2019 – A Year in Mountains

Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 45 total)
  • 2019 – A Year in Mountains
  • munrobiker
    Member

    Seems very early this, doesn’t it? Well, it is a bit earlier than normal but I don’t think I’m going to fit any more mountains in and I thought I might do something special later in the year.

    After finally moving back to Scotland this year, all my best laid plans almost went agley because I bought a house and so was press ganged into doing it up for a lot of the summer and spring. I also took up endurance XC racing again, which took out most of April and May (it was worth it though – I’ve been lucky enough to earn a few trophies this year!). Still got 12 adventures to the hills in– a great remedy to what’s been a tumultuous year (finally got back to Scotland, then my dad needed heart surgery and then I got sacked from a job that had made me depressed). And, by ‘eck, it was nice to ride a lot of Scottish hills again – there’s a very different feel to being way out in the Cairngorms than there is to being in the Lakes or Snowdon.

    I also found time to make a video again this year, hope you like it.

    Because of some new feature with the forum where it doesn’t like loads of links, I’ll do one post per mountain.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Ben Ledi
    I’d been meaning to do this for years – it’s an unmenacing hill, relatively close to civilisation and looked like an ideal one to either kick off or close a year of taking bikes up big hills. But then a few years ago they sanitised it and, based on what my friend Pete was saying about it, it sounded like a total waste of time. But on a sunny weekend in March when no one else was free I thought I’d try it for myself.

    It’s not mega death tech. It has been covered in slabs and steps. But sometimes, on a quiet day when there’s no one else about, and there’s no wind, and the sun’s out, it’s really nice to just go really fast. And, snap, just like that – 2,000ft gone in around 11 minutes. And it was really good fun.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Ben Vorlich
    I’ve done this a few times over the years and the thing that always sticks out is the way it’s a hill of three very distinct stages – a fireroad drudge at the bottom, fast sanitised singletrack in the middle and steep, rocky, usually snowy thrills at the top.

    With the sun blazing away we had a delight of a day – the trail is excellent fun, even if the last third is pissed away on a landrover track and since I last went up there some kind soul has built a jacuzzi (ahem, hydro electric dam…) at the bottom. The sun was out so in we went – to a load of snow melt! Jesus, it was cold. And, being smart lads who learn from our mistakes, we even had an ice cream at the bottom.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Ben Lawers
    Back in late April, with a week of the notice I’d given left to go, my boss sacked me. Then refused to pay me. Fortunately, I had another job lined up and I had a week til it started. The week started with 10 Under the Ben, racing in memory of our friend BJ Doherty of this forum who was killed riding on the road in January. But then I had a week to stew and worry about work. A phone call to my great friend Kieran and my knight in shining armour arrived in a big white camper van for a few days’ riding hills in the north.

    Ben Lawers was the first stop, and I’ve written about it before so I’ll not bore you but it’s always worth a return visit. Even when the cloud is so low and thick it’s like riding through cotton wool, and the air is damp and chilly. The climb up Beinn Ghlas seems to take forever in this sort of weather with false summit after false summit, but eventually it’s over, there’s a steep push up Lawers and then you get your just desserts.

    Once finished, we headed north to Aviemore and pootled about Loch Morlich failing to catch any fish from an inflatable kayak.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Bynack More
    This was a new one on me, and I came across it simply by scouring the maps for a mountain near Aviemore that wasn’t too extreme that I’d not ridden before that didn’t have a day’s ride to get to it.

    The hike a bike up here has you thinking that it’ll never work. You’ll be carrying your bike back down it. It’s too steep. Sometimes there’s too many rocks. But once you’ve sat down for a bit at the top, watched chilly butterflies come and go and had a sandwich, and you head back down the hill it turns out it does go. And it goes really nicely – it’s very steep, but there’s traction so you aren’t out of control, and there’s just enough speed to get over the big lumps of rock that’re in the way. Once you’re back on the level it turns into classic Cairngorm flowing gravelly singletrack back to Strath Nethy where you can roll back to the Green Lake to mull over just what a good time you had.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Beinn Fhada
    A couple of mates, a car, some bikes and a trip to Torridon. What could go wrong? Turns out, the weather. A huge storm was rolling across much of Scotland and England. Scouring the weather forecasts it seemed that if you started to get properly far north the weather would be good, so we headed up to Kintail.

    Once the midges cleared, the sunshine came out and off we went. A pine marten flashed across our path as we set off, which felt like a great omen. Despite not being especially massive at 1,032m it takes a long time to get up it – it’s steep, rough and hard work. But the feeling is that the rewards will be stunning.

