With a long weekend booked, I had planned a four day ride from Blair Atholl train station to Ft William, via Glen Tilt, Lairig an Laoigh, Ben Alder, Kinlochlaggan, and the Corrieyairaick pass...
I got off the train at 9:30 with half a mind to do Glen Tilt that night, or at least get to the Falls of Tarf. The night was so warm i decided to go for it, and rode up the glen with countless glowing eyes watching me from the hillside..
A ruined, rusty bike at the trailside did not improve my state of mind, I could hear roaring water in the gorge ahead and was beginning to have doubts about how long my lights would last.
The bridge by the Falls of Tarf. hearing and (just) seeing the falls by headlight at practically midnight was a pretty epic experience. Having to navigate the rest of the gorge by LED because my main lights failed, even more so.
I had been aiming for a bothy slightly south of White Bridge, but ended up getting thoroughly lost as i had crossed the river far too early and ended up tramping about a bog at 2 in the morning. Eventually, after fording about four different rivers, I found the proper path which led to the ruin I had hoped was a bothy. Out with the tent then!
I had my breakfast the next morning beside the Linn of Dee gorge, and messed about trying to photograph the red squirrells jumping about on the other side of the gorge.
I had been warned off the Lairig Ghru so instead headed up Glen Derry and over the Lairig an Laoigh.
This was the best of the Cairngorms I think. A brilliant route in the blazing sunshine, which eventually ended up on a big plateau with a vicious cross wind at about 800m. The descent down to Ryvoan was incredible, despite a rock bending my big ring and reducing me to twiddling the granny gear all the way down to bothy bikes...
I had hoped to make Culra bothy that night, south of Dalwhinnie, but a 70km day was beginning to get the better of me and i stopped off at Newtonmore.
Next day i headed down the shore of Loch Ericht to Loch Pattack, then up and over past Lochan Bealaich Leamhain and down to Lochan na Earba (see Kenny Wilson's "Glen Bogle" route). This was brilliant riding, although always a bit wet (lots of stops either for unrideable bogginess or easily destroyed trail bogginess). The descent was another blinder, although it looked to be on the cusp of disappearing altogether.
The weather started turning a bit now, and i was feeling less inclined to stop and take so many pictures (I think plenty of people here know well enough what wet west coast hillsides look like anyway!). I climbed from Kinlochlaggan into Glen Shira, and up the largely desolate road to the bothy at the foot of the Corrieyairaick pass.
The bothy was pretty crowded and the usual rowdiness ensued, with me doing an awful lot of the talking! (three days on my own was beginning to take its toll...).
Unfortunately i have no pictures of the pass, although its not desperately scenic (think rocky, eroded landrover track, in the mist, with huge pylons looming over it). I did meet a huge group of coast-to-coasters sheltering behind the hut at the top, but the rain was truly horizontal at that point so we didn't linger. The descent to Ft Augustus was stunning. The combination of long forks, a lowered saddle and fat tubeless tyres resulted in a prolonged surf down loose wet rocks, drifting round corners and hopping from side to side like someone who didn't have four days worth of camping gear on their back (kudos to Wingnut rucsacs!).
After about half an hour of constant descent i reached Ft Augustus but with four hours to catch my train at Ft William, I had to then resort to 45km of the Great Glen Way, with a stiff south westerly trying to blow me back to Ft Augustus. Misery.
Having (eventually) made it to the train though, showered at the station, and bought myself some beer and crisps for the journey, i was able to sit back and relax after quite possibly the best four days I've had on my bike!
Thanks to Stuartie_C and Duckman for the Cairngorms recommendations, I was dead set on doing the Lairig Ghru, to think i'd have missed the Bynack More descent!