Avon Tors, Bhuird Lochanshike, mountain bike

With autumn approaching and the nights drawing in, and with club activities curtailed, if I wanted to go deeper into the hills from off of a bus route, then 2 wheels would be needed to extend range and cut time. Only a few of Aberdeen’s buses will take a bike (the larger coaches, which are randomly allocated) but I have a secret weapon: a folding bike.

Not any old folding bike, but a rare airnimal rhino, which unusually has full suspension, bmx wheels larger than most folders, and is robust and cairngorm-trail-ready: it can hammer down trails that would shatter a brompton into a pile of scrap. Sure, it’s quite heavy and ‘fold’ is more ‘dismantle’ but it ends up in a large holdall that makes it onboard the bus under the suspicious eye of the grumpiest driver.

Heading up slugain
Green and purple trail
Past slugain lodge ruin

The forecast was quite good, but escaping the confines of Slugain, it’s a moody sky rolling over the munro tops

Beinn a bhuird capped by clouds

Parking up the bike at the falls of the Glas Allt Mor, poles were deployed and propelled me upwards – I planned to half run/hike up, run most of the downs where possible to keep to a fairly tight time schedule.

Fall on the Glas Allt Mor
A series of smaller falls heading further up

Just over half an hour later I’m at the sneck where I had a quick look down the fine view of slochd mor before heading up into the clag on the plateau

Slochd Mor
heading up to the plateau
Cloudy moonscape, but can get a bit of a run going

The crossing of the plateau to the main tor is mostly cloud-bound, but the occasional rift washes open great vistas – some great cloud caps to the south

Unusual cloud caps
More cloud sweeping in. I’m engulfed and ahead the main tors are but a shadow..
.. then a void opens and are clear

I don’t stop at the main tor today, I want to go and and explore some of the others that I’ve never visited. The first (1147) is only a couple hundred metres away.

Tor 1147
There’s a little alcove that provides a slight shelter
On top of 1147
Next up 1136, a few hundred metres again further north-east
looking beyond to Stob Bac an Fhurain
Cubby hole underneath boulder
There are some erodids potholes on this tor holding water
Looking back down to the distant valley floor under a layer of cloud

I pondered heading over to Clach Choutsaich, a bit more distant and then theonward journey would have needed descent/reascent so decided against it with a schedule to keep to. I headed back past the main top and onwards towards Carn Eas to the south-west.

This tor (1119) escapes for another day’s exploration
As does this one (1122?)
Main top back in cloud
Looking back, some folk I passed earlier now on top
Heading towards Carn Eas the views of Beinn a Bhuird open up
1061? with Lochnagar in the background
This corrie of Beinn a Bhuird is my next target if I had enough time
Looks quite an epic landscape
A last view back around the tors on the plateau before descending
Carn Eas cairn zoomed in to the crags
The descent begins gently
Before steepening. The terrain is either bouldery, or boggy. It’s a slow descent

After a clamber back down to the path i had been on earlier, I had to return to where the bike was stashed and then continue upwards following the Allt Dearg. The path tracks the side of the burn but fizzles out as it gets higher. It looks like you could follow the burn all the way up to get on to the Beinn a Bhuird plateau. It’s more of a climb up to the level of the first lochans than I’d thought (should have paid more attention to the map contours) – about 150m of ascent. The going once off the path is quite lumpy too.

Fork in the Allt Dearg
Worth the ascent through – the Dubh Lochain’s contorted shape makes for an interesting landscape
Crystal clear crag ripples

I could have happily bumbled around the lochan looking for the perfect viewpoint, but I also want to try and find a little known howff nearby – the Smith-Winram bivouac. How much searching it will take is uncertain, and I also want to visit the higher Dubh Lochan (not lochain) and can see that there’s a fair ascent over bouldery terrain to get there.

I’d scoped photos online – it’s near some slabs, and has a white tipped rock over it
There’s some slabs.. a white tipped rock.. and ah can see signs of a built wall
Just outside is another alcove
Entrance to the bivouac
You lower yourself in a few feet
Inside there’s probably room for a couple people to lay out. Plastic remains from previous visitors
The floor is muddy so the plastic may be useful as a ground sheet
What happened to the other boot. I wonder what tale is told by it’s loss
There’s not mush room inside (groan)
peeping back outside, clouds n crags
Above it a large wall of rock

I plowed on uphill over a boulder field to see the main lochan, but worthwhile as it’s located surrounded by an impressive craggy ampitheatre.

Arrive at the lochan and it’s crags
Dub Lochan of Beinn a Bhuird
View back down to Dubh Lochain, time to boulder-skip back down
The path is quite eroded and close to the edge at points

Arriving back at the bike, it was time to get a boogie on as I’d be cutting it fine to get down to keiloch and dismantle the bike in time for my bus. There are only a few evening buses, the final one would be a wait of a few hours. The day almost over, the sun began to power through and the skies cleared, ach, typical.

Quick glug from the stream and it’s time to bike
Fairwell Beinn a Bhuird
Last glimpse of the mountains beside Slugain lodge

I couldn’t resist a spin through fairy glen albeit I needed to walk the bike down parts – the 20″ wheels finding a limit of safety amongst the angular boulders on parts of the track here. Hammering downhill afterwards I made good time, the rhino soaking up regular trail no bother – a bit more care required splashing through small fords as the small wheels are easily deflected. Overtook a few hikers on their full sized bikes at speed, shame to not join them and blether our way back – fortunately the bus was a few minutes late, and just made it. It is a bit of a faff dismantling the bike (particularly under a bit of pressure) but without it I couldn’t have done this trip, a great day out. Total bike distance 24km, total on foot 20km

Down through fairy glen

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