Beinn a Bhuird Corriescamping, hike

With the recent overnighter to Ben Avon being an enjoyable stravaig, I thought I’d return to the area, this time heading further west to Beinn a Bhuird and have an explore around the corries and maybe have a look at the south side of Ben Avon.

Above Glen Slugain. The “Laird’s tablecloth” snow patch still hanging on ahead

Along the track, speckles of colour with one in particular being the fragrant delight of wild thyme, some collected for the evening meal later

A few other flowers and plants catch my eye

More purple: bugle I think
Bog cotton
Alpine Ladys Mantle
Alpine Bistort
Dwarf Cornell with an ant

Heading for the corries I crossed the burn and then it’s time to face the lumpen boulder field heading to the lower lochans

Ankle-twisty tussocky boulder field as far as the ye can see

Arriving at the first lochan and looking backward momentarily, a small artificial pile of rocks caught my eye against some large boulders

What’s that? A small stack
Round the other side: a small howff
Enough room for maybe 1 to lie down with a bit of shelter from the wind

The lower lochans have some nice photographic angles but the lights not great today

Making my way around the edge, I scatter a fish or two rippling from the shallows; I’d have thought this lochan must freeze out in winter so maybe there’s a few deeper pots or they make their way upstream after winter

Ripples in the shallows
More boulder-threading upwards

I had a look around the edge of the upper loch for camp spots; it’s quite bouldery so there’s not as much good spots as expected. There’s more large boulders and I kept my eyes open for more howffs

Through gaps and around boulders

There’s a small lochan right under the cliffs so I headed for that still looking for a perfect pitch. A couple small snow patches remain. I’d hoped to look for some snow tunnels the next day, but there had been a a fair bit of thaw since my last outing.

Another howff found: I wonder how many others are around the area, it would take a long time to explore around every nook and crannie up here.

Howff ahoy

This one is a bit larger but a low ceiling. Could probably fit 3 or 4 folk in here

Inside the howff, minding my head

I spotted a grassy spot at the other side of the lochan and made around the edges to it. It’s quite close to the cliffs so probably not a great location in winter with a lot of snow above

Coire an Dubh-Lochain smaller lochan

The rocky terrain and remote shelter of the corrie can hold a few botanical treats, primed from earlier I’d be keeping my eyes open for anything unusual. Starry saxifrage is very pretty.

Pretty: starry saxifrage

There was a good pitch for the tent at the end of the lochan, and having dumped my kit went for a wander, first up to the snow patches

Then around the lochan; darkness was falling so time to knock it on the head and turn in.

The night was punctuated by proximal ptarmigan gurgling, resulting in fitful sleep and not quite making sunrise to get up and on it.

Looks like a nice day
Sedge snoozing on pack
lochan inflow: crystal clear streamlet

The rocks around the lochan inflow stream, visited for a water refill, had a few nooks with more flowers

Alpine marsh violet
Willowherb of some sort

Today I had other places to be, but I’d like to stay here for a few days at some point and explore some of the scrambling here in the crags.

I made my away around the Dubh Lochan, unlike the lower pools this one is deeper, in places dropping quickly from the edge into unknown blue fathoms.

Dubh Lochan

An unusual sight on some of the rocks: layers of pollen as the water has been still and dropped in the current drought.

Pollen rings

I headed around the crags, first stop the Smith-Winram bivouac, unlike the 2 other unknown howffs seen earlier, a well known one.

Below the slabs a large boulder with a white mark
Also nearby a secondary howflet
Entry to the Smith-Winram
Old boots till here
View out
Inner view

I had a poke about amongst the rocks finding some old litter: a miniature and a camera film container (empty)

I headed north towards Coire nan Clach keeping an eye on the crags above. There’s a few cavey nooks, I think there’s a ‘gem hunters’ one up there somewhere.

Underfoot I passed over a large boulder field and again the shelter provided nooks for plants

Alpine saw-wort
Cow wheat
Coire nan Clach
Snow patch rosey with algae
A small lochan at the north side of the corrie
A few crowberry plants showed yellow – perhaps scorched in drought
A small boulder wall under a ledge

I arrived at the burn down from Cnap a Cleirich and headed up – last visit this had been under a lot of snow with many small tunnels and the burn flowing strongly. Today the burn was a trickle and the snow mostly gone but the big patch in the gully was still there, and a big entrance visible.

