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Bynack More: and the Strath Andrex ending

Bynack More: and the Strath Andrex ending

Postby old danensian » Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:16 pm

Route description: Bynack More from Glenmore

Munros included on this walk: Bynack More

Date walked: 25/03/2016

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 29 km

Ascent: 880m

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A traditional day, like most stories, has a beginning, middle, and end and there’s generally conflict to be resolved. The cadence to the day starts with a gradual, but intriguing ascent or a short but brutally painful climb: either opening sets the tone for the remainder of the day. The openings often reveal features of passing interest that can be looked down on as the day progresses. Whatever the effort expended, the story generally rises to a crescendo on the summit where a period of pondering and relief is enjoyed. The narrative of the hill then offers a variety of twists and turns, red herrings and false leads, before leading us to the beginning of the end. The “end” can be characterised by the struggle to motivate a tiring mind. It’s sometimes endured through gritted teeth and the pain of blisters, jarred knees and stubbed toes. It’s often an anticlimax as the day’s excitement is left behind.

Rarely, in my experience, is the “end” the highlight of the trip. So, on Good Friday, I was surprised to have Bynack More turn my normal expectations on their head.

There was a window before both weather and family closed in and Easter started in earnest. Tempted by a corner of the Cairngorms that a friend has spent the last three years encouraging me to visit, I was sanguine about a second trip to the north east in four days. As long as I could stick to my golden, diesel guzzling rule: be on the hill for longer than I’m spending in the car.

Ancient forest on the route to Ryvoan

I cycled out of a surprisingly empty Allt Mor car park, only passing a couple of dog-walkers on the forest track to the Ryvoan Pass. Progress was delayed by a brief visit to An Lochan Uaine, but with hills and forest casting deep shadows it wasn’t as picturesque as I’d hoped. Artistic photography will have to wait for another trip.

Open ground at Ryvoan

An early glimpse of Bynack More from Bynack Stables

A straightforward, uninspiring plod begins

After half an hour the bike was left at the site of the Bynack Stables and I began the steady walk up the elongated northern spur of Bynack More. I don’t know whether it was the regular winter trips to the gym, three spin classes a week amidst the lycra-clad yummy-mummies, or the handful of recent trips to the hills, but the next hour and a half passed and ... well, it just passed. There was nothing challenging or unique about the route and the horizon to the east was filled with a broad sweep of dull brown moorland. I guess in mists route-finding could be a challenge, but this was all straightforward: literally. And to be frank: boring.

Approaching Bynack More and Bynack Beg

Looking north - back down the spur and beyond

So far, the story of my day revealed no conflict and the only tension had been the time wasted in the 40mph speed limit section of the empty A9. Although I was approaching the top of my Munro, I felt that I was still waiting for the day to begin in earnest.

As forecast, the wind had increased as height was gained and before the penetrating chill became too uncomfortable, a few more layers were put on as I reached the summit cairn. The night before MWIS had predicted a windchill of minus 12, and although I didn’t get my new wind-speed gizmo out, it can’t have been far off. An uncommunicative group left the top as I arrived, some looking as though enjoyment hadn’t been on their menu so far. Maybe they were waiting for their day to start as well.

Cairn Gorm from Bynack More

Nevertheless, I dallied for half an hour. Huddled from the wind and wrapped to the nines (whatever they are) I ate lunch and considered the options: back down the way I came or head into the wind and extend the circuit.

It was a no-brainer really; I had plenty of time. Apart from the breeze being a tad fierce, the conditions still held the potential for an enjoyable day. The skyline ahead hinted at the gaping maw of Glen Avon, scooped out between Cairn Gorm and Beinn Mheadhoin. Apart from the wind, the day could still stretch comfortably for another few hours. A south easterly battle against the stinging wind and over A Choinneach proved to be more than worthwhile as the vast trough holding Loch Avon became visible. By now, goggles were de rigueur to prevent constantly streaming eyes and protect as much bare face as possible from suffering. As a result, the whole prospect was bathed in a bizarre tobacco hue by their tint.

