After a non alignment of stars for a planned monday ride with chipps, i decided it was time to hurt myself. Bristol 12 bikefest is just around the corner and i have absolutely no idea what to expect from my body. One way to find out is to push it until it breaks: that way you know your limits.
I decided to take a route we have done once before, as a group, on singlespeeds no less. However this time i wanted to add a little damage....so i took in an extra climb or two just because.
The start was in Dalrigh, just south of tyndrum. There is a short but sweet section of trail from there to tyndrum, and the climb up before the magnificent view of beinn dorain.
From there i clicked the gears up on the Vertigo and booted it to bridge of orchy. By 1 hour i was at victoria bridge carpark, prior to the infamous wades road section over to white corries and glencoe. Why infamous? well general wade has the rare distinction of creating some of the harshest surfaced and ridiculously steep roads in scotland. All this so england could garrison the north in their efforts to defeat the jacobite uprising of 1715. The vibrating, hateful, momentum robbing pain of passing what are left of these roads (and the soldiers who built them would be, err, proud to know that significant stretches still exist) are a real test of a tired biker, and i knew the return leg was going to hurt.
There is always a rush as the buachaille comes into view. Such a monster sat out at the top of glencoe: a guardian of the highlands, and this storied glen. My route cut east though, across rannoch moor.
The trail is initially good, a double track road, and someone has built a reroute section due to a house being constructed in the crop of trees visible from the road or the kingshouse.
Then it starts to deteriorate. You know you need to follow the power lines, but its a real mess. Peat moor usually is. Grin and bear it. To give some idea, here is a section of the trail....
Onwards and upwards though, despite a locked and electrified deer fence which forced a pretty gymnastic approach to getting me and a bike through the opening above a 7 foot gate.
After a quick lunch i headed east from rannoch station for the start of the trail up past beinn pharlagain and then cutting slightly west to loch ossian. The warrior poet looked on as i struggled with the evidence of the recent passage of motorcycles. The land here is wet and boggy: clearly some sort of race had passed and the trail in places was 30+feet wide, 4-6 feet deep and basically in tatters. i doubt i rode for more than 10 meters before having to get off for another clamber and foot soaking...
I doubt ive ever seen a trail so summarily destroyed. A real downer.
Still the view over to the north side of the aonach eagach was spectacular.
From there to loch treig left me looking for small stones to put in my ears to drown the noise of the headwind. That at least made the decision to get off the bike again and push up into the feith chiafain easy. I might be pushing up improbably steep and broken trail, but at least there was peace!. Again the passage of motor cycles was evident. The trail had been beaten up, with loose rocks a foot in diameter littering the trail and many gouged, deep trenches cut by motorised passage. Where the trail was rutted, they had simply passed by, usually above on the hill side, knocking all sorts of crap onto the trail and making what is usually a technical challenge, a brutal episode. Some sections (like the one below) were relatively unscathed, and its a real pleasure riding high mountain singletrack.
After crashing over the bars, and pinning myself face down in a river momentarily (jones bars and the top tube make a great ankle catcher) i made it back onto the west highland way. I had been hoping to drop down the blackwater descent to kinlochleven, but i was already 9+ hours in and i had been out of water for over an hour. That would add an hour of down, and a chunk more of up. I couldnt afford any more altitude loss, so back up and over to the devils staircase (another wade classic!).
Again, the buachaille revived me and i dropped rapidly down to a pint of lemonade and a half of beer at the kingshouse before tackling white corries out of glencoe. The staircase has been given a new coat of gravel - the sure brakes and sorted geometry of the bike allowed me to really punch it on this section of track. Slowly, im getting used to the speed and coping with the ragged nature of this sort of riding.
Engaging the fast gears allowed me to skip over wade's road back to bridge of orchy and then in failing light, i decided to take the road and dropped down to tyndrum and then to dalrigh. 11 hours 58 minutes. I wouldnt say it was pleasant but it was definitely a test of mettle.
Then all i had to contend with was the fact that i was running on vapours, and they had closed the A82 road to glasgow....though of course the sign said delays expected, so i did a lot of needless miles before getting home at 1am thoroughly foobared.