B I K E B A G G I N G
I wonder if I can ride along that forest track? I had said to myself but somehow what was meant to be a short ride into the base of a Corbett had turned into hiking up a mountain with a bike on my shoulders and an idea. With Sally (my bike) fitted with new brakes I figured I might save my now aching knees with a bike of mountain biking.
My battered steel framed mountain bike which had once burdened the 70 odd kilos of random clutter as I pedalled around the Munros back in 2013/14 was still going and thankfully much lighter without the bags.
Like all things in life putting in a little extra effort paid off in the end. The long push and lift to the summit took less time than I had expected and was rewarded with a long downhill run. There was a strong cold wind on the tops and a peppering of snow, with the golden light of sunset the rounded grassy tops felt gentle and forgiving. Before my fingers froze to the handlebars, I tapped the cairn saddled up and sped off toward my van parked far below in the glens.
The downhill ride was fantastic fun and a novel change. I would slowly work my way through the 7 Corbetts spread between Galloway and Moffat on foot and bike taking advantage where I could of easy trails and rounded tops.
Corserine, my second summit differed from Cairnsmore of Carsphairn by holding a few inches of crisp white snow along the tops. Winter was at long last officially on the way!
A glorious day for hillwalking, sunny and cold I returned back to my van early in the afternoon and decided to drive around the Galloway hills for a short evening cycle to the summit of Shalloch on Minnoch which was just 400m above the road. A long boggy, muddy push and a short carry gave another satisfying ride if a little icy ride along the summit ridge. The crunching snow under my tyres reflected the golden which shone in rays under a dark front of clouds promising snow in the night.
Next was a swift run up and down Galloway’s most hiked Corbett- Merrick. In a race before the snow I put my head down and ran fast and hard for the summit in a two hour twenty minute race. I had expected someone to join me but instead was alone, to my good fortune I made it back to my van just five minutes before the rain.
I associate Dumfries with two things- more recently the start of what has been the longest adventure I have ever done (Machair to Munro) but also the home of my aunt and uncle. Pippa and Allistair. Enjoying a night of home comforts at their home I was re-energised the next day as we headed to the Moffat hills. We would walk together to the summit of Broad Law.
Broad Law is without a doubt the easiest mountain to navigate to the summit of that I have ever been on. Not only is there a superb land-rover track all the way to the summit but it is even marked with 3m high snow poles- it was a welcome rest from thinking in our first near whiteout conditions of the year, instead we could relax and enjoy the snow for what it was- fun.
Looming from the mist a short way from the summit a large UFO like building perched on the open ridge. Britain’s highest VOR (VHF Omni Directional Radio Range) which is used as a ground to air beacon for aircraft navigation- but we preferred the idea it was a UFO.
The best thing with climbing with others is taking the little extra time to enjoy the finer points of life. Where alone the summit is normally a tap and maybe a snickers bar it was with Pippa and Allistair a long rest with soup, sandwiches and coffee- we even made a snowman.
The next day I was alone again. This time going for a long tramp in the clouds between White Coomb and Hart Fell. Passing the UK’s fifth highest waterfall; the Grey Mare, which was mostly frozen I wandered into the snow on the path of my compass.
Brief views between a lot of white were of rusting red grassland, long dark ridges and a superb ‘micro-Cairngorm’ like plateau. I had long discounted the south as being flat and am happy to admit I was wrong, these were fantastic hills. Trying not to giggle as I crossed an area labelled on my map as ‘Rotten Bottom’ I arrived onto the second summit, tapped the trig (this time without soup) and set off back to the car.
Now I am on my way north. As I write this I am working my way through the Arrochar and Trossach hills to the north of Ben Lomond. The snow which had covered the hills is now gone, instead the air has gone warm. Scotland was warmer than Italy yesterday! It is time to get back into the bogs and find those summits- I hope to see you on one.
p.s. Biking is not my natural skill!