Eastern Cairngorms from Tomintoul

Munros: Ben Avon
Corbetts: Creag an Dail Bheag, Culardoch

Date walked: 08/07/2017

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 59km

Ascent: 2000m

Munros: Ben Avon.
Corbetts: Carn Liath, Culardoch.
Date: 08/07/2017.
Distance: 25 km (cycling), 34 km (walking).
Ascent: 200m (cycling), 1800m (walking).
Time: 10 hours.
Weather: Sunny, clouding over later. Quite breezy.

Another weekend, another last minute decision on where to go. I decided to head for Tomintoul - an approach of Ben Avon and Beinn a' Bhuird from this direction had long been on the cards. An overnighter would have been nice, but I hadn't really prepared for that, so a day walk with a cycle up to Inchrory was the plan.

Setting off shortly after 9:30, it was an easy cycle up Glen Avon, passing a few estate vehicles along the way. 40 minutes later I was hiding the bike in some heather near the Linn of Avon.

ImageCycling up Glen Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

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Last time up here, I hadn't looked at the Linn of Avon close-up, so I had a quick wander over there first. Looked good :) .

ImageLinn of Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLinn of Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLinn of Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

Then it was onto the hill. There's a great path up onto Meall Gaineimh, and the sun was coming out. Less than an hour took me onto the summit, which is a short diversion from the path. The first of many tors was scrambled up here.

ImageLooking back on the ascent of Meall Gaineimh by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageNorthern Cairngorms by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageOn Meall Gaineimh by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

The way ahead looked a treat. I was pretty sure I could make out the main summit of Ben Avon here, but it was hard to be certain with so many bumps on the horizon. One tor that did stand out from the rest was Clach Choutsaich, which looked massive.

ImageLooking towards Ben Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageZoom to West Meur Gorm Craig. Clach Choutsaich to the left, Leabaidh an Diamh Buidhe to the right by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

I stopped to chat to a couple beneath a tor on East Meur Gorm Craig (they were just as pleased as I was with the weather and the route through the tors), then it was over the summit. Actually I can't remember precisely which bump the summit was, but I do recall one bit of rock being covered in a lovely thick lichen. It felt too delicate to scramble over and mess up, so I went round it.

ImageOn East Muir Gorm Craig by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLochan by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLichen near summit of East Muir Gorm Craig by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageSummit of East Muir Gorm Craig by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

Where to next? I was headed for West Meur Gorm Craig, but decided to make a short diversion to the tor of Big Brae on the way. Then it was up to the next level of plateau to West Meur Gorm Craig.

ImageHare on the plateau by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageClach Choutsaich from Big Brae by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to East Meur Gorm Craig by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

I thought I'd go directly onto the summit from here, but tried to get a glimpse of Lochan nan Gabhar first. This loch is extremely hard to see from above, despite me practically being on the rim of the corrie above it. By the time I had spotted it, I had contoured more than halfway round to Stob Bac an Fhurain, so I decided to go up there as well. Glad I did as it was a great viewpoint for Garbh Choire on the back of Beinn a' Bhuird.

ImageLochan nan Gabhar by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLochan nan Gabhar from West Meur Gorm Craig by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageBen Avon, Beinn a' Bhuird and Garbh Choire by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

After a break, I had another go at heading for the main summit, but was diverted by Clach Choutsaich this time. It is probably the biggest single lump of rock on the plateau, and it was worth a look. I wandered round the base, but couldn't see an obvious easy way up it - at least not one I fancied trying on my own and in the buffeting wind.

ImageClach Choutsaich by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageSouth side of Clach Choutsaich by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

Finally, I made a line for the highest point. One of the main features of all of the Cairngorms is the rolling plateaus, but Ben Avon takes this to the extreme - there's acres of it! This makes for easy walking and quite a unique feel - something that I had barely touched last time I was up here, as I had only made a short out-and-back detour from the Sneck.

Although the walking isn't exciting between tors, it's never dull either. There's something about the highest parts of the Cairngorm (and Lochnagar) plateau - the short moss, heather and lichen, the gritty granite sands and the strange, pockmarked erosion patterns that makes it ten times more interesting than most other flat expanses in the hills. I startled a ptarmigan with her chicks on the wander over to the summit - the chicks hadn't quite learnt to fly properly yet, and made an amusing part flying, part tumbling and rolling escape.

