Ged, Ricky, Oscar, Dave & Stuart had planned a bit of a mountain biking road trip to Scotland and to help them get the best of the trails in the NW asked me to guide them for a couple of days. I was joined both days by Charlie from Torridon Activities as part of his preparation for his Level 3 assessment and on Sunday by Ian Sikora who I ride and guide with both in Torridon and across in The Cairngorms.
The forecast for our first day was for strong, or gale force winds, windchill and driving rain or sleet – certainly not the conditions to be attempting to ride anything too high up in the mountains. Having met the group in the morning to discuss their experience and aspirations it was agreed to drive north to Poolewe where we would ride into the spectacular and remote Fionn Loch. The above photo shows a break in the weather, this along with some determined riding meant that we got all the way to the Causeway and across to Carnmore Bothy for a late lunch. This was despite a few visits by the pinch-flat troll who lives near the bottom of the first descent by Martha’s Peak! For some the return ride across the Causeway had to be timed to avoid the frequent squalls that blasted down the loch. Riding in a remote environment such as this demands respect. Charlie & I pointed out that whilst risk cannot be eliminated we can reduce it by taking decisions such as using a bridge with a detour instead of wading a river in spate. All the way out we were battered and often brought to a halt by the 40mph headwind. Stuart re-grouped at the top of the final descent to the woods before everyone had a chance to relax at bit and push the pace on the trail as it dropped and weaved down to the gate. Two hours back from the Bothy to the cars was good going in these conditions.
Sunday’s forecast was for the weather to move from Westerlies to Northwesterly near to midday so I was perfectly happy to go for the Classic Torridon Loop with the group. After all this is what they’d come here for! Our warm up ride and climb up through to Coulin was a contrast to the day before with time for looking at the ‘Big Country scenery’, photos and detours to retrieve riding glasses! Neil Morrison the head keeper at Coulin Estate met us on the climb to the Pass but he did not stay too long as I think the lads were planning to put their bikes in his truck. Warp speed to the railway station with no cafe, a smooth ride on the re-surfaced Lochcarron road and then it was time… Time for the climb from Coulags to the Annat descent. This technical climb can sap tired legs, split inner tubes and break hearts but the new hydro scheme track has certainly taken the sting out of it to the bridge. But no flats for us so there was time to relax and have some lunch at the bothy just in time for the weather to improve as promised. The hike-a-bike to the Bealach na Lice was in pretty good nick so it did not take us long to reach the top of the magic carpet that is the Annat Descent. Keen not to spoil the flow of this famous descent we choose two natural stopping points to allow me to ride ahead and get photos. The rest was flow, flow, flow and more flow.
It was a pleasure for myself, Charlie & Ian to meet and ride with Ged, Ricky, Oscar, Dave & Stuart.
blog by Jim, nineonesix-guiding