Friday 5 April 2024

March Bivvy

Fair to say the weather since my last BAM has been a bit hit and miss, mainly miss. My bike riding has been somewhat curtailed as I've been down to Mum and Dads a fair bit this month as Dad is having a very hard time recovering from a knee opp and both needed some moral support. "The last one wasn't like this!" he said. You were 56 then Dad, not 83... 

I've managed a couple of longer rides and plenty of commuting so my mileage tally is no worse than other years, but I am itching to get somewhere less local and more mountainous!

A fine day (more or less) round Loch Rannoch. Alan Goldsmith had asked me to check out a track which avoids the wrecked bridge the route usually crosses out of Rannoch forest so an ideal excuse to do this fine circuit.

The bridge itself is fine, the abutment looks to have settled somewhat thanks to scour around it's base... Once upon a time it would have been partially barriered off and folk could take their chances, but we seem to be getting more risk averse in recent years. Annoyingly the gate into the forest is locked so no chance of people making their own judgements as to whether they can cross.

Anyway, with Dad currently safely in a respite care home for now this weekend was clear. The weather up North looked a bit iffy for Saturday and I had a ton of stuff to do in any case so local it was.

Even less imaginatively I used the same spot as last month. I'd thought of heading deeper into the woods but the prospect of a rare sunny day for the Sunday meant somewhere with a morning view was needed and this one would be perfect. A mighty fine night followed relaxing after fraught family dealings and total mayhem at work. Hazy Jane helped....

Dawn brought forth a deafening dawn chorus, which was nice, spring seems to have started! Then I snoozed some more and woke up thanks to screaming motorcycles on the Glen Devon road, at 8.30. I'd no idea if is this was GMT, BST, or TT but I didn't care, had a leisurely breakfast and headed for the hills

The view, faded out due to the sun!

Top spot this, in fact nicer than my more usual spot further east, which doesn't have a view. But it needs an easterly or else the rain comes in through the trees, as I found in August 2021. That said there wasn't a breath of wind all night and I could hear the clank of the nearby windfarm.

Look, it's still winter! In fact there were some bigger bits of snow on various north facing slopes, but as the saying goes - enough to be noticeable but not enough to be of any use.

Looking more wintery on the high hills up north, but for the first time since 2010 I've not been able to get skiing at all this winter. Opportunities were there but only if I could sneak away from work during the week, which has not been an option, sadly.

Later on I dragged the Triumph (motorcycle) out for some pleasantly quiet burbling around various back roads in the sun - why announce your presence to the entire world?

Back to easterly dreich tomorrow and mebbes even more winter so glad to have got a dry one in. Hopefully Cairngorms next month but all is in flux until fatha is safely home.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

The Alternative Winter Event '24 (and Feb BAM)

So once again Shaffiq on the Bearbones forum kindly organised an alternative winter event for those unable to make the real one in Wales. I'm in for the Welsh Ride Thing this year so two trips down there in three months seemed a bit much. As per last year, protagonists get paired up with somebody, send them a handful of grid references in their local area, get some yourself, then ride round and bag them all.

As it happened, like last year, I had to send Shaff a load round the Peaks and Justin, fellow Scottish Winter Bivvy crew member, sent me mine. I provided a bit of guidance and inevitably, my local hills were Justin's focus, as they had been when John sent me GR's last year. 

I'd grabbed a Friday off work in the vain hope I'd get some skiing, but after a spectacularly crap winter, and some truly horrible weather, the temps were once again on the rise and there was nothing worth traipsing up a hill for, other than for walking or biking. So on the strength of a mild and dry(ish) forecast, I figured I'd go out and bag my GR's - 10 points all within a reasonable shout of home. After a certain amount of map gazing, I plotted a route to take them all in with a couple of options depending on how timings worked out - roughly 80 miles and a chunk of climbing, including the local high point on the summit of Ben Cleuch at 725m, on a variety of surfaces. After a leisurely morning and pack up of bike I got going, just after 12.

First trail, a nice single track by the Black Devon, a river I'd encounter a few times over the weekend along with it's big brother, the Devon. Note sun, not seen much of this of late and it made an already mild day positively spring-like.

