A holiday meetup with a friend needed a location reasonably near – a return to Morven was in order, with a dual bike and hike to expedite proceedings. The forecast for fog all day wasn’t promising. Although you can start from the east side, and it’s a shorter ascent, it’s steep and not really bikeable so we headed further to Tullich and would head up along Culsten burn.
Looking behind as we ascended, fronds of cloud and whispy layers were parting despite the stillness
My friend is a tentative off-road cyclist and had been twitching back and forth on the very narrow trail, catching the heather at the side often, and disaster struck with a big chunk of foliage breaking the rear derailleur. I attempted chain-breaking to facilitate a single-speed but the terrain still needed gears really so we prematurely dumped the bikes and headed onwards on foot.
Leaving Culsten burn head, the clouds parted and it looked like we’d get a view, and inspect the task ahead. Rather than head round to the Roar hill as originally planned we’d just hack up the south side.
I’d noticed this when scanning the way ahead earlier and had come over for a look: what appears to have been the site of a small avalanche. The head wall at the top where the fracture of the snow has started, and then the jumble of snow debris lower. I’d never really thought of Morven’s gentle slopes as a place of such events, but the gradient here in conjunction with a relatively smooth grassy base, and recent sever northern winds has deposited a thick wind slab which then collapsed.
It looked like we’d be clagged to no view at the top, but some more climbing brought us clear
I sighted the crags of Mid Cairn to our right which indicated a fair climb to go yet to the top. When we got higher another visual bonus presented itself: a brocken spectre to the other side of the hill
The bike repair incident, a not very punctual start, and then a lot of photo-gawping at the inversion had eaten through the limited daylight and hues of sunset began to approach
We began to crunch down the crusty snow, not icey enough to need extra grip, not firm enough to allow much in the way of glissading. Although never ideal to descend an unpathed winter hillside in approaching darkness, we dallied as it became clear the sun would set near Lochnagar
We picked up the bikes and tentatively headed down: there had been a few icey bits earlier. I only had a walking headlamp and it’s 300 or so lumens not quite enough for much speed once below the last of the ice
I thought I’d missed all the inversion action which a week earlier had created many spectacular scenes in the Cairngorms, but Morven had a last gasp for us and a nice covering of snow, a great scenic way to round off 2021