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Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon


Postby dogplodder » Sat Sep 05, 2015 8:27 pm

Route description: Ben Avon via Gleann an-Slugain

Munros included on this walk: Ben Avon

Date walked: 25/06/2015

Distance: 33.5 km

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Back in the 1980s two of my pals went off with a tent to climb Ben Avon and the photos of their conquest didn't fill me with an urge to go. All that way to have a photo taken in opaque fuzziness and not be sure if you'd reached the true summit (which they said they weren't). No thanks. It also lodged in my mind that most people I knew used either bike or tent for access and in any case this sprawling plateau didn't strike me as being anything like as scenic or spectacular as hills nearer home.

But over the years, as walk distances increased, the idea it was out of reach changed and I knew it was walkable in a day. All I needed now was to find someone else who wanted to go. An old friend from Dundee who's been up several times before said he'd do it with me.... but I wasn't going to take him up on his noble offer before I'd had a fair shot at persuading my regular walking buddy she could do this. :wink:

First part of the strategy was to do Beinn a' Bhuird and see how that went. Thanks to the excellent path it went well and on the return it was me limping with a large blister and her feet were fine. From that point on I knew we could do Ben Avon and set about sharing this insight with her. She said it was like a constantly dripping tap and asked me not to mention it again and let her mull it over. So I didn't mention it again until we agreed to rent a cottage in Braemar and I pointed out this was an ideal opportunity to have a go at Ben Avon. :-P

She was still hesitant but was coming round to the idea. To be fair to her she's had two lots of surgery for a broken ankle and her toe joints get very sore on long walks.... but on the plus side we'd been doing some longer walks in preparation - so all we needed now was a decent weather day.

It was a week of mixed weather so we reserved the best forecast day for Ben Avon. I reckoned if we allowed loads more time than the guide books said it would take the pressure off and allow for lots of rest stops just in case we needed them. We left the cottage at 5.20 and drove to the car park at Keiloch, to discover neither of us had money for the £2.50 parking charge. My inclination was to risk it but my law-abiding pal insisted we go back to the cottage for money. The return trip delayed us 35 minutes and we set off walking the misty road to Invercauld House shortly after 6.30 - a little later than planned. 8)

Magnificent pines of Invercauld estate
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To our delight the mist was clearing and we could see glimpses of blue sky above!

Braemar Castle beneath the morning mist
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Morrone which we climbed a few days earlier
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Beyond Alltdourie we followed the track signed for Slugain but at the fork to the right there was no sign (which WH says there is) so we continued on the main track for another 10 minutes before realising we shouldn't be on that side of the river and retraced our steps to the fork. This cost us another 20 minutes - not that we were paranoid about time or anything! :shifty:

Looking back along Gleann an t-Slugain
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Central part of glen heading west
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Where the glen narrows you have a choice - the low path through the Fairy Glen or the high path which stays higher up the north side of the glen. It doesn't feel psychologically appealing to lose height at this point in the journey so we decided to stay high on the outward journey and take the low path on the return. On the way back a number of bikes had been left at this fork but we didn't ever meet their owners.

The high road or the low road?
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When the path swings to the right there is an option to continue straight on which is what we did and this path led down to the far end of the glen floor and the ruin of Slugain lodge. About half way along this section I saw a red deer calf on the other side of the glen - no sign of mum, but I'm sure she wasn't far off.

Slugain lodge and first sight of Coire na Ciche
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From the lodge we climbed to the head of the glen and got a wonderful view of Glen Quoich and Coire na Ciche at the south end of Beinn a' Bhuird. After the confines of Glen Slugain it was like entering another world. Enjoying the open views ahead I wasn't paying attention to my feet and could easily have stood on a tiny grouse chick which suddenly appeared in front of me. I didn't want to stress it so stood still while it scuttled along the path before disappearing into the heather. I didn't see the parent birds but had an unexpected encounter with them on the way back.

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Superb path
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The path stretching ahead was so good we were able to cruise along at a good pace and I imagine the bike owners might have been sorry they hadn't hung on to their wheels for a bit longer. But for me the benefit of going at walking speed is the time it gives to savour the atmosphere of the place and the gradually changing view of Beinn a' Bhuird as we walked was a real treat. :D

Corries of Beinn a' Bhuird
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The crossing of the Glas Allt Mor was no problem and then the path zig-zagged up to the right to reach the prominent boulder of Clach a' Cleirich where we stopped for first lunch.

Glas Allt Mor crossing with Clach a' Cleirich just visible on sky-line
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The path we had trod
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From the Clach a' Cleirich to the Sneck the path is not as well maintained but holds no difficulties. We encountered our only patch of snow recrossing the Glas Allt Mor and there was a little mud to be avoided at this point but apart from that short patch the whole way from Keiloch to Ben Avon's summit was on dry ground which could not be said of most other hills!

Reaching the top of the path at the bealach known as the Sneck was another wow moment with its dramatic views north into Slochd Mor.