ImageFinally the main summit is close by by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImagePtarmigan by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to Clach Choutsaich by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageGarbh Choire by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

There were a couple of other people at the summit, and I had a quick scramble over the highest points. Then onward to Carn Eas, following a path for the first section.

ImageOn the summit of Ben Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageBoulders near the summit of Ben Avon by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to the summit tor by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to the summit tor by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

Ironically, the path was probably the hardest going bit of ground so far today - the plateau around here is covered in angular stones which make walking a little slower than everywhere else. I soon diverged from the path - first to the NW to look down onto the Sneck and Garbh Choire, then onto smoother ground to the south to reach Carn Eas.

ImageGarbh Choire and the Sneck by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

One thing that had been getting a little frustrating was the wind. It wasn't that strong or cold, but it had consistently been buffeting me all day, as I had been walking into it. In isolation, I might not have minded, but wind seems to be the theme this summer even when it's nice, and I was getting bored of it. This might have affected my next route decision.

The original plan had been to pick off the summit of Creag an Dail Mhor, then descend westwards to cross the Quoich. The next part of the route would have been one of the highlights - a bit of exploration around Coire an Dubh Loch, before ascending A' Chioch and Beinn a' Bhuird. I was going to drop down to Glen Avon after that and tramp the long miles back east to the bike. Coire an Dubh Loch was still looking fine as I wandered across the high plateau to the east of it.

ImageCoire an Dubh Lochan of Beinn a' Bhuird by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageCoire an Dubh Lochan and A' Chioch by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

After Carn Eas, I started looking for Creag an Dial Mhor, and was surprised to find it much further to the left than I had expected - set a long way back from Glen Quoich. Suddenly I decided that I would rather just keep heading that way, taking in Carn Liath and maybe Culardoch, rather than turning back into the wind to get to Beinn a' Bhuird. To aid the decision, dark clouds had blocked out the sun over the hills to the west, while the ones to the east were still bathed in sunshine. It was an odd decision as the distance and ascent were probably similar each way, and Carn Liath and Culardoch were clearly not as interesting as Beinn a' Bhuird. But it felt like a good idea. Last time I was up Culardoch and Carn Liath (preceded by Brown Cow Hill, from the same starting point as today), I had chickened out on returning over Ben Avon as it looked too far - something I regretted afterwards. Now was the time to do that traverse in reverse (leaving out Brown Cow Hill of course, which is no great loss).

ImageBen Avon tors from Carn Eas by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLochnagar and the White Mounth by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageSouth top of Beinn a' Bhuird from Carn Eas by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

Although the descent off Carn Eas was steep, it was also very dry and firm, and the col was pleasant. You could clearly see the transition from the granite of the high plateau to the less exciting psammite and quartz-like stuff that makes up a lot of the rest of the eastern Grampians. So while the ascent of Creag an Dial Mor was easy enough, the descent down the other side was on angular scree and boulders, and a bit less appropriate for the trainers I had decided to wear today.

ImageCreag an Dail Mhor (and Bheag lurking behind) by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

I say less exciting, but it certainly wasn't unpleasant. The steep pass between the Creag an Dials at the top of the Gairn was a very nice spot that I hadn't been aware of - a bit like the top end of Glen Callater where Jock's Road heads up onto the high ground. There looked to be plenty of pleasant camping spots by the burn, and I was glad I had seen this little corner. Coire an Dubh Lochan may be more exciting, but I already knew that existed!

ImageCreag an Dail Bheag and the top of the Gairn by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageIn the Gairn by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

It was a bit of a heather bash initially to pull myself away from the Gairn, but the going soon became easier and shallower, and before long I was on the summit of Creag an Dial Bheag. The sun had gone from here now as well, and it was still windy lower down, but I felt I had made the right choice in leaving Beinn a' Bhuird for another time.

Last time I was up here, it was the Carn Liath summit which was recognized as the highest; now it's Creag an Dial Bheag that takes the Corbett crown. Having been to both summits on both occasions, Carn Liath still looks like the highest. Regardless, Carn Liath has the best views, as it overlooks Braemar and the Dee.

ImageStuc Gharbh Mhor from Carn Liath by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageEastern Avon tors by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageBraemar and Glen Clunie from Carn Liath by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLochnagar by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

The going on the multi-summited Carn Liath / Creag an Dial Bheag (which has about half-a-dozen likely high points rather than just the two that appear on the map) is quite rough, with lots of angular stones strewn about. Part way down, this changes to an easy path through heather, with a couple of boggy patches before an estate track is hit.

