Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Back in the saddle

I guess that I should have expected some sort of psychological backlash after pulling out of the Highland Tail Race. The hours and miles I'd put in all suddenly seemed a bit worthless and, after a day out round Loch Katrine, the bikes had been hanging up in the garage, unused. Somehow, I just didn't have any enthusiasm to ride them for a day or two, a week, a fortnight...

Thankfully Ian, one of my occasional riding buddies, had been rounding folk up for a day round part of Perthshire and this had caught my eye for a couple of reasons; if there's such a thing as a "bucket list" of Scottish mountain-biking then the Atholl passes of the Minigaig and the Gaick are surely found in it. These old routes had caught my eye as a hillwalker and yet I've somehow never managed to cross them. I guess that the logistics of the long day between Blair Atholl and Kingussie, and then getting back to the start, never quite worked out for me. However, with a bicycle available, it suddenly looked feasible to do them both on the same day. 

The second reason is that I'd seen bit of both routes from the north end last year and I was keen to see how they both arrived in Glen Tromie. That would give me some possible long distance routes from home.

On the day, the weather wasn't that great looking - in fact, it was lashing it down as I passed Drumochter. However, it was at least holding off as Andrew, Ian and I geared up for the ride in Calvine. 

It's a bit of a sharp start after crossing the A9, but once some height is gained there's a fairly easy spin along Glen Bruar. The track is certainly a lot less rough than when I'd previously cycled here - all of 20 years ago on my way to climb Beinn Dearg. The other thing that had changed was that the river was almost dry - a result of a new hydro scheme perhaps. Certainly, the approach to Glen Bruar from Glen Banvie is now a lot easier. After passing the lodge, the track starts to get a little steeper and then it's the end of the glen with a steep rise up ahead. 

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Where the walking starts
We'd already worked out that this was the time to get off and push and, though it rose steeply, it was reasonably easy going. As the plateau was reached, and the ground started to flatten out, it was off/on the bikes for a while until we eventually reached the summit and started the fun bit! 


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On or off the bike - you choose
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Finally, some downhill
Bruar Big Ride
Still plenty of snow up here too.
Sadly, that was to end all too soon as the track deteriorated into a muddy, squelchy quad track and then through wet bog and heather. Having made the mistake of choosing neither waterproof boots nor waterproof socks, my feet were now sodden. Still, it made fording the numerous rivers and streams easier as I just ploughed through rather than delicately selecting stepping stones. 

Once in Glen Tromie, I recognised part of the track I'd done last year from Glen Feshie. I knew that the percentage rideability was increasing, which was a wee boost. Descending down to the weir, I'd taken a slightly different line from Andrew and Ian and almost ran over an adder sunning him(her)self. Leaving the bike as a marker I called out to the guys to take a look but it was a bit shy and they only managed to catch a glimpse of its tail as it slunk into a wee hole under some heather. 

Another river crossing saw us onto a decent track for a while and then it was up along the Gaick. This is a much lower, faster, easier route than the Minigaig (it was once considered as an option for the main road north rather than Drumochter) so we made pretty good time despite the headwind. 
Bruar Big Ride
Looking back through the Gaick
Another river forded and we were at Loch an Duin. Here, again, there was some on/off bike action, especially given legs were beginning to tire. Still, it was all downhill from here (Andrew would disagree) and the weather was as good as we'd had all day, so it made for a pleasant end to a grand day out in the hills.

I was really pleased to be able to tick off two routes I'd long want to do and it was great to get a bit of a leg-stretch again after my withdrawal from the HTR. A massive thanks has to go to Ian for arranging it and giving me sufficient incentive. 



(and thanks to both Ian and Andrew for the use of their photos)