Saturday 25 August 2012

Beinn a' Bhuird & Ben Avon


I confess that "new" Munros are getting harder and harder to accomplish in the space of a single day's walking. It's not quite so much of an issue when there's plenty of available daylight, and you can persuade yourself that long days are there to be made use of, but I rather suspect that in a month or so, there's going to have to be a revision either of targets for new hills, or of the methodology to be adopted.

Aye, tents. Or sleeping in Defenders, for the under canvasly-challenged.  ;0)

None of this was of terribly much moment last weekend though, because we had decided to turn a big old daytrip into a wee adventure. If you're going to walk a long way, you might as well get up early to do it. Consequently, it was 3:15am when the alarm went off. That's not when I needed to get up - it factored in fifteen minutes for gazing in horror at the time, and bitching internally about the decision. I know my morning routine.

It all kind of came together though. Andy arrived promptly, and we left Bellshill at 5; and were booting up at the carpark at Allanaquoich at 8am on the button. If I'm honest, whenever I've camped overnight before a walk, I've rarely been in a position to start any earlier than that, so there was a certain smug satisfaction that there was nobody else around when we set off for the wee footbridge that crosses the burn at Linn of Quoich.

The route that we followed - at least as far as Beinn a' Bhuird - was the Walkhighlands one. Modesty almost forbids me drawing attention to the last line in the description which says: "It is possible to continue the walk to take in Ben Avon across the bealach of the Sneck; however the return to the Linn of Quoich would make this a truly epic day requiring excellent fitness."

And here was me thinking I needed to lose weight, as well. 

The day did, as per the MWIS forecast, turn out to be a game of two halfs.
It stayed resolutely misty and overcast until precisely the point when we left the summit of Beinn a' Bhuird, but the weather for the rest of the jaunt couldn't have been any better. That improvement came as a wee bit of a relief, for navigation reasons as well. There's a cracking path all the way onto the Beinn a' Bhuird plateau, but it does peter out quite remarkably once you're there. It's a big plateau, no argument, but it stops rather suddenly on the east, and you really don't want to be wandering over the edge to pay a swift visit to the floor of Coire an Dubh-Lochain. The best way of locating the summit, of course, is to follow the corrie rim roughly north, so it's a balancing exercise in more ways than one.

Once the sun comes out though, you can stick yer compass awa'.

The sun IS out. The dug's casting a shadow.

I will confess that my experienced Munrobagger's eye led me to conclude that it'd be no more than an hour from the top of Bhuird to the top of Ben Avon.

Why wouldn't you do both, on that basis? Well, one reason might be that it actually took us two hours. Another reason might be that those were two hours largely taking us further away from the car. Your feet don't factor that in at the time though.

Truth be told, timing is difficult because from summit number one, it looks awfy like a flat walk to summit number two.

But as the distance decreases, the terrain stops rolling quite so much and starts...dipping a bit.

Jorja wisny having it

It's actually nothing to worry about. One often encounters a sneck or two on a hill walk.

It's still Andy. He's just changed his coat.

Looking back

Looking backer

The top of the Sneck!

The view back doon. With added random punters. For scale.

It takes about ten minutes worth of modest exertion, and then you're back on the flat stuff. It might be a long way, but it's a great day out, ascent wise.  :0)

And it didny seem to take long to get to the tor.


We finally got a view of Beinn a' Bhuird, as well.

We, however, were heading torwards.

The removal of the need to navigate is always welcome, but sunshine notwithstanding there's a couple of things that might be worth noting. Firstly, all the route descriptions for Ben Avon just mention in passing that you scramble easily up to the top of the Tor. Well, yes, you do, but it's difficult to convince yourself you're at the highest point, when there's a less easily scrambled one right next to it that looks suspiciously...higher.

Andy did both, to be on the safe side. I did the easy one, to be on the safe side.

Secondly, on the return journey...

A' Chioch, from the road down.

...although I'm pretty sure we got the correct "minor path junction" (we were following Cameron McNeish's Munros book route description by this point) there was an unexpected crossing of the Quoich Water in the way. Now, given the fuss that the books make of the river crossing at the north end of Glen Quoich, and given that this new one was significantly wider and deeper than the easy burn hop we'd encountered on the way out, we thought sticking to the south side of the burn  was the better option. It proved to be a deep boggy heathery less good option, but a handy fallen tree a mile or so downstream got us back on what should have been the original choice of track. Although it brought us out at what appeared to be some kind of hidden Cairngorms killing field. The dugs were just clearing up the detritus, honest.

I can't claim that last hour or so back to the carpark wasn't a bit of a travail, even if it was a lovely evening in a lovely glen - Carlsberg don't do Caledonian pinewoods, but...

...however it's fair to say the spirits soared a wee bit when we realised that the road we could see in the distance wasn't actually the Allanaquoich section, but the higher Braemar road, and we were closer to the Defender than we'd been thinking. Sorted. Twenty two miles had probably been sufficient, all things considered.

If the daytrip thing doesn't appeal to everybody (for whatever obscure reason) then if you chose your weather window carefully - mainly with wind speed in mind, given how it howls up the Sneck - the plateaus on both hills seem to offer plenty of camping opportunities. There's actually a wonderfully clear rising spring not far from the summit of Beinn a' Bhuird, which you pass en route to the Sneck, and if your tent's up to it, there can't be many better places to define wildcamping in Scotland. I'll maybe even go back and try it  myself one day. When my feet give permission.


  1. Nice post...I was thinking about halfway through reading it that this trip would suit tent.

  2. I would've split that one into 2 days. No question.

  3. "It's still Andy. He's just changed his coat."

    That's the best photie caption for ages.

  4. A big day. So much easier from my desk.
    Get yourself some decent canvas. You won't regret it.

  5. Cheers for the comments folks. I like to think we've performed a valuable public service by proving beyond doubt whether it's a good idea to do this as a daywalk from Lanarkshire or not.


  6. If I had my hat on I'd tip it in your direction. In fact, I might even put it on especially.
    Alen McF