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Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby roykemp » Sat Jun 19, 2021 4:38 pm

Route description: The Cairnwell Munros

Munros included on this walk: Càrn a' Ghèoidh, Càrn Aosda, The Cairnwell

Date walked: 29/05/2021

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Ascent: 595m

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For anyone reading this who may know me from way back, I'm afraid to tell you that I am not finally spilling the beans on what happened at THAT after-party following the night in The Art School in Glasgow in about 2002. I don't have much of a sense of shame, but everyone has their limit - that story is coming to my grave with me.

This, I'm afraid, is far less interesting. Just a bloke hauling himself up three of our least scenic Munros.

Hello, y'all, I'm back. I flung myself up a few Munros at the tail end of last year then packed it in. It's all very well deciding to walk in all weathers and just being as prepared as possible for the conditions, but as a novice in winter you need to draw the line somewhere. So with Lochnagar, Mount Keen and Mayar/Dreish in the bag and lockdown rules being inconsistently administered, I played safe and put hiking on hiatus. Plus, I went back to university part time starting in January, so most of my weekends since have been spent in a state of bewilderment wondering why the hell I'd decided to do that, having not much liked uni the first time around.

You may also remember I had a lot of knee pain on all three walks, and had tried to tick off a few of the most common causes with no real result. I'd even got down to a fairly svelte (for me) 80kg-ish, a fair bit down from the 90kg chunk that decided one day to randomly climb Lochnagar, all to no real avail.

Just to make sure I wasn't doing my knee any permanent damage, I decided to see a man. Specifically, Tom at Elevate Health, Chiropractic & Wellbeing in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. I've used Tom a bit since I shortened both a rally car and my spine in the same incident in 2015, so I asked if he could have a crack at solving my knee issue.

We did all the little things where you actually pay someone money to hit you repeatedly with a tiny hammer, put you in a load of MMA submission holds, then press and prod you in places which are either unbearably tickly or make you need to spontaneously pee. What a way to spend your money. But having done an ultrasound on the knee seeing no issues, he's starting to look vexed - he's interfered with all the bits that usually get damaged or sore, and has had absolutely no joy extracting any kind of confession out of me.

So he gets me to lie face down on the torture device so he can fish around in the back of my knee, and we're chatting away about rugby. I think I was midway through saying like "actually I reckon Hamish Watson is just about the right size for an openside flanker in the modern gaaAAAAAAAOOOYAHOORFITTTINEPHUCKWAZZAT!?!?!"

And Tom goes "oh, yes, I think we've found the problem."

Jeez. Yeah, I'm inclined to agree. I'll pay you double, Tom, just do not do that again. Please.

He brings out a textbook showing a picture of the muscles in the knee. Apparently there's a little muscle called the Popliteus that doesn't actually do much work other than lock and unlock the joint. Apart from on my knee where it seemingly doubles up as a trigger to release all sorts of dreadful language. Anyway, it's incredibly tight and angry and, unfortunately, he needs to attack it a lot more to get it to relax and reset. So, I have to grit my teeth for a bit while he does his thing. He gives me a bit of a debrief and says this is a situation associated with over-striding, i.e. locking out the knee in normal walking. I walk at a fairly decent pace for someone with a 28 inch inside leg, so, yeah, probably guilty. The good news is there's no joint damage, he actively encourages me to get back out in the hills, and if it does give me more bother, I can do a DIY reset on it with a heat pack or some self-torture.

Great news, and it's the first time since my stag do that I've been so happy to hand over money for such terrible abuse.

Fast forward a bunch of months where the weather has been mince and I've buried in books. Nothing noteworthy to report other than to thank you lot and Cotswold Outdoors for deeming my Mount Keen report worthy of £50 of vouchers. You made a man very happy, so thanks to everyone who read and commented. I nipped into the Aberdeen branch and furnished myself with a whole load of OS Maps. Extra thanks to the guy and girl in store who spent at least 20 mins looking for OL52 - the computer said they had one in stock and they turned the entire store upside down looking for it. Have yourselves some customer service kudos from me.

No excuse for getting lost now! (future reports may see me regret this statement)

So, newly equipped with much mappage I decided it was time to get back out. However, having got back into old habits over Christmas and lockdown, I'd be lugging a lot more weight along this time out. 92kg, in fact. Jeebus. So, packing a big beer and BBQ gut, a possibly-fixed-but-not-combat-proven knee and still lacking much navigation experience, perhaps a less demanding route would be the best option.

So, a nice easy one, close to home. Simples. The Cairnwell Munros. I planned a nice early start, 90 mins journey either way and home for a celebratory beer by early afternoon before the kids drive the wife up the wall. Mountain Forecast also said gentle breeze and light cloud/sunshine in the AM. However, this was also what it said when I did Mayar and Dreish, you can read all about that fun experience elsewhere.

