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Cloudberry fields forever

Cloudberry fields forever

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jul 07, 2021 8:01 pm

Route description: The Cairnwell Munros

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

Date walked: 12/06/2021

Time taken: 7.5 hours

Distance: 17.3 km

Ascent: 967m

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Ahhh, the Cairnwell Trio. One of the least inspiring Munros. The only way to make them sort-of a challenge is to climb them in harsh winter conditions. We did exactly that in January 2012 and promised never to return here unless we find a good reason. And guess what??? We actually found a good excuse to repeat this trio!

It was Monday, the 19th of January 1942 when Vickers Wellington IC R1646 JM-D took off from 20 OTU at Lossiemouth with eight crew on board. It was just another routine training flight, but sadly, for the eight boys on board it was going to be the last one. The plane just vanished into thin air. It was originally listed as missing and presumed lost at sea. Nobody realized that the final resting place for the lost "Wimpy" was Dubh-choire on the north-eastern slopes of Carn Aosda.

We sat down with OS maps and plotted an alternative route up Carn Aosda which would allow us a visit to the crash site. The best way would be to start from the car park by Sean Spittal Bridge and go up the aforementioned corrie (the wreckage is well scattered so we could just located it as we climbed), then follow the NE ridge to the lower top of Carn Aosda. The rest of the route can be done as per WH instructions:

Track_CARN AOSDA WELLINGTON 17.3KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

***Our GPS track contains a small error as for some reason our Garmin didn't record a short section on the way back, inserting a straight line up Carn Aosda. Apologies for this.***
By parking lower down the road we avoided having to pay for the parking space in the main Cairnwell center car park, but that's just us being stingy :lol: :lol: :lol:
We arrived in Braemar at 10am, a bit late for us, we are usually up the hills much earlier (getting up at 5 in the morning sometimes, though I admit it hurts!) but today's walk, despite covering three Munros, was an easy stroll by our standards, so there was no need to hurry. The small car park was only half-full. We got ready and started up into the corrie straight from the car park. It was a windy day, but we hoped the corrie would protect us from the gusts and we'd be able to investigate the crash site without being blown from pillar to post.
Kevin following Allt an Dubh-choire:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 370.JPG

Deer grazing on the western side of the corrie. The stone chute above them contains some of the wreckage, which we didn't know at the time of taking this photo:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 371.JPG

We found a faint path (more an animal track) along the stream, it made walking much easier. Even if you don't care about plane crashes, this is still a much more interesting way up Carn Aosda, makes it feel more wild though you're never far away from the road.
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 004.JPG

As we marched along the burn, Kevin stepped over a large, white stone. When lifting my leg to follow him, I realized that it wasn't a stone at all, but the first piece of the Wellington!
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 373.JPG
Blink and you miss it!

From this moment, we started finding small pieces of wreckage all the way along the stream. Most were just light sections of aluminum from the main fuselage, but we found one badly mangled fuel tank:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 378.JPG

Me with one of the pieces found down by the stream:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 022 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We passed a small waterfall on the way up:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 027 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Two more fragments of the aircraft frame found by the stream:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 029.JPG

2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 038.JPG

We expected to locate more wreckage higher up, so we left the easy to follow stream bed and climbed steeply up the eastern side of the corrie. Soon we were walking in a field of flowering cloudberries and green heather. It didn't take long to spot the next piece of debris.
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 389.JPG

It was our fifth Wellington crash site and we were already used to spying small parts of the geodetic frame. This light construction, consisting of 1650 elements joined together in a "lattice" design, was an innovation back in the 1940ties. This particular plane must have flown into the mountain side at full speed hence the wreckage is very fragmented. Compare to another Wellington crash site, on the slopes of Carn Garbh, there is very little recognizable stuff here.
Having photographed several small pieces, we followed the trail of debris to the bottom of a stone chute:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 051 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
We found more remains here, mostly main frame again, but Kevin spied a burst oxygen bottle:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 410 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
This bottle was so contorted that we had no doubt it must have exploded, possibly in the fire:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 081.JPG

A spar joint:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 397.JPG

Panoramic view of Càrn an Tuirc and Cairn of Claise to the east, as seen from the crash site:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 049.JPG

Amongst the rocks of the chute, we found several steel plates, some half-buried. I was surprised they were not taken down for scrap:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 063 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
This was the hinge shaft for the ailerons in one of the wings:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 085 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
A small detail of the hinge with serial numbers still visible:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 088.JPG

This insulated pipe section could have been from the engine cooling system:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 093.JPG

A piece of the airframe with serial numbers visible:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 432.JPG

A well preserved metal valve:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 113.JPG

As we examined the site, weather was improving above us, the sum came out and the rolling hills around us suddenly looked more alive :D
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 121.JPG
Scanning the cloudberry field

More parts of geodetic frame:
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 453 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 459 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The trail led us to the bottom of a boggy crater. This was the impact zone. Most of the remains have now been shifted down to the bottom of it but a lot of tiny pieces are still sitting in the soil like the raisins in fruit cake. Amongst the larger pieces, we recognized several burst oxygen bottles...
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 462.JPG

...joints from the geodetic frame...
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 134.JPG

