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Postby scribe64 » Mon Apr 04, 2022 6:27 pm

Route description: The Cairnwell Munros

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

Date walked: 30/03/2022

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 13 km

Ascent: 595m

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Following last week's adventure on Beinn Ghlas I wanted to keep up momentum and keep Francis engaged and enthused about taking to the hills. The 'bagging' aspect appealed to him - he's from the Pokemon generation, after all - so I wanted to find an outing that wasn't too strenuous but would still earn him a few ticks. The Cairnwell Trio seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

It's a two hour drive up to Glenshee for us but, heading for the Ski Centre, at least there were no concerns about arriving to find the 1200 space car park full, so we didn't even have to endure a particularly early start. The weather was great again - clear skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. North of Blairgowrie the hills appeared and we began to understand why that section of the A93 seemed to be so popular with motor cyclists and sports car owners.

As we parked up Francis got very excited. 'Ah. The thrill of the Great Outdoors' I thought - but no - it was because he'd spotted that the Cairnwell chairlift was running. I feebly tried to argue that this was against the spirit of something or other but he sharply pointed out that I'd once said I'd take him to Disneyland and had so far failed to deliver - so I owed him a shot on this ride. :roll: To be honest, I didn't put up much of a fight - my knees were still feeling it from last week so the idea did have its attractions.


So, two tickets duly bought and off we went up The Cairnwell on the lift. I know. I know. :oops: But it was good fun. And as we scooted up the last 30m or so from the top of the lift to the summit, I could hear the ghost of Hugh Munro tut-tutting in my ear. Arriving on the summit though, I wondered if perhaps Sir Hugh was actually tutting about the clutter of structures up there.

The Cairnwell summit

I'd seen photographs of course but it somehow looked worse in real life. :shock: The only comparable hill top I've seen is on Wideford Hill in Orkney which houses a mix of modern communication towers and WW2 installations.

The Cairnwell clutter

Even Munro the Mountain Monkey doesn't look impressed

Looking NE across to Carn An Tuirc

We found the best solution was to turn your back on the ugly stuff and enjoy the views instead - which were pretty spectacular to be fair. And gave a good overlook of our route across to our next goal - Carn a' Gheoidh.

Looking West to Carn nan Sac with Carn a' Gheoidh beyond

Exiting The Cairnwell

Understandably, we didn't hang about for too long on The Cairnwell and were soon headed down the ridge along the line of the fence which marks the upper boundary of the ski runs.

The Cairnwell descent

From the cairn at 873 we could pick out the path which would take us along the top of the rocky battlements of Creag a' Choire Dhirich. We headed on down to the beallach at 808.

Creag a' Choire Dhirich

Looking back from the beallach, the western aspect of The Cairnwell - unscathed by skiing - is actually quite handsome!

The Cairnwell's good side

There's also a great view down the choire.

View down Choire Dhirich

We headed up onto the ridge. I stuck to the rocky path but Francis was enjoying himself crunching through the snow patches. He was taking his time but we were in no hurry.

Coming up on to the ridge, Carn Aosda behind

It gave me the time to apply a bit of sunblock - there was barely a cloud in the sky! - and enjoy the view north across the part-frozen Loch Vrotachan.

Loch Vrotachan

The walk across toward Carn nan Sac was a delight. Sunshine. Blue skies. Views all around. Rocks. Snow. Some lochans. A bit of up and down. I think we took it at ambling pace because we were enjoying it so much.



...and down

We turned before the cairn on Carn nan Sac and headed for Carn a' Gheoidh across a flatter patch - called The Coolah on the map. It means 'the back part' apparently. This proved to be a bit boggy in places - particularly when we reached the base of the snow band stretching along Carn a' Gheoidh's eastern slopes.

Bog hopping

Once above the snow things became firm and dry again.

Crossing the snow band. Some of Glenshee's eastern Munros on the horizon.

We came up onto the wide summit plateau...

Things level out. The Baddoch glen (?) behind.

...and finally, the summit!

At this point Francis had a right good chuckle at my various miserable attempts to remember the WH advised pronunciation of Carn a' Gheoidh - pointing out that it was different every time. Kids, eh. :roll:

20220326_140408 (2).jpg
Me, him and the monkey

South of the summit cairn there's quite an extensive boulder field which in the bright sunshine had the feel of a lunar surface. Despite this we found a spot to have lunch, grateful to be able to loiter and enjoy the views for once rather than having to beat a quick retreat because of wind.

Settling down for sandwiches on the moon! Glas Tulaichean behind.

Eventually though we had to make a move and head back across towards the ski slopes and our third peak of the day, Carn Aosda. A simple matter of retracing our steps - though trying to avoid the boggiest areas this time.

The sun at our backs for the return.

We kept further north of Carn nan Sac on the return, heading more directly for the lochans. Francis was delighted to discover some rocks to clamber on and he got to strike some heroic poses for the camera.

Francis going all Caspar David Friedrich.

When we got back to the beallach at 808 we contoured round to pick up the track which snakes up to Carn Aosda.
(To be honest, it would've been hard to miss it!)

The rather obvious route ahead.

The track makes for quite dull walking but apart from one steep bend it offers a straightforward route to the top.

Coming up Carn Aosda.

Although you do have to pass by - or through - the fences and hardware at the top of the ski tows.

The ski clutter.

Once past this section - and despite previously moaning about being tired - Francis bolted ahead to reach the top first.
(I'm sure I could've caught him if I'd tried but I thought I'd be magnanimous and let him win. :wink:)

The final race to the top.

The views from the rocky summit were excellent so we dawdled up there for quite a while - noticing that ours was almost the only car left in the huge car park down below.

Third summit of the day.

Eventually, we wandered back down toward the ski tows...


... and then turned left to head directly down one of the ski slopes.

Slaloming back down to the ski centre.

On the way we compared notes. Another great day out. And we both agreed that the ridge walk was fun and that Carn a' Gheoidh was the pick of the three. Well worth the effort - not that it took much effort. Or as Francis put it...
"It's easier to climb than to pronounce." *


* I've checked again and I'm settling on karn ah yhoy :)
User avatar
Posts: 30
Munros:17   Corbetts:1
Fionas:2   Donalds:2
Sub 2000:7   
Joined: Oct 12, 2021
Location: Edinburgh

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