Escape from the Fords of Avon

Striking camp in the pouring rain at Fords of Avon, Cairngorms

Doncha just love packing up? Sunday morning at the Fords of Avon construction site.

I was going to write something about the replacement of the Fords of Avon Refuge which went on at the weekend.

But that’ll have to wait until I’ve dried out.

With work on the new hut all but finished by Saturday night, the plan was to finish things up on Sunday morning before all heading home. But the promised bad weather struck overnight and by morning three tents were blown down and the rain was coming down in sheets. Time to bail out – especially for those of us who had the long walk down Glen Derry, with concerns about the levels of both the Avon and the Glas Alt Mor.

In fact, the Avon wasn’t too bad; just deep enough for me to be able to stop worrying about getting my feet wet – soaked before I’d moved a hundred yards!

The first half mile after crossing the River Avon is always boggy, but it was particularly wet now and, with nothing left to lose, we very quickly started simply wading through everything.

By the time we reached the high point and started down into Glen Derry the wind was tearing through the pass, at our backs, luckily, but still causing a few staggers which had nothing to do with hangovers or the fact we’d left breakfastless.

A couple of burns across the path, normally passed without noticing, provided real obstacles, not auguring well for the Glas Alt Mor.

The Glas Alt Mor in spate. Cairngorms

The torrent. This is where a couple of boulder hops normally take you across the Glas Alt Mor

And the augurs were right. The Glas Alt Mor was a raging torrent of brown foam, completely uncrossable. That meant turning round and going back on ourselves – face into the wind now, rain blowing so hard it stung – to take the Coire Etchachan path as far as the plank bridge across the Derry Burn. We had to crawl across this on our hands and knees because of the strength of the wind; falling into the water didn’t bear thinking about.

Crossing the Derry Burn, Glen Derry, Cairngorms

Sinbad crossing the plank bridge over the Derry Burn. The undignified stance is due to the galeforce winds and an urge to stay alive.

Then it was a long wet trudge down pathless and sodden hillside and riverbank until the Derry Dam when we could regain the path. The rain was still coming down in sheets and until we got lower down the glen the wind was still causing us to stagger. The combination of wind and rain had us all soaked to the skin, head to toe and when one particularly heavy blatter of rain blew over me the amount of water passing me put me in mind of someone throwing a bucket of water over my back.

When at last we reached Derry Lodge and a lift in Lithgae’s jeep we were all shivering with the cold and wet. Glad of the set of dry clothes I had waiting for me in my car, and of our much delayed breakfast – in my case a cup of tea and a bacon roll in Carol’s Hungry Highlander in Braemar.

And after that? Well it was just a case of staying awake until I drove home.

August in Scotland – doncha just love it?


(I’ll put something on about the Fords of Avon Refuge rebuild tomorrow, or through the week.)

This entry was posted in Bothies, Misadventures and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Escape from the Fords of Avon

  1. Iain Muirhead says:

    Get a more sensible pastime – like like taming!

  2. Cheers Iain. I presume you meant ‘lion taming’. I did think about that, but it was too wet for lions. Even walking on the path sometimes meant being shin-deep in water!

  3. Geoff says:

    Sounds pretty exiting stuff, I was thinking of heading that way tomorrow for a couple of days wild camping, I hope the weather improves by then.
    My 2004 Explorer map shows a foot bridge over the Glas Alt Mor at Grid Ref NO036986, has this been washed away.

    • Hi Geoff, That must be your grandad’s map you have. The bridge over the Glas Alt Mor was washed away about 40 years ago or more. There is no bridge there now. However, for as quickly as the GAM rises, it doesn’t take long in falling back to normal again, so if the rain stays off it may well be fordable again, either by the normal stepping stones where the path is or, if they’re not practicable, there’s another possible crossing place about 50 metres downstream (neither was even visible yesterday!). There’s no crossing upstream until you get up to the plateau level.

  4. Iain says:

    Yes, lion taming … or javelin-catching.

    • Or cycling? Just heard that one of the guys who left after us had taken his bike well up the glen on the way in. That meant that after reaching the uncrossable torrent, and backtracking to cross the other stream and come down the trackless bog on the ‘wrong’ side of the glen, he then had to go back up the ‘right’ side to pick up his bike. He didn’t get back to his car until midnight and home at 2 a.m. Compared to that, I had it easy. And this guy is in his 60s too!

  5. Martin Rye says:

    Just read about the shelter rebuild on the BBC website. Interesting. Look forward to your post.

  6. It`s not very often I can say “I`m glad I was working on Sunday”..!
    Great blog….

  7. Brian says:

    Great rebuild,me and me mate stayed last night,blowing a hoolie,but well cosy,cheers!!

    • Glad it did the job, Brian. My post about the rebuild should, of course, have highlighted all the organisation (as well as on-site work) done by John Bygate, who went with another work party at the weekend to finish off and clear up, despite, as you say, rather unpleasant weather.

  8. Didn’t realise there’d been this horrifically wet weather a couple of Augusts ago as well as this year – I was thinking this was a first!

    I see my mate Alex is on here above (Scotland’s Mountains) 🙂

    What an excellent category to have in a blog – ‘Misadventures’ – just has to be read!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.