SURLY DUNOON DIRT DASH

Before we start, there are two things that you must know about the Dunoon Dirt Dash:

• It’s not a bloody race
• Don’t be a dick

Oh, and one more thing. Never assume a route created by Markus Stitz will just be a simple easy-going gravel ride.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 KIT LIST

I could not get enough of kit lists in my HT550 preparation and poured over many blogs comparing and contrasting my possible setups against others. Some were super light while others not so and many options were considered. Stu and myself had planned to avoid the complications of camping and spend our nights in bothys or bivying depending on weather and enthusiasm. Our goal was to finish in around six days (full write up can be found here), far from speedy compared to those monsters who race the route but still a respectable mileage each day. We also had the advantage of a few extra days flexibility should things take much longer than expected. I finished packing minutes before leaving the house so didn’t have time to take any trendy pictures of kit neatly laid out on the floor so this will be a bit word heavy, deal with it.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 6

I woke in a moment of panic. It was probably no more than an hour since I had gone to sleep. My stomach was making very loud, very angry noises. I leapt up as best you can when tucked up in a bivy bag and rushed to the toilet. My belly was far from happy. I limped back when it was safe, re-inflated my bed and returned to sleep. This process repeated every hour until I just didn’t get back into my sleeping bag as the sun was coming up.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 5

I woke at 5am feeling a little perkier, carefully stepped over the sleeping PNT Army on the floor and made my way out. The sun was up but yet to begin warming the land. After fiddling with my GPS for a while I was going again, energy levels were low but the sickness from the day before had passed and I was looking forward to breakfast and a restock in Ullapool.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 4

I didn’t have a great nights sleep, my mat had developed a hole and was struggling to stay inflated for longer than 3 hours at a time. The sun had returned and brought a good breeze so any damp clothing from the day before was hung out to dry before being re-worn or packed away.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 3

Although the weather reports had been full of pleasant predictions of sunshine it had warned that the weather for day 3 would be a bit Scottish. Sure enough what had previously been dry and dusty was now soggy and gritty. We busied ourselves making breakfast and fixing punctures. Working towards, but trying to avoid, inevitably going outside. A last look around the bothy, a quick chat with the German’s in the room next door and we were out of excuses.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 2

We had planned to get good early starts to maximise day time riding and allow a little chill/exploring quota if required. This plan was already off to a bad start, soon porridge was eaten, bags were packed again and we were on our way. Our day started easy as we descended the remaining section of the Corrieyairack Pass, Fort Augustus nestled below us. The high speeds blowing the last of the sleepiness out of us.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 DAY 1

It was time. We got up, ate and faffed around making sure that everything was packed. Stu had lent me an extra gas tank last minute which was fitted and filled with extra snacks. The weather was a little dull and there was a morning chill although this soon left us as we pedalled out of Tyndrum.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 PROLOGUE

I am a worrier when it comes to preparing for trips. I am also a procrastinator and these traits usually result in everything being a bit of a whirlwind come the weeks before any trip. I stress about my bike setup, about clothing, about spares, about tyres, about weather, about food and even about empty bag space.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 PREP- SURLY KARATE MONKEY FIRST RIDE & BIKE CHECK

It didn’t take much encouragement, the draw of the mountains is always luring and the Highland Trail 550 has patiently been waiting on my bucket list. So, when Stu floated the idea of giving it a shot this May I was all in. The Highland Trail has made a name for itself as an extremely remote, rugged and gruelling route but its 550 mile length offers rewards of all the lochs, peaks and untouched glens that you could ever want.

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