Wester Ross.

28 09 2013

I have not spent much time riding in Wester Ross. Mainly due to a lack of proximity. To my mind, the dramatically juxtaposed lochs and sheer, jagged mountains of the region showcase the very best scenery in Scotland. Of course, just because a place looks cool, doesn’t mean it has cool trails. However, in this regard, Wester Ross delivers in spades.

A couple of days off allowed enough time to get there, with a three or four route smörgåsbord of possibilities. Weather and energy levels would define the riding to be done.

The first route was the Torridon classic: Achnashellach/Annat via Coire Lair. Despite leaden legs, it was very enjoyable and the descents delivered a stiff test for the new B.A set up – wide 710mm Jones bars and the X-fusion Trace up front. All good.

The plan was to bivi at the base of Liathach, but the midge and mosquitos were ferocious to say the least, so the moby was deployed and Trina managed to square me away with a last minute room at the Old Inn, round in Gairloch. Not quite as rugged as I’d intended, but my histamine levels were redlining from spending 30 minutes at the proposed base camp. When planning mtb trips in Scotland, it is best to keep things fluid.

Staying in Gairloch meant that the second ride I had planned was a goer: the ride out from Poolewe to Fisherfield Forest. Riding in this pristine wilderness is a little contentious. My feeling is that if I stick to man made trails, it is no more of an issue than hiking. The scenery, including a view of An Teallach, was otherworldly. The mostly singletrack trail through the Letterewe estate was superb: it was a shame I was riding sub-par and had to turn back when I did. Next time a through-ride via Dundonnell is the plan.


Woods Riding 2.

18 09 2013

There are things to write about, thoughts on stuff I have been using and questions that need answering. There are plans afoot, changes to schedules and the promise of new trails…

But no time, no time. So here is a quick video I made. The tune is from William Elliott Whitmore, Mutiny off the album Animals in the Dark. It is a very good album.


5 09 2013

Deeside is the part of the Cairngorm I know least well. After a brief camping trip last week in Tarland, a route around Deeside was on my mind. When the opportunity arose, I decided on a loop around and over Lochnagar from Braemar to scratch the itch.

Heading east along the river Dee to the Old Brig o’ Dee, then into Balmoral, was a welcome start to the ride. The forest here is every bit as beautiful as Rothiemurchas. The long climb to the east of the famous Lochnagar cliffs (site of some of the trickier scottish winter and rock climbing) was easy going. Inevitably, some portage was on the menu. That time arrived after reaching the point where the steep, rough singletrack trail peeled up the bealach between Meikle Pap and Cuidhe Cròm. There was a trail of blood drops all the way up. Someone had clearly had an intimate encounter with one of the sharper rocks on the trail. The view down towards Loch Muick and the Angus Glens was spectacular.

The steep ascent took me into the path of the wind which was blowing a hoolie, but I climbed up the trig point anyway, might as well.

From here, the route circled along the top of the cliffs, before tracking over to Carn an t’ Sagairt mor and the excellent, steep and picky descent down to Loch Callater. Two fast jets flying low down the glen highlighted the glorious, blue sky, but the star of the show was the trail. Not overly difficult, but you have to stay focused and I would happily give up speed for the this type of thought provoking, rock-hopping trail, high above ground level.

With a wistful look back to the mountain top trail, I welcomed the strong tail wind that gave me a speedy return to Braemar. An excellent loop.


This loop appears in Scotland mountain biking: wild trails 2, ISBN 9781906148522. Well worth a look.