View north from the Sneck
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Garbh Coire - the climbers' corrie
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From the Sneck you turn right for Ben Avon or left for Beinn a' Bhuird. The path wends its way steeply up on a choice of gravel paths.

Ascent to summit plateau
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About half way up we met the only folk we saw all day - a group who started at the Lecht and had camped overnight. I asked one of the girls if they were heading for Beinn a' Bhuird but she said she wasn't sure as they were being assessed on mountain skills by the guy behind and he was in charge of the route. I did think to myself if they were being assessed on mountain skills it would perhaps be a good idea to know where they were going! 8)

The guy doing the assessing was in the rear and he confirmed they were going over Beinn a' Bhuird before heading out via Glenmore Lodge. He said he often cycled up here from Keiloch to climb in Garbh Coire so this area was like a second home to him.

Once the path levels out on the summit plateau you don't immediately see the summit tor of Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe but after a short distance walking northeast it comes into view and that for me was another special moment - that I was almost there and (after my friends' experience all those years ago) had excellent visibilty over this vast plateau and could see several volcanic tors and not just the one we were heading for! :thumbup:

Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe
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Looking back from foot of summit tor
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It's easy walking on the plateau but wouldn't be the most hospitable place in poor weather. Even on the mild June day we were there the wind felt cold sitting on the top of the summit tor and I wished I'd put my jacket on before leaving my bag at the bottom and climbing up there. The granite is grippy and easy to climb but you feel quite exposed and if it had been blowing a gale or lashing rain I doubt we'd have gone up.

View south from summit tor
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View west
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These rocks look to me like strange friendly creatures that have been petrified for ever for some misdeed of the past :D
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Zoomed to Ben Rinnes
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As I watched Moira scrambling up the tor I could also see in the distance the tors of Beinn Mheadhoin from where she was airlifted off after breaking her ankle in three places and it struck me that this was a very satisfying come back after such a nasty injury. :clap:

Here comes the lady who doubted she'd ever climb Ben Avon
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After we'd both had our fill of the top we went down, got our jackets on and huddled in the shelter of the granite for a second lunch.

Well done Moira - and never say never! :D
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The descent was straightforward. We stopped a couple of times for a short break and didn't meet anyone else. The only unexpected moment was approaching the end of the path before turning left towards Slugain lodge. I was ahead of Moira and out of nowhere two grouse flew straight at my head but veered off before making contact. It was where I'd seen the grouse chick earlier and assume these were the parents making a pre-emptive strike as I came too near the nest. I've seen grouse and ptarmigan doing the pretend to be injured thing to draw you away but I've never known them to mount an aerial attack like that. What brave, feisty birds they are and it happened so suddenly it did for a moment stop me in my tracks! :shock:

As planned we returned through the Fairy Glen and found the fresh greenness of it a lovely contrast to the bleaker terrain higher up. We looked for the secret howff but didn't find it - well done Beaner for doing that and I'd have never imagined it to be such a nice wee place inside if I hadn't seen your photos! :thumbup:

Fairy Glen (M's pic)
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On the last stages of the walk along Gleann an-Slugain I found it mitigated the effects of constant pounding on the feet to walk along the grassy centre of the track and it was a bit of a game to see how much you could do this. Some folk will always be kids at heart. :wink:

As we passed the back of Invercauld House we couldn't keep the big smiles off our faces. At our grand old age we had conquered Ben Avon without the aid of bike or tent - and were back home eating our tea in front of the telly by 7.30. :D
Last edited by dogplodder on Sun Sep 06, 2015 3:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby pollyh33 » Sat Sep 05, 2015 9:30 pm

Well done Kathleen, a truly inspirational and uplifting report on a big beast of a hill. :clap: :clap:

Lots of great photos in there but my favourite is Moira ascending the tors- I love her hands-on approach :D :D My ascent involved me bumming my way backwards until I reached the top- it was far too windy for my liking! :( :(


Congratulations ladies for showing us all how to take on this hillwalking malarkey with great style and grace :D
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sat Sep 05, 2015 9:50 pm

Smashing photos and a lovely tale of the day. Enjoyed seeing Moira climbing the tor, as for the grouse, extras for a new Hitchcock movie? :lol: :lol:

Seriously these hills look like a joy to come, but one I want to savour doing it with a tent :shock: :lol:
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby Gordie12 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:39 am

Great hill this one and you got a good day for it.

Two years ago I was walking in Angus when a pheasant popped out of the undergrowth and started walking along the path beside me. After a few yards he started to make sounds that to my ear, didn't seem friendly. Then, he started to head straight for my legs and was trying to peck me. We did a 100 yard dance with him attacking me while I tried to clip him with my feet to keep him at bay. In the end I had to run away from him :shock:

I took the above encounter to be a complete one off then in May when doing the Rob Roy Way this happened (being lazy I just copied and pasted from my walk report).

