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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bombtrack have put together a top notch grav grav shredit of the Dirty Reiver that really captures all the good vibes and is well worth a watch . Especially as I make numerous wheelie, whip skid and chatting with Mr Vear at a feed station appearances.
Back in yester-summer of 2017 Rich and myself rode to Glentress and back when I was testing the feasability of off road fixed on the Steamroller in preparation for Grinduro. Since then I have been super keen to repeat this ride on a more robust bike so that increased rowdiness could be factored in. As Stu was yet to ride his Highland Trail 550 bike we decided to get out and put his sparkly single speed through its paces.
For the last few years I have been super stoked to do the Dirty Reiver and then when it actually comes round to committing money to tickets I have faltered and backed out. No suitable bike, no time off work or lazy legs, I have probably ticked all the classic excuses. This year is different, I was organised(ish), equipped and fairly keen. I say equipped, in the eyes of most riders my bike choice is probably deemed as a form of sadomasochistic torture.
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.