Glen Lee and Mount Keenhike, mountain bike

With there being 2 meetup sorties the same weekend, both in the same area, I’ve lumped them in together here. Saturday was with the Aberdeen Cycle Explorers, somebody had proposed a bothy stayover in Glen Lee. With there being limited hours of daylight, this meant a long evening in a quite small place; 2 of us would head up and get a fire going and then head home after the third arrived to camp over night.

On route to our start point of Tarfside we had a brief nosey to the rocks of solitude near Edzell, in a gorge on the River North Esk. The river was gushing through a waterfall.


Then smoothly whispering past rocky outcrops.


In the trees surrounding the various paths, some 20 feet higher 10 metres inland, tufts of debris showed that there’d been a biblical flood here at some point in the last few years.

From Tarfside in the interests of making best speed we proceeded along quiet back roads rather than the track past the Hill of Rowan.


Past Lochlee kirk


Invermark Castle catching the morning sun and many a tourist snap


The forecast had been for quite high winds, and as we headed past Loch Lee the surface was being churned into waves and swirling into our faces making the going tough.


Sun catching the top of Bruntwood Craig



We stopped to blether to some walkers as we rounded Monawee with the Falls of Unich in the background. They’d done a circuit up past the falls of Damff, but I wasn’t going to visit them today as I’d had a look last time we were out here.


Onwards up the valley



Our destination for the day, Johnny Gordon’s bothy, came into sight. Johnny Gordon had stayed here as a hermit back in the 1800s.



We’ve promised that we’d get a fire going, so set about collecting firewood from the forest edge where there’s plenty dead wood. There’s a handy saw in the bothy to help cut some up.


We’d made the beginner error of neither taking much useful kindling, or sources of ingnition. The bothy is quite damp, so some paper in there is no use. I had a lighter with only a tiny amount of gas left, Pete had safety matches with no safety striker. Our first attempts failed, the dead grass and fine twigs were too damp. However a dangerous brainwave had us under way: there’s a camping gas cylinder in the bothy which provided a flared woomph of flame with the valve depressed by a match and sparked by the lighter flint, that then caaught the now whisky-doused grass and twiglets. Not quite cub-scout standard fire creation, but we soon had big logs ablaze and heat was aglow throughout the room.

Our resident for the night arrived oblivious to our shambolic fire raising



As the sun set we head off for the return leg and then the drive home to our modern conveniences of heating-without-drama.






The last post of the day


The next day I headed back out with a chap from another new meetup group titled ‘Cairngorm explorers’. Mount Keen was the target via Glen Tanar, the forecast was for gale force winds so we’d see what occurs and adjust accordingly, but entering the forest conditions seemed quite benign and good progress was made


There’s a diversion in place nearby due to a rare and territorial caipercaillie that had appeared recently but fortunately not on the route we were on






We noticed quite a few bikes locked to the final footbridge, we ascend further, but not much: the trail from this side is mostly unrideable heading upwards, loose, eroded and very chunky. We pushed for a bit but decided that we’d summit quicker on foot.


We met a group and then two ladies coming down, the group said you could barely stand at the top, the two ladies turned back.

As we climbed higher the strengthening winds cleared the view. A brief flurry of snow whipped our faces. I see there’d been some work on the path higher up; sandy but with some big steps and drains.


Nearing the top the wind roared past frantically and was indeed as predicted, gale force, and my goretex rippled and flapped furiously. A couple of shaky photos and we’re off back down.


Once down out of the worst of the wind,  a rainbow ahead beckoned us and we got a jog on, dancing over the rocks




Reaching the bikes we got a bit of downhill, and at the footbridge we’d enough time spare to go and explore towards the Linn of Tanar before heading back. There’s a waterfall marked on the map that I’d wanted to have a look at for a while but never had the time previously.

The trail west towards the Linn doesn’t link up anywhere so is rarely used. Initially good but deeply rutted, then fizzling out to lumpy singletrack, then a bare scrape through deep heather. For the last half a mile we dumped the bikes and were back on foot following deer tracks.

The head of the glen sees 2 burns join, and round the corner to the right the falls appeared, thankfully worthy of the diversion’s effort. Above the main fall there’s a series of smaller ones that would be tricky to get to so we just had a look at the main one.



Just about missed the bikes in the deep heather


With a couple of hopefully reasonable hand-held long exposures in the can, it was time to head back to the bikes and enjoy the long gradient along the glen to the car at the bridge of Tanar.


Loved the local dialect sign


2 really good sorties in the bag, a great weekend on the bike.

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