GR1, listed as 'The Sunken Garden,' by Gartmorn Reservoir. Been past this loads of time and never noticed! Jones looking reasonably svelte given the mild temps, so yet again no winter gear or snowy bivvy. The made trail by the res was properly slurry-like so rather than follow it round it's north shore I cut through Alloa and due West, linking up with the River Devon just near where it emerges at the Forth. Later I would pass it's source.

Sunshine looking up to GR6 and a few bits of snow only - actually more than this time last year but still very little, hence me using the Jones rather than the Ice Cream Truck. I can actually see the summit of Ben Cleuch from my upstairs bedroom window so I can accurately gauge snow levels!

After various cycleways and trails (and more mud) I entered the grounds of Stirling Uni, GR2 on the bridge over the pond. A fair bit of route faffing ensued as it wasn't at all obvious how to get round the place. It was rammed with young people (obviously) and I felt slightly out of place until I passed some local dog walkers.

Quick snap before anyone wondered what I was doing. Wallace (as in Bill) Monument behind, also visible from my bedroom window if I lean out!

A bit more route faffing got me back to where I'd been earlier and then I backtracked a ways before commencing the days first of several large climbs up the flanks of Dumyat. I could have hoofed it straight up the Sheriffmuir road out the back of the Uni, but instead did this lengthy diversion off the straight route in a quest to maximise dirt time! The track up here used to be pretty rough and often covered in cow shit but it's recently all been planted with trees (mixed I'm pleased to say) and the track done up so it's now a good all weather through route, paralleling the one on the opposite side of the valley I'd first done last year.

I joined the Sheriffmuir road eventually after a fair bit of huffing and puffing and then spied my next GR, The Atlantic Wall. This, somewhat amusingly, is a length of concrete wall and bunkers built during the war after spies sussed out the German beach defenses and re-created them here (of all places) so they could practice blowing hell out of them, in order to determine how easy it would be to breach said defenses during the Normandy Landings. The Military had quite a presence hereabouts back then - there are various bits of infrastructure still just about visible, included a bombing range.

GR3 - One of the bunkers. Inevitably I gauged it's value as a bivvy spot but concluded that I would never be that desperate!

The remains of the wall. Well and truly hammered!

GR4 was advertised as 'Lifting Stones.' Apparently these are located all over Scotland so that brawny young people can prove their mettle by lifting them. Given my age and dodgy back, I'd no intention of indulging in such nonsense but in the event I could find no sign of them or the stone circle marked on the map at the same location....

I missed a further road section and two crossings of the A9 by following a track past three empty farms. I first passed this way 10 years ago and couldn't figure why they were empty, only to twig that this whole hillside is owned by Highland Spring as it's where they lift their water from. Although some of the land is still farmed, most of it is empty of livestock to avoid polluting the spring water (which is manifestly not 'Highland'!) One house was getting done up the last time I passed, but it was still empty. Another had been demolished and the final one looked about ready to fall down. A shame as I'm sure someone would live there if they were offered up for sale. Anyway, I splashed along the track down to the road and then started up an oft used climb which is a real killer on singlespeed - not steep enough to warrant a push but steep enough to require a big effort to get up. I was feeling a bit weary by this point and further climbing was in the offing so walked a chunk of it...

Upper Glen Devon Res, the source of the River Devon and my water supply. It's just over the watershed from the Highland Spring infrastructure so in effect, I get Highland Spring water out of my tap!

Scottish Water actually have a campaign to get people to drink tap water rather than buying over priced bottles of what is effectively the same stuff (up here and the North of England at least) even putting public drinking fountains back in! Of interest is the trail, which is a cracker.

GR5, or thereby. It's actually in the res itself - I'd mentioned to Justin I had a packraft! In the event I wasn't going to be humpfing another 5 kg with me so this was a close as I got. Another stone circle lurks under the water apparently. Last year this had been a very small puddle and the old walls, farm remains and road were visible. Full up today! 

