Cairngorms Inner Loop, Good Friday 2016

Fate and family holidays put me in the nice position of being up in Scotland for Easter 2016. A little bit of negotiation and I got a pass for the Thursday, Good Friday and saturday to head up early and ride my bike.

I’d always fancied a crack at the Cairngorms Loop. Thinking I had a fairly good handle on my fitness (not where it should be or normally is at this time of year), and my technical skills (more mince than gnar) I decided that a complete loop wasn’t go to happen in the time given. So a run round the inner loop seemed like a great idea. Plan was to drive up to Aviemore on the Thursday night, kip over in the SYHA, get an early start on Friday, rock around the loop to Ruigh Aiteachain bothy, nights kip and then a short hop back to the car on Saturday morning. Job done.

Thursday’s drive up took about 2 hours longer than expected so by the time I got to Aviemore the only food on offer was the remanants of Tescos lunchtime fare, but at least the Hostel had beer. Unfortunately it also had a number of very noisy family groups, so despite having a bunk room to myself I didn’t get much sleep.

So up and at them anyway. Cold rolling out of Aviemore on the road, but soon warming up along the forest tracks toward Loch Morlich. The hill tops hove into view, with a nice covering of snow:
2016-03-25 07.13.42 HDR

Crossing the bridge over the River Nethy and things started heading upwards. And I started learning about water bars fairly quickly. Technique ran out before the puff and I started pushing to avoid too many mistakes.

Once over the top the snow patches started to appear. A fat bike would have been handy here, the temperatures hadn’t quite left enough of a crust for 29×2.2 to carry me, bike and kit across:
2016-03-25 09.57.56

The next obstacle was the Fords of Avon, stopped at the refuge for some food to steel the nerves and then across we went. Minor foot wettage but nothing too major thankfully. The rest of the path alongside Dubh Locan to the summit of Lairig an Laoigh was a lot of pushing and some half hearted short bursts of riding till the next snow patch. Eventually the high point at Lairig an laoigh was reached, and a well earned breathers:

2016-03-25 12.06.51 HDR

Was hoping the next section would be slightly easier! Unfortunately a water channel caused a nice Over the Bar dismount. Nothing but a few bruises for me, but the rear shifter got a bent a little so took a bit of coaxing for the rest of the ride. And then trying to ‘straight line’ some of the channels in Glen Derry my chain snapped. A quicklink got me moving again. Was looking forward to the Derry Lodge and the ‘easier’ double tracks past the Linn of Dee. Derry lodge was the spot for another rest and a check in with home:


And the run down to Linn of Dee was nice and smooth. But turning onto the ‘easier’ track pushed me head on in to the wind, which I later found out was doing 70mph!!! At points walking along the flat pushing the bike was producing the same speed as riding it but taking up less energy and easier to balance!! Off the tracks and back onto singletrack across the bogs.

Sense of humour failure occurred here trying to find the trail around the footbridge crossing of the Eidart. First of the days reminders that under Scotland’s englightened access laws that the path will move as needed and that slavishly trying to follow a GPS track or an Ordnance Survey maps will lead to lots of pointless bog and tussock humping.

The entry to Glen Feshie was ‘interesting’. The winter flooding had wiped out quite a lot of bank so there was a fairly exposed waterfall crossing to get onto what was left of the riverside track.

Soon at the bothy, where I remembered that I hadn’t told home that I would be staying out for the night! So despite having lugged sleep kit around, with no mobile signal it was back out into the night to get back.

Some interesting bits of navigation after this with the missing banks. And trying to find the small goat track through the woods to cross Allt Garbhlach by headtorch was a testing moment. Also spent ages try to find the path through to Auchlean was a pain. I now know that the ‘new’ track that isn’t the one the official loop gpx follows should have been followed.

By now I was way behind schedule and nearly falling asleep on the bike. So at Feshiebridge I decided to just head back to Aviemore on the road. Nicely wind assisted until I turned a corner and was broadsided off the road by it.

Back at Aviemore SYHA for 22:50, just in time to get the last bunk and a beer.

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