Some Scottish mountains are by definition so obscure that asking about them causes people to raise an eyebrow an ask: what?... Aonach Buidhe is one of such hills. Few walkers know about its existence and even fewer pay this lovely Corbett a visit. Which is a mistake, because Aonach Buidhe can easily be reached in a day trip with the help of a bike. The picturesque Glen Elchaig offers a relatively easy cycle up to Iron Lodge, and from the top of the glen it's a straightforward ascent to the summit, where views are superb in all directions. It is even possible to add one of the two neighbouring hills: Faochaig (Corbett) or Carn na Breabaig (Graham). We had already climbed Faochaig and Sguman Coinntich (in winter conditions!) and for Carn na Braebaig we have another idea, so that left Aonach Buidhe on its own. A perfect hill for Easter Monday, when the sky is blue and the sun is roasting you alive
We cycled from Killilin (there is a sizeable car park at the end of the public road) to just past Iron Lodge, then ascended the southern slopes of Aonach Buidhe (steep in places but grassy all the way), returning via the good path in the glen between AB and Faochaig. When cycling, we had to avoid sheep and cows and on the way back, we had an emergency stop caused by a flat tyre. Overall, a good day out.
The car park was busy when we arrived but most people were just preparing for shorter local walks, I laughed that we were now "the hardcore club members" Indeed, the temperature was already hardcore for this time of year and sunscreen had to be applied immediately.
Kevin getting ready:
It was so hot a morning, that even little lambs couldn't be bothered to bounce about!
We jumped on our bikes and got on going. For the first couple of miles, the surface was tarmac, so easy even for a rubbish cyclist like me:
As I mentioned at the beginning, we had a few encounters with sheep and lambs blocking the road. Wee Lucy was happy to wave hello to her edible relatives :
Kevin's bike has a broken bell, so I had to go first, ring my bell all the time and shout "out of the way!"
Further up the glen, tarmac road gives way to dirt track but it's still cyclable. We had walked down this glen once before, returning from Faochaig, so we knew more or less what to expect. But it feels different strolling back along the glen on a cool February evening, compare to the oven-roasting experience we were facing now. At least there was a good breeze to cool us down.
A large herd of adorable, fluffy highland coos were not eager to let us through. Mooooove out of the road, Kevin said, laughing
Closer to Iron Lodge, there are a couple of short, steeper sections, where I preferred to dismantle my vehicle
...but overall, the biking section was very pleasant. We passes Loch na Leitreach...
...and soon reached the end of the cycling part. The track goes past Iron Lodge and into the pass between Aonach Buidhe and Carn na Breabaig, but it's to rough to continue on two wheels, at least by my standards.
Iron Lodge from the track above:
If you consider adding the Graham to the tally, there is a good stalkers path which zigzags up the slopes, seen in this photo:
...but we were more interested in our target Corbett now. The south side of the mountain looks steep and intimidating, but the crags can be avoided and the only problem here would be slippery grass in wet conditions. We had a different issue today, we needed water!
Aonach Buidhe from the access track:
An Crom-allt was a welcome sight. We crossed the footbridge and took a short break to refill our bottles. Usually, I'm careful about the amount of water I consume (especially if it's a popular hill and there are no appropriate bushes for a lady's toilet break ) but today I was roasting alive so I think I drank half the river I didn't care if I was later going to be caught with dropped trousers
After a short section on the track, we left it and tackled the steep, grassy slopes of our target Corbett. After only a few minutes I discovered, the despite the heat and the steepness, I was enjoying the experience. Then at some point, when I stopped and looked behind me... Bang, there it was, the superb panorama of upper Glen Elchaig:
It might be steep but at least it's dry today... Panther looking for her vertical limit
The first 200m or so is the steepest, later the angle eases off and the rest of the climb is much gentler. There is no path, but the ground is easy, mostly grass, some heather and a few scattered rocks.
The upper reaches of Aonach Buidhe:
THAT view again, before we continued higher up:
Loch Mhoicean and An Socach:
Faochaig across the glen:
Panoramic snap of upper Glen Elchaig and the surrounding mountains. It seems unbelievable to me that I have now climbed most of them!
The summit area has two tops, the right hand side (eastern) one about 20m higher and marked with a substantial cairn. Not as obscure a hill as I suspected. Somebody must have built that cairn after all
Lucy's 96th Corbett, she's pushing quickly towards number 100!
Our Corbett no. 158, fantastic day so far The summit was surprisingly windy, so we were glad to have the big cairn to hide behind.
Now, to the views. Amazing. Aonach Buidhe is situated right between the big Munro ranges. To the south, we have all the Affric/Glen Shiel peaks, to the north, the mountains of Monar and more distant Torridon. I couldn't take my eyes off Lurg Mor-Cheescake group, our last unclimbed group of hills in this area (the two Munros and Ben Dronaig):
Kevin trying to work out how to use panoramic mode in the compact camera. We didn't take the bulky Fuji Finepix, as it's too awkward to carry when cycling.
The day was a bit hazy, but much better that the previous couple of trips, when we could hardly see the hills across the glen. Today, even more distant peaks were visible, if a bit blurred:
Our next target: Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and Mullach nan Dheiragain. At that moment, sitting on the summit of Aonach Buidhe, we hatched a plan for an overnighting trip, which came to fruition two weeks later. But that story has to wait. Everything in the right order.
Glen Affric Munros:
Loch Monar in the distance:
Torridon on the horizon:
Faochaig to the west:
A glimpse into the remote corrie on the northern side of Aonach Buidhe:
After a long break, food and drinks served in the shade of the cairn, we started our descent. WH route retraces steps back the same way, but we decided to explore the western side of the mountain and drop to the high bealach between AB and Faochaig. First, we traversed along the rim of the corrie to the lower top.
Looking back at the summit from the western top, An Socach in the background:
Left! Right! Left!
Panther marching on!
Initially, going is easy, an easy shoulder can be followed. Faochaig looks majestic in the background:
Later, there are some craggy slopes to avoid. Kevin spotted the upper end of an ATV track and we contoured the slopes for a short distance to reach it. Once on the track, it was again easy going:
The track descends all the way down the glen along An Crom-allt, to join the main one just before the footbridge where we took our water earlier. I'd say, a good way to make a circular of this hill
Back by the bikes, Kevin discovered that he had a flat tyre. Probably the tube broke due to heat, or maybe it was old and needed changing anyway. Thankfully, we had a spare tucked safely in Kevin's rucksack, but it took us nearly half an hour to get the bloody thing fixed. Cycling back was much easier that I expected (more downhill than it looks on the map) and we returned to the car park within an hour (or 1.5 hrs if you count the tube changing break).
Another entertaining, enjoyable day on the hills for us. More ambitious walkers will probably combine Aonach Buidhe with one of its neighbours just to make the effort worthwhile, but for us, especially with the conditions resembling Easter Monday roast, one Corbett was enough
We had superb Easter Hols, but I'm far from finished. In my next trip we will return to a certain pair of Munros we did once in clag... and this time we'll add a bonus Corbett to the traverse. TR in progress.
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