Ben Avon & Beinn a' Bhuird: A route too far
by Alastair S » Tue May 11, 2010 1:33 pm
Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Bhuird, Ben Avon
Date walked: 08/05/2010
Time taken: 11 hours
Distance: 41 km
Ascent: 1541mRegister or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
aka: Darn my larkish tendencies
aka: A day of 3 halves
So, hadn’t done a walk for a couple of weeks and knew I won’t be able to next week so it had to be this weekend whatever the forecast. Also fancied a long one as I was pleased how my fitness had been progressing. Having been up Gleann an t-Slugain in deepest winter I quite fancied Ben Avon. And if you are going all that way you may as well bag Beinn a' Bhuird while you were there. After all it was only another 4km (ho hum). And Mountain Coward had managed it last year (Beinn a' Bhuird & Ben Avon - the Long Day!) and she’s a girl
Saturday’s forecast was poor – 30% chance of cloud free tops, windy, sub-zero at 900m (but not as cold as Sunday). Crampons weren’t an option as my [14 month old, winter use only, £190] Scarpa Mantras were falling apart and were away for repair (grrrrh). Didn’t really fancy doing such a long distance in heavy boots anyway. So yes, new boots as well – Meindl softline ultra GTX – which I had been wearing at every opportunity for the past week.
Forecast seem to imply the morning would be better than afternoon so up at 5am (clear skies), out the house by 6 (a bit cloudy) and on my way by 7 (very cloudy). Driving up the indications were mixed: the top 200m of Morven (871m) was obscured but the summit of Lochnagar (1155m) was just visible. It was also -3C in the car park. Up Gleann an t-Slugain and past the ruin and Beinn a' Bhuird’s south top was occasionally visible, but the cloud was coming up out of the coire.
Beinn a' Bhuird South Top nearly visible at 9 am
The way ahead not looking so good
Past the turn off to Beinn a' Bhuird (10k in 2 hours) and the cloud was dark and threaten with a hint of sleet in the air. By the time I was looking up the Glas Allt Mor glen to The Sneck all I could see was clag. It was down to 750m and the wind was whistling into my face. Stopped behind a large rock for some hot chocolate to prepare myself for some sustained cloud hugging.
No problem heading up the glen despite the 50m visibility – ended up a bit West of the optimal route to avoid the worst of the snow & whiteout conditions. Then up the steep gravelly but snow free ascent from The Sneck to Ben Avon’s plateau. The final ascent may have been snow (& snowing) free but ee bah gum was it cold & windy. Rime was forming on various parts of my clothing but the worst was that my specs keep icing up. I just thought the cloud was getting thicker & thicker till I realized what was happening. So had to wipe them free every 5 minutes.
Once on the plateau it was a case of follow the GPS (my first use of such a marvel in anger) till the huge tor loomed into view out of the whiteness. 16 km covered in 4 hours – but then I’d hardly got the camera out at all. Hunkered down for further chocolate before a quick tour of the tor and a nippy clamber to the top.
Ben Avon summit tor in the clag
Then out with the GPS again to get my bearing back. Was also thinking about leaving Beinn a' Bhuird for another day. I happy being on my own in good weather but when conditions are poor a bit of company helps. But as I got but to The Sneck the cloud was lifting – and so did my spirits.
Facing into the howling gale blowing up the glen and over The Sneck I could actually see the cloud forming above my head and screaming off in the direction of Beinn a' Bhuird. And 10 minutes latter the coires of said mountain were visible so off I set to its North Top. Again the gravelly ascent was snow free but once atop Table Hill it was totally covered, cloud free and the sun had come out. Watched the shadows of clouds scud across the snowcape for a few minutes. Got the camera out to video the show but missed the best of it (as usual).
Slochd Mor from The Sneck
So after the North Top followed the rim of the huge coires and allowed myself some time to wonder about. The south facing Coire nan Clach looked amazing – a vertical wall of snow when viewed from the middle promontory. Got some great views from (& good posing on) the southern promontory (A’ Chioch). Meet couple of guys (who had been wild camping in the Slugain area) going the other way. Must have been late risers as it was around 2pm by now – but they had the best of the day - darn my larkish tendencies!
