Autumn half term started with a weekend of perfect sunny still weather forecast and so I was keen to get out with our son on a mountain. It was going to be a boy’s day, so leaving Stacey at home and not wanting to plan too big, I decided on a slightly different approach. Many of the hills in Scotland have quite long walk-ins, along valley bottoms or good access tracks. The length of these walk-ins put many beyond our reach in a day with our son at present, so I was keen to try a bike and hike with him.
Meall Chuaich is ideal for this, having around 10 km of hydro-scheme access track in total, before a relatively short climb to the modest summit at about 950m. Here I have a confession to make; I have an e-bike which I use for commuting to work every day. This is great, as it allows me to keep a good pace even in strong headwinds or on hills. It really is a treat for accessing hills too, as you can use the throttle to get up hills without much effort, which is a real bonus with our son on the bike too! We both really enjoyed blasting along the good track, making short work of what would have been a long and relatively dull walk in otherwise.
We dumped the bike at the bottom of the main climb, which left us with a 5km walk, and about 500m ascent. We climbed rapidly over the slightly boggy path and then continued, slowly making our way rightwards as the gradient eased. We saw some mountain hares bounding away from us, and also some ptarmigan, which were starting to change into their winter white coats. It must be a really risky time for these animals as they change from summer to winter coats, often standing out from long distances.
After some minor boulder fields, we pulled onto the summit plateau and made our way across to the summit cairn. It is a huge cairn, which we climbed on top of for spectacular views across to the Cairngorms and Ben Alder ranges. Someone (or something) had left a hare skull on the cairn, complete with some ‘goo’ left on it. We looked at it intrigued and talked about predators and prey and what might have happened.
After some lunch sat by the cairn we began our return trip, again making good speed down, and saying hi to the few others on the hill that day. Once we reached the bike again we climbed happily back on for a quick ride down to the shore of the nearby loch for some stone throwing and playtime.
After playing until we had had enough we got back on the bike for the ride out. Our son loved the feeling of speed, urging me to go faster and faster as we rattled along. We reached the end of the ride out passing a few others on bikes as we went, and got happily back into the car with big grins on our faces.
Bike and hikes are a great way to open up more mountains as a family, and we are keen to do more this way, allowing us to get to more remote hills whilst keeping the walking distance within our capabilities.