Bynack More - 1090m
A' Choinneach - 1017m
Cairn Gorm - 1245m
Monday 13th September 2008
Weather/Conditions: The day started out overcast, misty and wet. On Bynack Beg the clouds lifted and left us with blue skies and cumulus with base around 1300-1400m. We had a very strong wind on the way up Bynack More all the way off and on Cairn Gorm when we approached the summit.
Fiona and I set out from the Coire na Ciste car park on Cairn Gorm. The sun was still coming up and the light was pretty glum. We were bound for Bynack More and aimed for the bealach at 721m above the plantation. Finding it required a bit of careful navigation as locating the correct pass wasn't obvious at first. We initially followed a track but headed over onto rough ground as a means to reach the pass without losing too much altitude. The going was tedious. At streams, to gain only 10 or so metres of horizontal distance meant climbing down the bank, crossing the water and clambering back up the side. It's damned inefficient.
Nevertheless, a path was picked up and we followed it towards the pass. The ground steepened but progress was easier here and we reached the craggy bealach. There were some granite outcrops but I wasn't in a mood to go exploring. We had a long journey ahead of us anyway. Before we even got to the bottom of Bynack More, we'd have to drop 200m from the pass down into Strath Nethy! When we left the pass, we followed sheep trails down to the river. There were no views up to the Loch Avon area because it was raining, which grew more persistent with time. We reached the valley floor and crossed the bogs. The going was hard because the ground was laden with water, and such difficulties were topped off with a river crossing. We reached a path running up Strath Nethy, and followed it briefly. Soon we turned off up Bynack Beg's slopes, following, and then losing sheep trails all the way. To our right, the Allt a' Choire Dheirg was impressive and the Cairngorms had somewhat of an atmosphere to them with low cloud and rain. Atmosphere - I like it - but less rain would have be preferable.
We headed up the hillside, bound for the Bynack Beg top where a strong wind blew from the west. It was a cold, numbing wind and it wasn't pleasant, but on we went and as we arrived on Bynack Beg, the cloud began to clear. Initially the gaps seemed like they'd be temporary and we got some views up to Bynack More and across to Beinn a' Chaorainn in the eastern Cairngorms. Yet it just kept lifting. The wind was strong but the cloud left us, as did the rain, and soon enough we were beneath sunlight.
I had a quick scramble on the summit of Bynack Beg and we headed off up to Bynack More. It was a bit of a slog up to the last sections but at least we had views; to my right was Ben MacDui, partially cloud-obscured; beneath were the dark, dark cliffs overlooking Loch Avon. Cairngorm was in cloud, but it would reveal itself in due course.
After clambering over the summit boulders of Bynack More, we were on the top where it was blowing a gale. We took shelter behind rocks (still bloody cold!) where we met the first people we'd seen all day. They were three walkers who were just heading off as we arrived. I went back to the cairn to take a panorama to discover that bitter winds suck the temperature right out from your hands - thirty seconds under the armpits solves a lot though.
After a rest and some food, we left and resisting screaming wind along the way, headed across to the "Little Barns of Bynack" - little tors scattered below the summit. These rock formations gave some temporary shelter but we headed for the top of A' Choinneach, leaving the proper Barns of Bynack for another day. With such winds, it wasn't the time to be exploring without feeling miserable. We walked down the grassy slopes and up the side of A' Choinneach, arriving at some cairns.
I could finally see Loch Avon, and somehow, it felt a little profound. I'd seen a lot of pictures of it and had pondered over the huge scale of it all, but I was here now and the sculpted valley that enclosed it was indeed massive - just like I'd been told. Odder to think that the loch itself - the lowest point in the area - is at 725 metres above sea level. As I said, the Cairngorms are big hills.
By accident, we veered off course a bit, and left the track down A' Choinneach. As a result, we ended up on steep, tedious slopes where thick heather hid large holes between granite blocks. We worked on past them and took a break when we arrived at the river. We then headed up the side of Cairn Gorm, following a ramp that ran below granite slabs where we picked up a path. It was a slow, steady walk up to Cairn Gorm. We contoured the side, and at 1150m, left any traces of a path behind. But as we came to flatter ground, Fiona's boots were rubbing her heels. As we'd discover later, her blisters were seeping blood, so it must have been painful. While Fiona waited at the bealach above the restaurant, I continued alone to Cairn Gorm's summit.
I picked up a broad path, firing on with as much speed as I possibly could. Although I was on a broad plateau, the mixture of light playing through wind-whipped cumulus, as well as the sheer height, made the summit feel like a very airy place. After some slogging, I reached the top, and took some pictures and really felt the atmosphere of the place. It was absolutely spectacular. I gave one last glance over to the northern coires, took some pictures and headed back the way I came.
From the bealach, we headed down Coire na Ciste, past fences and ski tows. The going was tedious and wasn't helped by sore feet. Maybe if Bynack More wasn't so stuck behind Cairn Gorm, we may not have gone on to do both Munros, but if we needed to reascend it may as well be up another Munro and on a direct line back to the car. It was a straight run down Coire na Ciste and we were back at the vast car park, where like at the beginning of the day, we were still about the only car around.
From there we left for the one-and-a-half-hour journey back to Keith.
The next day, I had planned to do the three Cairnwell Munros on the way back to Glasgow, but once in the Glenshee car park, it was felt that Braemar was simply too far away for mum to occupy herself for the time I'd be away. In the end we just went straight back to Glasgow. I had climbed a good number of hills during my stay and I was, lets say, really pleased with what I'd achieved. However, as I say elsewhere, I'll be back for more. For the coming months it's back to the usual areas; the Southern Highlands. But I'm finally into the Cairngorms - and many thanks to Fiona for making it possible. :) Brilliant.
Bynack More (circa 300 degree)