Ben Avon GM/ES-006 Beinn a'Bhuird GM/ES-004

Unlocking Two Cairngorm Giants

Firstmost, let me get this out of the way. My view is that Ben Avon (pronnounce Ben A’an) is best climbed from Tomintoul. A long easy cycle followed by a magnificent traverse across the vast plateau from east to west, strolling amongst the giant tors, the last one being the summit - Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidh.
And Beinn a’Bhuird is best approached from Glen Quoich, with its native Scots Pine forest and heathery sloped hills.

However, the route I will describe below allows both summits to be climbed in a 9 hour day, using a bike for part of the way.

The film is worth a watch. It describes the beautiful mountain scenery far better than I can in words.

Saturday 15th May 0715 BST saw me set off from the Keiloch walkers car park, just off the A93 east of Braemar. I used the bike for around an hour to gain the far side of the “fairy glen” at the top of Gleann an t-Slugain, a distance of around 8km. I made the mistake of heading into the fairy glen, determined to find the secret howff (shelter/bothy) that is concealed amongst the limestone crags of this area. It meant pushing the bike for a bit and I still didn’t find the howff.

In the fairy glen

Riding out of the top of the fairy glen saw me re-join the main track. I decided to ditch the bike at a fork NO 116 957. This would allow me the option of returning via the south east shoulder of the South Top of Beinn a’Bhuird, although I wasn’t even sure I’d climb it at this stage, the cloud being pretty low in the glen. Cairngorm plateaux are no fun in mist.

Heading north, an initially boggy quad track soon joined with an excellent footpath coming up from Glen Quoich. This led up towards The Sneck at a reasonable gradient for most of the way. The Sneck is the high col or bealach that sits at 986m, allowing access to both hills.


Looking north west from The Sneck

From there it was a steeper pull up the shoulder of Ben Avon and the summit plateau was soon gained. It was still misty at this point, but the clouds magically parted as I approached the summit mount, it topped by a granite tor - the true summit.

The tor can be gained from its north east side and a simple scramble leads to the top. It had taken me three hours thus far.

I had thought of planting my 20m vertical up on top of the tor, but I had passed a couple of walkers on the way up, and thought it would be a bit rude to block access. (As it happened the walkers eventually appeared just as I was finished operating!)

I considered carefully where to set up the station, keen to keep within 25m vertical of the summit! I ended up erecting the inverted V (linked for 40/20m) on the slopes to the north of the tor, with the dipole facing a south east direction. Propogation would be compromised, but not NVIS. The screengrab of my mapping app. shows that I was within the 25m vertical limit, with a few metres to spare.


I spotted myself using SOTLAS with the decent 4G signal, thereafter working eighteen stations on 40m SSB in quick succession, best DX being EA2CKX and IK2LEY, with regular chasers G0RQL and EA2DT appearing in the log. Spain is a hard graft with the dipole, the end fed W3EDP having delivering much stronger tx and rx in the past. Of course it needs a tuner, un-un and common-mode choke, excess weight I was not prepared to carry today.

I packed up and headed back to The Sneck, now under clearing skies.

From the col, it was initially a steep pull on gravelly soils, but the angle soon eased and I found myself on the summit plateau of Beinn a’Bhuird, at a top named Cnap a’Cheirich.

1500m away was the summit. All that blocked the way was a few snowfields, some tundra and, as it turned out, a bog. Ptarmigan were wandering about here, their transformation to summer plumage almost complete.

The summit isn’t short on space for operating! One would probably be in the 25m limit anywhere in a square kilometre!

I set up around 100m west of the cairn, same set up as before. I was intending to work on 20m, but tuning to this band, I could only hear QRO stations, so 40m it was.

My SOTLAS/4G spot was followed by a 30 second pause, a CQ call and a pile up. QSB was an issue this time, but I worked fourteen stations, mainly UK, but with Spain, Belgium and France going in the log, as well as three or four who’d worked me on the first summit too. Thanks Chaps!

The descent was the part of the day I was most looking forward to. Beinn a’Bhuird has dramatic corries and they were still heavily corniced in places. The summit plateau also yields life in the summer, with micro flora and colour to be seen. Not yet though…

Views over to the Lairig Ghru and its mountains were also impressive.

I climbed around the side of the South Top and this led to snowfields and a somewhat stony descent. However, I soon spotted a stalkers path, which led down the flank of Carn Fiaclach and across the glen floor. The crossing of the Quoich Water proved problematic. I would not want to do it with a drop more water in it and I was glad of my walking poles.

Soon enough I was back at the bike and on the move. I took the track that bypassed the fairy glen on higher slopes to its north. I rattled down it ok, but it would have been a bit of riding and a bit of pushing on the way up for sure. I also found the secret howff, but I’m not telling…

In no time, I was down at the car park, and looking at my watch I could see that the entire endeavour had take me nine hours. I probably could have shaved 30 minutes off of this, however I’d picked up a walking companion at the summit of Beinn a’Bhuird, and he made good company on the way down. I also forgot to take any more photos and much video after this point - too busy yapping!

