Glenshee West Round

Carn Aosda, The Cairnwell, Carn a'Cheoidh and An Socach

June 2010


View Four Munros west of Glenshees in a larger map

This was the first of four days walking based at Braemar. The plan for the day was to climb the four Munros that can be accessed from the Glenshee ski centre. The weather was quite poor with low cloud and intermittent drizzle giving poor views.

The start of the walk leaves the A93 at the ski centre, at about 650m above sea level. It's a height that makes climbing these four Munros relatively easy.

Am I in Britain or the Alps?

Sadly, the cafe is shut as I head up the ski access tracks....

......passing under the chair lift....

.....with the slopes of The Cairnwell behind.....

....and on up into the cloud.....

......to reach the summit....

.....cairn of Carn Aosda. Forty minutes to climb a Munro is definitely a record for me!

The route now follows the ski access tracks around the top of the Cairnwell Burn....

.....rising and falling across heather moorland....

......until it drops down to just above Loch Vrotachan.

Then the gentle climb to The Cairnwell starts, following the snow fences....

......and passing several ski tows on the way to the ridge leading to the summit of The Cairnwell...

.....with its two radio masts.

Is this the most hideous summit of a Munro? It had taken an hour and forty minutes from the start to reach The Cairnwell.

The views were poor but for the sake of completeness I've include this photo of Carn Aosda glimpsed across the valley.

Fortunately the walk now leaves the ski industry behind as, leaving the ski access tracks, a path heads downhill at first heading north-westwards towards the Loch...

.....and then turns towards the south-west along this easy ridge.

The track climbs towards the first top of Carn nan Sac (in the clouds above the steep scree slopes).....

...passing along the undulating ridge...

....and past two small lochans.

The track continues along the ridge.

Looking back the way I'd come in a moment when the cloud lifted slightly....

.....and across the corrie to The Cairnwell.

There's no need to actually go to the cairn at the 920m mark at the summit of Carn nan Sac, but in the mist I ended going along the spur towards it rather than cutting directly across the hillside to Carn a' Gheoidh. Still, at least I had a bit of a view.

The route onwards is across a rather featureless ridge with several cairns to guide the walker...

....and a vague track.

After about a kilometre and a half the summit cairn of Garn a' Gheoidh came into "view". I arrived at the cairn 3 hours and 20 minutes after leaving the ski centre, just in time for a lunch break.

For the continuation of the walk to the next Munro of An Socach, there was no clear path to start with so I walked on a compass and GPS bearing down the north west ridge. About half way down the ridge a path appears and then heads almost due north....

.......and becomes very well defined through the heather.

I'd set the GPS to reach the end of the land-rover track in the valley at about NO 10065 78990. I was pleased to see that the cloud base was lifting slightly on An Socach so perhaps I might have some sort of view from the summit.

The Baddoch Burn was reached and at this point was quite easy to cross. Further down valley though, it is not...

(Some condensation was affecting my camera lens and some of the photos from here on have had to be over-sharpened to be of use)

Once on the valley land-rover track it is followed for a few hundred metres until....

 ......a stream is crossed where a track leads away from the burn heading  directly up to the low point between the two summits of An Socach. It's a clear, if rather boggy path through the heather and peat.

Looking back to Carn a' Gheoidh.

The track leads on gently uphill....

.....before reaching.....

.....this depression at the head of the burn....

.....and finally onto the main ridge. Turning west.....

.....it's a gentle climb over grass and stones...

.... to reach the shelter and cairn of An Socach, the fourth Munro of the day and reached just under six hours from the start of the walk.

The views from the summit weren't good but this is looking south-west with Loch nan Eun and somewhere behind the clouds are Glas Tulaichean and Carn an righ.

I planned to return to the Glenshee ski centre by retracing my steps to the Bannock Burn, crossing it, heading across the moors to Loch Vrotachan and then joining the ski access tracks. This is the view along An Socach's long ridge. The second and slightly lower top is under the clouds.

Almost the entire return route can be seen from this point just before joining the path down into the glen.

I'd tried to cross the Bannock Burn lower downstream and found it impossibly deep and fast flowing so was reconciled to a tramp back upstream to cross it where I had done earlier. When this bridge appeared it was a great relief!

This is another of the photographs affected by condensation on my camera's lens but I've included it as this bridge is strategically important for completing this route easily. It appears to be relatively new and is located at NO 10173 78815.

Looking downhill as I climbed up hill towards the loch. The bridge can be seen in the centre of the photo.

It's an easy tramp across the moor....

.......with a view of an Socach completely free of cloud.

There's no path on this section of the walk so I followed the northern banks of Loch Vrotachan past the small hut....

.....and climbed up to the main ridge leading to the ski area access tracks. The OS and Harveys's maps aren't entirely clear about the access tracks and I wasn't entirely certain whether the one that starts at about NO 12765 78660 actually leads down to the main road. It appears on the map to stop at the bottom of one of the ski tows. However, it actually does join the main access track and offers a very quick way down off the hills.

A final view of the day shows The Cairnwell clear of cloud. I was back at my hire car just under 9 hours after starting the walk. Progress had not been rapid, partly because I'd taken a lot of photographs, talked to some other walkers and had several "pit stops" for food, as well as having wasted time trying to cross the Bannock Burn.  Nevertheless my Munro tally had crept up to 79.