A high arctic plateau

Bynack More (1090m);

  • Pronunciation:            Bie-nack More
  • Translation:                 Big Chimney-pot or (possibly) Big Cap
  • Total distance:             21.6km
  • Total time:                   7hrs 20mins
  • Total ascent:                904m
  • Weather:                      Began rather cloudy then quickly improved. Around mid-morning a massive temperature inversion shrouded all but the highest peaks. Weather on the summit was spectacular: warm with little wind.
  • Start / end location:   Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Centre [Grid Ref: NH 987 095]
  • Map:                              A map of route can be found here– it may take a few moments to load into a separate window.

    Elaine at the summit of Bynack More

The day began rather cold and cloudy, but soon improved into a fine winters day offering the promise of good visibility. We started our walk by following the path northeastwards beyond the Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Centre through the mature pinewoods of the beautiful Ryvoan Pass. The path network around this part of the Glen More Forest Park is excellent and after 2km we passed the crystal clear emerald green waters of An Lochan Uaine.

Black leeches photographed at the waters edge of An Lochan Uain

Ryvoan Pass is a wonderful place to mountain bike – quite rough in places but not too unforgiving. We’ve visited this area many times and cycled the pass on several occasions. The last time we cycled the pass was in June 2010 and we stopped at An Lochan Uaine for a closer look around. We were surprised to find large 8cm long leech-type creatures living around the waters edge. Needless to say we didn’t fancy going in for a dip!

Cameron looking towards Bynack More

Today, however, we walked passed the lochan for another 300m before the path split in two: with the left hand track heading towards Ryvoan bothy and the right hand one signed to Braemar. We took the latter path and headed roughly east for another 1.7km to reach Bynack Stable (a building marked on our paper-based OS map at Grid Ref: NJ 021 105 – but omitted on newer maps).

At Bynack Stable (by the way, there was no building!) we took the left hand path SE and followed the ridgeline up to a high plateau at approximately 750m. This plateau turned out to be a huge expanse of gloriously snow-covered moorland and had a real arctic tundra feeling about it: it felt lonely and desolate, but very impressive.

Elaine approaching the start of the north ridge of Bynack More

The weather up to this point had been constantly improving with all of the summit tops ahead of us clearly visible against an azure blue sky. Behind us, however, to the north and northwest, a darkening sky heralded a change to the weather. This misty weather overtook us as we crossed the high plateau and soon began to obscure all of the surrounding peaks.

A perfect, massive temperature inversion from the summit of Bynack More

The route across the plateau skirts just to the east of a small indentation “peak” marked as spot-height 818m on the map. This is the location where we left the path (which was heading for Braemar tens of miles to the south) and veered south to begin the ascent of the north ridge of Bynack More. The ascent of the ridge was great fun. We had to don our crampons for the steepening snowfields and negotiate our way over the many rocky outcrops. Pairs of ptarmigan accompanied us on the ridge: the males in their snowy white attire and the females speckled with flecks of granite grey throughout their plumage. They certainly aren’t shy birds and happily sat still until we obviously became uncomfortably close to them.

As we climbed higher, what happened next was just perfect as about 50m from the summit of Bynack More (1090m or 3,576’) we poked out above the cloud and mist and were rewarded with a exquisite alpine landscape all around us. The most noticeable feature was the massive temperature inversion all around that filled the glens with cotton-wool clouds, leaving only the tallest peaks to break through the misty mantle.

The temperature inversion seen from the top of Bynack More extends into every glen

Elaine enjoying the view of the Cairngorm plateau from the summit of Bynack More

As soon as we’d broken through the mist cover we felt the warmth of the sun, as there was no wind. We spent a while lingering at the summit reluctant to make a move from the perfect setting. What eventually enticed us away was our interest in seeing closer up the spectacular tor rock formations called the “Barns of Bynack” only about 500m SSE from the summit.

Once we’d had a good look around the various tor structures we retraced our steps back to the summit of Bynack More to begin the adventure of the descent via the north ridge. Once again, only 50m below the summit towards this northern aspect the mist completely shrouded the descending ridgeline. With the sun blazing to our back and the mist below and to our front we spotted an eerie Brocken spectre looming before us at the head of our shadows. You have to be lucky and have the right conditions that give rise to the formation of the Brocken spectre … and today we had those ingredients.

The Barns of Bynack tors seen from the summit of Bynack More

It was a splendid way to have retreated into the misty clouds as we completed the ridge descent and crossed the arctic plateau once more. The mist cleared again as we reached the track by Bynack Stables and so we walked back to Glenmore Lodge in clear conditions.

It had been a very memorable outing.

Walking towards the Barns of Bynack

A closer view of some of the Barns of Bynack tors

Elaine approaching one of the Barns of Bynack tors

A clear Brocken spectre - ghostly goings-on high on Bynack More

About Cameron Speirs

Born and brought up in the Scottish Highlands, Cameron, has been interested in outdoor pursuits since he was a wee lad. Over the last few decades he has climbed extensively in the Italian Dolomites as well as summiting the Matterhorn and several other 4000m alpine peaks. Closer to home he has spent many wonderful weekends mountaineering and biking in Snowdonia, Cairngorms, Glen Coe, Skye and Lochaber.
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2 Responses to A high arctic plateau

  1. Alasdair says:

    A superb descriptive way with words. A pleasure to look at and read.

    • Cameron says:

      Hi Alasdair,
      Thanks very much for your kind words of review – I’m sure that it isn’t just because you’re my father-in-law;-)
      I must admit that the blogging is great fun but hugely time consuming. Still, it seems really worthwhile when people get some pleasure out of reading the “stories” and seeing pictures.
      Very best wishes,

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