This summer has been the summer of expanding my travel options. I'm now the lucky owner of a brand new 2nd hand mountain bike. This year's model was being sold off by Glentress at the Tiso Warehouse end of the season sale for roughly trade price with only 35 hours use. That'll do. Good front forks, relaxed geometry and decent enough disk brakes, it doesn't need to be new - it'll be covered in scratches and sheep sh*t soon enough.
Perfect for accessing remote hills from the wrong side. If you can't go your own way in the hills where can you? The bike got me round a dull reservoir track in about a third of the time and effort it would have taken otherwise, and justified the purchase in a single trip. I need to work on cheap ways of weight distribution to the frame and front bars, that can be stripped off the bike come walking time, but otherwise perfect.
But why go in to the so called Bridge of Orchy 5 from the east, down a single track road via the longest glen in Scotland? At least 3 reasons. Because via Glasgow from Edinburgh is a long way round on tedious roads. To scout the beautiful River Lyon for a future paddling trip. And the most important reason of all, to pay my respects to the oldest surviving pagan ritual in Scotland, maybe even in Europe, the Tigh Nam Bodach.
It doesn't look like much, but this is the real thing. There they both sit, mum and dad, keeping watch, accompanied by their brown haired daughter,
. The 'House of the Father' is set in the 'Glen of the Old Woman', a centre of the celtic universe, the navel in the belly of the highlands
Whilst I'm here, I may as well climb a few hills. I didn't set out to do these 5 as a group initially, I looked at the map and saw a loop and then looked online and apparently it's a route, but usually from the A82.
As I climbed the 'hill of the bare summit' I noticed the fertile patch of grasses that surrounds the little celtic house, no doubt a legacy of many years of folk leaving food tributes to the stone family there. I climbed straight up the side, steeply into a rain shower. Autumn has arrived, the tops were bitterly cold. Now I have the luxury of living closer to the outside, I like to mark the changing of the seasons, and this was that trip for this season's change.
This was also a walk of broad grassy ridges, with huge, drafty views to the North over Rannoch Moor. Following the line West into a setting sun. The best parts weren't the summits, but the rocky cols and bealachs inbetween, where water pooled and autumn set the grass on fire.
Nature, so delicate, so intricate - maybe, but sometimes just a showoff, a theatrical drama queen! The sun set, highlighting one shapely mound after another that I found it impossible not to compare to reclining bodies.
I camped on 'Hill of the Streamlets' overlooking 'Hill of the Otters', that conical hill that shouts the loudest after Tyndrum on the road to Fort William from Glasgow. It was just dark by the time I reached the summit, and the winds from the moor fairly flew over the wall to the north, so I put up a few metres off the top. More heavy cloud veiled sunrise in the morning for an hour or so, meant a chilly, earthy start to the day, but I don't think I'll ever grow bored of waking up under a sheet of fabric and looking out over that scene with a breeze on my face. Time measured out in breaths and heartbeats, small tasks and changing light. The food is still rubbish though, isn't it?
The following day was for the last two: Ascending Otter Hill, and then turning east along a spur back towards Monk's Hill. These hills are scarred by sheep grazing but the streams and rivers here are wild and beautiful. I don't collect Munros by necessity (although I don't exactly ignore them either), but I'm glad I stumbled up this last one, because it'd make a dull trip to revisit for it's own sake should I ever start to. It's a round and featureless hump and painful to get up, especially as I cut a corner a little too fine and ended up on some breezy terraces on the neighbouring Cairn Hill.
Some sitting and being by wild water streamlets, dwarf birch and rowan in full bloom on the return to pick up my bike and cycle out to the head of Glen Lyon. Soak it up, it's never enough.