Bynack More, The Cairngorms Range, Scotland
Words: Walter Marsh
Photos: Sia Duff
Away from the skiers and boaters around Aviemore, the route up Bynack More is one of the Cairngorms’ less trafficked walks, one that’ll let you forget you’re in primo highland holiday country. Winding up from the main car park in Glenmore, you may find your dreams of Narnia-esque woodland slightly deflated as the path through the Queen’s Forest is bordered by large swathes of logging. Clear that though, and the trees soon thin out of their own accord as the path gradually snakes up to Meall a' Bhuachaille, an 810 metre Corbett topped by a giant (and conveniently wind-breaking) “cairn”, or mound of rough stones.
Over the hill there’s the cosy-looking Ryvoan bothy, and although tempting to put your feet up and read the pencilled graffiti, it’s probably best to push on because really, Meall a' Bhuachaille is just the starter. Once you trod on east of the bothy you’ll find all the dog walkers and ciggie-puffing tracksuiters quickly disappear.
You’re never really alone though. Ptarmigans (snow chickens, essentially) make fairly regular cameos and announce themselves with perhaps one of the most ungainly birdcalls going around.
From there it’s a gradual walk through low scrub and heather, dotted by small ponds, streams and the occasional abandoned mountain bike. But there’s plenty to keep your jaw dropping as you rise higher and higher above the valley.
We headed out on a pretty sunny mid-April day, leaving enough snow to make things postcard-y without running the risk of any nightmares. Trekking up above the valley, the remnants of last night’s snow begin to appear, a white front gradually retreating back up the mountain. Pretty soon, though, those early glimpses are thoroughly trumped by the snow-capped Bynack More itself.
Being without hardcore trekking gear, and still a little green when it came to trudging through a mountain’s worth of snow, we stuck to the footprints left by the lone pair of slightly more weathered walkers we bumped into on the way up.
Their makeshift path spiralled up and around each of the ridge’s successive peaks until we found ourselves at the Munro’s (Scottish mountain) summit, standing 1090 metres up and looking across at the summits of Ben Macdui and Cairngorm. Just down the other side are some apparently iconic rock formations, but given the rate the snow was melting we opted to scramble back down the way we came.
Even in the hour or so spent on the final climb, much of the snow we passed through had cleared by the time we made the long, slow descent back down, desperately hoping the ice hadn’t soaked through to our socks.
Passing south of the bothy this time, the trees grow thicker as you dip down the valley to Lochan Uaine. A long oval of green water backed by a granite cliff face, Lochan Uaine is a convergence point for many of the criss-crossing paths whose starting points dot the main road up to the Cairngorm ski slopes.
Which, handily, leaves you with a few options depending on how knackered you are. To break up all the downhill action we picked another brisk forest climb which, after crossing paths with a few cute dogs to pat, opened up out the back of a reindeer farm within a few minutes walk of our starting point."
This post originally appeared in a slightly different form over on Left Foot Right Foot, a repository of ultra-casual walking guides for Australia and the world. In addition to their nice-looking website, they're also on Facebook and Instagram, if they're more your bag.
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