Tullich to Morvenhike, mountain bike

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.

The odd tree down and cleared, but fortunately not this mossy specimen
Past the pond
Looking gloomy on Crannach hill
First sight of snow

Looking behind as we ascended, fronds of cloud and whispy layers were parting despite the stillness

Coming out from the trees

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.

Blue skies appear to reveal the hill
Interesting horizontal ‘bands’ sweeping west-east. They don’t show on OS map contours.
There’s almost a ‘man-made’ look to them, but they are steep banks and not level areas
First we crossed the boggy ground at the foot
A nook beside a ‘fence’ on the map. no fence now, only a few old post-stumps
Nobody generally walks this side, but the hares like it
Looking back the clouds seem to have regained their strength and are rolling north

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.

Only a minor snow slide but a small avalanche on Morven nonetheless
Head wall fracture and grassy base
Double checking afterwards in the app ‘Locus Map Pro’ (with avalanche gradient shading switched on) does indeed confirm some potential hazard here.
Clouds racing us uphill
Caught and engulfed

It looked like we’d be clagged to no view at the top, but some more climbing brought us clear

Whew, great view
A definite ‘woah’ moment, getting up above a gently drifting cloud layer
Blue skies and cloud inversions, lovely
The hares here were skittish and we rarely got closer than 100m, not much chance of a good photo
Lochnagar proud of the clouds

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

Rime ice on objects at the top
Encrusted cairn
Tea at the trig: although little wind chill, still very chilly
Ben Avon to the west

Clouds jostling through lower hills
An unusual icey texture on the ground

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

Mount Keen beyond Crannach hill

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

Fronds of cloud and waves of snow illuminated by hues of a low sun
A chilly wait for 5 minutes as the sun began to set
Gone. Lochnagar ridge glowed with the beatiful pastel hues of a winter sunset
High above fronds of cloud aglow too
Low lying mist towards Dinnet. Most of the clouds had dissipated by now
Following some hare tracks down
Frozen waves in a bog pool

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

Back down along Culsten burn
Past the pond again

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

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *