Last Monday I climbed Beinn a’Bhuird in the Cairngorms. I camped in Glen Quoich on the Sunday evening beforehand to break up the long 33km walk and give myself an early start the next day. The path and easy gradient from Glen Quoich up the mountain makes for straightforward walking and I was on the enormous summit plateau of Beinn a’Bhuird before 9am. The weather was cold and windy with a cloudbase at an altitude of about 1100m, the same as the plateau. I think it was the coldest July walk I have ever done, and hat, gloves and gore-tex jacket were necessities.
During breaks in the cloud cover I had good views of the western Cairngorms, and some large remnant snowfields were visible on the eastern slopes of Ben Macdui (photo here). The Ciste Mhearaidh snowfield I wrote about in my last blog posting (‘Even more about climate change and walking in the mountains (zzzzz…)‘) was also visible near the summit of Cairn Gorm. I also had a great view of the granite tors on Ben Avon.
I have climbed Beinn a’Bhuird once before in 1996, and the main reason for this second trip was to visit the sites of of two aircraft crashes from World War 2 (see my previous blog posting ‘My macabre interest‘), that are high up on the mountain. The first site was of an Airspeed Oxford that crashed in January 1945 and is less than an hour’s walk north-east across the plateau 3km from the North Top of Beinn a’Bhuird at 1197m (although it’s not much of a summit, more like a random rocky point on an extensive level plain), amongst the granite tors of Stob an t-Sluichd. Some large parts of the aircraft remain at the site, including the two engines (photo here). A memorial plaque to the aircrew who were killed in the crash was affixed to a boulder near the site in 2005. The second wreck site was just off the plateau, about 1km south of the South Top of Beinn a’Bhuird on a ridge called Bruach Mhor, where a Vickers Wellington crashed in October 1940. This site is particularly impressive as the aircraft made a crater when it crashed which is still visible as a scar on the side of the mountain (photo here), although most of the aircraft wreckage has now been removed. You can see all the photographs I took of the two wreck sites on my website here.
Being on the mountain so early in the day means that the potential to view wildlife is good (as no other walkers have scared any away) and I saw loads of red deer and ptarmigan on this walk. I also saw a civilian helicopter and a F3 Tornado jet above Glen Quoich. On the drive home through Linn of Dee I also saw a red squirrel by the side of the road.