A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Glenshee & Ben Avon

31 March - 3 April 2016
Over 4 days towards the end of the Easter holidays, John was leading some folk over some of the high peaks in the Cairngorms. The first two days took the form of a bike-n-hike, with Ben Avon being the main mountain aimed for. The second two days were spent hiking over the 9 Munros in the Glenshee area. Here's his tale...

photo 1 Thursday to Sunday I have been based around Braemar, and we have been out and about in the Eastern Cairngorms and Glenshee. The weather has been mixed, and still quite wintry at times, with a lot of fresh snow over 800m.

Thursday was forecast to be the best day, but had a cloud base varied from 600m, occasionally clearing, but with showers of sleet and hail. The freezing level was around the summits with a light wind apart from at the Sneck when it was funnelled through strongly. There was a lot of fresh snow over 800m, but the going was reasonable with a hard snowpack underneath 20 or so centimetres.

Our group of Lisa, Mags, Sandra, Scott, Nick and Colm cycled in from Linn of Quoich, but the track and path had been washed away in places making it a challenge. We had various obstacles to overcome where the track simply disappeared into the river, or became a boggy morass. One person rued attempting the cycle in trainers as they went knee deep!

photo 2 We eventually left the bikes at the track junction on Quoich Water, and then walked East, picking up the Invercauld path, which has been much improved recently. I love this area, and particularly the Caledonian pines that abound in the lower reaches. As we arrived at the Clach a'Chleirich (the Clergyman's Stone) on the way up to the high bealach between Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuird (called the Sneck), we came across another cycle, and were impressed how far they had managed to ride. Ten minutes later, the owner came into view in running trainers and a gilet, saying he had gotten lost in the snow, and so was making his way back down, slip sliding all the way. There is a time and a place for running shoes, and there wasn't one of them that day in my opinion!

We made the fantastic summit tor of Beinn Avon, and even had a clearing, but could not scramble the final few metres as it was completely rimed up, and was really a winter climb. After some pics, we turned and headed back to the Sneck, donning crampons for the descent. It was then steeply onto Beinn a'Bhuird, requiring crampons and some step-kicking, followed by deep snow. There was tricky navigation in a complete whiteout to the North Top, which is as insignificant a cairn as you will find. I was pleased to hit it first time, especially as certain person was tailing me with a GPS! As soon as we hit the top, it cleared again, (HE was testing me, let alone the GPS), and we could see the descent route clearly enough.

photo 2 We came off via An Diolland and the excellent re-instated path to the bikes. The cycle out was in the gloaming, and actually good fun, so it was tired but happy group that got back after 11.5hrs of proper mountain fun.

Friday was forecast awful, with a 75mph Southerly and persistent rain all day. Consequently we abandoned the plan of the munros to the East of Lairig an Laoigh, and opted for a gentler cycle to Derry Lodge, and a walk via Bob Scott's to Corrour bothy and back. It was such a day when even a benign bimble such as this took on a gnarly feel, and we enjoyed our cup tea as we got off the hill after 7hrs.

photo 3 On Saturday the meteorological merry-go-round gave us another excellent day of high cloud, atmospheric views, sunshine and almost no wind. Our plan had been felt to be optimistic, all six munros East of the A93 from the ski centre, but with these conditions, it looked on. After some car shuffling to place vehicles at either end of the walk, we set off in high spirits.

The first summit of Creag Leachach was attained from its South West top, and we saw our first of many Ptarmigan and hares, with their colours steadily changing back to grey. They are much less timid at this time of year, their minds rather focussed on other things! We also arrived at the same time as a lightly-equipped but fast moving group of young men who were out for the same route, and it greatly assisted us in that they broke a trail through the often deep snow all day - Thanks lads!

This group of hills may not be the most dramatic of the munros, but in these conditions they are splendid, with expansive views North to the enormity of the Cairngorms, East to Lochnagar, South to Glen Doll and West to Glen Ey, all resplendent in their spring colours of white and grey, much like the wildlife. Summit after summit is ticked off, each one looking deceptively close until you spot the little figures of the other party to put it all into spatial context.

Eventually, the last summit of Carn an Tuirc was reached, and it was just a matter of a wee detour North over a boulder field and down. But was it? No. I found a cracking snow field that led safely down several hundred metres, and we enjoyed a fantastic couple of bum slides to finish off the day, awoohoo! Car to car in 8.5hrs was a respectable time too in such snow, so a wee celebratory dram was enjoyed in Braemar that evening as we glowed from the sun tans.

photo 2 Finally Sunday came, with a modest plan of the three Cairnwell munros. This was most appropriate for the day, as the weather was back to clag over 700m, rain and snow over 800m, and a fresh S wind. These were not pleasant conditions, and one of the group retorted that it was probably just as well as the ski paraphernalia and masts etc don't exactly make for a scenic walk, and the conditions added some frisson to the normally easy walk. I was still on the compass a good deal, and it wasn't the kind of weather for dawdling.

We bagged the three and were back down in less than 5hrs, but all agreed any longer would have just been unpleasant, especially with the tired legs from yesterday, so it was a feel of a good job done as we changed into dry clothes and went our separate ways. For Colm who had been with me all four days it was a haul of 11 munros, the full gamut of Scottish spring weather had been experienced, wildlife was everywhere, and the necessity to be flexible with your plans whilst getting the most out of each day appreciated, so a total success for us all.

Some more photos and a couple of videos by John and Lisa are up on Flickr.

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