This trail popped me out at the dam. I crossed this and faced something of a dilemma. GR 6 was just in view, the summit of Ben Cleuch. This would be the best point to stage an ascent from, being at 400m, plus I could use the windfarm track for a chunk of the climb. But it was now quarter to five and 6 would be Dark O'Clock. Not a big problem but from the summit it would be an hour or more to my next GR, in the grounds of Glen Eagles House and I figured wandering through with lights a'blaze might lead to adverse comment (and a rifle shot...) But if I missed this climb out I'd inevitably bottle doing it the next day and fail. So with little thought I turned the bars right and started up. 

GR6, 725m AOD. The climb actually went OK, the only annoying detail was mist flowing over the hill after it having been in the sun all day. That said it cleared somewhat at the top revealing the Forth valley and lots of lights. It was still largely light but heading down, darkness quickly fell. I ruminated on whether to keep on route and miss GR7 but on a whim decided to change course and head off the south side of the hills to get food at the Dollar co-op. I'd then ride up to my bivvy spot (close to GR 8) then grab it and 7 the next day. This would mean a loop and extra miles but would get me to my bivvy spot the quickest. A lengthy descent followed (yet another pair of Uber pads burnt out) with two substantial climbs thrown in. As had been the case all day, the trail was properly soggy. My feet were feeling damp and the bike plastered in gunge...

Dollar Co-op provided a cold tea and a couple of beers for later. Then off up the back road, a bit of main road (quiet as it's shut just east of my current location) and up the Dunning road, finally entering the woods of Glen Devon Forest at 8. There was a hint of rain in the air so I pushed on but got to the spot dry (dry!), got the tarp up sharpish and collapsed into my bag with some relief, having just ridden 90k in 8 hours. But all in all a great day and all in the dry (!!!) in spite of a somewhat marginal forecast.

Top spot this but only in an easterly. By rights there should be a good view but I woke to low cloud, mist and drizzle. It had rained (lightly) for most of the night but my labours of the previous day, plus the beer, led to a solid 8 hours kip. I had a leisurely breakfast then got going just after 10. 

GR7, the amusingly named Fanny Burn. I bivvied on Fanny Hill last year... I was effectively reversing my route - hoof up the last of the Dunning road climb then down the big track through Corb Glen and down towards Auchterarder before a back road to the bottom of Gleneagles. As I descended I dropped out of the mist and it dried up.

The nearest I got to GR8 - Glen Eagles Castle. At first I couldn't see how to get in, but as I reached a gate and a fairly obvious mowed path heading towards it a guy in an ATV turned up enquiring as to my destination. I instantly figured that the castle was probably off limits, being in the grounds of the big hoose, plus I couldn't be arsed getting into a rammy with the guy as he was pretty cheery, asking about the bike and what I'd been up to, so I headed up to the start of the drove road, grabbing this pic of the castle (and my thumb) - just a low mound.

Another long track climb followed (a lovely grassy one, this is a great route) various bits of trail and even a bit of the main road (also very quiet) as a penalty for changing my route the previous evening. I got to the start of the climb to GR9, however despite a sign pointing the path out, I faced a well tied up gate and no obvious path. Stuff it, I was not missing this GR out! So heave bike over the gate and push up a lengthy climb over sheep dung encrusted fields. 

GR9, Hoods Hill, near to Crook of Devon. There should be a trig point here but it seemed to be next to the service res which was barriered off due to being a construction site. So I sploshed down yet another sodden and slurry filled track, the last GR nearly in site. I rejoined the Devon once more on a nice trail...

GR10 (at last) The Devils Mill - no mill, just a local name for the large gorge the Devon drops through here.

Rumbling Bridge - or two bridges! I've been over this hundreds of times but I don't often have a nosy at the gorge these days, which is surprisingly deep and rocky, considering the largely benign landscape hereabouts.

So that was it. A few miles of cycleway, trail and backroad got me home just after 2. I'd done 145k with 2500m of climbing in about 12 hours of riding. As with last year I enjoyed the whole thing - plotting the GR's, working out various ways of bagging them and then riding it all. The bike was absolutely filthy, thanks to the extreme wetness of this winter but as usual it was flawless. Just as I finished washing it, the rain came on.

