You’re probably wondering why you follow this blog. It’s been months since I posted anything noteworthy. I think my last decent trip report was back in May! So what’s been going on? Well, I’m not sure TBH. There was a virus of unknown origin that took me out the game for the best part of a month, closely followed up with a head cold, courtesy of Margaret and the nice students of Edinburgh University. There was some decorating and that’s about it I think.
You’ll have noticed I don’t walk much anywhere these days. Since I started riding my bike again a couple of years back I’ve felt the benefit of much improved fitness and weight loss, which I was never able to achieve by walking. I’ve recently started riding with some workmates which has brought on my fitness after my summer of malaise and I’m feeling all the better for it, not to mention it makes cold/wet winter riding a bit more tolerable if you have someone to share it with.
So anyway, since May there have in fact been three failed attempts at bikepacking, adventure touring or whatever you want to call it, ‘bike riding’ will suffice. The first was a southern Cairgorm Loop starting and finishing at Blair Atholl, taking in Glen Bruar, the Minigaig Pass, Feshie, Geldie and Tilt. Some folk do it in a day, but I’d intended to camp in Glen Feshie somewhere. I thought it’d be a good follow up to my Tyndrum to Taynuilt trip. Unfortunately, I decided to do it on one of the hottest days of the year and wasn’t really enjoying myself, I cut it short and returned home.
Next up I planned a similar route, but this time starting at Braemar taking in Rothiemurchus, Glenmore and and returning to Braemar via Lairig an Laoigh and Glen Derry. This time, I barely got past White Bridge before a rear shifter failure put an end to proceedings. What a waste of petrol.
This past weekend I thought another attempt at the Blair Atholl route might be worth go as the weather was looking favourable. The drive up the A9 was surprisingly swift and everyone was well behaved for a change. I’d made some enquiries about the snowline, although the bulk of the miles were through the glens, the minigaig was likely to be under snow. I was hoping it would be a dusting given it’s a bit lower than the ski resorts. Well, I expect you’ve noticed the photos by now…
I’m not going to say it was impassable, the snow was only a few inches, but it wasn’t ridable, not by me anyhow. I could just about pedal when the gradient eased off and I mashed my way from heathery outcrop to heathery outcrop. Despite the exertion, I was getting cold. My toes were frozen in my SPDs. Another 8km and 150m ascent to go and less than two hours of daylight left. I really didn’t fancy a long night on the hill, I’d packed relatively light in hope of four walls and a fire at Ruigh-aiteachain bothy.
Jacket on, I turned tail and pedaled off the hill, easy going when gravity assists. Back in the glen, still frozen, I had some food, decided I may as well stick my dry socks on and instantly felt better. I’d been feeling good during the pedal out, but now I could give it some beans on the way back to the car, no need to take it easy. The ride back down glen was swift. The whole day I’d been thinking how great my Race King on the rear wheel was. Fast rolling, yet somehow grippy and really comfortable, even at moderate pressures. Probably not best suited to a rider of my weight though, as I managed to puncture the sidewall on…a puddle. I dunno, I’m as confused now as I was then. Of course, I assumed that the Stan’s sealant would seal up the hole, I set the bike puncture side down, so the sealant could work.
My feet were too cold for this shit. Spare inner tube out the framebag and Stan’s fluid all over my rim (fnar). I reinflated and cracked on down Glen Banvie, unintentionally two wheel drifting on the wet leaves at one point. Back at the car a I consoled myself in the certainty that my next bike packing trip can’t possibly go wrong. I reckon I’ve got some unfinished business with the Minigaig in spring. In the meantime, I’ll be sticking to the glens.
So there you have it, no decent trip reports, no decent photos due to leaving my big camera at home. Some lessons learned, possibly, about planning and preparation. Time will tell.