Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Tour of the 'gorms

First off apologies to Kate, who it seems has been patiently waiting for the full tour report, secondly apologies to our washing machine which having groaned under the weight of my grim riding kit this morning is now going to have to accept my riding shoes, which are just now too rancid to contemplate doing anything else with! 

The four day tour of the Cairngorms was with Scottish Mountain Bike Guides, who I massively recommend for anybody thinking heading north. Main man Phil is a top guide, and I'm already checking out the diary to book a skills day with him in the near future.

The details then of 6 girls mountain bike riding the C'gorms. Friday night, drive to Paisley Travelodge, which sits under M8, there is no need to describe this, it is exactly as you are imagining it. Saturday morning after a Burger King breakfast, the finest we could find, Phil and second guide Ralph met us with the van and mini-bus, bikes and bags into van, hyper-excited girls into the bus. 2.5hr drive north to Blair Atholl. This was a baptism of fire for Phil, his first all female group spent most of the drive talking about poo, this was to become somewhat of a trend for the 4 days away! 

Once in Blair Atholl, a bit of faffing with kit and bikes and then off we ride with Phil. 38 miles of a mixture of stunning loch side singletrack, hike-a-bike through heather, nice easily rideable landrover track and road had us rolling into Kincraig and finding the bunkhouse before dark. Ralph soon had dinner rustled up and as we inhaled it with rapidity our guides soon realised they had 6 relentless eating machines to keep fuelled for the duration. A good nights sleep had by all.

Sunday had us up for an 8am breakfast, once kitted up we set off with Ralph to guide us. A good chunk of the riding through natural woodland. Again some good singletrack, plenty of easily rideable sections on doubletrack. A few fun river crossings. 35 miles later we rolled into Tomintoul for a night at the Gordon Arms. A few drinks and a massive 3 course dinner and we were all spark out.


Full cooked brekkies, a quick trip out to shop for souvenirs (bottles of whisky) and we were ready to roll for day 3 with Phil. A shorter ride for the day but not necessarily easy, especially for me as I was feeling a bit under the weather. One river crossing in particular proved a bit testing, sucking one of our party down into the icy water, good thing enough dry clothes being carried by us all to make up a full change of kit. Some spectacular lochside singletrack, with just the mist and sound of the water and wildlife for company, a real sense of perspective, a tiny rider in a big country. The final 2km climb of the day had me feeling a bit beaten, I perked up a bit on the roll down though. Was glad to make it in to Braemar to the bunkhouse. Monster spicy hot curry made by Ralph for dinner, less said the better!

Day 4 and we were packed up and rolling with Phil by 10am. The last day was as stunning as the first 3. Some pretty testing river crossings, socks off, ice-cream feet. Riding through valleys on singletrack with nerve rattling drops to the left. One tumble (not me) and a few scrapes and we all made it through safely. The last stretch of double track made for a speedy finish and we rolled back into Blair Atholl where we started off. 

About 120 miles of riding in the four days, really lucky with the weather, only a few showers and a bit of light drizzle. Warm enough for shorts most of the time. Simply the best riding I have ever done. My words and photos just don't do it justice. More of my photos here and Phil's photos here.


trio said...

Sounds amazing! I definetly want to do some riding up there, we're thinking next summer we might plan a trip. It's time for some bikepacking again!

jumbly said...

It's actually difficult to describe just how stunning it was up there, I'd go again without hesitation.

Pedalling Polarcherry said...

wow that was a deep river crossing! sounds like a great trip :)

Red Bike said...

Looks and sounds amazing!

Pink Orange 5 said...

I would love to do that, so when you go again I'd probably go.

Julbags said...

You were vey lucky with the weather, last time I was in the Cairngorms it was June and it snowed. Great trip and gorgeous pics, I did fancy doing a tour around the area last year but Jez didn't as he was very unfit at the time, boo.

I think you were braver staying in Paisley than doing the river crossing, not somewhere I would necessarily want to stay!

jumbly said...

PO5- I'll let you know if a repeat booking looks likely. I'd be tempted to book again for the same time next year, worst of winter is done but it's pre-midge.

Julbags - Can hardly believe how lucky we were with the weather. I was worried about not being fit enough but it wasn't as hard as I expected. A lot of climbing, but most of it was quite gradual rather than lung-busters like we're used to round here.

kate said...

sounds excellent! something i'd really like to do-pls keep me in mind too :)

Julbags said...

we were walking/scrambling/shivering when we were there but we did check out some of the trails and decided they would be good for all day rides as they didn't seem to be brutal. It's good to get a first hand biking account of them. I'm glad you had such a good time.

Sometimes I wonder why I moved to England.....oh yes cos I was only into Tae Kwon Do at the time not biking/hillwalking!