Bynack More from A Choinneach

Firm snow made easy work of the gentle rise over A Choinneach and the descent to The Saddle was along an easily-angled spur. The day was definitely improving. It had taken a wee while to get itself kick-started, but now it was beginning to reward the effort.

Barns and tors of Beinn Mheadhoin from A Choinneach

Loch Avon and Ben Macdui from A Choinneach - the glory unfolds from above The Saddle

At home, nestled in the comfortable warmth of a fireside sofa and poring over maps, planning the ins and outs of a day away amounts to pleasant escapism. In some cases the lines we trace with a finger bear little resemblance to the hard-fought trudge of reality. In others, experience and interpretation come close to creating an accurate mental picture of what we end up enjoying. What came next fell squarely into this latter category, and began to conjure up the day’s theme.

Apart from the first few hundred metres as it descends from The Saddle, Strath Nethy and the Garbh Allt head persistently north, tightly between the eastings 02 and 03 on the map ... for a long, long way. From the two-dimensional sheet it shouts out to be followed, and in three-dimensional reality it sucks you in. The western wall is unrelenting, always there, almost leaning over you, keeping you on the straight and narrow. Forget U-shaped valleys and glacial terminology. I toyed with the Hamlet panatela metaphor, but settled instead on one of a more scatological nature. It’s a veritable Andrex of a strath: soft, strong and very long.

Strath "Andrex" Nethy - truly soft, strong and very, very long

In its upper reaches, you couldn’t rely on the remaining snow. One moment slithering the next plunging thigh-deep and realising that your foot was actually being pulled by the brute force of melt-water below. At times the walls close in and both path and stream are funnelled into sharing the same space with fragile snow bridges offering little in the hope of a dry crossing.

Once the soft snowy stuff had been survived, and the strength of the waters could be kept at a safe arm’s length, the long bit stretched ahead. There was no cuddly puppy bouncing along the path, trailing the biodegradable stuff in its wake: just "soft" of the squelchy sort. But the surroundings were magnificent. As the jaws of the glen gradually widened you could imagine the water’s momentum building as it approached the sea. The horizon ahead gradually expanded as the ridges on both sides descended and you searched in vain for a glimpse of the bridge at the Bynack Stable.

Starth Nethy opens out and the end is in sight - honest

But it was still a long way to go.

It took longer to walk from The Saddle to the bridge over what had by now matured into the River Nethy than it did to ascend Bynack More itself: something like eight kilometres and every step enjoyable. There was none of that dispiriting despair as the end of the day fails to come into view. The walk out was leisurely, gentle and relaxing: a contrast to the skidding and juddering of the final flight back to the car once my bike had been retrieved.

Now I’m home, and a few weeks since being up there, even the photographs stir little in the way of memory from the start of the day. That initial climb to Bynack More was merely the means to an end. But, the memories, once A Choinneach had been passed, remain long and strong. The views opened up. A true sense of the Cairngorm scale could be appreciated as I dropped down to The Saddle and wallowed in the enormous prospect up Loch Avon. Then, when recalling that turn to the north, that day’s story unrolled, and rolled, and rolled.

The day had begun with the beginning of the end, if that doesn’t sound too daft.
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old danensian
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Re: Bynack More: and the Strath Andrex ending

Postby kmai1961 » Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:02 am

Ah, Nigel, what I wouldn't give to be able to write as evocatively as you do. :clap: Thanks for another good-'un.
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Re: Bynack More: and the Strath Andrex ending

Postby dogplodder » Fri Apr 29, 2016 10:59 am

I initially took an entirely other understanding from reference to Andrex in the Strath! :o
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Re: Bynack More: and the Strath Andrex ending

Postby rgf101 » Fri Apr 29, 2016 3:33 pm

I did that walk from the Saddle out a couple of weeks back - as you say, long but lovely.
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Re: Bynack More: and the Strath Andrex ending

Postby litljortindan » Sun May 01, 2016 9:39 pm

A high quality three ply quilted report. That's certainly an enticing view into Loch Avonshire.
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