So, the alarm goes off at a completely unreasonable hour. I sack it off for another 30mins. Another 30mins is tempting, but I risk incurring the wrath of wife if I'm not home as promised. I drag myself into clothes, out the door and into the truck. And, it's raining. And misty. And pretty miserable. And it would remain so pretty much the entire drive. However, just the other side of Dinnet, sunshine. Phew. I might actually have a nice clear view of all the lovely ski hardware and telecomms installations! As I round the final bend before Glenshee, there's even a cracker of a rainbow terminating on the Octagonal Cafe. A sign of rain just passed or an omen of rain to come? I think I'll wear the wintry jacket just in case.

Inevitably, it turns into a beautiful morning and I'm down to the base layer before I'm past the Octagon. Last time I was up here I was sledging with the kids and we all had to go home when I hit Esmé (5) in the mouth with a snowball. Minus five million dad points. Anyway, it's significantly warmer today and far less childreny. Lots of deer, though. Encountered a posse (I have no idea what the proper collective for deer is, but posse seems to work) of about four. They did the "run away a bit, turn back and stare, run away when he gets close again, repeat" thing for a bit until they got bored of me. I decided to try to snap a photo. It only served to remind me why I don't really bother snapping photos all that often.

See what I mean? Picture taken with a potato.

Moving swiftly on, you can see Càrn Aosda from the car park so navigation isn't a problem. It;s just a question of picking your route between all the bits of ski stuff and keep going up. The descent is steep but it's not far to go. Surely this has to be possibly the easiest or most accessible Munro in Scotland? Especially if the chair-lift is running. Anyway, another demonstration of my mad skillz on ruining photos.

Fat finger syndrome.

Anyway, hopefully I can get the summit selfie without cocking it up too badly. Ooft. Look at that belly, though.

"Hey, blimpo! Oink oink, too many sweeties!"

So that's number one in the bag early doors and move on to the one that I cannot get my head around the pronunciation. Spelled Càrn a' Ghèoidh, it looks like it should be pronounced "Judy" but apparently is closer to "Yowie", which is what my mother calls a pinecone because that's the noise you make if you sit on one. A little home-spun Kemp wisdom for y'all there. Anyway, so far so good, and on the short but gentle descent from the summit the knee pain is notable by its absence. Encouraging stuff.

It's all proper paths so far up until you take a right to deviate from the Cairnwell track. I've not seen hares on any of my walks so far but they're everywhere around here. I try to take a dreadful photo but they keep disappearing before I get the chance. I keep thinking of the scene in Snatch where Turkish and Tommy lose the price of a caravan on a hare-coursing bet, interspersed with the scene where Bricktop's henchmen are stuffing Tyrone into the boot of the car. Great scene, I think one of Ritchie's best.

Periwinkle blue, eh boys? :lol:

Nothing more than a nice little stroll so far, stick to the edge of the Creag past the various lochans and you can't go wrong. Until I did. I pick out a cairn at the cliff edge near Carn nan Sac and think "yeyballs, that's number two in the bag, get the selfie done and have some lunch".

This man is about to discover he is not where he thinks he is. Not even close.

I'm a sucker for a shelter cairn so I settle down for some lunch. Facing back the way a bit, the cairn of Carn nan Sac proper comes into view. I look at the map a bit and scratch my head for a while. The simple rule here is if you think you're at the summit, keep walking up because you're not there yet. Ok, best get going again. Shortly thereafter I'm actually at what turns out to be Carn nan Sac itself but there's now another big hill in view. More consultation of the map and scratching of the bonce.

This man has not the slightest damned clue where he is.

Eventually it becomes clear that I'm farting about doing a tour of Scotland's minor summits and cairns and that the hill now in view is where I actually want to be. Would it even be one of my walk reports without a navigation balls-up? Oh well, nothing to it but to do it. I head off, muttering and swearing at myself. The one small comfort is that I had figured out my level of incompetence all on my own, and didn't post the pic of me at Carn nan Sac and have you lot point it out for me. The final ascent to Càrn a' Ghèoidh is pretty steep and lumpy and it did occur to me that coming back down here would be a good test of whether the knee is actually any better or if coming off Càrn Aosda was just too early in the day to show up any problems.

I make the summit of the Yowie thing and there's a bunch of people in the shelter cairn. Typical. I'm sick of this. Get the damned photo and let's get out of here.

This man now knows EXACTLY where he is and STILL isn't happy.

