Walk of the week: Ryvoan and Meall a’Bhuachaille

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KEEN to maintain the tradition of at least one Elite Bothy Club meet a year, Rhona, Peter and I opted for Ryvoan, one of the most accessible bothies.

Amid a spell of gale force winds, this was well-chosen. After refreshment in Aviemore, we walked in on a December Sunday afternoon, hoping on Monday morning to climb Meall a’Bhuachaille, the Corbett that overlooks the bothy, and then 
walk out.

Written by a Mrs A M Lawerence, who lived for a while as a young girl in Nethybridge, it is appropriate that a framed copy of her much admired poem is affixed within the one-roomed bothy. The poem ends… And again in the dusk of evening I shall find once more alone The dark water of the Green Loch, And pass 
by Ryvoan.

We had a convivial AGM around the fire before retiring early. However, we were woken at 2am on Monday morning by two members of the Cairngorms Mountain Rescue Team involved in an extensive search to locate a male walker who had become lost while walking alone. That walker had not taken refuge in the bothy, though he was eventually located by an RAF rescue helicopter. The MRT had also been involved on the Sunday when a woman walking in a group in the Glen Feshie area had to be rescued and taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, to be treated for a broken leg.

In one of those amazing coincidences it later transpired that I knew the lady in question, a fellow Scottish Country dancer. Alas Agnes, no dancing for six months!

The route

Start from the small car park, map ref 990097, east of Glenmore Lodge, the National Outdoor Training Centre. If staying overnight at the bothy, all burning material for the fire has to be carried in. So, heavily laden, we set off. The track goes north-east, with the first stop being at the green lochan, the frozen-on-our-day Lochan Uaine. It is small, beautiful, hemmed in by scree slopes, and the water is more emerald than green; all in complete contrast to the wide-open area of Loch Morlich. And the clarity? Why, fairies wash their clothes there.

The track to the lochan has been improved such that disabled ramblers now have easy access.

A short distance beyond the lochan, take the left fork at a junction (straight ahead leads towards Bynack More) and from where a rougher track leads to the bothy. Regardless of climbing Meall a’Bhuachaille, this is a popular stroll, even on a good day.

Starting directly from the bothy, a much improved broad and way-marked path on the lower eastern flanks makes this hill of the herdsman easier to climb – appreciated on our early morning start on a poor day. Above c500m the path was obliterated by a covering of snow but underfoot we had a firm white pavement. Navigation was required later to ensure we were heading for the massive cairn at the 810m/2657ft summit. It took us one hour for the ascent. I last climbed the hill 30 years ago and the cairn is more tumbled down these days. Meall a’Bhuachaille is renowned as a superb viewpoint, especially south to the Cairngorms, but not on our day. Visibility was less than 100 yards and we did 
not linger.

The quickest way back to the car park is to head west then descend SSW by the mapped path. However, we had to return to the bothy. It took little time to fill the backpacks and clean the bothy, and then head back to the road-end to conclude a successful and eventful bothy trip and hill.

The facts

Map: Ordnance Survey map 36, Grantown & Aviemore

Distance: 6 miles

Height: 450m

Terrain: Track and path

Start point: Car park, map ref 990097, east of Glenmore Lodge

Time: 4 hours

Nearest village: Aviemore

Recommended refreshment spot: Mountain Café, Aviemore