19 07 2014

After the rugged beauty of Skye, I turned my attention to an old friend – Torridon. As I have mentioned before, Torridon is an awe inspiring place to ride. The terrain is rugged and technical, but the trails drain superbly, for the most part, and offer good grip: a useful characteristic as they can be steep and consequential.

I wanted to extend the usual Annat/Achnashellach/Coire Lair loop so after climbing from Coulags and descending the awesome trail to Annat, I took the road west towards the Ben Damph estate.

Incidentally, on the descent, I chatted to Alasdair McLean, who was on his way to completing the Highland Trail 550. I had pulled out of this a few weeks prior and it caused a twinge of regret to talk over his experiences. He was clearly tired but in very good spirits. I wished him well and continued down the trail.

After taking the excellent estate track south into the hills, there was an exceptionally wet singletrack alongside Loch Damh to the turn around at Kinloch Damph. Here, the trail climbs gradually, onto the shoulder of Beinn Damh, before descending from Coire Roill back to the coast.

It really wasn’t until the final few kilometers that this additional loop became worthwhile and I am not sure I can recommend it.

I had met a few other riders taking part in the HTR 550 the day prior at Strathcarron Station, including Alan Goldsmith. Alan had warned me off my previous plan of taking the trail up Coire Mhich Nòbuil behind Liathach, before descending Coire Dubh Mòr, back towards Loch Clair. As he explained it, he likes a good hike-a-bike, but the route in question was hideous. Fair enough!

I had been wondering about overnighting: climbing to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair and (hopefully) sleeping above the midge ceiling before contining around to Loch Maree, or perhaps Fisherfield, but this will have to be another time.

After Ben Damph, I climbed back up the road from Annat, to Loch Clair and from there up the beautiful trail past the Easan Dorcha bothy.

From here, I descended the Coire Lair trail – perhaps the best trail in Scotland. A few hours later, I was sat in the Plockton Inn enjoying a seafood platter and a locally brewed pint. You can’t beat that.



2 12 2013

Run down and ill. What a way to start my 40th lap around the sun. A sore throat, cough, nausea and a painful oxter lymph node not withstanding, I spent several hours in the mountains north of Kinlochleven on Satrurday. I was weak from the beginning, but Maul flew up the hill dragging me after. The rough, rocky access road beside Loch’s Eilde Mor and Beag gave way to the patch of grass at Luibeilt. The Abhainn Rath flowed dark and cold past the ruined house.

I moved up and down the river and tried to persuade myself that crossing was a good idea.

The objective for the day had been to get up past Loch Treig and round Loch Ossian. A late start and heavy legs made that impossible. In addition, my fully charged lights were still in a zip lock bag in my car rather than my back pack. Less than ideal with only two and a half hours until sunset.

As I sat munching yoghurt covered snacks the rain started to fall as did the temperature. Crossing the river, getting cold and wet, was now sliding out of the uncomfortable zone and into the irresponsible: I had nowhere near enough energy to generate the heat-through-activity I would need to keep myself safe once I made the ford.

Somewhat reluctantly, I turned tail and endured the bitter head wind back to Kinlochleven.

This ride was supposed to add to the knowledge bank for the Highland Trail 550 – a long distance self supported race across some of the finer terrain Scotland has to offer. This is happening on May the 24th 2014 and I will be on the start line in Tyndrum. It had been several years since I had ridden around Kinlochleven other than the Tour de Ben. I had forgotten how long it took and what the ground is like as you pass east, beside the Abhainn Rath.

I didn’t learn much that day, but I did use the hours to ponder SON dynamo hubs, lights, GPS charging and which bike would be the best compromise for such a long effort.