A Munro and a former Munro from Glen Feshie with a bike.

Route: Mullach Clach a' Bhlair

Munros: Mullach Clach a'Bhlair

Date walked: 21/09/2020

Time taken: 3 hours

Distance: 37km

Let me start by saying that yes, I am a walker really. I just happen to also use a mountain bike at times - not for bombing down wild gnarly downhill runs but more like a form of accelerated walking, enjoying going up, being on and coming down mountains just like I would on foot.

While this route could be started from the car park at Achlean, I prefer to moor up the other side of the glen. Once on the trusty aluminium mount, I started late on a gorgeous September afternoon by riding up the Glen Feshie estate road, right up to Carnachuin, where the remains of the much missed bridge still hang over the edge of the river. Just down stream of the old bridge site I cross by wading through the ford used by the estate 4x4s, the water flowing at mid-calf level at its deepest concealing its sometimes violent, bridge and bank rending nature. This would be very different in wet weather or with spring snowmelt as the Feshie, like many mountain rivers, can rise alarmingly quickly and the scarring of where it has chewed up its own banks, obliterating sections of track on the other side of the glen, shows how little chance a human would have of safely crossing with the Feshie in spate.
Coire Garbhlach

On the far bank I head straight on at a crossroads in the track to climb steeply uphill. The landrover track is a long slog on foot and pretty taxing (although quicker) on the bike. Every so often my back wheel slips on the loose stones but the view into the top of Coire Garbhlach is worth the effort! Then a short but very steep section where I cheerily greet a walker while trying to look as though I haven't just gained 500m height in one pull from the river below, and I'm on the edge of the Moine Mhor plateau. Right turn and along a rather muddier landrover track and right again up a still muddier path to the slightly unremarkable Munro summit of Mullach Clach a' Bhlair where I had a nice chat with a fellow walker/mountain biker who was on foot with his wee dog that day and planning to camp on the plateau.
The bike on the landrover track across the Moine Mhor with Braeriach, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (Angel's Peak) and Cairn Toul behind.

Having enjoyed the view that had been completely missing on my previous visit to this top from the layered ranks of mountains to the south and west to the impressive bulk of Braeriach with Angel's Peak and Cairn Toul rearing to the northeast, I head back to the fork in the track above Coire Garbhlach and this time take the other route. This is a well made and maintained track although one of the fords (at NN 894 948) is surprisingly deep and slippery in the extreme. On foot I would simply walk to the side, where the stream is narrower and hop over. This is less convenient with a bicycle so I'm forced to make use of a rather shoogly stepping stone - the one non slimy rock in the vicinity, to teeter entertainingly for a moment while making sure the bike is in a position where I will be able to pull it up the other side depositing self and velocipede on the far bank. The track is then easy riding again, apart from a curiously flooded rectangular section rather like riding through a sheep dip where I did wonder just how far below the water my wheels and feet were going to go, and it's time to start looking out for the grassy path off to my left to take in Carn Ban Mor.
Looking over Glen Einich from the grassy path up towards Carn Ban Mor

Having turned at a small but helpful cairn, I bounced up a grassy, rocky, muddy path steering to the drier line as much as possible to avoid leaving too much in the way of tyre marks. This climbs gently onto the rounded ridge looking down into Glen Feshie, where the Achlean path comes up on its way to Carn Ban Mor and Sgor Gaoith. Just before I turned right to climb the last section to Carn Ban Mor's domed stony ex-Munro summit with its shelter cairn I saw the glint of a camera lens with some walkers. This turned out to be the good Walkhighlands people themselves as a photograph of the clear sunset-lit view out to Ben Nevis (it was an exceptionally clear evening) appeared on their facebook page the next day featuring a 'solitary mountain biker' in the foreground. I was that solitary mountain biker!
walkhighlands picture of me.jpg
Lone Mountainbiker - This photo property of Walkhighlands

Up to the top and, deciding not to extend my ride to Sgor Gaoith in what would soon be failing light, back the way I came, across the Moine Mhor then racing the setting sun down, around the shoulder of Meall nan Sleac, into Glen Feshie, which I will call a draw as the daylight was still broad as I re-forded the Feshie although the sun was no longer visable. Then back down the estate road, which feels luxuriously smooth after the steep stony descent from the plateau to arrive at the car in time for a jam sandwich before dark.
Racing the setting sun

I include this account of a mountain bike ride here purely because Walkhighlands caught such me in such an epic picture. It's also a fine walk although on foot I would prefer to cross the Feshie by the remaining bridge near Stronetoper and walk up the more interesting eastern side of the glen rather than up the tarmac estate road. In fact, with more time, I would prefer to do that on the bike too but, having set out well after 4pm in mid September, I didn't have much day left to play with so took the quickest route. Due to the river crossing, this route is strictly for dry weather with minimal snow melt. Crossing by the bridge is better in wet weather although still requires crossing the Allt Garbhlach, which can get pretty energetic in wet weather too!

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Mountain: Ben Macdui
Place: Badenoch

Munros: 3
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Trips: 1
Distance: 37 km
Munros: 1

Joined: Sep 20, 2020
Last visited: Sep 21, 2020
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