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Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch


Postby dav2930 » Mon May 11, 2015 11:14 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Bhuird, Ben Avon

Date walked: 16/04/2015

Time taken: 12 hours

Distance: 39 km

Ascent: 1372m

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These two remote Cairngorm giants had been looming vaguely on my Munro-bagging horizon for some time. Looking at the map it was quite obvious that either of them would be a long walk, but doing both would make a dauntingly long day. Sooner or later, one way or another, I would have to grasp the nettle. There's not a huge amount of ascent involved (about the same as Ben Nevis by the Pony Track), but the total distance is about 40km :problem:. The good news is that a fair portion of that distance can be cycled :). Encouraged by that thought, I took the trouble to lash my hybrid mountain bike (an old Raleigh Trail 1000 - don't laugh! :lol:) to the back of my car before setting off on my mid-April trip to the Southern Cairngorms. I pitched my cheap tent at the excellent Caravan Club site in Braemar. On Wednesday 15th conditions on Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn had been good, if a little squally and blustery, and by the evening the wind had dropped and the sky was clear. The forecast for Thursday was good, so it was all set for an early start.

Next morning I arrived at the car park at Keiloch just as dawn had broken (about 5.30 am), and off I went on my trusty bike. The surface was tarmac as far as Invercauld House, then very smooth surfaces as far as the junction where the track branches off for Glen Slugain. This track is slightly rougher but still gives very easy cycling all the way up the glen (excepting a few stony stream-beds which cross it) with very gentle gradients. At a point a few hundred yards short of Slugain Lodge (ruins of) is a vehicle turning area. From here the track gets distinctly steeper and rougher, so I decided to leave the bike there, given that it's a suspensionless hybrid (give me a break! :roll: ). I took the higher path above the little gorge known as Fairy Glen and crossed a big snow patch at its head.
Cairngorms April 2015 060.JPG
The ruins of Slugain Lodge in Fairy Glen

In no time at all (well, not literally!) I was at the top of the moor looking across to the wonderful pines of Glen Quoich, with views of Cairn Toul and the Coire na Ciche of Beinn a' Bhuird.
Cairngorms April 2015 062.JPG
The Coire na Ciche of Beinn a Bhuird

The path continuing up Glen Quoich is remarkably smooth and dry, giving fast progress.
Cairngorms April 2015 063.JPG
The path up Glen Quoich is superb.

At the head of the glen the path zig-zags up to a prominent boulder called Clach a' Cleirich, where a tantalizing glimpse of the magnificent Coire an Dubh Lochan and Coire na Clach is caught.
Cairngorms April 2015 066.JPG
A tantalizing glimpse into Coire nan Clach

At this point the excellently engineered path becomes a normal (but still good) mountain track. It follows the bottom of the shallow upper glen to reach the col between Beinn a' Bhuird and Ben Avon, called The Sneck. This was easy going on beds of deep, hard snow for the most part. Reaching The Sneck, with its distinctive bristling of granite monoliths, is a marvelous moment. The ground plunges steeply northwards into the majestic Garbh Choire and the wild glen of Slochd Mor stretches into the distance.
Cairngorms April 2015 071.JPG
The glen of Slochd Mor stretching northwards from The Sneck.

I could hardly believe how perfect the weather was. There was barely a cloud in the sky and, even at over 900 metres, just a zephyr of a breeze. It was only 9.30 am. I had the whole day ahead of me. What a prospect! :D

So, Ben Avon first. The track was well blazoned up the initially steepish slope, which soon eased onto the south-west top. From here the unmistakable granite tor of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe is clearly visible, though it does turn out to be further off than it looks!
Cairngorms April 2015 074.JPG
The summit tor of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe from the south-west top.

