Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Alternative routes on the Cairnwell 8

Alternative routes on the Cairnwell 8

Postby Christopher Pulman » Wed Jan 04, 2023 10:51 pm

Munros included on this walk: An Socach (Braemar), Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, Càrn a' Ghèoidh, Càrn an Rìgh, Càrn Aosda, Càrn Bhac, Glas Tulaichean, Mount Keen, The Cairnwell

Corbetts included on this walk: Ben Gulabin

Date walked: 18/09/2022

6 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

I usually take a lot photographs when walking. They are just taken with my phone, so not with any impressive camera, and I have no particular photographic skill and so I reckon around 2/3 of the photographs will be bad. But the final 1/3 should be reasonable and, due to the surroundings if nothing else, one or two photographs will be pretty good. I like to be able to look back at the whole sequence every so often to remind myself of a particular day in the hills. And I try to take pictures of the route that might prove to be useful for others in navigating or trying to work out how strenuous a particular climb is going to be.

Why is this relevant? Well, this report principally describes three walks I did from 18 September to 20 September 2022 climbing the Cairnwell group of 8 Munros by slightly non-standard routes. And on 22 September, I dropped my phone on a stone while on a short walk by the Vat Burn and it immediately died. The photographs of the Cairnwell group are gone, dispersed into their electronic afterlife, beyond a few pictures I had texted to others. Fortunately, those pictures were ones that I thought looked fairly good, on a quick viewing. But I don't have detailed photographs of the routes and a good number of pictures of the Mounth peaks, luminous green under heavy Autumn skies, are gone forever.

18 September 2022: Càrn Aosda and the Cairnwell from the Glenshee Ski Centre
Distance: 9.5 km; Ascent: 415 meters; 2 hours 45 mins

The Mountain Weather Information Service seemed to be wrong for the entirety of September 2022. Clear, sunny days were cloudy and rainy; cloudy and rainy days were clear. The forecast for 18 September was reasonable: some rain, but some clear periods. So obviously there was low cloud and pouring rain all day. But that didn't rule out a short walk on Càrn Aosda and the Cairnwell, with a hope (unsatisfied) that the cloud might break.

You don't need me to make a map for that walk. Up the path from the ski centre, take the righthand turn that leads directly for the summit of Càrn Aosda, round the ridge to the Cairnwell, then straight down the flank of the mountain on the faint path that follows the line of chair lifts just before the summit.

The walk was significant for one reason. My mother came with me, redoubtable and impervious against the rain, dressed in jeans, trainers and puffy coat. These were her first ever Munros. Despite the cloud, cold and wet, the walk was pronounced to be "lovely".

First Munro

Second Munro

We stopped to take in the wildlife information board and catch glimpses of Loch Vrotachan, but saw no mountain hares. And we took the (slippery!) descent slowly.

Information board and a glimpse of the loch

I think that's a smile

Checking everyone is still vertical.

19 September 2022: Ben Gulabin, Càrn a' Ghèoidh and An Socach
Distance: 25 km. Ascent: 1,250 metres. Time: not sure -- 6 or 7 hours?

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Rather than watch the Queen's funeral, I took the opportunity of clear weather to tackle a few more of the Cairnwell Munros. (It's a shame the photos no longer exist; although there were a few passing showers, there were long sunny spells and gorgeous autumn colours.)

Walkhighlands details a route up Ben Gulabin from the A93 in Gleann Beag. It follows a vehicle track up from the road to the bealach between Ben Gulabin and Creagan Bheithe, making for an easy ascent. The path up from the bealach is steep but short. Ben Gulabin is well worth the climb, for a short day out, giving fine, unfamiliar views of the southern Mounth.

Returning to the bealach, the vehicle track continues as shown on OS maps, climbing over Carn Mor. I can't see much sign in walk reports that people often use it, but it's a pleasant route, climbing gently and following the line of the ridge to the bottom of Càrn a' Ghèoidh's southern flank. The Munro top of Carn Bhinnein looks impressively steep from here. After a short clamber, I paused for some lunch at the summit of Càrn a' Ghèoidh, spoke to other walkers who had ascended from Glen Shee Ski Centre, and weathered the last brief rain shower of the day.

My next target was An Socach. There is a faint path, and then short easy grass down the west ridge of Càrn a' Ghèoidh. The descent towards the (677m) bealach by Coire Clachach is also straightforward, at least to begin with. But the terrain in the bealach is difficult: peat hags with steep banks. The route up the other side of the bealach is also quite steep and heathery (although short). From the top, I traversed around the hill through more heather to the second (756m) bealach. The route past the low point is initially barred by a gully, but it can be passed further to the west. I couldn't see any sign of a path at any point on this part of the route. It makes for difficult walking, but certainly not any worse than the standard walkhighlands route between Beinn Lutharn Mhòr and Carn Bhac. (More on that route below).

There is a steep path (not shown on the map) up the southern side of An Socach to the summit. I think it connects to the paths round Loch nan Eun and maybe to the path by the Allt Cac Dubh, if anyone wants to try that approach to An Socach. The top of An Socach is rather a nice ridge walk. I took the standard walkhighlands descent route, following a generally clear, but occasionally boggy path to the valley floor and then following the track back to the A93, where my lift back to Braemar was waiting.

Apart from the tricky terrain between Càrn a' Ghèoidh and An Socach, this a good round of mountains, and certainly a route to consider if you are looking for a alternative path to Càrn a' Ghèoidh, avoiding the ski developments.

