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The Cairnwell Munros & Co. - The Long Way Around

The Cairnwell Munros & Co. - The Long Way Around

Postby andygunn23 » Mon Oct 19, 2015 8:06 pm

Route description: The Cairnwell Munros

Munros included on this walk: An Socach (Braemar), Beinn Iutharn Mhor, Carn a'Gheoidh, Carn Aosda, Carn Bhac, Glas Tulaichean, The Cairnwell

Date walked: 19/10/2015

Time taken: 18 hours

Distance: 45 km

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The Cairnwell Munros & Co. - Andrew's Route (i.e. the long way!)

It is often said that winter brings out the best in Scotland's scenic landscape.

Not sure I have ever agreed with this, mainly because I have never been into snow sports (unless building snowmen counts - I am all for that!). However, the small glimpse that this cold Saturday morning in October offered me is definitely swinging my opinion!

With winter fast approaching I know my race to the top of Scotland's finest hills is going to diminish at a swift pace. On the plus side I never would have thought I would have bagged my 30th munro with a week short of 3 months.

So here is my take on how I reached that 30th munro within 13 weekends. Little did I know how difficult this circuit was going to end up!

Friday 16th of October 2015
Following last weekends report somehow I had managed to convince a fellow old placement student from work to join. Finally someone equally as bonkers (no offence mate)!

The adventure began, Andrew and I set off from Aberdeen around 5:30pm, neither of us could remember exactly when we arrived at Glenshee Ski Centre, but it was pitch black.

Full of energy and fresh legs we powered up Carn Aosda, placed another stone onto the ever growing cairn and began hunting for somewhere to camp.

It was surprisingly warm as we scoured the hillside for flat(ish) and dry(ish) places to set up the tents, little did we know how short lived this heat would be. By 10pm it was beginning to get pretty baltic, frost was beginning to form.

FROST?! Oops. This wasn't in the script, every weather report I read said nothing colder than 5 degrees. On the plus side I have never seen a sky that clear, the stars were wow. I attempted a photo but lets just put it this way, it's not going to win any photography awards... ever.

Saturday 17th of October 2015
Far from the best nights sleep. Slightly damp freezing ground and forgetting to zip the tent properly meant I effectively spent the night squirming about like a giant freezing worm. Not often are you happy for the alarm to ping off at 6am, but on this day I was delighted just to get up and moving.

I went for a short run back up to near the summit of Carn Aosda and enjoyed the sun rising which was complemented perfectly with the thick frost that had developed overnight.

The sunrise was completely different to last Saturday, but equally as stunning. This was my first sunrise from above 3,000ft in the frost. It definitely won't be my last.

A solo cloud bashing about the hills.

Scotland - you are incredible (even if we are rubbish at football).

Getting changed to one hell of a view. One hell of a cold view at that!

Before long the sky had regained its blue glow and it was time to set off. We packed up the tents, scraped off the frost and headed down towards Baddock Burn. A quick stop while Andrew brewed up some porridge, 3 Michelin stars without a shadow of a doubt.

We had now reached Baddock Burn - it looks nice but trust me it's a slippery devil!

With the sun yet to reach over the mountains the burn was still covered in frost. Surely the rocks wouldn't be that slippy. It wasn't even 9am and my attempted crossing ended up with one foot fully submerged in the FREEZING water. By now I was too committed, splash... splash... *swearing profusely*... splash...

At least I had made it to the other side. Andrew's turn. He opted for throwing the weekend bag over the burn, well just before he let go his brain recalculated the risk and reward of this strategy, somehow he held onto the bag, did a perfect ballerina twist, had a little dip in the burn but survived relatively intact.

"That's definitely one for the report!"

Not sure if the burn got the better of us, but far from ecstatic about any potential rematch, in sporting terms I will call it a draw. An exciting draw. Maybe something like: Andrew & Andrew 5-5 Baddock Burn.

We had arrived up An Socach right in the middle, the weather remained uncharacteristically sunny, warm(ish) and wind free so we marched onto the summit at An Socach West.

Loch nan Eun from near the summit of An Socach West - I had planned to camp here on Saturday night... 'Planned' being the operative word. Although close, there was many, many miles between us and any camping!

Now faced with the descent from An Socach West to the general direct of Carn Bhac, we were greeted with the decision of; take the easier longer route, or just plough down the relatively steep side.

No prizes for guessing the route we took. Avoiding the unavoidable boulder 'avalanches' down the north west side of An Socach was definitely not the easiest going on the knees.

The view at the bottom was without a shadow of a doubt easy on the eyes. The thought of stopping for lunch was also pleasing on the old stomach!

Faced with no path it was a case of bee-lining it towards Carn Bhac. From memory this wasn't the most memorable of routes although it did have one moment of significance. We seen our first, and only person since the beginning on Friday night. This would also be the last person we seen until Sunday at around 3pm - that's the definition of "the middle of nowhere".

From the top of Carn Bhac looking North - I was starting to recognise other hills I had been up in the previous 13 weeks... is that sad? (probably best you don't answer that!)

I didn't recognise these but was suitably impressed - giants! Unfortunately they were off my map so I couldn't research further. Turns out they are Carn nan Gabhar, Braigh Coire Chruinnbhal & Carn Liath.

I wish I could speak Gaelic. Either way they are three mighty big looking hills.

Next up was Beinn lutharn Mhor... oh god, this looked far away. Legs getting sore. Bags getting heavier (somehow). Stomach getting emptier. You know just what would suit the mood...