Even so, less than half an hour's easy walking across the stony plateau gets you to the foot of this fascinating monument to the forces of nature, which just happens to form the summit of the mountain. If it were within half an hour's walk from a road it would be a major rock climbing venue. A little notch on the left gives access to the other side of the tor, which is far more amenable. From here an easy scramble on lovely rough granite gains the topmost point. I say 'easy', but it's not to be underestimated; it is very exposed! A slip or trip would be lethal. :shock: So, if it's blowing a gale or the rocks are coated in ice, give it a miss. But on a calm day like this it's a fantastically airy viewpoint.
Cairngorms April 2015 078.JPG
On the tippy top of Leabaidh an Damh Bhuidhe - a very exposed summit and a fine viewpoint!

Cairngorms April 2015 080.JPG
Beinn a' Bhuird from Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe

It was 10.30 am. I was tempted to stop for a food break on the summit (or just below it!), but I thought I'd wait until I got back to The Sneck. I got there 40 minutes later and sat down for a good half hour, drinking in the sunshine and the wild beauty of the landscape (as well as some water). This place has a special atmosphere, especially in such fine weather.

So now for Beinn a' Bhuird. The path up from The Sneck was obvious but soon disappeared under a large and quite steep bank of snow, just to the left of the abyss of the Garbh Choire.
Cairngorms April 2015 082.JPG
Garbh Coire with Mitre Ridge in shadow at the back

I was rather glad I had brought my ice axe and crampons, even though this was probably the only place on the entire walk where I would find them useful.
Cairngorms April 2015 085.JPG
Ben Avon from the foot of the snow bank

Cairngorms April 2015 084.JPG
The bank of snow covering the path up from The Sneck

I wasn't in any hurry so I didn't mind the bit of time it took to put on crampons. Without them the snow slope would have been distinctly unnerving, since it was hard-packed and at an angle of about 40 degrees; but with them it was a pleasant stroll. Sitting in the sunshine to take them off again at the top of the snow was no hardship! From there it wasn't far to the top of Cnap a' Chleirich, from which the summit cairn of Beinn a' Bhuird (the North Top) is distantly visible. By now the sky had clouded over a bit, but the cloud base remained well above the summits. It was an easy if slightly tedious walk to the cairn on the North Top, the second Munro of the day.
Cairngorms April 2015 087.JPG
The cairn on the North Top, summit of Beinn a' Bhuird

From here were fine views west to the central Cairngorms.
Cairngorms April 2015 089.JPG
Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui from the North Top of Beinn a' Bhuird.

The main interest of the walk from the North Top to the South Top is of course provided by the great corries which bite deeply into the eastern edge of the plateau. The cornices along the edges of these were so big that it was difficult to get good views into them without being foolhardy.
Cairngorms April 2015 093.JPG
The edge of Coire an Dubh Lochain

From the South Top the descent continues in a south-easterly direction down a blunt ridge, quite steep and boulder-strewn in places, towards the little top of Carn Fiaclach. I didn't find much of a path down here - I was probably looking in the wrong place - but after some precarious boulder-hopping a clear path is picked up heading for the col. From there a good path continues down the west flank of Carn Fiaclach then swings east to reach Quoich Water.

This was the moment of truth, for Quoich Water has to be crossed in order to regain the path back to Glen Slugain. The question was, would it be too much in spate for me to cross? Sure enough, it was flowing deep and fast. :problem: I searched up and down the bank for a feasible crossing. The choice was between a wide stretch of fast-flowing, knee-deep water, or a narrow trench of fast-flowing, thigh-deep water to a little island, then an easy, shallow stretch to the far bank. I chose the latter option, which raised another dilemma. Should I take my boots and trousers off to try and keep them dry, or should I keep them on for a more secure footing? It was a difficult decision to make. The water was very cold. The former option would have been best - if I could bear the cold water and the pain of barefootedness. But I wasn't sure I could. So I chose the latter option, having had a little idea. :idea: I thought perhaps I might avoid getting a complete soaking if I put my expensive Mountain Equipment over-trousers on. It was only one or two steps through the deepest bit then up onto the island. So I put on my over-trousers and, feeling first with my trekking poles, in I went. Immediately the fast flow of thigh-deep water destabilized my footing and threatened to carry me away. :shock: But my poles were a big help and I managed to quickly step up into shallower water. As I stepped onto the island I realized my boots were full of water. :lol: Oh well. At least my trousers were quite dry. On the opposite bank I took off my boots and emptied the water out of them, then tried to get my socks as dry as possible. It wasn't ideal but at least it wasn't far back to the bike. The ride back to Keiloch was very quick and easy, being downhill all the way.