Yaesu ft-857d, lifepo4 battery
7m mast, guy ring and three guys
inverted V linked dipole for 40m and 20m
20m vertical with counterpoise (unused)
Yaesu ft-3d (I called CQ on 145.500FM on both summits, but nothing was heard.)
waterproof pad and pencil for logging

Personal kit:
Ice axe (unused)
walking poles
first aid kit
Portable shelter (bothy)
spare fleece, gloves, hat
MemoryMaps on android phone
Garmin GPS with mapping
OS 1:50,000 map and a compass
Food and water

In all, a grand day out in perfect climbing conditions, with no wind. 24 miles in all. The activations went well and I’m pretty pleased with my biggest SOTA expedition to date. Several of the stations thanked me for activating the summits, which were “new ones” for them. However, I suspect I was pretty much following in the footsteps of Mountain Goat @GM0GAV , the last person to activate these summits!

Thanks for reading, 73!



Many thanks for the report, A Grand Day Out indeed. In my limited experience so far I’m rapidly learning about some of the epic chasers. I’ve only done two summits but both involved a QSO with Don, once in my old guise of M7WIV and another recently under my new name. I thought that was perhaps because he is local to down here in the SW but I realise now his arm is longer! :slight_smile:



good report and well done getting round these two. Identical route to me - Keiloch car park and bike to top of Gleann an t-Slugain.

I did these with my XYL Margaret, what I do remember was a run in with an Adder just after we started cycling back out. I was in front, spotted the adder and dodged it as it disappeared into the heather. But then for some strange reason it came back out and crossed the track causing XYL panic and running over its tail end! It could have been a different snake, either way it seemed to have survived and disappeared. Margaret was in no mood to find out how the snake was, she wanted to get out of there!

73 Gavin

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Many thanks for the activation. I know that GM/ES-004, as well as the summit itself, provided quite a few WAB members, (including myself!) with their first contact with WAB square NJ00.

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Many thanks for the truly excellent report Fraser and, of course, the contacts as well. Very much appreciated as they are potential Completes if I manage to get back up to stay in the area. I just don’t know how you manage to do what you do and cope with producing a video as well. I’ve never aspired to that in over 500 summits - it’s enough just remembering to take photographs when appropriate. :grinning:

73, Gerald

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It was great to work you yesterday! As for the videos, I’ve always liked filming stuff. It’s just a lot easier now, with a gopro hero5 session being the size of a squash ball. Hopefully someone will be inspired to climb some hills or indeed take up SOTA if they happen upon them.

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I’m not up to speed on WAB. Should I be, or leave it to any chasers to work out? I can barely remember what maidenhead Square I’m in, although I do try to write this down beforehand if I’m doing a vhf only day.

No Adders Saturday, although I was on the look out for them last Tuesday at White Bridge. A member of the Braemar MRT once told me that area was a hotspot.
In a similar episode to yours, my son nearly ran over one on his bike the last time we climbed Ben Avon, on the long approach track from Tomintoul!

Cools the feet off well though. :sweat_smile:
Last time I was there I was sitting drying my feet when a couple came along and needed to cross. Despite the obvious route involving a wade (and the burn was quite low) he decided to cross by jumping from pile to pile of gravel in the burn and encouraged his YL to do the same - she fell in!! Guess his plans for a romatic evening were rather dampened by that :rofl:

Great walk and brings back many good memories - thanks

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Thanks for the points Frazer and am glad you enjoyed yourself, am also glad I got you on both summits but your setup worked really well, it was as if you were sat in the front room with me having a good old chat.
Best 73 and Thanks

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Thanks Allen, likewise - great to work you twice…and on Tuesday when I was on Ben Brothain!
Having a friendly chat really helps me feel like it’s worthwhile when freezing and getting blown about on top of a mountain. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’d better not talk about that time I led a group of work colleagues from Nethy Bridge to Linn of Dee via the Lairig an Laoigh. The Fords of Avon are memorable for all the wrong reasons :see_no_evil:

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I sometimes get asked for my WAB square (incl once on CW…eeek) so I note it on my logbook, together with the Maidenhead before I head out. Some can be tricky as the Aberdeenshire/Moray border often runs through a summit, so whether ADS or MOR can depend on where you set up.

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The county/unitary authority you are in is irrelevant these days. WAB dropped the division of the 10km squares by these borders 12 years ago, as these kept changing or new ones created. The awards these days are purely based on the grid reference.

To answer Fraser’s previous question, it’s not essential that you have the reference with you, although this can be handy. The WAB square is easily worked out by collectors from the summit information and each morning I do a summary of UK/CD alerts together with the WAB square and associated trig point, if any and this is posted on WAB media.

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Thanks, that’s useful to know. I use Log4OM and it makes a distinction on WAB based on the county, so I assumed that was still relevant.


glad to read your detailed report. With the pictures I think its a good description of your way.
Hope to work you soon.

73 Ludwig

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ES-001 has three authorities - includes Highland as well.
Moray Council could never understand (probably still don’t) that Moray extended further South than Rothes :rage: