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Càrn Aosda, Càrn a' Ghèoidh and The Cairnwell

PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2022 6:52 pm
by jgregor
The forecast was fog, and sure enough we were enveloped in a pea-souper as we drove up the Cairnwell pass to the Glenshee ski centre. It was so thick that we missed the big car park on the right, and finding the car park in front of the cafe coned off for some reason, we had to u-turn to get back to it. Crossing the road we headed up the path to the right of the Cairnwell chairlift and behind the other main buildings.


Instead of continuing along the back of the cafe to the foot of the ski tow at the north end of centre buildings, we walked up a track through a gully, the origin and purpose of which was unclear. At least it hid all the ski workings for a couple of minutes.


Emerging into an area where many of the ski tows meet, we walked past some more buildings and followed the general line of one of the tows up towards the summit of Càrn Aosda. One can imagine how busy this area is in ski season. For today it was just a few walkers bagging an easy Munro and not too fussed about the views, which were negligible in the thick fog.

A fork - our way lies to the right


We soon reached the summit cairn, as did a few others. The views - or lack of - became a running joke between the walkers up there.

Càrn Aosda summit

From there we headed along the top of the tows, the still machinery looming out of the fog like mechanical ghosts. We wound our way in a generally southerly direction, leaving the ski doo-dahs behind, heading to the Creag a'Choire Dhirich crags.


808 state - a dip before ascending to the Creag a'Choire Dhirich crags

We walked along the crags (if such they were - we couldn't tell in the fog) to the plateau of Càrn nan Sac. We lost out path here for a while as we strode over an area of thick moss and half-concealed rocks. Not being able to see any other features at all I was certainly glad of the GPS.

The mossy mound of Carn nan Sac

Back on track, we neared the second Munro - Càrn a' Ghèoidh. There were large patches of snow on the way up, but not so steep that they posed us any difficulty without snow climbing equipment.

A bit of snow on the approach to the summit of Càrn a' Ghèoidh

Then it was a short and rocky walk to the summit cairn of Càrn a' Ghèoidh. This translates as "the rocky hill of the goose". There were certainly plenty of rocks. If there were geese they were lost in the fog.

The summit cairn of Càrn a' Ghèoidh looms out of the fog

The cairn up close from the shelter

The third Munro - The Cairnwell - was back at the ski centre, and the route to it was much of the way we had come. We took a different path to the north of the plateau, which passed along the shores of one of the two lochans before rejoining the outward path. The second lochan we never did see.

The only chance to see one of the lochans was to walk right along the shore of one

After the crags we turned south-east to head up The Cairnwell. Back near the centre again there were a few more people up this one. I've no usable photos of the summit, but it's not much of a miss, since all that could be seen were the near-at hand masts and ugly buildings. Even the cairn contrived to be an odd looking thing, being a pile of rocks on a wooden box platform that looked like it might give way at any moment.

After "admiring" the "view" we headed back a short way down to the top of the chair lift. Judging the best route down to be the most direct one, we decided to walk down beneath the chair lift. Thanks to a helpful sign pointing "DOWNHILL" we were confident we weren't in danger of losing our way again.

A useful sign

The chair lift was actually on, and a few people were on it, though for what reason we couldn't fathom. For their part they seemed equally nonplussed at seeing us walking down underneath them.


Descending as the fog seemed to be clearing, we dipped below it for the first time since we drove up the pass.

In sight of the ski centre and car park again

Reaching the car park we turned and looked back up, to see both Cairnwell and Càrn Aosda free of fog. I'm not one for starting hikes in the afternoon, but it seemed it would have been a better bet today.

Wouldn't you know - the fog has lifted just as we reach the car park