Heading up the burn

This time it was head height and easy to access, albeit mossy and slippery. I scouted around before entering far, looking for any subsidence or cracks.

A scout on the top then back to the entrance
Turning blue. The structure had no obvious flaws or cracks
Into the bowels of ice, noticeably cooler

Once in about 20 metres, the hues turned aquatic, the roof a sublime glowing sculpture of curves and hollows, incredible, alien but beautiful. The luck of the draw had favoured me today with carving it out to the perfect balance of access and light. It’d probably last another week before beginning to break up.

I thought the spectacle worthy of a rare selfie: it’s steeper than it looks here, but with the aid of a 10-second timer, I frantically splashed and clambered upstream to make a pose, after about 3 or 4 attempts capturing the back of my head or arse, I got a shot.

Who knows if in years to come as the winter snow pack becomes shallower, the springs wetter and the early summer hotter, whether the Cairngorms will be high enough to sustain formation of such wonders, it requires areas that accumulate many metres of snow depth at an altitude that can hold on to it over many months as it’s sculpted from below. I’d found a few cracking locations over the last couple months where the terrain aspect was right for the prevailing winds, they’re all pretty remote and take a fair old hike to reach, and are off the beaten path. I don’t suppose it’s a spectacle many get to see.

I headed back out and around to the top, the tunnel was about 100m long

In the top end, wider and less height
Out to the sunlight to dry off

I was pretty damp from both the stream and the dripping from above so headed out and hiked onwards, the effort, sun and wind soon drying me off. I’d specifically worn trail running trainers for this trip, both for the long distance comfort but also the quick draining – trying to stay dry in a snow tunnel is futile, far easier to just wade in.

Looking back to Dubh Lochan. Some thrift in the foreeground
Heath spotted orchid

There were a few more shallow snow packs higher up as I headed towards Cnap a Cleirich

Snow algae
Point 1123

Heading back down towards the Glas Allt Mor I spotted a ring ouzel. The side steepened and I zig-zagged through rough heather to the sneck path.

Ring Ouzel
Looking back at A’ Chioch
Zig zag down to the stream and the path to The Sneck
Falls on the Glas Allt Mor
Looking back at the corries

I bumped into a couple heading up to Ben Avon, they’d been involved in the Braemar mountain festival and we chatted for a while. I decide to go and explore further to the south side of Ben Avon and headed off-path following a stream to the col of Creag an Dail Mhor. Tussocky ground and tough going; alive with very jumpy frogs surprised to see somebody, they had a standard strategy of bounding into the stream and then hiding underwater or plain getting swept away downstream

Tussocky burn
This frog decided against the plunge
Mossy and squishy

Reaching the col there was another patch and I though it best to have a final look of ‘snow tunnel season 2023’

Another big albeit short tunnel
Looking south west. Beinn a Ghlo distant I think
Following the Allt an Aitinn down. A scratch of an unmapped path most of the way

I was beginning to feel tired and hot and thought to take the most direct route out, but on reaching the bottom of the Allt an Eas Bhig, and with the water being very low, the opportunity to explore the gully was too good to miss.

Should I follow upstream? Ach let’s go for it

The burn twists and turns and a couple scrambly bits and wades had me making progress until a higher waterfall stopped me: I could either swim over a deep pool and scrabble up a steep grassy slope one side, or climb higher on the right. Being on my own I decided against the risk. A full exploration of the full 1km of gully would need to wait for another day when not tired or carrying camping kit.

Splashing through shallow pools
Edging around deeper ones
Deep pool in front of a waterfall
Could have maybe went up the channel left after a swim or took a wider route high right
Heading back down
Old shieling looking up Glen Gairn
Gairn path to bridge, long hot n dusty

Over the Gairn I headed up the scratchy Allt na Claise Moire path then pounded down the Culardoch track. I was glad to enter the shade of the forest nearing Keiloch.

Enough time to have a paddle at The Dee, looking as low as I’ve ever seen it.

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