On the high point of the road the views over to Ben Lawers and pals, the Glen Lyon horseshoe and Schiehallion were terrific but they were rudely interrupted by a grouse that jumped out of the heather on to the road just ahead of me. My thoughts drifted back a couple of years to a "fight" I had with a pheasant who didn't want me to continue on a track near Kirkton of Glenisla and I wondered if I had found myself in the same situation. As I walked towards the grouse he made a couple of noises which didn't sound overly friendly then when he started to head straight towards me I knew I had a problem. I had heather to my left and a high bank to my right so I could either leave the road to my left or keep walking straight on down the road. I chose to head to my left and he blocked me off, OK, I tried to walk down the road but again he blocked my way. I was now fairly certain I knew what would happen next and sure enough he took off from 6 feet away and tried to peck me in the stomach as I batted him off with my arm. I started to walk faster down the road and for the next 100 yards he continued to go for my stomach and ankles as I tried to keep him at bay. As with the pheasant, industrial language just seemed to make him even grumpier so it was a great relief when he had "escorted" me out of his territory and he headed off back up the road to mum and the kids. I could now relax but I had another 5 miles of grouse moor to negotiate and each grouse I met was watched closely but none of them were aggressive.

I suppose it's rare but the odd on or two can turn aggressive when protecting the family and it's actually a bit scary when it's happening to you.
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:16 pm

pollyh33 wrote:Well done Kathleen, a truly inspirational and uplifting report on a big beast of a hill. :clap: :clap:

Lots of great photos in there but my favourite is Moira ascending the tors- I love her hands-on approach :D :D My ascent involved me bumming my way backwards until I reached the top- it was far too windy for my liking! :( :(


Congratulations ladies for showing us all how to take on this hillwalking malarkey with great style and grace :D


Lovely to hear from you Pauline. You've been busy since last time I saw your tally - on the home straight now! :clap:
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:19 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:Smashing photos and a lovely tale of the day. Enjoyed seeing Moira climbing the tor, as for the grouse, extras for a new Hitchcock movie? :lol: :lol:

Seriously these hills look like a joy to come, but one I want to savour doing it with a tent :shock: :lol:


Which I'm sure you will - with or without the hairy ones! :wink:
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby basscadet » Wed Sep 09, 2015 3:24 pm

Och its weird round there, there is also a herd of stampeding deer round those parts.. :crazy:

I was attacked by a ptarmigan up Alligin, and found it really quite disturbong, the determination on that face I will never forget :lol:

Looked like a fun day anyway, and thats the main thing :D
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Thu Sep 10, 2015 12:21 pm

Gordie12 wrote:Great hill this one and you got a good day for it.

Two years ago I was walking in Angus when a pheasant popped out of the undergrowth and started walking along the path beside me. After a few yards he started to make sounds that to my ear, didn't seem friendly. Then, he started to head straight for my legs and was trying to peck me. We did a 100 yard dance with him attacking me while I tried to clip him with my feet to keep him at bay. In the end I had to run away from him :shock:

I suppose it's rare but the odd on or two can turn aggressive when protecting the family and it's actually a bit scary when it's happening to you.


Walking along the River Ness one of my pals was attacked by a crow and was left with cuts on her scalp from its claws. She reckoned she'd unwittingly gone too near the nest. :shock:
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Thu Sep 10, 2015 6:39 pm

basscadet wrote:Och its weird round there, there is also a herd of stampeding deer round those parts.. :crazy:



Wouldn't want to get in the way of that.....! :o
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby shredder » Sat Sep 19, 2015 6:14 pm

Well done ladies. That's a long way to go whatever way you do it and looks like you got a good day for it. :clap:
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Wed Sep 23, 2015 7:53 pm

shredder wrote:Well done ladies. That's a long way to go whatever way you do it and looks like you got a good day for it. :clap:


Thanks - it was a great day. :D
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby Silverhill » Wed Sep 23, 2015 9:54 pm

Lovely, brings back great memories! :D
Well done both of you for doing this hill. :thumbup: I had to chuckle at your tactics to persuade Moira!
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby The Rodmiester » Thu Sep 24, 2015 2:17 pm

Good effort you guys :clap: :D your photographs bring back fond memories of this walk, I must return, thanks for posting. Glad you got a fine day fot it, hope I get the same when I return :)
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:51 pm

Silverhill wrote:Lovely, brings back great memories! :D
Well done both of you for doing this hill. :thumbup: I had to chuckle at your tactics to persuade Moira!


It's called the dripping tap method. :wink:
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Re: Grouse attack and friendly tors on Ben Avon

Postby dogplodder » Wed Apr 06, 2016 8:02 pm

A number of Moira's hill walking friends have expressed amazement she did Ben Avon without a bike and reading old danesian's account just now brought it all back and the achievement it was for injured ankle and other health issues to pull it off.

Where there's a will there's a way :D
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