    While I’m a Cairngorms fan to the core, the majesty of the western Highlands is another world and the views from the top are mind blowing. The descent is also thrilling – it starts off as a dull grassy run to the adjacent summit, Meall an Fhuarain Moir, but this lets you dice with death on the precipitous singletrack around the corrie on the way back to the descent. The descent doesn’t have anything unrideable in it but it’s not easy – tight switchbacks, big rocks, steep slopes. It really had it all, I’d be tempted to say it was my favourite hill of the year.

    Also, while I know it’s not on- props to whoever had left the (very faint) motorbike tracks all the way to the summit, that must have been a hell of a ride.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Sgor Gaoith
    Buttresses. 1118m. A path which, on the OS map, gives up in a bog at the 600m line. Sgor Gaoith looks very serious for a mountain bike ride. Right next to Carn Ban Mor, it’s a bit of a wonder I’ve never considered the descent of this but the day after Beinn Fhada the only pocket of dry weather in Scotland was around Cairngorm so off we went.

    After a night keeping the midges at bay with a campfire at the base of the hill, we set off down Glen Feshie. From here, a landrover track makes the climb rideable, provided you’re happy to sit on the nose of your saddle for an hour and grind away.

    At the top it was all cloud and 50mph winds so we got on with the descent quickly, trying to avoid getting blown towards the cliff to our left. The trail then splits off into the bog and becomes undefined. You mash your way through the heather with gay abandon. Then you cross a ford and are greeted by an exceptionally fast trail with hilarious carving corners as a reward for your navigational skills getting you there.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Beinn A Bhuird
    This has been on my to do list for about 5 years now, and on a day where thunderstorms were forecast I got up at dawn to dodge the rain and get it ticked off. The whole of the route to the summit feels like you’re sneaking up on the hill – rolling along the gentle landrover track up Glen Quoich you can’t see the hill at all until you’re basically right at the base of it, then the climb starts proper. The climb is completely rideable with a bit of grunt, and it acts like the summit isn’t there, climbing nonchalantly to the west of it, parallel to where you actually want to go.

    Near the top, the track flicks right and you then boomerang around the summit to bag the South and North tops before returning. It’s another very fast one – there’s no technical features whatsoever, just a thin ribbon of that fine Cairngorm gravel twisting around the flank of the hill. It only took about 10 minutes to get down it and I’m not 100% sure it was worth the effort, but a nice sunny morning in the hills is never wasted. I’d be interested to see if the descent of Glas Allt Mor from Ben Avon is any better.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Heartbreak Ridge
    A bit of a local classic in Ballater this one. It’s a trail that descends along a ridge from Pannanich Hill but we got there via Cairn Leuchan. It was another cloudy, wet day and the aim was to get up the thing then scamper down as quickly as we could. But it turned out to be a fairly special when a golden eagle appeared, floating above our heads as we reached the summit.

    Buoyed by this we carried on before stumbling on a stalker’s hut where we had a short break before starting the descent. The route is often vague – the trail hops between a tiny track weaving around in the heather and exposed rock slabs. Every now and again there’s a big, rowdy rocky feature. It all adds up to one of the best trails in the area, even when, as it was when we rode it, half the thing is underwater.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Ben Venue
    Last time I was here I remember thinking that the climb I went up would have been a better descent and so I decided to have another go. It was yet another day with biblical rain forecast so once again I got up before dawn to make sure I was off the hill before I got drowned.
    Clouds were rolling over the flanks of the hill with sun peeping through, it was a magical day to be in the hills. It turns out Ben Venue is, despite not being a munro, is a tough climb. I was thinking it was hard going when I met a couple of walkers who both said the same thing. The reward is an inevitably tough descent – in a lot of places it’s fast and flowy but there’s regular large features that take some getting over. All in all it was a much more enjoyable ride than the descent off the southern end of the hill.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Cairngorms
    I didn’t actually get up a mountain on this one, but I did have a crack at something new – bike touring in such a way that some might call it bikepacking and staying in a bothy. I got a gravel bike earlier in the year and bloody love the thing. A pal of mine did a bikepacking for beginners course earlier in the year and we went for a bit of an adventure. In a bit of a recurring theme, she was having a rough time at work and the idea was to go, enjoy some nature and have a generally very nice time.

    We meandered around the foothills of the Cairngorms and eventually made our way to Ryvoan Bothy where we spent a cracking night – key to this being the large amounts of fuel I’d brought with us for the fire and the fact that not one of the other occupants snored. A night where the moon was so bright you didn’t need a headtorch was pretty special, and topped off by spotting a capercaillie in the morning.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Whiteless Pike
    I’d hoped to have a go at the Lad Hows descent off Grasmoor but the top bit sounded a bit too technical for the group we were with so a revisit to Whiteless Pike was in order. This was a tougher descent than I’d remembered – we’d barely got going when one of the party had landed on her face. Despite this mishap it was such a great descent – some of the gnadgerier bits were really spicy, especially with a bit of grease on them from the preceding week’s rain.

