This trip had been in the diary for a while – we were already in the highlands (thanks 10 under the ben) and we had friends travelling to join us from Surrey…and from Aberdeen…
Routes were planned, accommodation booked (we were all in some sort of van except for our friends from the south, who were supposed to be trying their new van out – but it still hadn’t been delivered), vehicles packed full of kit…. the weather was (at the start of the week) mint….
Day 1 saw a reduced posse of 3 head across to the excellent trail centre at Laggan Wolftrax – this would allow me to duck out early with my 10under legs not fully recovered- whilst the boys explored the natural enduro trails on the other side of the hill… It was a truly fantastic day – gorgeous weather, fantastic views – on the drive across and from the trails – and great company…
A most excellent start…
The full Surrey contingent were not due to arrive until the next afternoon – so we went for a blast round the trails at Nevis range in the morning, to keep our legs loose…The weather was starting to change – fingers crossed for the sun to re-appear…
We moved from our wild camping spot to a beautiful campsite at Roy Bridge – a chance to charge the elcetric, fill up with water, empty waste, wash clothes!!!
Next morning we headed to Kinochleven – an area I have been longing to ride for years… The Ciaran path was our first adventure ride of the trip – we lucked out on the weather, and the trail back down from the dam was simply amazing – rocky, wet, more rocks, rivers….such a giggle….Not long after we were safely in a cafe the heavens opened – first weather bullet dodged.
Our plan had been to tackle one of the most beautiful rides in Scotalnd the following day, however the weather was not good – the tops of the mountains were shrouded behind cloud and mist, and there would not be any views to enjoy…. We hurredly made an alternative plan – it was back to Laggan….this time we tackled the red route and it was so much fun – drops and fun corners and more drops…. the flow on that trail is just oustanding…
And then it was time to head to Torridon – we were staying in Applecross and had a bit of a drive ahead. We stopped in a large supermarket in Dingwall to stock up – as luck would have it, collected our final trip member who just happened to be there at the same time!!
The road to Applecross is stunning…and very narrow, steep and twisty. I was happy not to be driving! the wind was already rising, the rain was starting to fall…. it was looking ominous for our assault on the classic Torridon lollipop loop the next day. Sure enough, with high winds and rain we switched plans and headed for the Bein Damh circuit instead. This ride was to prove character building…very wet and at times boggy under wheel as we rode along the side of the loch.
The climb was challenging – rocky, sometime boulders were in just the right place to stop you dead, there were some boggy patches (daring you to dip your font wheel in)…we could see nothing much, no idea (apart from distance on garmins) as to our progress… I was loving it – prompting one of the group to question my sanity!! Eventually we reached the descent – classic Torridon slab rock, with the strongest wind I have ever encountered…speeds were very high, control questionable.. and the water level was high (felt like riding down a river!!). At one point, I was blown flat onto my side – but it was comical rather than painful! The riding was awesome and once we had braved crossing the torrent of a river at the bottom, we hit wooded, loamy singletrack gold… What a stunning day out on bikes!!!
A good feed at the infamous Applecross Inn followed – where we checked the weather again and came to the decision that we should bail and head for the sunny 20degree temperatures in Aviemore..on the way back to camp we encountered a couple of local residents having a brawl!!
It just felt so good to drive toward better weather, sun shone, temperature was high…..we squeezed in a short but technical ride that afternoon, found a lovely wild camping spot and settled in.
Another top day followed, we still couldn’t head high into the hills (pesky 50mph wind gusts), but found some sweet riding in the local woods and some stunning scenery out through Glen Feshie…. the sun was shining, we picnicked by an old stone building, life was again good..
Our final destination was always going to be Dunkeld – we had a comedy dining experience in one of the bistros – where every dish we ordered was suddenly unavailable… eventually we were fed though and we even scored some free dishes.
Final riding day involved some classic Dunkeld enduro trails and then an explore in a wood we had not been to before. The trails were seriously good, we covered a lot of miles, squeezed a serious amount of climbing into our by now tired legs and were rewarded with unbelievably good – challenging in parts- trails. What a way to end – we finished by the river, in the sun eating cake.
All didn’t go exactly to plan but maybe the challenging conditions helped make the trip!! I loved every minute – including all the planning and replanning, fun times plus invaluable experience towards my level 3 leader assessment….Bikes, mates, camping, adventures… the best of times!!