ImageCulardoch from Carn Liath by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

For years on this col there has been some kind of heather growing experiment going on - something to do with climate change, although it is hard to find much information. Shortly after that, it was time to leave the track again, as I had decided Culardoch would be included - because it was there! It's quite a featureless hill, but it has a good outlook over Deeside. I had been thinking about going up it again from the south - it had been prominently in view on my recent trip to Gelder Shiel a few weeks ago- but I hadn't expected to be up it so soon after that thought.

ImageHeather experiments by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

Fair to say the weather was at its least inviting at this point in the day (and it was getting on a bit), so I didn't hang around. A rapid descent to the north took me to the Loch Builg track without too much trouble, crossing a short marshy area then picking my way through thicker heather lower down. On the way, I crossed numerous trenches excavated across the hillside. I remember these from before, but have no idea what they are for. They can't be acting as drainage ditches as they tend to go up and down - fire breaks for heather burning perhaps?

ImageSummit of Culardoch looking east (and looking moody) by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageLoch Builg by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageStrange trenches dug across the hillside. Why? by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageDown in the Gairn by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

There was some fleeting sunshine as I passed the small lochans to the south of Loch Builg, then I came upon a surprise gathering of people and vehicles. There appeared to be a cross-country horse riding event on, and this was set up as some kind of checkpoint. I was passed by a couple of riders along the side of Loch Builg.

ImageLochan Oir by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageSouth end of Loch Builg by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

ImageHorse riders in upper Glen Builg by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

After a last stop overlooking Glen Builg, I walked the last couple of miles back to the bike. With the wind behind me and more downhill than up, it was a fairly rapid return to the car! I caught up the horses that had passed me again, shortly before the final brutal ascent up to the car park.

ImageLooking back up Glen Builg. Sun is out again by Malcolm Clark, on Flickr

It had been a long day, but well worth it. Given the relatively short distance to Tomintoul, I'll need to come back again and have another nosey round the tors of Ben Avon, perhaps with the tent. Even within the Cairngorms, it feels quite unique. And I'm already plotting another trip to Beinn a' Bhuird.

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Comments: 3

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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
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Attachment(s) Munros: Lochnagar
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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
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User avatar
Location: Inverness
Occupation: Civil Engineer
Interests: Walking, Scrambling, Cycling, Mountain Biking
Munro rounds: 1
Corbett rounds: 1
Graham rounds: 1

Munros: 282
Corbetts: 222
Grahams: 219
Donalds: 50
Wainwrights: 81
Hewitts: 205
Sub 2000: 180

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Distance: 576.3 km
Ascent: 28395m
Munros: 17
Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 4
Sub2000s: 21


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Grahams: 35
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Munros: 11
Corbetts: 23
Grahams: 43
Donalds: 33
Sub2000s: 23


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Ascent: 52310m
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Corbetts: 23
Grahams: 36
Sub2000s: 26


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Corbetts: 8
Grahams: 16
Sub2000s: 19
Hewitts: 96
Wainwrights 16


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Corbetts: 21
Grahams: 31
Sub2000s: 11
Hewitts: 18


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Ascent: 37865m
Munros: 15
Corbetts: 22
Grahams: 18
Donalds: 3
Sub2000s: 6


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Ascent: 30550m
Munros: 22
Corbetts: 19
Grahams: 7
Donalds: 3
Sub2000s: 4


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Munros: 39
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Grahams: 4
Hewitts: 1


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Munros: 29
Corbetts: 7
Grahams: 1
Sub2000s: 2
Hewitts: 5
Wainwrights 8


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Ascent: 47975m
Munros: 60
Corbetts: 6
Grahams: 2
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 1


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Munros: 68
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Corbetts: 3
Grahams: 3
Hewitts: 24


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Ascent: 59035m
Munros: 45
Corbetts: 1
Sub2000s: 1
Hewitts: 52
Wainwrights 23


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Ascent: 42190m
Munros: 19
Corbetts: 2
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Wainwrights 4


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Ascent: 44205m
Munros: 19
Corbetts: 4
Grahams: 1
Donalds: 2
Hewitts: 63
Wainwrights 6


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Distance: 476.5 km
Ascent: 40740m
Munros: 12
Corbetts: 2
Hewitts: 75
Wainwrights 17


Trips: 2

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