Wednesday, 23 June 2021

A new but old bikepacking loop.

I recently rode a bikepacking circuit on my mountain bike that incorporated some familiar terrain combined with some new riding that I've been curious to try for quite a while. 

I set off from a very busy Bridge of Orchy late on a Sunday afternoon, eventually managing to safely cross the A82 road and ride up past the station and under the railway line to pick up the West Highland Way path heading south. It was a relief to be on a relatively quiet footpath after the frenetic madness of the village and busy road and I quickly progressed towards Auch Glen. 


Here I turned east to ride up the farm track that leads to Loch Lyon. I've ridden this way before but in the other direction and the climb up to the loch was easier than I'd imagined it would be (albeit with lots of river crossings to ensure I had wet feet from the outset). 

I rode along the northern shore of Loch Lyon, favouring familiarity over exploration (a decision I only began to question once I was half way along the loch, climbing some steep sections and noticing how flat the opposite shore looked). 

I made good progress along Loch Lyon and then dropped down past the dam to join the road in Glen Lyon. It was enjoyable to pedal down the glen, the road was very quiet due to it being early evening. 

At Innerwick I joined the old Kirk Road that crosses the high ground from Glen Lyon to Loch Rannoch. The climb out of Innerwick was steep and rough but I managed to ride most of it, only pausing near the top to eat a sandwich that I'd brought with me. The Kirk Road is quite a rough surface and I was pleased that I was riding my mountain bike rather than my gravel bike (which I'd considered using). 

Soon I started to drop down into the forest above Loch Rannoch and after a frustrating navigation error (which saw me riding a couple of miles on the wrong track) I turned off west towards the Allt Camghouran river where I would emerge from the forest. 

Here I picked up an estate track leading towards the Munro Garbh Meall (above Bridge of Gaur) where I hoped to find somewhere to camp. The light was beginning to fade by now as it was almost 10pm but it was still pleasantly warm and there were no midgies which was a bonus. 

I passed a few potential campsites but pushed on in search of that perfect spot. Eventually I found it, it was level with a burn close by and I had ridden about 40 miles by that point which was what I'd been aiming for. 

I had my tent up in short order and made a huge mug of tea to drink. I didn't bother cooking any food having had my sandwich earlier and not being hungry. 

I slept well only getting up once at around 3am to answer the call of nature and being rewarded with the sun beginning to rise in the east.  

 In the morning I made some breakfast and packed up before riding down towards Bridge of Gaur in warm sunshine. 

At Bridge of Gaur I joined the road to Rannoch station and began the climb up inspired by the hope of a second breakfast at the station cafe. I was rewarded by a bacon and egg roll, a pot of tea and some chocolate cake!

After refuelling at the cafe, I pedalled along the pleasant forest track above Loch Laidon until I reached the crux of my route, a section of boggy footpath across Rannoch Moor that I knew would be unrideable. On the map this looked like it would only last for a kilometre before joining an estate track however the reality was that it was almost 4 km of boggy hike a bike. 

Eventually I joined the much anticipated estate track and was able to start riding again, making good progress past Black Corries Lodge towards the Kingshouse. 

Kingshouse was a shock to the system after the solitude I'd been enjoying, it was absolutely thronging with people and my plan to stop there or at the ski station for a can of Coke that I'd been craving was abandoned in favour of pushing on down the West Highland Way back across Rannoch Moor towards Victoria Bridge. 

The ride across Rannoch Moor was also quite busy with sunburned, hobbling walkers toiling their way north and when I reached Inveroran I decided to just ride along the road rather than negotiate all the walkers on the hill path section above Bridge of Orchy. 

This meant that I made great time back to the car at Bridge of Orchy and a much anticipated can of Coke that I'd left there, it wasn't cold but it still hit the spot!

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