20 September 2022: the Spittal of Glenshee to Meikle Inverey
Distance: 37.5 km. Ascent: 1530 meters. Time: 9 hours.

For the third walking day, I wanted to link together two walks from Walkhighlands: Glas Tulaichean and Càrn an Rìgh from the Spittal of Glenshee, and Beinn Iutharn Mhòr and Càrn Bhac from Inverey. If you have transport at both ends (or are looking for a long walk from Glenshee to Braemar), this route makes for an excellent day in the mountains.

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

My partner dropped me off at the Spittal of Glenshee around 10 am. In retrospect, given that we weren't parking, I could have asked to be dropped at the Dalmunzie Hotel. But the whole route to Glas Tulaichean -- the road to the hotel, the old railway line to the base of the hill, and the Landrover track to the summit -- makes a very pleasant walk, clear and easy underfoot. And I saw only two other people all day, descending the bottom of the track as I started my ascent.

The top of Glas Tulaichean was in cloud as I approached, but it was clearing on and off while I was on the summit, and then the cloud blew on south and the peaks remained clear for the rest of the day. I noticed, with a little schadenfraude for other unknown walkers, that the high Cairngorms remained in cloud for most of the day, aside from Ben Avon.

I don't have much to add to the walkhighlands description of the route over Glas Tulaichean and Càrn an Rìgh, apart from these few points. Glas Tulaichean is a really good looking mountain. I couldn't see any path or obvious route from the bealach above Glas Choire Bheag across to the path running below Màm nan Càrn. A direct crossing of the valley floor seemed to be blocked by marsh and bog. I continued on the path past the small 858m lump marked on the OS map, and then cut across to the left over slightly easier peat hag and heather. I think there might have been an actual path across if I'd walked a little closer to Loch nan Eun. There are two paths running along the bottom of Màm nan Càrn that join up later. I took the higher path, which is quite slippery and eroded at points. It was quite slow going. Maybe it would be better to opt for the lower branch of the path. Càrn an Rìgh feels remote and surprisingly high (given that it's in the Mounth plateau). Although it's only 250 meters, it felt like quite a long pull up from the bealach to the summit, but well worth the climb for the views, especially towards Beinn a' Ghlo

The part of my route not described by walkhighlands is the link between the Glas Tulaichean and Càrn an Rìgh segment and the Beinn Iutharn Mhòr and Càrn Bhac segment. It turns out there's a path! On my descent from Càrn an Rìgh, I could see a faint path running up to the summit of Màm nan Càrn from the 771m bealach, and a slightly more obvious path that branched off at around 820 meters, and contoured around the side of the hill, rising diagonally to the 900m bealach below Beinn Iutharn Mhòr. I could also hear a spring around 2/3 of the way along the path, 20 meters down the side of the hill (although I had already filled up my water at 771m bealach, where, given the clarity of the water in the small stream, I think there must be another spring).

I got the impression from the map that Beinn lutharn Mhòr would be a nondescript heathery lump, but it actually feels like a significant peak. And it possibly had the best views of the day, north to the main body of the Cairngorms, east to the wilds around An Sgarsoch, and west towards Lochnagar. I was now back on the walkhighlands route, except I had to descend rather than ascend the steep north flank of Beinn Iutharn Mhòr. This was a little tricky, because I couldn't look ahead to pick out the best line. It might have been better to retrace my steps a bit towards the summit and then descend immediately above Lochan Uaine. In the event, I just picked my way down over outcrop and shifting scree.

The ground between Beinn Iutharn Mhòr and Càrn Bhac is tough going. Believe the walkhighlands description and wait for a dry spell. Serious peat hags, with banks that are sometimes difficult to climb, and areas of deep bog to avoid. However, the climb up Càrn Bhac is short and not too steep.

I didn't follow the prescribed route down Càrn Bhac. Instead, I headed down the path towards Carn Creagach. From the bealach, I traversed north across the side of the hill following deer tracks (or maybe segments of a faint path). The terrain was not as bad as I thought it might be; it was easier going than my route up Càrn Bhac. Fairly soon, I met a large landrover track (where two enormous green and yellow diggers were parked). Then it was an easy path all the way to Inverey.

A few of my photos from this day have survived.

Photo 5.jpg
Looking back to the summit of Glas Tulaichean

Photo 3.jpg
I think that's Beinn a' Ghlo, looking over Càrn an Rìgh in the foreground from near the summit of Beinn Iutharn Mhòr.

Photo 2.jpg
Looking down to Lochan Uaine from Beinn Iutharn Mhòr, with Càrn Bhac beyond over heather and bog.

Photo 4.jpg
Beinn a' Ghlo again (I think), maybe from Càrn Bhac

Photo 1.jpg
The Lairig Ghru from Càrn Bhac.

23 September 2022: Mount Keen from Glen Tanar
Distance 29 km. Ascent: 900 meters. Time: 5 hours.

On 23 September, I climbed Mount Keen from the north via Glen Tanar (the standard route). It is not one of the Cairnwell 8 and doesn't really belong in this report. But it was my last mountain walk of 2022 and I can make up for the previous lack of photos with a few low resolution pictures from an old phone. 2/3 are fairly bad and low resolution. Around 1/3 are reasonable and low resolution. There might be a good one somewhere in the mix. It'll be low resolution.

And the walk is somewhat pretty.



Trees and lake

Trees and path

Trees and river

More river

More more river

River and mountain

Closer mountain

Much closer mountain

Glen Tanar

Lots of nothing


Passing rain
Christopher Pulman
Posts: 50
Munros:115   Corbetts:30
Fionas:13   Donalds:5
Joined: May 17, 2019
Location: Reading

6 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Can you help support Walkhighlands?

Our forum is free from adverts - your generosity keeps it running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and this community by donating by direct debit?

Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: rocket-ron, urbanvet and 39 guests