A giant bog - perfecto.

Roughly an hour of zig-zagging across the squelchy ground we made it to the bottom of Beinn lutharn Mhor from the Lochan Uaine side. Not sure this is the most commonly approach side, but tough, we were here.

Do we head up the left or the right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Each time we decided on one option the other looked easier.

Left it was.

If only photos showed how jiggered your legs were when taking these. Here we had a minor stop for Andrew to tend to the blister that Beinn lutharn Mhor had kindly gifted him (free of charge might I add).

p.s. It never looks quite as difficult / steep in photos. Just looking at these are making my legs ache!

Here is where my plan was scrapped. We reached the summit of Beinn lutharn Mhor, I had planned to fly up Carn an Righ and the gently stroll down to camp at Loch nan Eun (the photo from earlier), dish up some pasta and have a great night sleep.

One problem. Two actually. Firstly, it was 4pm and I think we were both slightly apprehensive about how cold it would be overnight so finding a sheltered spot to pitch tent was an priority. Secondly, there would be no 'flying up' or 'gently strolling down'. I was pooped.

Jointly, I think we made the sensible decision (parents take note) and pitched the tents in between Beinn lutharn Mhor and Mam nan Carn. On a successful note we did dish up the pasta and what a night sleep!

Sunday 18th of October 2015
After being in what can only be described as a walking coma, the gentle cloud covered offered some much needed warmth and resulted in an incredible 14 hours of rest!

Waking up staring at Carn an Righ. It was mocking me. "You have come all this way, I am one of the most remote Munros in The Cairngorms, if you don't complete my now you will have one hell of a long walk just to get here...

Admittedly we did toy with the idea of dropping the bags at the bottom of the valley, coasting up to the top, returning down and then heading on our way to Glas Tulaichean. We resisted the urge. Resisting this temptation would be one of the best decisions in 8 hours time!

Glas Tulaichena from the shoulder of Mam nan Carn, the first Munro of Sunday and the fifth of the weekend. We quite literally rocketed up this one. Looking back far too fast and direct.

From the summit I got to see the three unknown (at the time) beasts from a different angle. Looking forward to conquering these at some point in the future!

Next up was the most tricky, long and knee destroying descents of the lot! Glas Tulaichean to the Allt Chlinn Thaitniech burn.

Now was seriously a case of mind not wanting to overcome matter. The pressing matter being that all my legs felt like they had spent the last two days being constantly hit by Bludgers from all directions. Clearly the Beater's in this imaginary game of 'Leg Quidditch' were not doing a good job of protecting my legs!

We stopped for lunch looking up at Creag Dallas contemplating what state my feet were going to be in come Monday morning (the answer was sore...)

A very long, and very slop ascent up Creag Dallas, a short skirt around Carn Bhinnein and we had reached the summit of Carn a' Gheoidh.

Finally we had rejoined The Cairnwell Munro circuit. Our short detour has lasted a crazy amount of hours, went over numerous hills, roamed through a fair amount of valleys and probably had Andrew cursing at my chosen route.

By now it was about 3pm on Sunday afternoon and we seen the first signs of human life - it appeared the apocalypse hadn't occurred. It was just a case of us being the only two nutters out exploring this area of the Cairngorms.

Not long to go we made the way down from the summit of Carn nan Sac, past the little lochs / giant puddles just off the Creag a' Choire Dhirich cliff face.

The Cairnwell - the final of the three. Or in our case the final of the seven. Knowing this was the final ascent, mind finally overcame the leg matter previously discussed.

Not Scotland's most attractive Munro cairn, but the first one I have seen perched on top of a hut. If you can't be beautiful you might as well be unique (can't see that being a great chat up line - not sure the hill will be too bothered)

Faced with the final decision of the weekend, retrace our steps and take the well used path down to the ski centre or put on the imaginary ski's and glide down the Cairnwell... I must admit we were pretty good skiers without the snow.

Here is Carn Aosda on the left that we did on Friday night from just before we flew down The Cairnwell towards the Glenshee Ski Centre car park.

Just like that the metaphorical game of 'Leg Quidditch' was over, the Golden Snitch had been caught and the game (weekend) was over! 30 points to Gryffindor!

I have no doubt whatsoever that others have done far longer, harder and crazier walks in much more demanding weather from that ski centre car park... But for me that was by far the most difficult route and weekend I have had in the past 3 months, in fact possibly in the last 22 years.

My legs were (and still are) in pieces. I loved waking up to the views in the frost, but with the shortening days I am not sure if I will get many more long weekends away in the hills. Maybe I will have to settle for 'day walks'. Even if I have to wait until next spring it just gives me more time to plan some long, hilly and beautiful through routes.

Lastly, and definitely not least, cheers to the main man Andrew for joining this adventure, driving out from Aberdoom and putting up with my somewhat ambitious route! :clap: :clap: :clap:

And that is how I climbed my 30th mountain over 3,000ft in 13 weeks. I have added my route (roughly) as an attachment for anyone who wants to do The Cairnwell Munros - Andrew's Route.

Over and out,

30 down, 252 to go!

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Re: The Cairnwell Munros & Co. - The Long Way Around

Postby larry groo » Tue Oct 20, 2015 11:11 am

Another cracking report Andrew...

Great pics too!!

Aye, the frosts are here eh!

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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larry groo
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Location: Angus

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