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.
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
Heading for the corries I crossed the burn and then it’s time to face the lumpen boulder field heading to the lower lochans
Arriving at the first lochan and looking backward momentarily, a small artificial pile of rocks caught my eye against some large boulders
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
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
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.
This one is a bit larger but a low ceiling. Could probably fit 3 or 4 folk in here
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
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.
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.
The rocks around the lochan inflow stream, visited for a water refill, had a few nooks with more flowers
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.
An unusual sight on some of the rocks: layers of pollen as the water has been still and dropped in the current drought.
I headed around the crags, first stop the Smith-Winram bivouac, unlike the 2 other unknown howffs seen earlier, a well known one.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
There were a few more shallow snow packs higher up as I headed towards Cnap a Cleirich
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.
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
Reaching the col there was another patch and I though it best to have a final look of ‘snow tunnel season 2023’
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.
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.
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.