The first part of the ride was definitely familiar to me. The route from Aviemore to Tomintoul passes through lots of interesting spots. Safe to say this was by far the wettest I'd ever ridden it though. Lots of puddles and muddy spots didn't promise well for the later river crossings.
|A wet warning of what was to come - bottom bracket depth.
The sign has to be a joke - there's no way round this.
|Some of my favourite singletrack after Forest Lodge
|Looking across to Strath Nethy
The Faeshallach was flowing but I made it across through careful use of boulders as stepping stones. I doubted the next crossing would be as straightforward.
|The Faeshallach - I made it across here with dry feet.
|Approaching the Big Egg (gaelic Eag Mhor - the big notch)
|It's a cracking place for a ride
|Some care required. Having an accident here would be no yolk.
|Purple poo - a sure sign it's Blaeberry season
On reaching the Dorback Burn my suspicions were confirmed. Not only has the burn changed its profile through the gravel banks, it was flowing fast and deep. Knowing that the Burn of Brown was still to come, I didn't bother faffing and just waded straight across. That was the boots properly wet now, and no chance of drying out.
|The Dorback Burn. A change of direction and deeper than I've seen it.
|Looking back at the Big Egg. I was going for another pun but I reckoned an oeuf is an oeuf.
The Burn of Brown was crossed three times before I made it to the path on the south bank. This wanders in and out of the trees a lot and, having wet feet already, I'm not sure it was worth the effort compared with just making more crossings.
|I wonder how many folk this has put on the right path?
|The first of three crossings of the Burn of Brown
|Going my way?
|Just below Queen Victorias viewpoint.I bet she didn't cycle here!
|Disguising itself as a fallen tree, the carnivorous Highland Bearcow awaits an unsuspecting salmon.
|Unexpected beach on Loch Builg
The descent was on loose and steep estate road. I was always tempted to go faster but I kept repeating my two wilderness riding questions; where are you? and who are you with? The answers kept coming back the arse end of the Cairngorms and I only have my Spot tracker for company.
|The descent off Culardoch just as the rains came.
Reaching the woods near Invercauld was a welcome change of scenery. There's a definite "Braemar-ish" feel around here that somehow differentiates it from the Rothiemurchus side of the massif.
|Quite a welcome sight after the bleaker high terrain
|Looking towards Braemar and Glen Dee (and a bed for the night)
|Been there, done that.
|Still too early - crack on
|Demanding and potentially dangerous - just like being at home then!
|Nice spot - but not for me
Linn of Dee came and went - far too early. White Bridge then? Too early and some campers already there.
The Geldie would have to do. I got there just as the rain started and even looked at the old building as a potential stopping point but the midge were numerous and good ground hard to come by. I decided to head upstream. I knew that wet ground was sure to follow and hoped it wouldn't slow my progress too much but it became a bit of a boggy trudge, interspersed with the occasional bit of pedalling. I was now in that spiral where it was getting dark and I was getting increasingly slow, leading to it being even more dark as I headed towards the watershed. What's more, the whole area was sodden meaning I could see no decent bivvy spot. As it got darker, I opted to continue on to the waterfall of the Eidart, hoping that the change of terrain would give me more options. It turned out not to be so and I (carefully) crossed the bridge with the water roaring beneath me. By now, all I could make out of the track was the line of tyre-marked puddles. Another look at the map confirmed that I'd now be heading down to the riverside and closer inspection showed a building. I expected this to be a ruin but I figured that no one would build something the middle of a bog so this was likely to be my best hope for dry ground.
I was, thankfully, correct. An old stable, walls mostly gone and with holes in the roof it did, however present my best bet for stopover point. I had, briefly, considered pressing on to Ruigh-aitchechan bothy in Glen Feshie but I knew this was likely to take quite a while, would involve crossing the landslips in the dark and might not make me too popular with anyone else already asleep there. My tarp made a useful temporary wall patch, cutting off the breeze coming from the west and though the ground was a bit rocky, the air mattress took it in its stride. A quick change out of wet gear and I was in the sleeping bag in double quick time. I had a stove with me but that seemed like too much faff and, having managed to forget a hipflask, I made do with some water and nuts for supper.
|Not exactly 5 Star
|A faint glow of sunrise
The upper reaches of the Feshie in this area have a definite non-Cairngorms feel about them. In fact, it reminded me of my trip into Kintail earlier this year. I was also coming back onto familiar ground and soon reached the area where two significant landslips make manhandling a bike a bit precarious.
|A bit tricky this one - not to be attempted in the dark!
|The purples of late summer developing nicely
|Some astonishing light in the morning sun.
The last bit of bike-pushing came when crossing the Allt Garblach. This minor river crossing was transformed into a deep canyon last year when we experienced lots of flooding. What was a nice stepped descent, small bridge and stepped climb out now necessitates a lot of manhandling on steep, loose ground.
|Allt Garbhlach devastation - check out the steps on the far side
|A big drop from this side too
|Easy to miss this in the dark - and suffer a serious fall
|Back onto tarmac for the final stretch home
After that, it was a quick spin to the road (watching out for a further landslip area) and back towards Aviemore. Not yet 8:00, I arranged a suitable postscript in the form of breakfast at the Mountain Cafe with my wife. With my own breakfast gone, I was forced to finish hers - and a couple of rounds of toast. Safe to say, I did so guilt-free!!
|Fear not - there's bacon in there too!
|136km, 2,061m of ascent