Tom has been determined since our last go at the Highland Trail 550 back in 2015 that he was going to finish this challenging route.
We opted for a start in the Easter holidays which seemed to offer a fair weather window, though as it turned out, not quite so fair as we had hoped.
As before we stayed in one of the camping cabins at the By the Way Campsite in Tyndrum
the night before, and here is Tom getting packed to leave at 4:30am.
Just after 5am we were riding. The route was familiar for only a short way, as the course had changed since 2015. Now instead of following the West Highland Way, it swings left along the Allt Kinglas river towards Loch Lyon.
The riding was great. The weather a mix of pleasant spells interspersed with wintry showers.
Not the weather you want to sit a round in so we didn't stop until we'd ridden 50 miles on the Sonder Frontiers.
Ben Alder Cottage was a great place to have lunch.
The climb from Loch Ericht to Bealach Cumhann gave me my first tubeless puncture. A pinch flat on a water bar. A few tense minutes ensued as we plugged the hole and waited for the sealant to do its thing.
Puncture fixed, onwards and upwards.
Back in 2015 we stayed at this Bothy, I think we arrived after 18 hours riding. This year we arrived in just over 14 hours. Tom was riding strongly. We contemplated maybe riding to the next bothy or even Fort Augustus, but instead quit while we were feeling fresh. 82 miles done.
We had some hot food and drinks courtesy of the Alpkit Kraku stove and MyTiMug650, and then a great night's sleep.
The first climb of the day, over the Corrieyairack pass was cold and windy, and it was here we had the first snow showers of the trip.
In Fort Augustus we bumped into Huw Oliver (another veteran of the HT550) at the petrol station. We both commented on how much colder it was than we'd expected. We ate sausage sandwiches and Tea, then continued North.
At Invermoriston, only a few miles down the road, it was time for more hot drinks and cake.
At Loch ma Stac Tom did his best to ride the beach, with a great deal of success.
In between the showers the views were amazing.
.....and there were Deer everywhere as we headed towards dusk.
Before the last descent of the day, one last photo.
Then the heavens opened. By the time we got to Contin, our resting place for the night, we were damp and cold. Another 70 miles done.
At the campsite we threw up the tent and cooked in the washing up area.
Our sleeping bags were not a match for the cold that night, and though Tom slept a bit, I had very little sleep. I checked the weather forecast that morning, and there was more wintry weather forecast.
If we had set off into the Northern Loop from there we would have been winging it, we didn't have a safety margin in our equipment if anything went wrong. We were warm enough moving, but cold when we weren't.
A difficult decision was made. We'd be coming back another time to ride the Highland Trail 550.
On the train home we plotted what we might do with the rest of Easter........