Ground Truth.

6 05 2018

A few days ago, with no rain forecast, I took off for Loch Lomond, rode out through the woods at Mugdock and took the West highland Way (which was starting to get busy with walkers) northwards.

The plan was to ride to Ben Lomond, climb it then descend the Ptarmigan ridge and come back.

Either I was being slow, or I had mistaken how long it would take because around 3 hours in, I realised I didn’t have time to complete the ride and get back in time to pick up my daughter.

No worries. I opened up Gaia on my phone and scanned around for alternatives. One option stuck out – there are old logging roads on the side of Beinn Bhreac and if I climbed up and then headed south east, there were two wiggly lines down to the Loch Side – one at Cashell Glen and the other at the March Burn.

They both looked promising. The woods at the lower section of both are beautiful and I hoped they would provide some fun before turning for home.

After an initial incredibly steep climb up on a muddy, slithery singletrack, I completed the ascent on forest track. The sun was beating down and the going was rough, but not unenjoyable. The views over the Loch satisfied my desire for remote country and it felt good to do something other than blat around in the woods.

At the end of the forest track, the March Burn was supposed to pass from left to right and Gaia showed the tail starting and immediately descending.

Well, it did, but it took a while to find it. The bush was overgrown and a high deer fence had been built seemingly on the line of the trail. It was hard going in the sphagnum and brambles so eventually I climbed the deer fence and surveyed my options.

There was a deer trail descending but the fact I was fenced in gave me pause for thought – I wondered what the exit would be like lower down and eventually I decided to climb back up to the forest track and take the Cashell descent.

The bushwhack was brutal. fallen trees, brambles, bog and very, very steep ground but eventually, with much effort and dragging the bike through thick, spiky undergrowth, I made it.

The initial part of the Cashell descent was on rough, man made trail, probably as another access to a fenced in area, but it diverged from the route shown on Gaia and the ground became increasingly broken. I crossed a burn and into the trees where the vestiges of a trail seemed to exist but was criss-crossed with fallen trees and so it was not rideable.

Another burn crossed and I was back on the trail, again, it was a mess of bog and brambles. However, this time I was not going to retreat. With the loss of a lot of skin and blood I fought my way down to the Loch side and licked my wounds. It was a brutal path to follow and I won’t be going anywhere near those two heinous trails again.

Map work is one thing, but ground truth another entirely.




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