Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Highland pain factory

I'd wanted to go and ride in the Ardverikie area (The castle was used in the Monach of the Glen TV series) for ages, which is fairly close to Ben Alder, a fairly remote Highland spot. The forecast looked reasonable... but no better than that so we went for it.

From Loch Laggan easy but long estate tracks head East to the river Pattack, before turning South to Loch Pattack. It was nice scenery and easy cycling but the weather looked like it was deteriorating and it was quite cold and exposed.

Wet! The easy section
By Loch Pattack we had every item of clothing on and I was a little anxious about the next section as the cloud and rain rolled in... Strangely at Loch Pattack we bumped into 3-4 horses that seemed excited to see people.. To me a strange place to keep horses, with no fence boundaries for miles and miles. They can't get many visitors so their over excitement meant a quick exit over the interesting swing bridge.

Loch Pattack

Luckily the weather did improve as we headed West, only half way round the 45km loop. The route is basically 2/3 on easy estate tracks, but 1/3 of it goes over a high pass of 800m. After a crazy river crossing where we nearly lost 1 bike as the tyres started floating away as I waded up to my knees we started the momentous push up the pass.

I can't lie this was horrible and took hours getting the bikes up to the top at 800m. It was wet, boggy, steep, unrideable and I very much questioned the route and why we were even there! I was starting to get conscious of time and worried that we really had to push on if we were going to get back before darkness... I worried that the other side (downhill) may also not be rideable and a massive time drain if like the ascent.

Finally over the pass and a rideable track again

Wish I'd shot in Raw this would have been good to change
But I didn't have to worry the decent had been well maintained (I guess for stalking purposes from the estate side) and it was almost worth the push (actually not quite) to drop back down to the warmer and sheltered safety of Lochan na H-Earba.

Cold and wet, trying to smile!
What remained was a pleasant 10-12km flat ride through stunning Highland scenery back to the van in the last light of the day. A hard day, glad I'd done it, but probably wouldn't ride this particular route EVER again :-).

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