Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression


“I’ll be around Ben Avon somewhere” was the parting shot as I left home. The forecast was for two days mixed weather then downhill so with 3 days supplies it was time to head to the ‘gorms for a wander.

I parked at Keiloch & quickly set off up the track towards Invercauld House before heading off on the Tomintoul drove road. Wandering up through the Scots pine then birch woods is quite a relaxing start to the day.

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A little further along the track provided a nice view down Glen Feardar which has provided more than one gentle ambles exploring the long abandoned townships & farm steads.

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Once over the quite blustery Bealach Dearg (between Carn Laith & Culardoch) the expanse of Ben Avon is laid out to the N of Glen Gairn.

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Descending to the FB (NO 172999) across the Gairn I decided to ascend Ben Avon rather than wander the valleys.  I’d noticed a LRT heading up towards Carn Drochaid which looked to provide a ‘new’ ascent route.  The LRT started about 1km downstream & led up past a line of grouse butts to a bealach about 400m E of Carn Drochaid (743m), unexpectedly I noted an old stalkers path, quite faint, off to the W & heading in my direction (shown on 25k maps).

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The path eventually faded away about 1km E of Clach Choutsiach, enjoyed a quick stop by the torr which provided some welcome respite from the wind.

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The stiff SW wind made a high camp somewhat uninviting so I decided to head N & descend to the River Avon, first step in the plan was to head for Stob Bac an Fhurain.

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My original thought was to head over Fhurain to descent NNE towards Clach Bun Rudhtair before swinging NW but I noted a stalker path/ deer trail across the West flank at around 900m which seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  The ‘trail’ proved pretty good at first but then deteriorated rapidly as it traversed above a line of steep crags. It did drop me on Fhurain’s NW slope with a steep but straightforward descent line which provided a good view back to the Beinn a’Bhuird corrie.

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I headed for the stream confluence at ~ NJ 126052 & managed to get across the 3 streams dry shod before following the main stream to the FB across the Avon (NJ 126059). The old stalkers suspension  bridge provided a bit of a bouncy crossing but the wires & planking looked in reasonable condition……& it saved getting wet feet.

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The Faindouran bothy 5km upstream or a good pitch 2km downstream?…..the bothy won out. I had the place to myself, yet again, & it was pleasant to have a solid roof as blustery heavy showers past through.

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Day 2

I exited the bothy into light rain but at least the wind seemed to have lessened; I’d decided to head up the glen, again just making route decisions on the hoof.

After an hour or so I spotted 5 guys across the river heading E traversing the steep heather slopes with all the outside appearance of being ‘lost’.  A bit bemused I shouted a hello & enquired where they were headed. “Following the ridge”, I couldn’t see any ridge but suggested they’d probably find it easier going further up the hill (lower angle slope) & left them to it.

The Ford of Avon refuge was reached about 1km further on, I thought about heading S down the Lairig an Laoigh & checked out the ford which I reckoned was passable dry shod, with the aid of poles.

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I finally decided to continue W to the head of Loch Avon; I did have to make a short stop on the way at the outfall of the loch to take in what I regard as one of the best views in Scotland……….nothing to do but sit for 10min & listen to the breeze blow through the heather.

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At the head of the loch I unexpectedly I met up with a large group of Czech walkers enjoying their lunch & the vagaries of Scottish weather. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, even as the rain came on again, but conversation was limited as their English was basic & my Czech non-existent.

Hit the Shelter Stone for a late lunch………an apt spot on a rainy day.

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I made the ascent up to Loch Etchachan as the weather improved a little but Ben MacDui was still capped with low cloud.

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Decision point; Derry Cairngorm or down past the Hutchie (Hutchison Memorial Bothy)?  My decision to pitch up in upper Glen Derry to avoid the usual plague of midge around Derry Lodge clinched it; down past the Hutchie, easily visible on the glen below.

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After a leisurely stroll down Glen Derry I pitched up early near the upper FB across the Derry (NO 040958), a much used weekenders spot, soft grass & level……luxury.

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It was still only 4:30 & I’d only covered about 20km but with only a gentle breeze the last place I’d wanted to camp was amongst any trees further down the glen & a Friday night in Bob Scott’s was not on the menu (too much traffic). All that was left of the day was to kick back & drink lots of tea in the evenings sunshine un-annoyed by the dreaded midge.

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Day 3

7am & the rain was pounding down, it appeared that the 3 day old forecast was coming to fruition, so I was in no hurry to break camp. I finally got underway close to 9:00 as the skies started to clear a bit. By the time I reached Derry Lodge the rain had given up so time to strip off the waterproofs; inside 10secs the midge were on me, a couple camping nearby could be seen excitedly doing the midge wave, I quickly ran away.

The quickest route back to Invercauld was straight down to the road head but being in no particular hurry & since the sun was now shining I headed off over Clais  Fhearnaig into Glen Quoich; always a pleasant diversion.

The track down the glen has now had some repairs carried out after the 2015 floods but there’s still a short section on the edge of the river that needs a little care to save getting wet feet.  The FB by the Punch Bowl proved to be still barriered off (awaiting inspection) but I crossed it anyway.

Even the final long stretch of LRT alongside the flood meadows back towards Keiloch proved a relaxing stroll.

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Just before Invercauld House I ran into the same 5 guys I’d ‘spoken to’ up on the Avon, it turned out they’re were on a short break over from Holland & despite the mixed weather they seemed to have really enjoyed wandering the ‘gorms for a few days. We chatted for 1/2 hr &  hopefully I managed to give them some ideas for their future outings.

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This entry was posted on July 4, 2016 by in Trip Reports and tagged , , .

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