Eastern Cairngorms - From Glenshee to Aviemore

Munros: Beinn a' Bhùird, Beinn a' Chaorainn (Cairngorms), Ben Avon, Broad Cairn, Bynack More, Cairn Bannoch, Cairn of Claise, Càrn an Tuirc, Creag Leacach, Glas Maol, Tolmount, Tom Buidhe

Date walked: 05/05/2023

Time taken: 72 hours

Distance: 112.1km

Ascent: 3644m

May 23 Eastern Cairngorms.JPG

Having walked Aviemore to Blair Atholl last June, I decided to take on a few hills and some extra distance a little further East. Planning on the Cape Wrath Trail in June, I felt a three nighter would at the least get me into the swing of things.

Day One - Glenshee to Glas-Alt-Shiel; about 10 hours

Day One.JPG

Lucky enough to get a lift to Glenshee, but not lucky enough to see anything above 600m. Starting just after 11 from the lay-by at the Devil's Elbow, I came across two gentlemen coming off Creag Leach after a reportedly tough morning. They initially presumed I was doing the round of 4 - but it would be a shame with other tops so nearby. After saying goodbye and vague hopes for a better afternoon, I didn't see anyone else for 24 hours.

The Mounth tops, once on the plateau, each have a short pull up, but generally the walking was straightforward. Navigation was fine as far as the dry stonewall and fences, but beyond that visibility was somewhere between 10m and 50m. At least the rain wasn't bad, and not too cold. Cairns appeared in front of my eyes rather than targeted. This kind of walking is undoubtedly an acquired taste, but I take a sick pleasure in having not even a view for company, and ploughing onwards - no reason to take a photo either.

Far back in the planning stage I had wanted to include Lochnagar and the White Mounth, but with zero wish or possibility of a summit camp (or the light to) I left them for a better day. Apparently the view's worth a look, which would have remained a mystery.

After Broad Cairn I took the (very good, as all day - perhaps Royal money) path to Loch Muick, down Corrie Chash. Finally an apparition:

1Loch Muick.jpg

Glas-Alt-Shiel bothy was found after an atmospheric beach walk. Too stupid to have checked beforehand I tried nearly every door of the King's place, nearly gave up to camp in the woods, before finding the last door along (the one with the MBA logo, funnily enough) opened to an empty bothy. I tried to get a fire going, and after a long time of remarkable incompetence eventually succeeded. My technique will have to vastly improve. I felt guilty for the amount of kindling used and the next morning took an extensive trip about to try and replace. The bothy itself is a beauty, particularly pleasant when able to sleep on the lower level.

7Glas-alt-Shiel 4.jpg

I got in far too late, so had to rush my dinner and whisky, but still dozed off nice and warm before 11.

Day Two - Glas-Alt-Shiel to just below The Sneck; about 11 hours

Day Two.JPG

The next morning was dry; no let up from the higher mist but nice and bright lower down. Leaving about 08:30 I crashed up the river towards Lochnagar, with the Glas-Alt raging past as the snow melts ever faster. I then turned north to skirt between Lochnagar and Connachcraig, towards Deeside, back in the mist for another couple of hours. Skipping along this descending section I eventually came below the mist, able to look to the lack of trees in the Balmoral Forest, and attempt to work out where Gelder Stable must have been. My first meeting with humans were two ladies who were worried they were taking the wrong turn for Lochnagar; this must have been a good two hours after where I supposed they should have gone up. I wished them well as they disappeared into the black clouds behind.

The sun was coming out as I approached the Dee, and my feet needed a good bit of care. Despite the sensational paths so far the undersides of my big toes needed the first of what turned into three layers of Compeeds. My solution for the CWT is currently at the stage of doing shorter days, but any other ideas much appreciated.

Down to a now sunny Deeside with a few bikes racing past, and a couple of landowners who I presumed were watching their neighbour's Coronation. I found some reception for the first time to ensure all that I'd found my way out of yesterday's mist. After the length of the Deeside stroll, and having too many clothes on, I was becoming ratty by the time I had far too late a lunch at Invercauld Bridge, feet in water.

10Dee Crossing.jpg

Pitta bread with cheddar, mango chutney, and shrivelled and rather spicy sundried tomatoes. By no means a disaster and not too much weight, so I might repeat.

I continued on into the Invercauld Estate, looking rather prosperous and a tremendous looking house. From here I was starting to get a view glimpses of Beinn A' Bhuird, looking terrifying with cloud near the top, only revealing patches of snow lower down.


At this point it seems questionable if one wants to walk into that. The lack of sight of the summit certainly adds an impressive but non-relaxing level of mystery. I don't have confidence or experience with much snow, only having my microspikes with me. I had a vague plan of camping at The Sneck, but at over 900m this looked a bad plan. The forecast at least promised minimal wind. I carried on up the Slugain, a few folk running in the opposite direction, assuring myself there was no harm camping at any of these spots, I could make up time tomorrow.

Starting to ascend the Glas Allt Mor to the Ben Avon / Beinn A' Bhuird bealach minimal wind egged me on further, though the temperature was dropping and the mist approaching as, only 50m below the Sneck, I found my first unavoidable drift of snow. Finally taking in that it was truly gusting and wet, I told myself to stop being such an idiot and retraced 45 minutes to a ford at the bottom of Meall an t-Slugain, calm and warmer. I thought about how camps can be categorised as either "edgy" or "fun". The only point of the former are (1) the views (2) making time on the next day - today the first wasn't happening and the second not worth looming dread whenever the wind picked up.

