Bynack More

 

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We started off our walk at 7am from the Glenmore Lodge where there is limited parking but at that time of the morning we were the first people there. We set off this early because we wanted to catch the sunrise and the glorious colours. This meant starting in the dark. We walked with head torches for about 20 minutes by then there was enough light to see the wide track, the track stays wide and easy-going until the bridge over the Neathy, from this point the path starts to climb, the trees gradually thin and then disappear as the snow line creeps over the heather. The going was not difficult but the weather was not going to provide a sunrise to make headlines.

There was some pink light over Bynack More, where we were heading, but the top was obscured by clouds. The climb became more strenuous as we climbed, gradually we climbed into the cloud, it became colder and with the mist my glasses started to freeze, this did not detract from seeing the grouse that would flush out of the heather as we approached.

The last 900metres were the most difficult as we took the northern route, we had ice sheets to climb over as well as many boulders to clamber over. Good practice for Jamie and his ice-axe. In places the snow drifts were deep enough to reach the knee and it felt like we were real mountaineers. Once again my equipment worked well, the Salomon boots were great as is the North Face jacket, however by the summit I was ruing not having bought new liners for the thin Sealskin gloves I was wearing. The cloud limited visibility, but out of the wind the snow dampens all the noise and it was very peaceful – albeit very cold. We had a bit to eat, cereal bars for me again, still the water was not frozen, as the visibility was so poor it was not worth lingering.

Our route

After bagging my second Munroe we retraced our steps back down to the valley. We saw Ptarmigan on the way down, very interesting birds, they were like large partridges and they were changing to their winter plumage, surprisingly it was possible to get really close to them. We met half a dozen walkers on the way up as we descended. As we finally dropped down below the snow line my hands started to warm up, the weather was improving slowly, and we walked along the An Lochan Uaine – a loch which looks an emerald shade of green encapsulated with hills peppered with Scots pines – a soul warming end to the day.

In all it took us 6 hours to complete the walk/climb.

My first Munro

Jamie and I set off at 7am, in the dark from Aberdeen, heading for the Cairngorms. After driving for about two hours on quiet roads, we got to the car park at the bottom of the Cairngorm funicular. The car park is large and there were a few motorhomes up here. At 9:30 we started up the mountain to look for Jamie’s path which he had to inspect for damage.  Jamie has undertaken to become a volunteer for the mountain area of the Cairngorms and as part of his training, he was given the task of inspecting a path. The climb was a steep path covered with drifting snow. The morning was bright and clear, but we were walking in the shadow of the mountain – the sun is low in the sky at this time of year this far North. Sunrise and sunset are 30 minutes later and earlier compared to where we used to live in Marlow.

Our route
Jamie Vince – my guide and photographer

Towards the top we came into the sunlight which was wonderful as the views opened up, however the wind was also building and the wind chill was going up – our guess was that it was in the region of -12 to -18℃.

As we went over the ridge the wind was really howling probably at 50mph gusts, sometimes it was hard to stand up. Jamie was on a mission, or is it just his age that makes him seem faster and more agile? He took plenty of photos, sadly the path was not visible so inspecting it was not possible.

At the ridge Stob Coire an t-Sneachda we saw some climbers topping out, they commented that the snow was blowing upwards for them as they ascended. From here we could see Cairn Gorm, a munro which Jaime had already bagged.  The weather was clear and Jaime decided it would be good to get to the top of Carin Gorm since the last time he had been there with Izzy it had been cloudy. My hands were freezing by this point but the rest of me was fine (mostly) so we decided to drop down and then make the ascent. This was fairly trivial at this point.

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On reaching the top we sheltered behind the weather station and had something to eat, I was only able to eat energy bars, not my cheese sandwich, because not only were my hands frozen, but the cheese sandwich was probably also frozen. But I had bagged my first Munroe!

We then descended down to the funicular station, which also houses a restaurant selling all kinds of crappy food – chips, pies, sausages, etc. and a gift shop with an xmas market. It was a very strange experience having just come from a wind swept mountain and the effort it had taken to reach the summit to be suddenly confronted with people shopping! I bought Jamie a coffee and then noticed I had lost my sealskin hat, fortunately we were going down next. The cost of going down on the funicular was £10 each, so we decided to walk. The walk turned out to be down a blue ski run back to the car park, so was quite easy and as we were going down, the temperature and wind started to ease. We got back to the car park at about 3pm, and at the bottom station the staff reported they had not seen my hat, but took my details in case it came down at the end of the day.

We headed back to drop our stuff off at the Youth Hostel in Aviemore and then into town to purchase a replacement hat. I decided to get a different type of hat, rather than a beanie hat, so that should they find it, I would then have a choice, so I chose a Sealskin hat with ear flaps, which might fit under my cycle helmet.

Since we had some time, Jamie took me to a Loch where he had previously camped with Izzy.  There is an abandoned castle on an island on the loch and as we were walking, I got a call to tell me they had found my hat and I could collect it the following day.

After our walk we went back to the hostel where I had a shower and spoke to Lisa, before going for dinner at the Old Bridge Inn.   We both ordered braised feather blade of beef – this was excellent and the first time I’ve had this cut of beef, I was won over!  For pudding I had spiced creme brûlée with a raspberry and Campari sorbet which was also lush. To end the meal we ordered a single malt whiskey from the Abel Lour distillery – I was not taken with this – to me it tasted like a blended whiskey.

Then it was back to the hostel where we played pool, Jamie won twice and then we went to bed at about 9pm, Jamie in his single room and me in my dorm with 4 other guys.