    Principal among these was a left hand hairpin that required you to hop round on a slab that was like a banana skin, and get over a particularly slimy bit with a good amount of speed. The problem was that, to do this, you had to go fast at an enormous precipice. It was exceptionally thrilling. After a few more slabs, lumpy ruts and other bits that take all your attention you get to open the taps to the pub in Buttermere on a grassy hillside.

    munrobiker
    Member

    Beinn Ghlas
    Everyone I know that’s done Ben Lawers has done it by going up Beinn Ghlass, then up the summit of Lawers and back down it to the pass between the two, then skirted west around the flank of Beinn Ghlas. When I was climbing up it earlier in the year I wondered why this was – the descent looked eminently rideable, just with a few spicy bits and a couple of slopes you’d have to walk down. So, I had a crack at it.

    Snow meant that a lot of it was slippery with ice but I’m convinced this is a more entertaining way to get down from the summit of Ben Lawers if you prefer tech to flow. Fast, open bedrocky sections are interspersed with severe steep bouldery sections. A satisfying end to the year, now the snow is threatening to roll in proper and I’m suffering enough with the 40mph back down at sea level it’s time to have a bit of a break and plan what I’ll do next year.

    Premier Icon AlexSimon
    Subscriber

    Incredible as always!
    Some of that looks proper gnarly.

    Can’t wait to get up to Scotland again

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout
    Subscriber

    Oh yes…. Looks great.

    Premier Icon big_scot_nanny
    Subscriber

    Will take more time to read, but just the first few posts are inspirational as always.

    Thank you.

    arrpee
    Member

    Laaarvely.

    Thanks for taking the time, as always.

    ton
    Member

    cracking that.

    Premier Icon dknwhy
    Subscriber

    I look forward to this post every year. Stunning as always. Thanks for sharing.

    Premier Icon kingofthetoys
    Subscriber
    Premier Icon ta11pau1
    Subscriber

    Bloody hell.

    You know, living in the flat, congested County of Kent is brilliant. Not.

    Jealous, Me? Yes, very. 😎

    Houns
    Member

    Bookmarking

    Awesome… Though hate the fact that these threads seem to come around quicker every year

    benv
    Member

    Nice write up, great pictures!

    Premier Icon benp1
    Subscriber

    Thanks for sharing

    To me, this is property mountain biking. Good job!

    LD
    Member

    You know, living in the flat, congested County of Kent is brilliant. Not.
    To me, this is property mountain biking. Good job!

    Great post, must do more big hills next year.

    Premier Icon swavis
    Subscriber

    #WWMI 😉

    Chapeau.
    Hope to meet you on a hill some day; these are the bike days I love the most.

    Have you tried the Mule Trail descent off to the north of Sgorr Gaoith yet? Contrasts well with the Stalker’s Path route described above.

    Premier Icon ART
    Subscriber

    Always love reading these, thank you, great stuff!

    rascal
    Member

    Excellent stuff. Taking bike up the west coast of Scotland in May so hope to ride on Skye and Torridon. Any recommendations?

    Lovely stuff.

    @swavis – we need to get out in the big hills in 2020.

    Premier Icon fathomer
    Subscriber

    Splendid 😎 I’m immensely jealous having never been further north than Edinburgh.

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    Brilliant stuff.

    Premier Icon CheesybeanZ
    Subscriber

    Thanks for sharing , brilliant .

    scotroutes
    Member

    Great selection of photos too!

    Here’s another photo of Ryvoan. I took it as we were passing by the morning you were in it.

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2huizCt]P1060123[/url] by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

    You’re right about the moon that night. It was awesome. I had to turn over half way through the night as it was shining in my eyes.

    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2huiA5v]P1060116[/url] by Colin Cadden, on Flickr

    pigyn
    Member

    A great read as always! Also never wondered why folk don’t do Ghlas, it’s top.

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Chapeau!😁 Riding lots of my favourites i see. Nice work as always. Re Beinn a Bhuird – worth doing with Ben Avon then heading north from the summit.

    As for Sgor Gaoth, did you miss the descent from the weather station? If so, you need to go back. #justsaying

    Cheers

    Sanny

    Premier Icon swavis
    Subscriber

    swavis – we need to get out in the big hills in 2020.

    Definitely @shortbread_fanylion, long overdue I think. As Sanny mentioned above I’d like to try the weather station descent off Sgor Goaith, and I still haven’t ticked off Ben Macdui yet.

Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 45 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.