However, one little ray of sunshine is that the knee is as good as gold coming back down which I'm utterly chuffed with. On the way back along the Creag, my phone chimes in with an Aberdeen number that seems familiar but isn't saved. I'm curious, but not that curious, so I hang up. It phones back, which I ignore. The email alert then pings. Grudgingly, I check it. To my utmost joy, it's work related. Tremendous. I'm not exactly on call but I indulge. I'll not name names for commercial reasons, but it's a bloke on an offshore platform looking for support on how to switch a backup power system that I've worked on before. The phone rings again and I can't really sack the guy off.

I'll not go into the boring technical details but the call doesn't go smoothly. He's stressed (switch it wrong, lose power, production shuts down, and I reckon it would probably move the share price of the company in question) and isn't accepting my advice, and I'm getting hacked off with him so I'm getting a wee bit shouty down the phone.

Lots of people, probably expecting peace, quiet and solitude, are now having to walk past a man shouting angry technical gobbledygook into a phone. I am getting ALL of the dirty looks. Sorry. But I'm not. I can't remember who hung up on who but I later discovered that he did take my advice and all was well. Phew.

Anyway, back the way we came until we hang a right and go up the North West side of The Cairnwell and back onto a proper path. Lots of people here, not a quite one at all! I also noted that the Cairnwell chair-lift was operating. Would it be such a dreadful breach of Munro-Bagging etiquette if I jumped on it on the way down? Let's get to the summit first and we'll see how ballsy I'm feeling!

So, yeah, The Cairnwell probably does deserve it's reputation as Scotland's least-pretty Munro.

I didn't fancy taking a selfie on the roof of the khazi, unlike some I saw that day!

Thankyou for the ability to receive work calls while out on the hills. Not.

Gives the toilet from Trainspotting a run for the title of "The Worst Toilet in Scotland".

And the addition of my face doesn't really do much to improve the aesthetic appeal of the area.

Told you.

Right. Time to give this new knee a proper workout. Instead of taking the paths back to the north and coming down the prescribed route, and without hitching a lift ride down, I decided to go off-path and take a short-cut down the side of the hill back to the car park. Steep, rocky, unbeaten terrain and not a peep of complaint did the knee give. Brilliant. I think I can call it sorted now, so thanks very much Tom. I can't really express what a relief this was, as I had been packing in the whole gig because of the bother. Now I can get back to hatching over-ambition hiking plans, getting lost just about everywhere while getting on the nerves of just about everyone, all the while taking crap photos.

Not sure when my next free time will be, but I'm thinking the Glas Maol four might be a fine next step. Taking in the Tolmount Two at the same time might be a bit ambitions but we will see.


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Last edited by roykemp on Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby Sgurr » Sat Jun 19, 2021 6:18 pm

Surprising how prose can tart up some rather less than attractive mountains. We tried it another way with an US friend and his 10 year old daughter, keen to outdo the big brothers who had done Tarmachan, and Dreish and Mayar as their intros to Scotland. We did them all up the Baddoch burn from the parking space down the hill and made them a lot more scenic than they otherwise would have been, descending the northern ridge of Carn Aosda. . "Now Lilian," he said "No boasting!" But I think she did, and justifiably so.
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Re: Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby al78 » Sat Jun 19, 2021 6:30 pm

I thought the view from Carn a Gheoidh was nice when I did these three. Being set back from the road there is no ski paraphenalia and it feels like a remote Grampian mountain.
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Re: Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby NeepNeep » Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:14 am

Been looking forward to another WR from you. It didn't disappoint, thanks. I enjoy your writing style. Yet to do two of the 'ugly' ones but did do the third and furthest on a training day a few years back and camped overnight - an absolute cracking day. The following day we headed to An Socach and it was one of those really warm, still (pre midge) days where we fell asleep on the summit during our lunch stop.....very civilised.

Really pleased the knee has improved....mainly so I can have a laugh at your reports. I think physios can work absolute wonders so really pleased for you.

Maybe I should write a report soon.....it's been ages.....
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Re: Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby roykemp » Mon Jun 21, 2021 10:24 pm

Sgurr wrote:Surprising how prose can tart up some rather less than attractive mountains.

Ha ha, cheers - a few well-chosen words can polish any turd!
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Re: Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby roykemp » Mon Jun 21, 2021 10:25 pm

al78 wrote:I thought the view from Carn a Gheoidh was nice when I did these three. Being set back from the road there is no ski paraphenalia and it feels like a remote Grampian mountain.

Yeah, I didn't hang around there as I was well and truly scunnered by then, a swift 180 and back the way I came!
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Re: Smashing Scotland's three Ugliest Sisters

Postby roykemp » Mon Jun 21, 2021 10:29 pm

NeepNeep wrote:Really pleased the knee has improved....mainly so I can have a laugh at your reports. I think physios can work absolute wonders so really pleased for you.

Yeah, I couldn't believe the difference. Absolutely chuffed with the result. Hurt like hell getting it sorted but definitely worth it. Would recommend Tom to anyone.
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