A bit of a strange one yesterday. I was over in the Cairngorms again, this time to make ascents of Bynack More, Bynack Beg and A' Choinneach. It's approximately a 20 km round trip from Glenmore Lodge, the majority of it is on good paths. The weather forecast was very favourable, with light winds, a freezing level of around 3000 feet and a cloud base above the majority of the summits. All went well on the walk up Bynack More. A great wee hill, especially if you stick religiously to the apex of the North Ridge. Here exposed rocks and small pinnacles provide good sport and, coupled with some 'step cutting' practise on it's lower slopes, makes for a memorable day out in it's own right and is like a mini alpine ridge. I paused for a while on the summit to take in the views of the Cairngorm plateau. Ben Macdui had lost it's summit to the cloud base and the light was flat and left views dull and uninspiring. There wasn't a breath of wind and it felt oppressive and eriee. Another walker appeared out of nowhere and we exchanged pleasantries before he headed back to Glenmore, while I descended past the Barns of Bynack and onward to A'Choinneach. It was while I was traversing this ground that I became aware of the silence that surrounded me. Apart from the 'crunch' of my footsteps on neve, there was nothing. No wind noise, no animal or bird sound. weird, I thought to myself.
It's a relatively short journey between the two summits (this is probably a reason why A' Choinneach has been dropped from Munro's list). There are a couple of cairns on it's summit plateau and I'm sure the smaller of the two is the one that marks the true summit. It's a quite uninspiring mountain, but the views across Loch Avon to the giant cliffs of the Shelter Stone Crag and Carn Etchachan are spectacular (although not on this occasion, due to the poor light) and would be worth the extra effort. With recent thaws and no precipitation, the dark, brooding cliffs were in stark contrast to the white snows of the plateau. Not much hope for any climbers hoping to get on Sticil Face or Route Major, I thought. I took some photos and then headed for Bynack Beg. Again, this was an easy walk, mostly on flat ground, with good, hard snow. I took delight of jumping across the summit rocks, just as one would across Adam and Eve, the summit rocks of the most majestic of Welsh mountains, Tryfan.
I opted to descent into the deep valley of Strath Nethy via Bynack Beg's NW spur and was surprised to find evidence of others using this feature as a descent. All too soon I was in the bottom of the glen, facing a 7km walk back to Glenmore and the first part of it was very boggy! I wasn't keen on the place and it would be a serious place to be in poor conditions, as place is definite 'terrain trap' for avalanches. Friends have told me harrowing stories of people getting into difficulty and walking out through Strath Nethy, as well as mountain rescue searches taking place here. It must have been horrendous.
By now it was late afternoon and it was a weary walk along the track to the van. Again I was aware that there was complete silence. no wind, no bird sounds, just the crunch of my boots on the gravel. It was really spooky, especially as I never met anyone else on the path. I wondered whether World War 3 had kicked off and everyone was dead, or aliens had abducted everyone. (Un) fortunately, this wasn't the case as Aviemore was as busy as usual.