Bynack More seen from Beinn Mheadhoin
Bynack More, 1090m
Bynack More is located north-east in the Cairngorm mountain range, and is #54 on the Munro list. Seen from the north, Bynack More looks quite majestic with a characteristic steep, rocky and narrow north ridge. The summit consists of a large amount of rocks, and just south of the summit, you will find fascinating rock features, indicated on the map as the "Barns of Bynack".
The access route from the north runs from the Bynack Stable, at the end of the long forest road from the Glenmore Lodge near Loch Morlich. The access route from south-west runs from "The Saddle", which is the saddle between Cairn Gorm and Bynack More. Neither of these routes offer any technical difficulties, but I would imagine an axe could come in handy on the north ridge under icy conditions.
Those collecting peaks on the "Top list" will also visit Bynack Beg (964m), located just north-west of Byncack More. Bynack Beg looks quite insignificant when seen from the main summit. From the Bynack Stable, however, Bynack More and Bynack Beg look quite majestic, towering high above the Strath Nethy valley. Bynack Beg is a little outside the regular hiking routes, but is reached with minimal effort and time. Another collector's item is A Choinneach (1017m), located south-west of Bynack More. You pass this hill when coming from "The Saddle".
Beinn Mheadhoin, 1182m
Beinn Mheadhoin is Britain's 13th highest mountain, and is located SW of Bynack More, on the south side of the river Avon. The mountain connects to Ben Macdui via the pass at loch Etchachan. A popular route to this mountain runs from Cairn Gorm, down to loch Avon via Coire Raibeirt and to the summit via loch Etchachan. This route reveals dramatic scenery from Ben Macdui's eastern side.
The summit of Beinn Mheadhoin is a big tor, which looks hard to climb for the average hiker, when seen from the south. You will however find a good access route (minor handhold required) on the north side of the summit block.
Instead of returning the same way, hike down the north slopes on the mountain, down to the river Avon. If you started out from the Cairngorm ski-centre, then From the river, you have several options: a) Follow loch Avon back to Coire Raibert and climb to Cairn Gorm. b) Climb Cairn Gorm via a route from "The Saddle" (route not indicated on maps), c) Follow Strath Nevy valley to the Glenmore Lodge d) Hike to Glenmore Lodge via Bynack More from "The Saddle".
Bynack More's primary factor towards the higher Cairn Gorm is 283m. The saddle is named, interestingly enough, "The Saddle", at the south end of Strath Nethy valley, and just north of Loch Avon. The saddle height is given as 807m on the 1:25000 map.
A Choinneach's primary factor towards the higher Bynack More is 77m. The saddle is defined as 940m on the 1:25000 map.
Beinn Mheadhoin's primary factor towards the higher Ben Macdui is 257m. The saddle is just north of loch Etchachan, and is interpolated to 925m. The last adjacent 10m contour lines are 930m.
For trail descriptions, refer to the comprehensive and well-written Scotland mountain books. Recommended reading for those interested in exploring the Cairngorms, is "The Cairngorms" by Adam Watson (ISBN 0-907521-39-8).
The below trip report should also provide some useful information about the mountains.
This was my third day in the Cairngorm mountains. The day before was a strenuous one, with 9 hours of fast hiking. My feet was quite sore. so I decided to go for something easy. The plan was a hike over Cairn Gorm, up to Beinn Mheadhoin, and back again. In contrast to the previous days, the mist hung over the mountains. But I suspected it would clear up during the day.
I left the ski-centre at 09:40AM and headed up the trail towards Cairn Gorm, for the second time in three days. Last time, it took me 55 minutes to the summit. But today, I felt it went significantly slower. When I arrived the train station below the summit, I could barely spot it until I was next to it. On the other side of the train station, it was bright sunshine. What a contrast. I hiked up to the Cairn Gorm summit, and to my surprise, it took exactly 55 minutes. The view from the top was grand. The summit of Beinn Mheadhoin was above the mist. So was the Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui and Braeriach summits. I felt like I was on top of the world. And I was alone. An April Tuesday is not the busiest of days.
I headed down towards the gully that led down to Loch Avon. It wasn't *really* steep, but I knew it would feel relentlessly steep going up this way. Arriving the lake was like reaching a small paradise. I was all alone down here, there were sandy beaches, and the mist was lifting. I tested my balance on rocks across the river outlet, saving considerable time going up towards the waterfall. I found no trail leading towards Beinn Mheadhoin, but the terrain was easy enough to hike in. In the saddle between Beinn Mheadhoin and Carn Etchachan, I studied the slope up to Carn Etchachan. It looked awfully steep, but could work out as a return route. Then I would save some vertical meters, and come up near Ben Macdui. I had already hiked down from Ben Macdui, so the terrain was familiar. The sun had now become a killer. I had already obtained a significant sunburn from my two previous days in the mountains, and I had everything in my backpack, except sunscreen. I had to put on headband and fleeze neck to prevent further sunburns. The sweat was pouring down, but that was the price I had to pay.
I took a straight line towards Beinn Mheadhoin summit, and when I came on top of the plateau, I got concerned when I saw the summit rock (tor). It looked like a class 5-something climb. Fortunately, it was easily accessible from the back side. I reached the summit 13:30PM. At the summit, I changed the plan. I decided to explore the north side of the summit. If I could get down to Loch Avon again, I could climb Cairn Gorm through a steep route that seemed possible. The descent down to the lake was easy enough, but when I arrived the river Avon, it was clear that the river needed to be waded. The river was quite cold, and a rock half-way across saved me from cramps.
However cold, the water was good for my feet, and I felt reborn once on the other side. I decided to extend the hike to include Bynack More. Then hike back down to "The Saddle" before I would take on Cairn Gorm. I left "The Saddle" at 14:40PM and reached A Choinneach at approx. 15:00PM. Bynack More suddenly seemed so far away. And my feet started to hurt, seriously. I made the decision to descend the Bynack More north ridge and gain the trail from Derry Lodge to Glenmore Lodge. It would be a long hike, but at least I wouldn't have to climb Cairn Gorm for the second time in one day.
I reached Bynack More summit at 15:30PM, and the road ahead looked insane long. I could barely see the valley between Meall a' Bhuachaille and Creag nan Gall that would take me to the Glenmore Lodge. I saw the trail from Derry Lodge clearly on the plateau below me, but I decided to hike down a gully following the river Allt a' Choire Dhuibh. I assumed there was a good trail down the gully, but there wasn't. Some deer paths, at best. I cursed myself for not sticking to the main trail. But once down in Strath Nethy, I got on a good trail that led all the way to Bynack Stable. By now, my feet were *really* aching. I promised myself a rest day the following day. But the scenery along the Bynack Stable - Glenmore Lodge road was magnificient. I'd never seen scenery like this in Scotland. It looked like California landscape. I reached Glemore Lodge at 17:00PM, and was a bit surprised to see cars and a paved road. I thought I had to hike all the way down to the main road. I "collapsed" in front of the lodge, switched on the cellular (praying for coverage) and called the taxi service. The words "All right, mate. Be there in five!" was music to my ears. A cold beer and a shower was awaiting. This is good living!
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