Last weekend I took my bike on a ride up Glas Tulaichean.
It’s a mountain not far from the Braemar road that runs through Glen Shee. Having cycled up it about half a dozen times – sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone – it’s an old friend.
Although I carry a map, I don’t need it anymore. It’s a familiar old climb through the forestry and fields on the south side of Glen Lochsie. Then it’s a river crossing to start the steep climb up the south-east flank of the mountain. On braver days, I’d try to cycle through the water, but I wasn’t in the mood for wet shoes and socks for the rest of the day. So off they both came, and I walked through barefoot before popping them back on and pushing up the first steep bit.
The mountain begins
It’s a bit of a steep grind from here, up to a shoulder of the mountain at around 700-800 metres up. Then it flattens out and a long ridgeline stretches away to the summit.
Back when I first did it in 2008, the views were spectacular. This last time, I was lucky enough just to be able to see the path! But it was as peaceful as ever up there and I was completely alone. Unlike back home in England, it’s completely common to have a whole mountain to yourself here in the Highlands, even on a summer’s day.
Near the top I spotted a couple of ptarmigans in their winter whites, a sure sign of winter on the way!
The winds were fairly light, but they were cold. Amazingly, the wee trig point on top gave just enough shelter to sit and enjoy my sandwiches without getting too chilly, though.
Pause for thought
Well, with the cloud so low there was little point in standing about reminiscing about previous trips. I love coming back to the same rides every so often. So much has changed since that first summit in 2008. Coming back to the same place gives you pause for thought about things. All the stuff I would have been worrying about back then has long gone, and problems always seem smaller atop a whopping hill, anyway.
I’ve had new friends, a son, got married, moved house about three times and lived through a global health crisis! Yet here the mountains are, same as they always were. Though they are a bit bare, and I do hope – as with everywhere in Scotland – they will one day see again the native trees, bushes and wildlife they would once have known.
The easy bit
A fast, stony, sketchy plummet brought me back down to the river valley in hardly any time at all. On the return journey, I coast down the remains of the Dalmunzie railway – a small track that used to bring guests up from the hotel below.
The shooting lodge has been getting increasingly decrepit over the years. Now it’s just a pile of stones. It’s at the start of the railway line descent, which I splash my way down to the hotel and on to the car.
It was wonderful to visit this magnificent hill again, and I wonder what’ll have changed in the world by the time I next visit?
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