Back at the car, whilst changing into dry socks and shoes, I was greeted by the resident pheasant.
Sony various April 2015 007.JPG
Beware of the Keiloch pheasant!

I say 'greeted' - 'tyrannized' would be more accurate. He was so determined to get something from me that he even jumped up on the bonnet and pecked crazily at the windscreen while I was trying to drive away. I've encountered hungry pheasants before. One of them destroyed my tent on the Isle of Arran. I was rather fond of that tent!
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dav2930
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Posts: 1306
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby Beaner001 » Tue May 12, 2015 1:20 pm

Nice detailed report Dav, been putting these two off for a while, not sure when i'll got for it but it will certainly be in the summer months as I don't have a bike. Fairy glen looks like it's worth a stop, cud even be a place to pitch the tent :D
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Beaner001
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby dav2930 » Tue May 12, 2015 10:29 pm

Beaner001 wrote:Nice detailed report Dav, been putting these two off for a while, not sure when i'll got for it but it will certainly be in the summer months as I don't have a bike. Fairy glen looks like it's worth a stop, cud even be a place to pitch the tent :D


Thanks Beaner. I thought exactly the same about Fairy Glen. It would make a nice place to camp and that would be a great way to do the round.
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dav2930
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby dogplodder » Wed May 13, 2015 11:06 am

Great report - helpful as I'm planning Ben Avon this summer. Did Beinn a' Bhuird last year so it's just the one but don't have a bike so wondering how long it would take walking all the way?
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby Silverhill » Wed May 13, 2015 10:01 pm

One of my favourite walks! Thanks for posting, it brings back good memories. :D You were lucky with the weather. I did these at the end of July last year and it was awfully cold. A case of not lingering, but keep moving and enjoy the views on the trot.
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby dav2930 » Wed May 13, 2015 11:41 pm

dogplodder wrote:Great report - helpful as I'm planning Ben Avon this summer. Did Beinn a' Bhuird last year so it's just the one but don't have a bike so wondering how long it would take walking all the way?


Thank you Dogplodder, glad it's of help, A lot of the mileage is on extremely good surfaces and gentle gradients so the walk isn't as exhausting as you might think. The return stretch down Gleann an t' Slugain and back to Keiloch would probably seem a bit of a drag without a bike, but it shouldn't be too long a day, especially if you're only doing Avon. You could always camp in Fairy Glen, as Beaner suggests! Good luck anyway.
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dav2930
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby dav2930 » Thu May 14, 2015 12:09 am

Silverhill wrote:One of my favourite walks! Thanks for posting, it brings back good memories. :D You were lucky with the weather. I did these at the end of July last year and it was awfully cold. A case of not lingering, but keep moving and enjoy the views on the trot.

You're welcome Silverhill. I was indeed very lucky with the weather - it doesn't often happen! It was one of the best hill days I've had for quite a while.
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dav2930
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby summitchaser » Fri Sep 04, 2015 10:25 pm

That pheasant is a real pest I have had several encounters with him at the car park at invercauld across from ballachbuie, I've got loads of pics of him attacking my car standing on the bonet. been there for a couple of years now.
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Re: Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from Keiloch

Postby dav2930 » Sat Sep 05, 2015 6:03 pm

Certainly sounds like the same bird - candidate for the most aggressive pheasant in Scotland? Glad I'm not the only one to have been on the receiving end of his extraordinary boldness. At least he's easy to photograph! :lol:
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dav2930
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