Near Beinn a' Bhuird North Top, looking South
Coire nan Clach/Beinn a' Bhuird panorama
Lochnagar from Beinn a' Bhuird
After A’ Chioch headed for the South Top but got the wrong one thanks to an out of date map (if I’d used the GPS I would have been put right). No matter, would have gone that way for the views. The western Cairngorms were all cloud free now.
Beinn a' Bhuird cornices
Cairngorms from Beinn a' Bhuird with Cairn Toul & Ben Macdui visible
Back to the coire rim and down – not the best way as there is quite a boulder field there. Right knee was starting to give me a few twinges which was a bit worrying give there was still 15km to go. Got to the Quoich Water ford to see a couple of peeps 100m up stream trying to find a dry route over. After a quick look either side I just plunged in and we[n]t for it – had gaiters on and that was about the depth. But I had fresh socks in my bag so after a quick change was on my way right as rain.
Gleann an t-Slugain (aka the Fairy Glen??) ruin with Lochnagar poking its nose in
But the last 10k! Too much for me. Had a couple really sharp twinges from my knee. And when I finally got to the car I found I’d forgotten to record my route on my GPS – d’oh! Then after the 1 hour drive home the problem knee was really stiff and my right foot had gone numb. Could only use my left knee on the stairs on Sunday and my foot was still numb. By Monday the knee was a lot better but still couldn’t feel half my foot. So it was off the the docs today (amazingly got an appt for same day) and it appears that the inflammation in my knee has pinched the peroneal nerve. Nothing to be too worried about apparently – should take care of itself with a bit of rest. Fingers crossed.
The new boots did fine though – just the hint of a blister after 40km isn’t bad for a week old pair.
Full flickr set here + I'll upload the route when I'm back home.
by malky_c » Tue May 11, 2010 2:11 pm
Not sure what the state of the track up Gleann an t-Slugainn is, but I was able to shorten my approach to these by cycling in from the Linn of Quioch. Weather was similar to the start of your day though, so didn't see much from the plateau. Must go back, as your photos make it look good!
by benno » Tue May 11, 2010 2:23 pm
Amasing to still see the snow cornices at this time of the year. I thought most of the snow would have been gone by now. I headed west on Saturday due to the better weather forecast. I have been lucky so far Thats a long walk
I'll have to have another look at this post as the photos aren't coming out right now!
- mountain coward
by kinley » Tue May 11, 2010 5:40 pm
I wonder if your knee/nerve issue was down to new boots on such a long 'un though. May have altered your gait a bit.
Hope that all settles down soon - wouldn't wish to be deprived of your TRs
- mountain coward
by kinley » Tue May 11, 2010 5:56 pm
mountain coward wrote:I think it was likely due to the long, long walk along a very hard track - that often bothers my knees when it's fairly flat
"Bothers your knees" = can't climb stairs the next day and develop a Mononeuropathy?
I must be getting off lightly
- mountain coward
by Alastair S » Tue May 11, 2010 9:04 pm
Knee is gradually getting better, foot is still numb though. Don't think it was the boots - a lot lighter & more comfortable than my Scarpas - just a combination of distance and descending via a boulder field I think.
Mountain biking in is definitely the way for these long walk-ins. In fact a couple stopped for a brief chat near the end of the day. They had cycled to the ruin in Fairy Glenn, left their bikes there and done Beinn a' Bhuird from there (S top, N top, The Sneck). So... mountain bike or DSLR...? Both of course, just a matter of money & when. Now going to keep a look out for a second hand bike.
I'm off to on a works beany/field trip to Torridon at the end of the week so hopefully that should act as a gentle re-introduction. It better as the next weekend I'm off on a Granite City Hillwalkers meet to Inverpolly.
- mountain coward
by gaffr » Wed May 12, 2010 10:34 am
- mountain coward
by Alastair S » Wed May 12, 2010 12:38 pm
by doogz » Wed May 12, 2010 1:23 pm
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