It's been a while since I stuck a ride report on here, so I thought I'd make up for it by posting a ridiculous amount of boring pictures!
The plan for this weekend was to do a large loop around to the North of Ben Wyvis, starting in Contin and kipping the night in the forest on the Alladale estate. As usual, I didn't set off from home until later than I needed and so I found myself in the forestry car park swapping to Ice Spiker tyres at 1 in the afternoon on Saturday, with a fair ride to get out the way. I was finally on my way at half past, after having a nice chat with a chap called Karim (Graham to his friends ) from these forums who made me promise to do a report on here. Conditions were mixed gritty ice near my start point.
With some nice snowy bits.
Shortly after ignoring some advice about a closed path and regretting it!
Old bridge at Garve.
A stretch of road took me further from Ben Wyvis.
The hills looked more snowy to the North.
The tarmac also bedded in my tyre studs for me.
After turning off at Black Bridge, I was finally on the good stuff.
I was probably pushing my luck for time, but stopped for butties anyway.
The coos were on guard further up Strath Vaich.
It might not be very gnarly, but nothing beats a snowy track in the mountains for me.
Passing by Loch Vaich, much of it frozen over.
The sun crept below the horizon.
At the top of the last climb I could see before riding along Gleann Mor, with only my spidey-sense to guide me.
I finally hit some decent forest and got a brew on.
Next I got my hammock and tarp up and prayed it would hold me. Maybe January isn't the best time to set it up for the first time ever - if you don't know knots, tie lots!
After one of my most comfy night's sleep ever whilst camping, it was time for more hot beverages and english muffins.
Looks a bit less wonky from this angle.
I had a quick look for some deadly wild boar before setting off, but was disappointed.
The tracks through the estate were completely clear of ice and snow, which was disappointing compared to last time I was here when it was sheet ice across the entire track. My spiky tyres would come in handy later though. Spotted a slightly nicer treehouse than mine at Glencalvie Lodge.
As I started to wind my way up the next pass, I took a look back at the impressive-looking Diebidale.
Back to the task at hand and I was up top in no time thanks to the easy gradient. I met a 78 year old gent who had left his friends to carry on up the Corbett nearby rather than risk the steep icy footpath upwards himself - with age comes wisdom!
I wrapped up warm and enjoyed the first bit of descent, with a pause to work out what the hill to the left was.
I was quickly at Lochan a Chairn, which seemed to have had a frostier night than I had.
This seemed as good a place as any to stop for lunch.
Just past the lochan, a chance chance to let rip opened up.
The Ice Spikers were loving the surface they were made for.
I flew down through the forest, skipping from side to side as the meting ice gave way and at one point suffering an off when the wheels were channelled into an icy trench which I was never getting out of! I still had to stop occasionally and enjoy my surroundings though, which were beautiful with the sun bathing me with a weak but noticeable warmth.
I could see my next target of the wind farm which I would climb over the shoulder of later.
I turned off and quickly climbed up the Kildermorie Estate road, which was nice enough to welcome cyclists.
I shot down the descent, got lost wandering between the estate buildings and eventually popped out on the banks of Loch Morie.
The track along the loch was a bit minging, wet and muddy for my liking, but once at the far end things improved a lot.
Next I hit the road at Boath, but turned off pretty much immediately to take the works track up to the wind farm.
Luckily, the gradient was easy enough and I was sensible enough not to go right up top today. This meant I could get myself over the shoulder of the hill, down into Glen Glass and on to Evanton as quick as possible with the remaining light.
The last part of the journey was an unfortunate road ride in the dark through Dingwall and Strathpeffer, before reaching the car in Contin where I had wisely left a delicious vanilla creme pastry waiting as an incentive!