...and drive tracks from the gun turret:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 496.JPG

Melted aluminum - evidence of fire:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 510.JPG

We also found several exploded gun shells, most likely from M1919 Browning machine guns (.303 inch caliber), the standard armament for Vickers Wellington bombers.
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 237.JPG

2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 239.JPG

We spent over an hour at the crash site, taking photos and trying to name as many fragments as possible. The crater is located on a steep slope so walking up and down felt a bit... wobbly in places.
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 207 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Sometimes the tiny fragments speak more to me than the big chunks of fuselage. This little card holder might have been located in the cockpit, used to place information about the flight, maybe a weather report...
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 486.JPG

We usually are very careful when touching or moving anything. We picked only a few small pieces, just to clean them up from the soil and take a good photo. Each part was then carefully placed back where it belongs, like this round structure, a mounting point for the support rod for the airframe:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 531.JPG

The frame spars would fit into these metal "cups":
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 225.JPG

Another small metal valve:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 587.JPG

One might think, how did this Wellington end up near Braemar if it was supposed to be flying over the sea? The actual location of the crash is 60 miles south from Lossiemouth and well inland. According to World War II Aviation Crash Sites in Scotland, possibly at the time of the crash the Wellington was trying to return to Lossiemouth as it was flying in a northerly direction.
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 524 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
The winter of 1942 was one of the worst winters Scotland had ever experienced: heavy snow and bitterly cold temperatures. The hills must have been extensively covered in the white stuff, so no wonder that the crash site was only discovered a month after the tragedy, and that happened by a complete accident, by a gamekeeper from Invercauld Estate, Mr James Wright. He was up on the hills checking the deer and spotted something unusual on the snow-covered hillside. Using his binoculars, he identified the odd object as a tail section of the plane. He reported his discovery at the local police station.
The following day a party of four set off to confirm the finding. They took a snow plough to Glen Clunie Lodge, but further up the snow was too deep and the four men had to continue on foot for the remaining 1.5 miles. They climbed into Dubh-chorie and found the half-buried wreckage of Wellington R1646. It was obvious it had been there for some time and nothing could be done for the crew...
Image2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 204 by Kevin Dalziel, on Flickr
Because of the extreme weather conditions, the recovery of the bodies took time and the last one was only carried off the slope two months later. They are all buried in Dyce Old Churchyard in Aberdeen.
All the valuable parts of the Wellington were removed by the 56 Maintenance Unit by the end of April 1942, but the two Pegasus engines remained at the crash site. In 1999 they were lifted off the hillside and one of them is now part of a memorial, situated in the centre of Braemar, next to the village War Memorial. It was unveiled on Thursday 21st of August 2003 - more details HERE.
The eight young men who sadly lost their lives on this lonely slope, will not be forgotten. The spot where they died is today covered with cloudberries...
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 597.JPG
Cloudberry fields forever...

I don't have a picture of the memorial in Breamar, but here is a link to a photo of the monument on geograph.uk.
We left the crash site of the Wellington in sombre moods but as soon as we reached the flatter ground leading to the summit of Carn Aosda, we smiled again at the sight of a hopping hare:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 262.JPG

Views from the higher ground - now sunny!
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 603.JPG

Kevin heading for the lower top (903m):
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 605.JPG

Carn Aosda and more distant Maol Glass from the 903m top:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 278.JPG

On the summit of Aosda, not a very inspiring hill but at least we did it the wild way. Lucy ticked off her 137th Munro!
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 291.JPG

The views from any of the Cairnwell Munros feel much inferior to those from other Braemar hills, mainly because the area is such a mess due to the ski paraphernalia and huge, well worn tracks. But it was an excellent day (if windy) so we decided to do the usual round of three, continuing from Carn Aosda to Càrn a' Ghèoidh and then returning over The Cairnwell.
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 287.JPG
Càrn a' Ghèoidh from Carn Aosda

As soon as we left the first Munro, we started bumping into people: hill walkers, ridge runners, casual strollers, dog walkers, families with children. It was hard to take photos without anybody else in the frame, but Kevin managed a few nice panoramas.
Càrn a' Ghèoidh:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 316.JPG

Càrn Aosda and The Cairnwell from Carn nan Sac on the way to Càrn a' Ghèoidh:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 315.JPG

Lucy on Càrn a' Ghèoidh, her 138th Munro:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 345.JPG

Glas Tulaichean and Carn an Righ from Càrn a' Ghèoidh:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 337.JPG

The top of the ugliest Munro in Scotland...
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 353.JPG

The quickest way down would be to take the main track down from Carn Aosda hut, but we decided to return over the Munro, just to avoid walking back along the road. Rather than walk past the crash site again, we followed the eastern ridge encircling Dubh-choire. It was stony initially but easy and grassy lower down:
2021-06-12 carn aosda wellington 619.JPG

I never though I'd say I enjoyed the Cairnwell trio in the summer but the truth is, I did! :D

In my next story we'll stay with the lost planes theme, a local crash site that required a re-visit. TR to come soon.

User avatar
Mountain Walker
Posts: 3839
Munros:266   Corbetts:179
Sub 2000:74   
Joined: Nov 2, 2010
Location: Beauly, Inverness-shire

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