The Angus Glens – part 2.

30 03 2017

After refuelling and resting at the Glen Clova hotel, which exists in a strange-but-refreshing-for-the-21st-century wifi and phone signal free zone, the stage was set for day 2. On joining the crew, the plan was to take the Minister’s path from Glen Clova over to Glen Prosen and from there, climb on estate tacks before joining the Kilbo path and then we had two options.

Either we could take the ‘barely-track’ across the shoulder of Mayar – a rounded Munro standing sentinel at the top of Corrie Fee, before trying to drop into the Corrie itself, or we could continue through the Shank of Drumwhallow and down the Kilbo path back to base.

On ascending from Glen Prosen, we were treated to mountain hares, a lifting cloud-base and extensive views of the glens heading north. However, we also began to suffer through deeper, slushy snow that impeded progress – no matter the tyre width.

After re-grouping at the crest of the Kilbo path, the option to head across country to Corrie Fee was quickly cast aside due to the 30+ cm of snow packed in amongst tussocky grassland, peat bog and interspersed with standing water and ice.

We had tried to ride the Kilbo path in entirety previously, but had missed a junction and continued down a vague track on the edge of the cliff that surrounds Corrie Sharroch. This time, we intended to find the correct trail.

Well, we did and were slightly put out to find that the deep, steep track ahead of us was in essence a snow filled chute. Lacking fear or dignity, we set off, crashing ass over tea kettle, skidding through 90 degrees without warning and accompanied by the banshee-wailing of brakes. The most successful method appeared to be tri-poding with the inside, left leg at risk of being jammed into spaces between rocks, hidden under the snow. Far from the peerless descent we had hoped, it nevertheless gave us much mirth as we eventually slithered our way into the trees at the head of Glen Doll.

The trail from here was a blast – rocky, rooty, winding and steep, we hooted and hollered as we savoured this final drop.

At one point, Chris and Gareth came past me at head height. I tried to break out the camera to snap some action shots but the resultant blur is not worth putting in the public domain and in some ways, that probably signifies how much fun there is to be had in the Angus Glens.

Several of the pictures here were taken by fellow Moulineer, Marty and I am indebted to him for allowing me to use them in this post.


The Angus Glens – part 1.

25 03 2017

The Angus Glens, running like the fingers of a giant hand reaching down from the Cairngorm, are festooned with a network of famous trails. The Kilbo Path, Jock’s Road, The Minister’s Path, Streak of Lightning (aka Streak of Pish), Glas-alt Shiel descent, Capel Mounth and more. The options are almost unlimited and the scenery spectacular.

For this year’s ‘proper’ F.B.R.O.T.Y, we made a plan to ride from the bunkhouse in Glen Clova. I had some time off work and had been planning to bike pack, so meeting up, then riding, a few beers and a spraff with the boys seemed ideal.

A fraught week of weather watching was a little depressing. The route I had hoped to complete was looking a little messy, weather wise. I wanted to take the train to somewhere on the A9 corridor, then ride up Glen Tilt, pop over the Deeside via the Geldie Burn and head east past Linn of Dee, Braemar then ascend the lower slopes near Lochnagar and drop to Loch Muick, before climbing and dropping into Glen Clova via the Capel Mounth.

Heavy snow, lots of rain and high winds followed by much milder but still wet weather meant I was deeply concerned about crossing the Geldie Burn. Last year, later in March, I crossed the burn in much better conditions and it was mid thigh deep and running strong. It is a serious and relatively remote river crossing and if you don’t ford, there are zero options for moving east.

Of course, bivi-ing wet and cold, then riding a full day the next day could be, well, harsh.

After deliberation, I felt the sensible option was to simply head to Glen Clova and try and ride some of the fantastic trails there before heading out with friends the next day. So I pedaled up Glen Clova, to the start of Jock’s Road. Famous for the dispute between the drovers – who would drive sheep over the high Tolmounth pass from Braemar – and the land owner of the time, who wanted to close the path.

I have ridden Jock’s Road several times and knew it to be a classic. Out and back rides are less inspiring than loops, to my mind, but without committing to a long route, or the questionable trail around Loch Esk, and out and back was required.

At around 700m of elevation, the snow started to deepen and at Davy’s Bourach, the accumulations were enough to make riding – even with fat tyres – tricky. This tardis-like howff was built by the eponymous Davy Glen in response (if memory serves) to some walkers getting trapped high on the trail in bad weather and losing their lives.

Nevertheless, the return was ace.

After a brief stop due to my camera taking a roll down a rocky outcrop, I reached the bottom and went after the second target for the day – Corrie Fee.

This area of Special Scientific Interest – and nature reserve – is a classic coire, carved out by glaciers and with large moraine piles, forcing the stream to meander as it crosses the flat base of the cirque. The high, shear cliffs form a dramatic environment, that was made more profound by the low cloud and gloom.

A surprising amount of riding was possible as I climbed toward the waterfall, scything down from the cliffs above. Eventually, H.A.B was the rule with some thick plates of ice keeping things interesting. I stopped around 50m from the top, with the trail becoming scree. I had no intention of going cross country as I wanted to descend into Glen Clova from Corrie Fee, but it would have been interesting to see if a trail existed (see part 2) from the rim, although nothing was marked on the map.

It is a great trail in a fantastic environment and with care, can be ridden without leading to any significant wear and tear of this special environment.