Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Highland Trail 550 2018 Index.

This is the index page to our Highland Trail 550 trials and tribulations for 2018.

Tom's 1st group depart, and his 2nd completion. Tom is 13.

Each opens in a new window I think, and I've published them backwards so  excepting the Intro page, if you start on Day 1, "older post" will take you to page 2 etc. Hopefully.


Day 1.

Day 2.

Day 3.

Day 4.

Day 5.

Day 6.

Day 7.

Day 8.

Highland Trail 550 2018 - Day 1

Pre Start Happy People.

OK. So in the Intro I explained that our preparation for the HT550 in terms of fitness was less than ideal.

Let's add to that on the drive up the day before, and the morning of the depart, I was struggling to get any food down. I wasn't really ill, my stomach just wasn't interested in food.

Tom as you can see above was in good spirits.

Our one advantage, a pyschologocal one, was that we'd ridden the whole route before, forewarned, is forearmed. One niggle though would be on the first day last year we'd set off some 3 1/2 hours earlier, so we'd seem to be late arriving at places.

The lovely Jenny Graham sent us all on our way, and fairly quickly we were, as was expected riding  alone or occasionally with a couple of others.

Michelle Dulieu and Liam Landers

The weather as forecast was glorious, and we slathered the sun cream on. We stopped for a scone and a drink at Bridge of Balgie. I forced the scone down, but my stomach still wasn't wanting food. I did however make sure I drank plenty of water.

The riding conditions were excellent, our progress less so. Tom was slow up the hills, and I was only marginally quicker.

We both knew what needed to be done though. Heads down, we plodded on.

Loch Ericht in the distance meant we were not far from the first bit of hike a bike.

We stopped at the loch side and ate less than we should. Later we realised that Tom was used to eating when I did, and I wasn't. We were both in calorie deficit. 

Passing Ben Alder cottage we'd bumped into Michelle again minus one of her pedals which wasn't a problem in the hike a bike boggy tussocks. Later that day though she'd push her bike 9 miles straight on the usually rideable singletrack.

Tom and I though not fit had retained some bike handling skills, and we made reasonable time on the section to Loch Pattack. 

Our original goal for the day was to get over the Corrieyairack Pass, but that would have meant riding several hours longer. I was spent. At mile 62 we set up camp just short of Laggan.

We both fired up our stoves and ate a Firepot meal each. I still wasn't hungry, but I did force the much needed calories down.

Highland Trail 550 2018 - Day 2

Day 2 we awoke not particularly early as we were hoping to grab some food at Laggan.

A lack of fitness and a lack of food the previous day had left us tired.

On arrival at Laggan we heard Michelle who had already sourced a pair of replacement pedals, and was ordering coffee.

We also grabbed coffee and some bars to fuel the first climb of the day, the Corrieyairack Pass.

Above, we near the bothy which we've stayed at or passed on our 3 previous attempts on day 1.

Wow, we are slow.

We stop for chips and gravy in Fort Augustus, cake in Invermoriston, and generally get back on top of eating food.

It is hot, and we take plentiful breaks.

A bit of sightseeing. at Corrimony.

Yes, and more food.....

We were way behind were we wanted to be, but we were still making progress.

Camping just before Orrin Dam, we planned on hitting Contin Stores for a resupply of food and breakfast next morning.

Highland Trail 550 2018 - Day 3

Before we started we'd discussed at length where we could save time compared to our ride the previous year. There had been hopes of being at least a day quicker.

It was Day 3 and we were looking that we were going to be slower rather than faster than last year. Outside 8 days maybe.

I guess I shouldn't have expected anything more, but I was on a bit of a downer.

Still the sun was shining.

There was no snow at our camping spot at Strathpuffer (pictured below).

Oh yes, and the views.

We cooked our supper at Croick Church after a quick look at the names on the windows.

Then on to Oykel Bridge Hotel for a drink before heading on to the Northern loop.

Past Rosehall and into Glen Cassley we ride. Tom's tired, so we start to look for somewhere to pitch the tents.

We were fussy at first for pitches, then, well, stupid.

A site sheltered by trees on both sides proved within 30 seconds to be just the place that the Scottish midge favours. We were covered in the wee beasties as we quickly pitched our tents. As we lay in our tents we could hear the little monsters over the sound of the river.

Highland Trail 550 2018 - Day 4

Morning, a reprise of the midge dance whilst trying to pack everything away back onto the bikes.

Then, the climb through the mist then down to Loch Shin where we cooked ourselves some breakfast.

Mid morning, it was hot as we climbed up through Glen Golly and on towards Bealach Horn.

A tough few hours of pushing, but we had made it to the top of the North loop.

Steady away we rode down the hill.

Some food and then the Achfary climb. Always drinking water.

At Kylesku there was only one course of action after such a tough day.

A few miles further down the road, up a hill, and a nice windy campsite to avoid the dreaded midge.

Highland Trail 550 2018 - Day 5

Drumbeg stores for breakfast and a resupply was the morning's first plan.

We arrive at the shop an hour before opening time, but Wendy and Steve saw us, remembered us from last year and kindly offer to open up for us. We breakfasted and stocked up on food for the rest of the day.

Another stunner of a day.

From Lochinver the Glencanisp traverse was bone dry.

It still requires plenty of walking though.

We'd made good time to the end.

Back to Oykel Bridge for some food, then on towards Ullapool.

Our fifth day, and at last we were feeling strong.

Just before Ullapool we camped. The midges ate us again.

Highland Trail 550 2018 - Day 6

We reckon as we leave the shop in Ullapool that we are about 3 hours down on last years time, so a decent day will give us a chance of beating our 2017 time.

How things change given a bit of perseverance.

The first challenge of the day the Coffin route over to Dundonnell. Steep up up up.

Next over the hill towards Strath na Sealga.

Shenavall bothy which was busy though long before nightfall.

No wet feet getting to the river crossing, nor in crossing it.

We rode most of the valley climb this time before the proper steep stuff.

Then after the delights of Fisherfield, we have the Postman's path to Kinlochewe.

The midges chased us to Kinlochewe, and the toilets there were locked.

Camping again was a midgetastic nightmare.