we enjoyed good views down Glen Derry and across to Bheinn Mheadhoin.

Image
Glen Derry from the slopes of Beinn a' Chaorainn by GariochT, on Flickr



During our descent of the rocky northern slopes we stopped and I set the stove going for a cuppa. We looked across to Cairn Gorm and down the Laorig an Laoigh. The Corbett Craig Mhor was very inconspicuous, when compared to its neighbour, Bynack More.

Image
Bynack More from Beinn a' Chaorainn by GariochT, on Flickr

We continued our descent and spotted a ptarmigan amongst the scree - one of many sightings to come during the weekend.

We reached flat ground and the path northwards to the Fords of Avon. I decided against crossing the river to visit the Refuge - the water was too deep for my liking! We instead walked along the faint path to the south of the river, west towards Loch Avon.

Image
Not going across to the Fords of Avon Refuge today... by GariochT, on Flickr

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Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) by GariochT, on Flickr

The path was rough and meandering, often high above the river, but eventually we reached the east end of the loch and started along the lochside path to find a suitable dinner spot. We found one - a gravelly beach beside a lochan. I started to cook the pasta whilst my friend went to refill our bottles at the nearest stream, 500m away. Dinner tasted good.

An excellent camping spot, even more picturesque than our dinner spot, was found - a promontory that projected into the loch, that even featured a gravelly beach. An excellent viewpoint.

Image
Lochan by Loch Avon by GariochT, on Flickr

I tried to set up my tarp on the beach itself, but discovered that trying to anchor guy lines in fine gravel is very difficult. It had started to drizzle. I decided to move onto terra firma, and set up my tarp more securely on the grass instead.

After a hot chocolate and a whisky, it was time to go to bed.

Image
Loch Avon in the late evening by GariochT, on Flickr

Day Two

loch-avon--beinn-mheadhoin--de.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


I woke up when it was light at around 4am, and turned round to check on the view. Was the Shelter Stone crag bathed in golden sunlight? No, it was under a grey sky. I then realised that was because the sun hadn't yet risen over the horizon.

At 5am things were different. The golden hour had begun in earnest. I took my tarp structure down so that I could lie in my sleeping bag under the wide open sky. There was some frost on the tarp and a lot of condensation.

Image
5am at Loch Avon by GariochT, on Flickr

When it had warmed up a bit I got up and wandered around, probably for over an hour, snap-happy in the golden light. I took hundreds of photographs.



Image
Reflection and Shadow by GariochT, on Flickr

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Shapes by GariochT, on Flickr

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More Reflection and Shadow by GariochT, on Flickr

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Rush, sedge or grass? by GariochT, on Flickr

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Clear Water by GariochT, on Flickr

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Cloudberries and Mountains by GariochT, on Flickr

Breakfast was a leisurely and memorable one, on the beach with an outstanding view. The loch reflected the surrounding mountains almost perfectly.

Image
Breakfast Spot by GariochT, on Flickr

After more photographs, we then packed away our stuff and headed along the path again, towards the western head of the loch.

Image
Clear Blue Water by GariochT, on Flickr

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Carn Etchachan and Shelterstone Crag by GariochT, on Flickr

The cliffs and crags became more imposing the further west we went. A large school group was camping in one of the few green spots at the western end of the loch. We explored the jumble of massive granite blocks below the crags, and I went in search of the Shelter Stone. I found a couple of very good shelters, one of which I was convinced was the Shelter Stone, but I later realised that it wasn't. So, I still haven't visited the Shelter Stone. One day...

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The Head of Loch Avon by GariochT, on Flickr

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Not the Shelter Stone... by GariochT, on Flickr

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Not the Shelter Stone…but an effective shelter by GariochT, on Flickr

We ascended the steep path, up towards the main path that leads up to Loch Etchachan. On going round a corner, I spotted a ptarmigan just a few feet away from me. It didn't move away fast, so I managed to take plenty of superzoom shots of it.

Image
Ptarmigan near Carn Etchachan by GariochT, on Flickr

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Ptarmigan near Carn Etchachan, running away by GariochT, on Flickr

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Ptarmigan near Carn Etchachan by GariochT, on Flickr

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Camouflaged ptarmigan by GariochT, on Flickr

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Ptarmigan near Carn Etchachan by GariochT, on Flickr

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Ptarmigan near Carn Etchachan, overlooking Loch Avon by GariochT, on Flickr

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Blue Loch Avon by GariochT, on Flickr

Eventually we reached the top of the Loch Avon basin and made our way across flatter ground to Loch Etchachan. We left our rucksacks tucked under a massive rock and started ascending the gritty slope of Beinn Mheadhoin, soon attaining good views down to the Etchachan lochs, over to Derry Cairngorm, across to Cairngorm, and down to Loch Avon.

