Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Glenfinnan to Cape Wrath Part 1: The Rough Bounds

So this was it, this was the trip that all my other trips had merely been practice for.

Meticulously planned, thoroughly researched, and endlessly talked about (by me, to anyone who would listen).

Glenfinnan to Cape Wrath via as many of Northwest Scotland's best trails, most exciting hills and bothies as possible.

Or so I'd hoped.

Day 1 - Glenfinnan to Kinbreak.

Note: I haven't provided any mapping for the route* for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I couldn't find a way to display the maps that I was happy with, and that I didn't want to rob anyone reading this of the fun of buying some maps and plotting their own route. See my post here.

So off I set. I had originally hoped to be leaving in time to catch the Jacobite steam train passing over the famous viaduct. I figured a good self-timed shot of me grimacing up some gnarly climb with a steam train and the viaduct in the background would guarantee a magazine cover, if not Singletrack Magazine then at least National Geographic.

The end result wasn't quite what I'd hoped for. 

The road, then trail, stayed good all the way to the top of the bealach.

 ...at which point it disappeared, leaving me a very soggy and rocky trudge down the other side.

This was to become a recurring theme for the next two weeks, so I won't labour it. I had been warned by several people that a lot of my routes were likely to be unrideable, but I wanted to find out myself. 

Oh how I found out. 

 Waterfalls beside the trail on the footpath to Strathan.

 Streap, Strathan, part of the quad track out of Strathan, and two TGO challengers.

 Kinbreak bothy, where I met Cameron McNeish, and more excitingly 
the guy who produced "World's rarest funk 45s" for Jazzman records.

Day 2 - Kinbreak to Suardalan bothy.

Undeterred by falling 30km short the day before, and the shocking wetness of the trails, I set out the next morning, immediately faced with a big river to ford and a stiff push to the track on the other side of the glen.

Kinbreak Bothy, big river and celebrities not pictured.

 Glen Kingie landrover track.

I climbed out of Glen Kingie after the Lochan ruin and headed north to the eastern tip of Loch Quoich, where I sat down for my lunch of oatcakes, cheese and salami. Luxury (and about a billion calories. Sorted).

 Loch Quoich singletrack

 ...more Loch Quoich singletrack.

 Loch Quoich Roadside

After Loch Quoich it was straight along the road to Kinlochhourne, passing/being passed by several TGO challengers, lots of motorbikes, a classic VW camper, and a parade of very sexy sports cars (too slow with the camera, d'oh!). The final descent into Kinlochhourne has to be seen to be believed.

 Descent into Kinlochhourne.

 Roadside waterfalls.

 View back to Kinlochhourne from the road end 
(also the start of the track to Barrisdale).

 Searching for the tearoom...

The tearoom was a welcome break and served up a fine beans on toast with cheese on top. The owner provided his own interesting stories about what he got up to in the winter when the tourists dried up: "Grow a beard mostly".

The climb out of Kinlochhourne, through the Eucalyptus trees
 (menthol fresh, to help counteract the effects of all smoke from the bothy fires!)

 The view from the climb across Loch Hourne.

 ...and the view back down it.

 Kinlochhourne singletrack.

 Gleann Dubh Lochain

Following the pylons out of Gleann Dubh Lochain and into Bealach Aoidhdailean was tough. The track was very good for most of the way, but steep, and a bit loose. I was knackered.

 The view back from Bealach Aoidhdailean.

 A very small, and very bleak looking, howff set high up on the slopes. I was tired, but not that tired. Suardalan awaited, but not after pushing down another descent...

 Just above the bothy; the trails from this point on were great, and mega-hikes can be quickly forgotten with a good descent to the front door of a bothy!

Suardalan, with extra mice 

This had just been the prologue of the trip, I was now heading into unfamiliar territory, and bigger hills. That said, nothing was likely to be as wet (I'd hoped) as the famous rough bounds of Knoydart, but I was already beginning to reconsider some of the more ambitious diversions I'd planned for later in the trip...

Part 2 to follow, featuring: Allt Beithe hostel, the Falls of Glomach, hysterical women, motorbike impressions and one hundred sizzling gypsies.

* O.K. I lied, I did actual create a route on Bikely.com years ago which actually still exists. Go 'full screen' and select the OCM option from the 'Map' pull down tab. 

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