Having agreed to meet Angus at the Invercauld car park at 0900 I arrived 10 minutes early which gave me just enough time to sort out my kit and look organised before Angus arrived with a minute to spare. As we set out the day sunny though not particularly warm - around 15C.
As far as I could make out most people tackle these hills from Glenn Quoich which is closer to Braemar but we decided to follow the route in from Invercauld via Gleann an t Slugain. This entailed a long steady walk in being passed on the way by cyclists who hoped to get to the mountains more quickly and keep the foot slogging to a minimum. We were contemptuous of this approach – no point going for a walk and then getting on a bike (though on the way back we were a little bit envious).
The walk through the Invercauld estate is straightforward with sign posts pointing the way to Glenn Slugain. Before 30 minutes had passed we had seen an eagle soaring above the cliffs overlooking the road to Braemar. After an hour or so of steady gentle uphill and about 6km into the walk the path we were following split in 2; Angus had been this way before and suggested the lower path was more sceninc and he was right. Following this entered a charming little glen that led up to the ruined lodge marked on the map. In the small stream we followed we could see trout no more than 4 inches long flitting through the clear iron stained pools.
Passing the ruin which judging from the way the roof slates were laid out had never been a completed building, we continued gradually gaining height and before long we had good views of the corrie walls of Beinn a Bhuird directly ahead of us. As we left our wee glen the Allt an t Slugain ends but after a km the bigger Quoich Water leads the path northwards. We would need to cross the Quoich Water onour return journey but for now we kept to the east of the river on a well trodden path that after 3 hours of walking eventually led us up the Glass at Mor onto the col between Ben Avon and Beinn A’ Bhuird. As we arrived we felt a strong wind coming from the north as is was funnelled between the 2 mountains – time to put on a jacket.
Tors on the col between Ben Avon and Beinn A Bhuird and view North
From the col, where the first of the granite tors that litter Ben Avon and the northern part of Beinn A’ Bhuird are encountered, there is a steep climb to the left on an unconsolidated gravelly path that took us onto the Plateau of Ben Avon from where we could see a number of further tors. Given more time it would have been good to wander across the plateau for longer but we limited ourselves to a visit to the high point at Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuide where we finished off Angus’ last sandwich – Smoked Salmon and cream cheese YUM.
Ben Avon for Lunch
Making our way back to the col we had to be careful not to slip going downhill befire climbing up the opposite slope to Beinn A’ Bhuird. So far, apart from the eagle and trout we had seen little wildlife but on Beinn A’ Bhuird we encountered several Ptarmigan at different points. On seeing us they would try to lure us from their young by feigning a broken wing. This might work for predators but for us it was confusing – we didn’t want to unduly upset the adult bird but once it left its young they were near invisible so we had to walk slowly and carefully away.
Beinn A Bhruid and Angus celebrating a Munro
After visiting the North Top we kept close to the corrie edges for fine views of the valley we had come up earlier in the day to our left and towards Ben Macdui and the rest of the Cairngorm massif to our right. Ben Macdui several hundred feet higher than ourselves was covered in cloud and there seemed to be plenty of snow still on her though none at our level except in the shaded corries.
There is a choice of routes off Beinn A’ Bhuird a very distinct path leads to the Llyn of Quoich but we didn’t take this instead we stook to the edge of Coire na Ciche until it led into boulder field and a then the ridge leading to Carn Fiachlach from where there was a thin path leading back down to the Quoich Water. For the crossing of the Water, Angus slipped off his boot and socks and waded across before drying his feet with a towel. As he got ½ way across I charged past him in my Innov8s but was nearly rewarded for my show of bravado by a ducking as I slipped on something soft and very nearly fell. A lesson to be a little bit less of a show-off (pillock) next time.
To get back to the car park we simply retraced our steps of the morning down the Gleann an t Slugain though oddly the path seemed much longer on the way back and has cyclist after cyclist sped past we did start to wonder why we hadn’t brought our bikes. Just before 2000 we finally arrived back at the cars and within minutes we were on the way to the Boat Inn in Aboyne for a well-deserved pint.
Distance 37km; 1440 m ascent