Stob an t-Sluichdhike

With the Ben Avon snow tunnels trip being a good outing, I planned another similar one to Beinn a Bhuird, but this time as a bike-assisted single-dayer, heading out from the Cairngorm Club’s Muir cottage where I’d spend a day helping out at the maintenance weekend.

Friday saw me allocated the task of servicing the bikes, they are all old bangers so it was a case of twiddling rim brake alignment, cables, and gear indexing, before a wash and hosing down. In the evening I thought I’d have a stroll to look for a cave of old legend.

Club ‘bangers’ tarted up a bit

Up the track from Little Inverey into the forest, where I’d skied earlier in the year, but this time following it higher up towards Carn na Moine. When it left the woods at some zig-zags, I cut NE along the edge of the woods under the rocky outcrops of Creag a Chait, where there’s a faint path. Eventually I headed a bit higher and past the cave’s location on the map, then down and back to avoid some steep drops and lumpy bits.

Mossy old wall in the forest
Following the edge of the woods, keeping an eye out for anything ‘cavey’
Above where the ‘cave’ is, but need to pass and go back around lower
Aha this looks likely

The Colonel’s Cave is more an overhang than a cave, but there is room to lie down reasonably sheltered with a bit of a wall built around the bottom. Around 1689, the Jacobite fugitive, The “Black Colonel” Farquharson, would have watched his home being burned nearby at Inverey by the troops of William of Orange, likely without the adjacent forestry plot of a more recent age blocking the view. Further up Glen Ey is of course the more often visited Colonel’s Bed in a gorge on the river.

Colonel’s cave
Inside view
View from the hill. Heading over there tomorrow
Beasty has made a wee house in the heather fronds
Back down though the woods
Protected clearing: the logs keep the deer out but will eventually decay naturally
Riverside sunset
The Dee behind Muir Cottage
Swarms of these flies

The next morning it was off and rolling through a sun-dappled Glen Quoich, enjoying whizzing along until “Mount Fucksake” (nickname given to the ridiculous uphill bit of track that ‘repaired’ a section lost to the river)

Past the Linn of Quoich
Whizzy dappled track
Over ‘Mount Fucksake’ and getting a view to Beinn a Bhuird
Towards Allt na Beinne
Hairy wriggly
Following the path up
I imagine this would be a fun ascent instead for a summer day
Beinn Mheadhoin to the NW

A look at what lies further upstream as it eases off in gradient

I diverged from the path to have a look at 2 shelters, the first beside the path at An Diollaid, the second higher up and further off-path being a cross-shaped structure.

An Diollaid shelter
Higher shelter at NO 074 980

The short heather here was speckled with colour – trailing azalea in bloom

I headed back across to the burn and got in amongst the snow, too gentle contours to allow for any tunnels of note, but hiding a ptarmigan which I almost stood on (it gurgled disapprovingly)

Upper Allt na Beinne
Displeased ptarmigan on the move from a hollow beside the snow

I rejoined the ‘tourist path’ and made my way around the corries, promising to return below and explore them soon (far more interesting than the flat plateau). I expressed this view to a hiker from down south who popped up suddenly at the top (embarrassingly so as I was making childlike tweeting noises to some snow buntings there) and who was ticking off this and Ben Avon but was unimpressed; I rolled my eyes as there’s a lot more to both these mountains than the ‘walkhighlands’ path of least resistance.

Around the corrie
Very big cornice still there

Wandering north had me in some gently curving terrain of Coire Leum an Easaich, large snow patches present but again not enough angularity to form tunnels.

Some long sweeps of snow on the north side
Snow algae visible
No more snow. Heading east to the next stream

I contoured around to Allt Stob an t-Sluichd where things got more interesting, the burn was in a more defined gully and steeper, and the occasional ceiling hole in the snow or break in cover allowed some careful access to some quite big chambers.

More ‘alpine’ flooers
Climbed down from the entrance into a chamber
Entry via hole in ‘roof’ chipped a body-sized entry notch at near side with a poo-trowel
Rocks, Water and snow
Got quite soaked here but warm outside will soon dry off
Some impressive ‘caverns’
Back out in the sun and following downstream
Back upstream and looking west

A stiff climb up the side of Stob an t-Sluichd in the blustering wind soon had me dried out, but also teetering on the boulders at the top. I followed the row of tors south and came across a spread of wreckage from an old air crash. There’s a plaque nearby noting this sad event of the past, the plane had crashed in winter but had not been found for many months such is the remoteness of the area; it had claimed 5 fatalities with one initially surviving the crash but succumbing soon afterwards.

Stob an t-Sluichd top, very windy and bouldery
Following clumps of rock south
Textures of decay from a harsh environment
RIP to the aircrew

Surprisingly I bumped into another stravaiger out for a long day out from Tomintoul, he had time to spare and a decent DSLR with him: I directed him to the snow tunnels nearby. I hope he found them and wonder if he got some cracking results with that camera (get in touch if that was you).

Onwards south I headed past Cnap a Chleirich where a burn tips over into the corrie, there’s a hollow here that in winter I’d noticed had a huge cornice, and sure enough into summer it still held deep snow. Today it wasn’t accessible to enter but would likely be so in a few weeks (re-visited and spectacular, 3 weeks later). I also had a look the gentler east fork which had some good flowers blooming in it’s marshy surrounds.

South side gently sloping
Clear waters below sweeping curves

I wasn’t sure if following the burn down the steep side was a goer, but it was ok, rocky/gravelly and the gradient opened up caves into the snow albeit precarious to access at times.

Gully with a lot of snow held
Around and back up to the ‘face’ for a look
Deep snow but not much of a tunnel, however this will likely be good in a few weeks (it was!)
Steeper downstream, stream plunging down
Marsh marigolds? Certainly very marshy terrain
Dubh Lochain looks to still have a wee bit of ice
large steep cavern entered cautiously
Wouldn’t want to slip down there
Around to a hole lower down to look up
The first 1’45 are from this day’s trip, remainder from Ben Avon / Lochnagar
End of the snow
Descent steepening. Sticking to the west side seemed best

I headed down the path from Clach A Cleirich, then west under Carn Fiaclach, chatting to a chap who’d just seen a harrier hunting. I could see above that Allt an t-Sneachda had some good snow and likely tunnels but I wasn’t going to ascend more today.

Following the burn to the Clach a Cleirich
Looking back
Laird’s table cloth on south side of the mountain
Through the woods

I collected the bike and rolled down the sparkling Quoich, and back to Muir, a long day at 51km but a major step forward in getting to know locations of snow tunnels in the east Cairngorms

Looking back up to the “Laird’s Tablecloth” snow patch

Walking back to Braemar, I noticed this old memorial/well? beside the road. I hitched a lift as far as Aboyne with a fellow camper, nice to chat on the way back.

A well or a memorial?

Further info on the “Toba Mhoire” well: canmore, Aberdeenshire council

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