Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a' Bhuird, Ben Avon, Beinn a' Chaorainn & Bynack More
Friday 27th July 2012
Weather/Conditions: Stunning day with deep blue skies. Morning started out bright and fresh then some high cloud over Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a' Bhuird. On Ben Avon we looked back to see the rain coming in from the west - winds picked up and we got wet on the way back to the Moine Bhealaidh. Skies blew open and winds hammered along as we nipped over Chaorainn, and stayed this way into the late afternoon sun on Bynack More. A great day.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 36.6km / 1950m / 12h
The day was going to be long and somewhat committing, the peaks we would cross today cover a remote region of the Cairngorms; the eastern quarters. It's a place that you really don't see many folk. Isolation was a real theme of the day, and one of the discoveries of the trip was understanding that away from the honey pots, the Cairngorms are still a really secluded environment.
We left the Hutchison and headed down Glen Derry in the direction of Beinn Bhreac. This diminutive Munro would be our first of the day, as it occupies the western end of a high tract of land called the Moine Bhealaidh. This can be seen almost like a small-scale reflection of the Moine Mhor further west, though characteristically it shares more in common with the heather moors of Atholl. Bags were dropped north of the summit and we nipped out to gain the two tops.
To the south the forests of Derry, Luibeg and Quoich were vibrant in the sun. But it seemed like a world away - certainly not a world we were to occupy any time soon. Thus we were taken mentally to a place where, although the views are as wide open as any in the country, we had a sense of enclosure, that this high land conceals you from the outside world. In memory, this leaves you feeling like the high ground can have more in common with the sky than the land. This only makes itself known in retrospect, I feel, and it's beauty is a great driver behind high mountain travel.
Beinn a' Bhuird & Ben Avon
Beinn a' Bhuird and Ben Avon are the two most easterly Munros of the Cairngorms, and they posed an intriguing logistical question. On the Rigby round, the route descends from Ben Avon into Glen Avon, then covers some riverside miles to reach the heights again on Bynack More. But an alternative way to do them is to retrace your steps over Beinn a' Bhuird and get to the Fords of Avon via. Beinn a' Chaorainn.
This is precisely what we did, and it meant we could make the riskiest pack-drop of them all, and leave our rucksacks on the Moine Bhealaidh. We would walk a full seven kilometres out to Ben Avon and retrace all our steps to the Moine. It is risky, but by god it saved a lot of effort. We had a good time getting out to Ben Avon - it is brilliant to cover these miles with just a map and sweets in your pockets. But on Ben Avon things took a slightly sinister turn, when rain clouds piled up behind Bhuird.
I just recall looking back to see this breaking wave over the mountain. I felt real fear of the exposure of the situation. I wanted to hurry, but to do so would be kind of futile. At the end of the day, the rucksacks were four miles distant and we would just take what comes. In the end, we got soaked crossing back over Beinn a' Bhuird, but the rain was short lived and we got back to the bags safely, under blue skies and a warm sun.
We took a nap here, periods of blissful non-time. All the pressure was off, and the day was simply to be enjoyed. It was quite incredible that we suddenly had three Munros to complete the trip, and all going well we'd be done within 24 hours.
Beinn a' Chaorainn & Fords of Avon
Beinn a' Chaorainn was done under deep blue skies and crisp air. Winds were high, and made getting the summit panorama somewhat comical. You'd have no idea to only see the photos! We dropped into the sanity of Lairig an Laoigh to find the River Avon, which on this occasion was easily crossable. Just over the river was our nights accommodation; the Fords of Avon refuge.
This refuge is really just for emergencies, but it occupies a spot at the junctions of two through-routes: the Lairig an Laoigh and Glen Avon. We felt a night in here would set us up well, and sat in the shelter preparing our evenings food.
In the end we felt so good we decided to go for Bynack More that night, thus relieving us of almost all pressure the following day.
Bynack More & thoughts...
Bynack More was a great walk and well worth it. In fact the next morning, in the drizzle, we would comment what a good idea it had been to do it while the sun was still out. Our route up Bynack More wasn't perfect (in fact it was trackless and a bit bloody awkward!) but the summit was gained in good time - more high winds. We dropped straight off the summit to meet the Lairig path, and a gentle walk took us back to the shelter.
Perhaps as a direct result of this day, I have a lot of affection for this corner of the Cairngorms. The sense of seclusion felt very real. It was a quiet place, benign in form with a gentle peace that consumed all. I came to enjoy the bothies greatly and I would recommend that those who cross the Cairngorms look to spend a night in these places too.
But whatever you do, try not to spend a night in the Fords refuge! Perhaps intentionally, it has no windows, makes sleeping quite an uncomfortable experience, especially when you wake up in the pitch-dark of a closed door without a sense of time or orientation. It didn't help that I'd wake up in the night feeling rough due to my cold, but it wasn't the comfiest of nights. A good compromise would be to cook in the shelter, but bring a tent and sleep outside where you can still sense the world around you.
Beinn a' Bhuird
Ben Avon (Leabaidh an Diamh Bhuidhe)
Beinn a' Chaorainn
(0.00) 7.30am Hutchison
(1.35) 9.05am Beinn Bhreac West Top
(1.40) 9.10am Beinn Bhreac
(3.45) 11.15am Beinn a' Bhuird
(5.05) 12.35pm Ben Avon
(6.20) 1.50pm Beinn a' Bhuird
(8.15) 3.45pm Beinn a' Chaorainn
(9.00) 4.30pm Fords of Avon
(9.50) 5.20pm Fords of Avon (left)
(10.55) 6.25pm Bynack More
(12.00) 7.30pm Fords of Avon