How to bag 3 Munros in 3 hours: Climbing the Cairnwell Trio

View from the top. Picture: Contributed
View from the top. Picture: Contributed
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Ascending a peak over three thousand feet usually takes the best part of a day, but this trio of peaks in the Cairngorms National Park can be bagged in three hours by fit walkers.

‘Scarred’ with ski slopes and communication masts, the Cairnwell Munros are sneered at by many walkers for their unprepossessing appearance and lack of wilderness.

However, views are still impressive and the trio’s accessibility is unmatched, thanks to a high level start point and well ploughed paths.

Munro bagging doesn’t get any more straightforward than this.

STAGE 1

The starting point for this walk is the Glenshee ski centre. If driving, park your car in the colossal, often dusty car park before safely crossing the Old Military Road.

Avoid the temptation to take the ski lift to the top of Cairnwell and instead march beyond the ski centre towards the octagonal building along a gravel path.

Carry on along the path traversing a ski slope, before turning right up a narrower track towards the peak of Carn Aosda.

The path is steep and loose, but your ire will be short-lived.

Once you reach a sign pointing east for ‘Carn Aosda’, follow it for a couple of minutes over a rocky path.

No false summits - you’ve made it to the top of your first Munro and have likely only been walking for half an hour.

Enjoy the views of the surrounding peaks and if you aren’t too cynical, appreciate the scale of the Glenshee ski centre.

STAGE 2

From Carn Aosda head back to the signpost which guided you to the peak and carry on west, ignoring the path you ascended to the south.

Keep following the path as it winds to a bealach above Loch Vrotachan before heading left and climbing once more.

This path eventually swoops right towards Creag a’Choire Dhirich, leaving any traces of the ski centre behind you - this is the closest you will get to wilderness today. Views to the north in particular are delightful.

Follow the path beyond the rugged but threat-free Creag a’Choire Dhirich towards the plateau of Carn Nan Sac before turning southwest along the featureless ridge. Make a final climb towards your second Munro of today, Carn a’Gheoidh.

This is the highest peak of the three at 975 metres and should be reached in about 90 minutes.

Views to the west of Glas Tulaichean are the finest of the day.

STAGE 3

From Carn a’Gheoidh retrace your steps over Carn Nan Sac and the craggy Creag a’Choire Dhirich descending to a bealach, before turning right towards the unmistakably industrious The Cairnwell.

Follow a path along the ridge, passing the ski lift you resisted earlier on, before turning right towards the peak.

Topped with portacabins and communication masts, you’ll struggle to find an uglier Munro peak, but the views are fantastic, particularly south through Glenshee.

STAGE 4

Retreat from The Cairnwell to the bealach above Loch Vrotachan, before following a well marked track towards the ski centre.

If you’ve made good time you should reach the Glenshee ski centre after three hours of walking.

Your only problem now is knowing what to do with the rest of your day.