If you've ridden the Highland Trail 550 before as I did in 2014, or you know parts of the route, you will no doubt have thought that the idea of a 10 year old riding it was a bit crazy. People say it is one of the toughest bikepacking challenges out there, and the cold wet and windy conditions this year certainly made it much harder than last year.
So what were we thinking? Well we were after a challenge that would fit into Tom's half term, that was hard. Did I think we'd get all the way round? I honestly didn't know. I had several possible scenarios in mind both before we set off, and was always discussing our options to Tom on our ride. My primary aim was that Tom had a good time, and that we both got home in one piece whilst having a proper adventure. This trip, I thought would also be good preparation for riding the Tour Divide next year. I knew he could do 2 or 3 tough days back to back, but the Tour Divide will take us nearer a month.7 days seemed to be a good way of testing his staying power. I'm proud to say he was strong throughout.
The responsibilities of taking a child to the remote places that this route visits cannot be understimated. I had to ensure that in case of my incapacity that Tom had the required skills to take shelter, navigate and to call for help if needed. I was confident that if needed Tom could look after himself (see the Kit List for more on this).
One thing I did notice is that I took much better care of myself on this trip, than I did on last years HTR. Being responsible for someone else means you have to be operating at 100% capacity yourself at all times.
I made a couple of decisions, that meant we didn't complete the whole 550+ mile route. Safety was my number one consideration plus we were limited by Tom's school holidays for time.
Also it has to be said that even with a very light load, Tom's bike was heavy for him on the rougher hike a bike sections.
Over 7 days though we rode 405 miles in challenging weather, and though a lift home was always a phone call and a few hours away, we didn't give up on riding our bikes back to Tyndrum. It's easy to sit with a map at home planning what's going to happen and when. It's a different thing though to adapt ones itinerary to reflect energy levels, the weather, and other external influences. I think we learned how to do that well, and that will stand us in good stead next year.
We'd like to thank Alpkit for the Tent and luggage. Use Exposure for our bike lights and Tom's Vybe suspension seatpost. Dave for the loan of his Spot Tracker and camping mat. Elliott for taking us to the start, and bringing us back. Kevin and Marion for seeing us off at the start. Last, but not least my wife and daughter for their support.
Thanks also to the numerous people who cheered us along our way via Twitter, and to the HTR competitors we saw enroute who we chatted with. Congratulations to anyone who lined up at the start, and those who managed to make it through to the finish.
Finally, neither of us had any crashes or overuse injuries. We were both as to be expected pretty tired at the end though.
Links below to each day, and finally Tom's kit list.
Any questions you have, please ask in the comments.
Highland Trail Video.