I had a lovely evening by the riverside with the sensational macaroni, tinned tuna, and a little Laphroaig. After a few slow starts to my camping career I'm able to drop off quickly enough now. My Cumulus Quilt (250?) is a sensational piece, and I barely need the PHD inner bag I've been taking with me - I'll leave behind all 200g for the CWT. A light head pillow has also helped. This was also the last run out (perhaps) for my brave little OEX Bobcat One-Man, decent if not perfect, before my much anticipated Trekkertent comes this week.

The body was generally holding up fine apart from a bit of upper back pain, which I believe was from trying to take too much weight on my upper torso, and this being my first long walk with the overnight pack of the year. Hopefully this bit of practice, a few tweaks, and a bit of kit-management will avoid a repeat.

Just Below the Sneck to An Lochan Uaine; about 13.5 hours

Day Three.JPG

Woke up about half 5, clag still below the summit which proceeded to only get lower after an unbelievable amount of faffing about had me break camp at half 7. Up towards the Sneck, Microspikes on then off again, no regrets bringing them but could probably have done without. As I approached the alarming looking Sneck with the wind whistling by I congratulated myself on not having decided to be edgy and attempt a camp there last night. Off east up Ben Avon. A mixture of whistling wind and total invisibility with a few threats of a sun, somewhere beyond the grey. The apparently vast plateau could again have been any width, the same sensation as on Braeriach last June. Managed to find the summit amongst the eerie constructions;

13Ben Avon.jpg

Usually I would be all for clambering up a few rocks, and did drag myself three quarters up these tors, but with thrashing wind and slippery rocks I chose not to use the one life God has given me attempting a crawl over the top. I am quite happy and will defend myself in a court of law to uphold the fact that I have summited Ben Avon.

Back to the Sneck and up and across Cnap nan Chleirich looking for the North top of Beinn A' Bhuird. Look being the operative word as that zero visibility is my excuse for some true disorientation, wheeling round like a demented crab hoping the blue dot on my GPS was going the right way (yes, I have a map and compass, which I can use, but don't see much point until my phone breaks). I think part of the issue was the trails of snow, which I was telling myself to follow along the sides or round, not following the exact directions I wished. Much wasted time but no ultimate harm, knowing I wasn't near any cliffs, and I found the modest cairn

14 Beinn A Bhuird.jpg

I should say that I have no pretensions as a photographer, in case you hadn't noticed.

Dropping down towards Beinn a' Chaorainn, unbelievably at around 1000m the western and northern views revealed the Cairngom plateau - I felt I had just about deserved this. I wasn't sure which route to follow but would like to take this opportunity to put on the record my grateful thanks to rockhopper, whose routes and reports, on this and other walks, has guided my way, motivated me, and inspired routes that have increased my enjoyment of the hills at least 25%. Cheers!

I made my way to the stream south of Beinn a' Chaorainn Beag for lunch - I should note that again I had not seen a single soul all day, and there were few until all the way near Glenmore. With the sun now out, clouds largely South, I felt lucky. Now up Beinn a' Chaorainn Beag and Beinn a' Chaorainn, I could have a good look at Derry Cairngorm etc and Ben Macdui, the latter looking uniquely brooding to me. I think I'll leave it for a clear day, maybe one July.

15Beinn A Chaoirean Beag.jpg

I should have dropped off Beinn a' Chaorainn due North but had a path marked West to land near the Hutchinson Memorial Hut, which was a steep one. Hoping for a clear road towards Bynack More, I found the Lairig an Laoigh pretty tough going:

17Bynack More.jpg

Not as tough as the poor folk having to carry their bikes along the clearly unsuitable path, probably not enjoying a bit of heat as much as I. Congratulations Terra on boots that allowed me to keep dry feet while picking my way over the quick running Fords of Avon. Had a peek in the refuge and impressed by the folk who've made it here in January, nevermind after a couple of summits. Not quite sure where they would have found space for a fire.

18Falls of Avon Refuge.jpg

To my last summit of Bynack More, where I should have taken rockhopper's route up past A' Choinneach. Circled most of the way around to the North in search of a barely existent path, ended slugging up steep mossy hillside, which wasn't what I needed after 2 and a half days. Made it to the top and a beautifully clear evening.

Back down and cracking along the path towards Ryvoan bothy. Once off the plateau the wind was down, and I felt I had basically completed the walk. There were clearly a few folk in Ryvoan (unsurprising on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend), and after a few false starts in some bogs I stumbled, again far too late in the evening, upon An Lochan Uaine, which I didn't realise until home was such a site. Could barely get the pegs in, pretty unsuitable place, but couldn't help myself from camping right by the water. Magic. A few other folks camping nearby but hope I didn't disturb.

21 An Lochan Uaine 2.jpg

Another resounding faff the next morning but loads of time to walk into Aviemore. Had a gander at a few things around Glenmore, bikes flying past on the old logging road. In to Aviemore with a couple of hours to kill. Bought a cap after some sunburn yesterday. Train back to Edinburgh at lunchtime.

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Activity: Mountain Walker

Munros: 90
Corbetts: 18
Fionas: 12
Donalds: 34
Sub 2000: 6

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Trips: 1
Distance: 112.1 km
Ascent: 3644m
Munros: 12

Joined: Oct 13, 2020
Last visited: Jun 11, 2024
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