Carn Mor (NO 110750, 876m)
Carn a’ Gheoidh (NO 106766, 975m)
Carn Bhinnein (NO 091762, 917m)
840m of ascent
I’ve crossed Carn a’ Gheoidh in long traverses from west to east and from east to west, but never approached it from the south. The hill sends out a couple of ridges in that direction, which curve around to enclose Coire Shith. They’re both now threaded with a complex of vehicle tracks, serving the grouse butts on the high moorland.
The way in to this track system is through a gate on the west side of the A93, about a mile north of Spittal of Glenshee. There are two places where you can pull a car off the road close to the gate—the more northerly is right next to the gate itself, and the southern one looks promising, but links to the gate via a silly little section of path that goes up and down over the top of a short embankment at the side of the road. (I, of course, parked in that one.)
The track initially climbs steadily along the eastern flank of Ben Gulabin, affording increasingly long views up Gleann Beag.
Then it turns west across the col between Gulabin and Creagan Bheithe, before climbing northwards above Coire Shith to reach the ridgeline below Carn Mor. There’s a little ruined shieling by the track, which presumably served shepherds grazing their flock in the shelter of Coire Shith below.
The grouse butts here are elaborate dry-stone blocks, and I imagine they’ll be busy in the shooting season—the surrounding moorland was full of the clattering and cooing of red grouse. And I was seldom out of sight of a mountain hare or two—only just beginning to lose their white winter coats, and standing out like sore thumbs against the dark heather.
The track passes within a few metres of the summit of Carn Mor, from which the view really opens out, from Glas Tulaichean in the west to Creag Leacach in the east, with the grey lump of Carn a’ Gheoidh ahead to the north.
There’s a fine new hut tucked under the west side of the ridge between Carn Mor and Carn a’ Gheoidh—locked and shuttered tight when I passed, but I presume it sees traffic (literally, there’s space for a couple of 4x4s outside) once the shooting starts.
On, then, to Carn a’ Gheoidh. The track runs high on the mountainside, and then a little intermittent path picks its way to the summit.
Just as I reached the final little patch of snow, I ran into an old set of footprints—I’m clearly not the only person who fancied a change from the guidebook approaches.
Carn a’ Gheoidh’s big summit cairn and shelter opened up the view north to the snowy plateau of the Cairngorms.
From there, I was off westwards, towards the lovely top of Carn Bhinnein. The name means “summit of the little hill”, and you can see why it’s so-called:
The hill has a little hill on top of it. And on top of that little hill is a tiny shelter cairn, with just enough room inside for two or three good friends.
I think the little entrance is a recent development—my memory of this shelter in the ’70s is that it formed a complete ring, and you had to climb over the wall to hunker down inside. It’s a lovely viewpoint, with a precipitous sightline down Gleann Taitneach to the south, and across to the shapely corries of Glas Tulaichean to the west.
To return to the outward track without going back over Carn a’ Gheoidh, I planned to contour around the headwaters of the Allt Aulich. And that turned out to work well, with some good deer tracks traversing the slope, and easy routes across the rockfields. There were grouse-butts here, too—but fashioned from simple piles of peat and turf, and with no vehicle tracks in sight. (Presumably these are the Ryanair butts, in contrast to the Emirates butts on Carn Mor.)
Back on the track, I skirted Carn Mor, and then went off-piste to walk along the length of Creagan Bheithe. In part, that was just for a bit of variety, but I also wanted to take a look at a curious goal-post structure I’d spotted on the brow of the ridge as I walked up.
There was the fallen wreck of a substantial wooden hut nearby, and an even larger ruined structure on the flatlands below (visible through the “goal posts” in the photo above). At the bottom of the hill, next to this ruined building, was an old pulley that had obviously once linked to the structure on the brow of the hill.
This is all that’s left of the old Creagan Bheithe “ski resort”—the lower hut was built in 1948 by the Dundee Ski Club, and a single rope tow was added in the 1950s. The two huts and their ski-tow are marked on my 1964 edition of the Ordnance Survey’s inch-to-the-mile tourist map of the Cairngorms, and are still there on the 1974 edition. But the expanding ski facilities farther up Gleann Beag, at what’s now the Glenshee Winter Sports Area, meant that this little bit of Scottish skiing history was eventually abandoned.