The day I (mostly) pushed my bike to a mountain top – and other Munros
The title of this blog doesn’t sound too promising does it? What would be the point of walking uphill to the top of a Munro while pushing a bike? Why not just walk uphill instead?
Walking uphill while pushing a mountain bike is not the easiest thing to do. It is easier simply to walk. But it is a whole lot easier and a great deal more fun to ride downhill once you have finally reached the top! All this I found out on Mount Keen this weekend.
Day 1: Driesh and Mayar
On Saturday, we walked the easy-ish Munros Driesh and Mayar in Glen Clova, (sort of) near Kirriemuir. It was a friend Tommy’s last two Munros of his first round and we joined a large crowd of his family and friends to help him to celebrate his compleation (correct spelling!).
Driesh and Mayar are the perfect Munros for people who have done only a little walking and Tommy was also lucky to choose a day with dry weather. The path upwards is steady and easy to find and as we walked we all talked – and talked.
It was great to hear the sound of chatting walkers in a long line out front and behind as we headed first to Driesh and then back over the bealach to Mayar. One of the group was aged just five and she was delighted to make it to the top of her first Munro, Mayar.
I don’t think I have seen so much fizzy wine at the top of a Munro and when Tommy arrived at the summit everyone was keen to help him with his celebrations. Despite it being very windy and cold we spent around an hour toasting and cheering his success. There is nothing like a party at the top of a Munor!
The walk back down Mayar, this time via the stunning Corrie National Nature Reserve, was even chattier than the walk up! A few sips (!) of fizzy wine and the highs of walking a Munro or two (not everyone walked Driesh) seemed to put everyone on a big high. And rightly so!
The day ended with a party at the Glen Clova Hotel and apparently went on until 4.30am. The G-Force and I hardly made it to 11pm before we crashed out in Fern the Van! (PS The steak pie at the Glen Clova Hotel is one of the best I have ever eaten. They farm their own beef and stuff their pies to bursting with the amazing meat. This made the perfect meal after a day on the hills.)
This is the walking route of Driesh and Mayar (although we did it in the reverse order).
Congratulations to Tommy who took just over a decade to compleat. What an amazing achievement. I wonder what he will do next. Another Munro round? The Corbetts? More fishing?
Day 2: MTB to the top of Mount Keen
Mount Keen is the most easterly Munro and is also located in Angus. A long drive via Glen Esk takes you to the end of the glen and the start of the walk at Invermark car park.
The autumnal foliage and the bright pinks and purples of the heather-covered hillside created a stunning backdrop for the drive in.
Again, this is one of the easiest of the 282 Munros and the G-Force had heard that it is possible to ride it on a mountain bike. I wasn’t so sure but he persuaded me that I’d enjoy myself.
The path is easy to find and mostly rideable for good mountain bikers. Sadly, I am still a nervous off-road rider and when we came to a long section where the path was filled with a jumble of loose and large rocks and stones I had to get off to walk.
The G-Force, being a better rider, managed to keep going for much of this section until the steepening gradient also saw him pushing his bike uphill.
Take note, if you fancy trying this, pushing a bike uphill while also carrying a rucksack of spare kit and food is not easy. There is something about the positioning as you push a bike that gives me a really sore back and shoulders.
Wherever I could I jumped on to the bike to ride a bit more but I pushed a lot. I am a bit embarrassed about this because there will be riders who can cycle the entire route but I’m just not skilled or brave enough!
Closer to the top, where the route flattens over moorlands and the surface is more sandy stone than rocks I managed more riding. I loved this section. Although it is uphill and therefore a bit of a slog I enjoyed the thrill of cycling towards the top of a Munro. The views on this section over Glen Esk are breath-taking, especially when painted in their autumnal hues.
The boulder summit of Mt Keen must sure defy all mountain bikers and since the G-Force was determined that we should take a photo of both of our bikes next to the trip point I had to pick up the bike and walk with it uphill. This was slow and tiring but now that I see the resulting photo I know why he made me do this! There is something surreal (after all our hiking to the top of our Munros) to see our bikes perched up high at 939m.
After a short walk downhill over the boulders, again carrying the bike on my shoulder, we could finally take full advantage of two wheels on a downward path. I had no idea how much fun it would be to ride almost the full length of a Munro.
Going downhill is far easier than going uphill, even when there are long sections of rocks, and we found ourselves back at the van in no time at all. It felt amazing to whizz past all the walkers that we had met coming off the top of the Munro as we had ascended.
While I did quite a bit of moaning about the “point” of pushing a mountain bike uphill for much of the 800ms of ascent, on the way down I whooped with delight. Overall, riding Mount Keen is a very good idea indeed.
This is the route we took up and down Mt Keen.