Do not think for a second that the irony of a 2 part blog post describing a very short, overnight bike ride is lost on me. At this rate, it will take longer to read the tale than to have participated!
Anyway. I awoke to an absolute bluebird morning. The view from the bivi bag was breathtaking.
After extricating myself from the sleeping bag’s warm embrace and jumping around a little bit to get some circulation going, I inspected the inside of the eVent fabric bivi. There was a thin layer of ice throughout, excepting the area my themarest touched. Interesting! I have had ice form on the outer surface of my bivi and tent before, but not the inside. I have no clear idea why this might have been, but I suspect it may have something to do with me being pretty cold overnight. The benefit of it being *so* cold was that nothing felt wet.
Coffee time. I use MSR stoves and have found them incredibly reliable and durable. The gas canisters admittedly struggle in very low temperatures, so I needed to shake it every now and again to get my cup of joe made. Little beats a cup of coffee made under ancient caledonian pine on a super bright, crispy morning.
After packing everything up I started rolling again. I had no planned destination. The snow conditions needed to be assessed before I could decide where to head. As I rode through the trees, snow crunched under the Krampus’ fat tyres and if my face hadn’t been so cold, I would have been wearing a broad grin.
After about 45 minutes of riding, I decided to head over to Piccadilly and see if the trail up to the Lairig Ghru looked rideable. It did, so I started climbing and rapidly warmed up. My overnight kit is far from heavy, but strapped to a somewhat beefy bike and given my state of fitness, the heart rate definitely climbed faster than I did. Nearing the top of the climb, I was post-holing. I had no intentions of going into the pass proper, but I did want to see what my options were.
Soon enough I broke out of the tree line and peered into the massive, glacial half-pipe that forms one of the passes through the Cairngorm. There is a photo on my flickr that looks like a close up of a cotton wool ball. It was approaching me *fast* and suggested that heading any further into the Lairig Ghru would prove uncomfortable. I turned the bike and so ensued a drifting, pinball, highly enjoyable descent.
I knew that I was going to be overtaken by the weather, so headed to one of my favourite spots to make a cup of coffee and shelter under the relatively dense trees. That way I could further assess the conditions and have a spot of breakfast.
Sure enough, the snow started to fall again and the wind began to rise. I hopped on the bike and pedaled on. Movement generates warmth. I climbed up into the wind and drifting snow, wondering if the path from Rothiemurchas Lodge over towards the ski area would be passable, but it was deep under powdery snow. After reflecting briefly on those tough guys who battle the Iditarod route in Alaska, I turned tail and climbed up to Badaguish, intent on riding the tight trails hidden in the trees above the outdoor centre.
The snow became deeper as I ascended and I was working hard and moving slowly, but as I dropped onto the sweet singletrack, the Krampus demonstrated that it was indeed a capable bike in the woods.
I messed around for a while. The weather was variable, but there was no doubt that going further afield would have been a push too far. There were moments where my tyres crunched fresh tracks over ground that had not been traversed in some time. It was just me, the deer and the birds. Beautiful.
With a twinge of disappointment, but looking forward to some warm food at the Mountain Cafe, I headed back to the car and closed the loop on this S24O. I felt like I had been out for days. Unforgettable.