Image
Ascending Beinn Mheadhoin from Little Loch Etchachan by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Cairn Gorm, Loch Avon and Strath Nethy by GariochT, on Flickr



Image
The Tors of Beinn Mheadhoin by GariochT, on Flickr

The tors of Beinn Mheadhoin are very impressive and appeared larger than they did when I was last here, in the clag and snow in April 2012. I didn't fancy climbing up the largest tor, so instead opted for a smaller tor nearby.

Image
Loch Avon Basin by GariochT, on Flickr

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Dotterel on Beinn Mheadhoin by GariochT, on Flickr

On our descent we were surprised to find a nesting dotterel. My friend is a keen birder (indeed, a twitcher) and he explained that the male looks after the eggs and chicks alone - the female leaves to find another mate elsewhere. Dotterel and all other plovers are convincing actors - when flushed off the nest, they pretend to be injured to distract potential predators away from the eggs.

Image
Dotterel on Beinn Mheadhoin by GariochT, on Flickr

We retrieved our bags and had another cuppa, then headed across the stepping stones between the Loch and Little Loch Etchachan. I got one of my feet wet, plunging my boot into the water.

Image
Ascending Creagan a' Choire Etchachan from Loch Etchachan by GariochT, on Flickr

Up the path on the other side and then ascending off piste to Creagan a' Choire Etchachan, then higher, boulder hopping our way up to the summit of Derry Cairngorm. A fine viewpoint of the surrounding hills - a good place to put everything in perspective.

Image
Beinn Mheadhoin, Creag Mhor and Beinn a Chaorainn from Derry Cairngorm by GariochT, on Flickr

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The Cairn Toul Ridge, Braeriach and Lochan Uaine below Ben Macdui from Derry Cairngorm by GariochT, on Flickr

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On Derry Cairngorm by GariochT, on Flickr

It was then time to make a gradual descent towards the south, over Little Cairngorm then down to Carn Crom. We spotted more ptarmigan on the east side of the hill, and had another cuppa on our way down, stopping at an excellent viewpoint over Glen Derry and Glen Lui.

A beautiful bivvy trip.

Image
Ptarmigan on Derry Cairngorm, overlooking Glen Derry by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Overlooking Glen Lui by GariochT, on Flickr

Image
Glen Lui by GariochT, on Flickr
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GariochTom
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby malky_c » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:36 am

Seems to have been busy in the Cairngorms with Walkhighlanders this weekend :) . Really enjoyed your report, particularly the morning photos of Loch Avon. I was there about 12 hours later (assuming that was Sunday morning?), so good to see it at both ends of the day.
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby riverlodge » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:16 am

nice trip, great report and pics. love those early morning ones.
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby litljortindan » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:45 pm

Extra good pictures. May I ask what camera you used?
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby GariochTom » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:06 pm

malky_c wrote:Seems to have been busy in the Cairngorms with Walkhighlanders this weekend :) . Really enjoyed your report, particularly the morning photos of Loch Avon. I was there about 12 hours later (assuming that was Sunday morning?), so good to see it at both ends of the day.


It does seem to have been busy, yes! We didn't see too many people, especially in the glens, but I guess that is the advantage of setting off later in the day. Yes, we were at Loch Avon on the Sunday morning. I will have another read of your report to see how the loch looked in the evening!

riverlodge wrote:nice trip, great report and pics. love those early morning ones.


Thanks :)

litljortindan wrote:Extra good pictures. May I ask what camera you used?


Yes, it is a compact system camera - a Panasonic DMC-GF2. Very happy with it, although it would be even better with a viewfinder!
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GariochTom
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby rockhopper » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:16 pm

Stunning set of photos esp around the loch :thumbup: - and that has to be one of the best breakfast views around - cheers :)
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby Collaciotach » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:25 pm

Boidheach dealbhan .... beautiful pictures and a grand read

Taing Dhuit :D
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby bootsandpaddles » Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:14 am

Nice photos of birds. The British Trust for Ornithology is doing a survey of birds in the mountains and would like people to report sightings (with grid refs). You can get the details from their website.
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby GariochTom » Thu Jun 13, 2013 8:18 am

bootsandpaddles wrote:Nice photos of birds. The British Trust for Ornithology is doing a survey of birds in the mountains and would like people to report sightings (with grid refs). You can get the details from their website.


Thanks - I'll have a look at their web site and send the sightings in.
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GariochTom
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby brocoli » Sun Dec 06, 2015 11:52 pm

Stunning photos of Loch Avon!!! Amazing, words can't express.... I've never seen it with such still water. Wow...
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby Petr Dakota » Tue Dec 08, 2015 7:14 pm

Fabulous photos ! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Beautiful Bivvy by Loch Avon and Ptarmigan Aplenty

Postby larry groo » Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:46 pm

Absolutely fantastic photos... Loch Avon basin is such an amazing amphitheatre.

One of my favourite places.

Fine effort indeed.
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