Monday 25 July 2016

Cloudy Cairngorms: A Walk Up Bynack More

Strath Nethy, looking towards a distant Bynack More

A rare visit from my London-living brother Steve led to a walk in weather that could be considered dull as the skies were cloud-covered and the light flat. The hills were mostly clear though and the fast moving skies were dramatic with complex cloud patterns in every shade from black to white. And black and white seemed best for the photos too, bringing out the skies. The colours, mostly green, were dark and subdued anyway.

On Steve's last visit we went up Ben Macdui. This time I chose Bynack More, partly for the very different landscape and the lovely approach through the pine forests of Glenmore and the Pass of Ryvoan and partly because the forecast suggested any cloud clearance would come late in the day and would be brief. There might be rain too. Being a pointed peak not that much time is spent up high on Bynack More. That seemed appropriate for the weather.

As always the magnificent old pines and the renegerating forest raised my spirits on the walk to Strath Nethy where I noted that the few trees here - there were none not so long ago - were flourishing. The forest is returning to once sheep-cropped land.

Bynack More & Bynack Beg

The air was warm and humid, making for sticky walking as we began the real climbing up onto the broad northern shoulder of the mountain. Ahead the graceful curve between Bynack More and Bynack Beg held the eye. As you approach it looks like a fine sweeping ridge. It's not. That's an illusion. Once high on the mountain it vanishes, leaving wide stony slopes between the two summits.

As we climbed the air changed. Quite abruptly there was a cool breeze and a fresh feel. The effort of the ascent kept us warm but as soon as we reached the summit the wind dried the sweat and we needed to don jackets. The view was dramatic though with surging clouds over Ben Macdui and Beinn Mheadhoin. The wild heart of the Cairngorms.

The view from Bynack More

We descended over Bynack Beg and down to Strath Nethy. Again there was a sudden change. The wind vanished and the air was immediately muggy. My jacket felt stifling and was soon back in my pack. The promised late clearance in the weather hadn't happened. Just touches of blue sky that vanished almost immediately. Then as we were walking back through the Pass of Ryvoan late in the evening the setting sun cut across the land and a streak of hillside glowed gold under pink-tinged clouds. The moment was gone as quickly as it appeared, just a brief reminder of the difference sunshine makes.

Finally a touch of late sunshine


  1. Chris,
    As one of your fans from the U.S., I don't know what to make of fact that donations apparently must be denominated in Pounds instead of U.S. Dollars. Does this take care of itself later in the process?

  2. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for your support. The dollar/pound conversion should be automatic.