Distance: 22 miles
Time: 9 hours
OS Map: 43, 36, 37
Under leaden skies nineteen brave walkers of the hills (including a good number of guests) were deposited at Keiloch, just short of Braemar, for a short stroll over (or around) Ben Avon (or A’an to confuse any visiting Trossachers).
After passing Invercauld house the group split (deliberately), with the majority heading towards the high plateau and summit of Ben Avon. The others chose a lower, slightly shorter route which would eventually get them to the Allargue Arms an hour before those who would brave the heights.
The Munroists began with a walk through Gleann an t-Slugain, moving from a broad landrover track up to a narrow path through jumbled rocks, chattering waterfalls and scree slopes. Here the going was good, although the mugginess in the air soon drove the layers off.
Tea was taken at the head of the glen, sitting amongst the tumbled rocks surrounding the ruin which proved to be an atmospheric sight between the mist shrouded hills.
From here we picked our way around a broad glen which had views over to the increasingly wild slopes of Beinn A’ Bhuird. Hopes were high at this time as it seemed the clouds might finally lift and now the streams, swollen by melting snow, seemed the only obstacle between us and the summit of Ben Avon. One of these in particular was quite a torrent and more than a few people got damp feet as they picked their way across the slippery rocks.
Now our way led up the deep glen between Ben Avon and Beinn A’ Bhuird, following the Glas Allt Mor which still had deep snow covering its course. Lunch was taken at the top of this long slope at the Sneck where as sandwiches were consumed, the spectacular cliffs of Beinn A’ Bhuird’s eastern corrie emerged from the swirling clouds. To our east, the flanks of Ben Avon clung on to their covering of cloud, the near edge of the summit plateau a guessed-at point somewhere above us.
Half an hour after leaving the Sneck, picking our way up the scree covered slopes of the mountain, we emerged onto the vast plateau, a strange high land of undulating hills capped with great granite tors. Across the wild slopes, populated only by the Ptarmigan it seemed, was the tallest tor of all; the summit of Ben Avon. Measured at 1171m high, to be officially bagged the last few meters up the tor have to be climbed. Luckily it was only a short scramble up the coarse rocks to catch the view.
Here above the clouds it was a beautiful day and it took some effort to dissuade people from lying back on the warm rock and soaking up some rays. With another ten miles between us and the pub there wasn’t time for excessive stoppages and so we headed off, now crossing the plateau, winding our way between peaks and tors, sliding down a steep, snow covered slope and taking in the fine vistas of this grand area.
Our way led us to the northern slopes of the Ben Avon plateau where far below we could discern the fine house at Inchrory besides the broad waters of the Avon. It was a steep and knee-knackering descent down a stalkers track, amidst stone and heather, which brought us to the waterside where a final tea break was held. Here Doug threatened to report us to the Mountain Council for Scotland, claiming cruelty to hillwalkers and a dangerously low number of tea breaks.
With a broad track in front of us and the promise of a pub, the last half dozen miles were covered at a good pace, the land becoming increasingly more civilised as we made our way alongside the River Don, eventually trudging our way down the tarmac road to where the coach waited close to Corgoff Castle.
Those who arrived first discarded boots and made their way up the hill to the Allargue Arms for their well deserved pintage, whilst the rear guard took the bus. By any reckoning, whether high or low, Munro or not, it had been a long but rewarding day.