Hills: The Cairnwell, Carn a’Gheoidh and Ben Gulabin
Date: Sunday 16th March 2014
Company: Myself, Mark, Ray, Ray, Malcolm, Ros, Tom, Jerry and Des

I set out yesterday with the Moray Mountaineering Club on the monthly Bus Meet. After picking up members (and guests) in Elgin, Forres, Grantown on Spey and Tomintoul we made our way across to Deeside, via Gairnshiel, and then onto Glen Shee. Well done to the driver getting a 50-seater bus over the bridge at Gairnshiel – a tight squeeze!

A majority of members disembarked at the Glen Shee Ski Centre, leaving the bus to continue on to park up for the day at the Spittal of Glenshee. This would allow members to undertake either a traverse via Glas Maol and Creag Leacach or a traverse via the Cairnwell hills.

This was either going to be my 8th ascent of Glas Maol or my 6th ascent of Cairnwell. I decided on a 6th ascent of Cairnwell as that plan included an ascent of Ben Gulabin, a hill I have only been up once previously. A 6th ascent of Cairnwell is possibly 6 times too many! Not particularly looking forward to a 7th ascent.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

Eleven of the twenty aboard undertook the traverse from the Glen Shee Ski Centre to the Spittal of Glenshee, via the Cairnwell, Carn a’Gheoidh and Ben Gulabin.

Glenshee Ski Centre:

I took my turn of breaking trail for the ascent of the Cairnwell which is short and steep. Despite the snow, we reached the summit of Cairnwell in around 40 minutes.

Ascent of Cairnwell:

Despite the steepness, we didn’t need axes or crampons as the snow was very soft and it was easy to kick in huge steps.

Looking back during ascent of Cairnwell:

Looking back during ascent of Cairnwell:

On reaching the top of the ski tow, we encountered very strong winds. The MWIS forecast had suggested gusts to 90mph. While I don’t think the gusts were quite that strong, one of the gusts on the way to the summit almost blew us over.

At the top of the Cairnwell ski tow:

We took a short break at the summit of Cairnwell, a summit building providing us with some shelter from the wind.

Cairnwell summit:

The descent from Cairnwell to the col was mostly devoid of snow.

Looking towards Carn Aosda during descent from Cairnwell:

Carn a’Gheoidh:

On starting our ascent of Carn a’Gheoidh we were back into the snow.

Ray breaking trail:

We initially visited Carn nan Sac before continuing onto the summit of Carn a’Gheoidh.

Heading towards Carn nan Sac:

Summit of Carn a’Gheoidh:

Mark and Ros approaching Carn a’Gheoidh:

From Carn a’Gheoidh, we descended roughly South-West to pick up a good track leading towards Carn Mor and out to the A93.

Looking towards Carn Mor:

Looking back to Carn a’Gheoidh:

During the walk, I was surprised to find a bothy partially buried in snow. According to the bothy book this is the Invercauld Estate Walker’s Bothy. I didn’t realise that the land South of Carn a’Gheoidh was part of the Invercauld Estate.


The bothy provided some welcome shelter from the wind and was an ideal place for lunch. On arriving at the bothy, previous visitors hadn’t shut the door properly so we tried to clear sufficient snow away from the door to get the door shut. There was no gas canister for the heater.

Inside bothy:

From Carn Mor we continued to follow the good track down towards the base of Ben Gulabin before also ascending Ben Gulabin.

Looking back during descent from Carn Mor:

Ben Gulabin:

Heather burning:

Looking back to Carn a’Gheoidh, Carn Mor and Cairnwell:

I last ascended Ben Gulabin in 2002 and cannot recall finding a track up the hill. There is now a good track all the way to the summit.

Ascending Ben Gulabin:

Ben Gulabin summit:

From Ben Gulabin, we returned to the track leading out to the A93. The walkout to the Spittal of Glenshee was really enjoyable.

Looking back to Ben Gulabin from A93:

We arrived at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel in time to catch the second-half of the football match before leaving to collect other members from further up the road.

Spittal of Glenshee Hotel:

We then enjoyed a further drink at the Fife Arms in Braemar before returning home.

An excellent day out despite the strong winds.