Cheers to Justin for coming up with the GR's - they made a good solid challenge of a route, plenty of ace riding and a few new corners in my gaff I'd not been to before. Also cheers to Shaff for organising. March next and a desire to hit the Cairngorms as per 2022. We'll see what the weather pans out like...

Saturday 27 January 2024

January BAM, here we go again...

So much for getting a bivvy in early, out on the last weekend of the month again. Which was a shame as I'd missed one clear and cold weekend whilst doing a music thing and last weekend, having been forecast to be similar ended up being mild with rather a lot of suicider ice around.... So it was this weekend or bust. After two fairly blowy storms last week and a lot of rain, I was quite pleased when the forecast switched to dry, more or less, albeit still quite breezy. That said, it felt more like March than January!

And it was a bit of a bog standard bivvy (BSB?) despite various ideas to go further a field. Given the wind a lowland spot was favoured and Devilla forest would fit the bill as I know a couple of sheltered spots. I went with one under a large pine tree and just downwind of a belt of young sitka which would be less likely to land on my head, given the wind. Tarp up, in, fire up soto blast furnace and reheat ex army bag of beef chilli (don't ask). The soto has been playing up, nearly burning my shed to the ground when I was heating up chain wax the other day. I'd swapped the seals and given it a good clean so was pleased that I avoided burning the entire forest to the ground.

Relaxation followed. Annoyingly there was a bit of rain about and my sheltered spot meant it was floating in under the tarp as the wind swirled around. So I dropped it down a bit for more shelter - versatile, see!

Like so....

On waking up the next morning, I discovered that one of the mid panel ties had ripped the tarp when I'd been re-tensioning it, so just as well the rain didn't come to much. Not sure how I'm going to repair it to be honest - I might have to send it off to a specialist.

Any road, my sleep was somewhat interrupted thanks to the wind so I had a leisurely start then pedaled for a few hours round various trails above Dollar, after a fine lunch courtesy of Stevens bakers.

Still breezy but incredibly mild. I think I could have used the 150 quilt it was that warm.... The frost of last week had come out of the ground meaning some of the trails were glue-like, but apart from that, things were remarkably dry given how much water has hit the ground in the last 6 days...

I'm glad I got that one in, as once you start it's easier to continue. February next and the Alternative Winter Event, all being well.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

2023 review - another year sleeping out

Another year has flown by but I've crammed a lot in bike riding wise, including another successful BAM campaign. If I were to think of a word which sums it all up, it would be 'local' as most of my rides and trips have started from the front door, with a train included from time to time. I didn't particularly set out to do this, it's just the way it happened, usually due to me wanting to minimise faff and get out riding! I would also say my riding memories all seem to revolve around (and descend into) the Bearbones 300, much like interstellar dust falling into a black hole. This seems strange given that I also did a completely dry run round the Highland Trail...

Despite a lot of people moaning about the summer weather the sun has shone on all my trips and a lot of other rides too - something I'm still having difficulty believing. That said, I've been rained on plenty so hopefully my weather karma is fairly well balanced... At the start of the year I wasn't too fussed about doing another BAM campaign. I started more by exception - I'd nothing else better to do and the rest of the year did follow this pattern, outside my 'proper' trips. But at the end of the year I've been out for 19 nights which is pretty good in terms of my previous bivvy history. Also, despite a fair few local destinations, most of my bivvys have been actual proper rides rather than just a means to get to the woods and back, so all in all a fab BAM year.

Anyway, as per, herewith my bivvy a month review and a few other highlights:

Highest bivvy

Summit of Steeles Knowe in the Ochills. Once again I've failed to crack the munro barrier - this one was 500m. But my first bivvy right by a trig point and a fine midsummer sunset.

Lowest Bivvy

On the Fife Coast, pretty much as far East as you can go hereabouts. Plenty of other options along here and one I'll return too. The Fife Coastal path is the key to them all and well worth a look (especially if you have a fat bike!)

Longest Ride to a bivvy

Distance-wise it was day two of the Highland Trail - 200k. But I've plumped for 195k and 18 and a half hours on the BB300 which breaks all records in terms of 'long' as at times it seemed like it would never end! This ride seems to have been the culmination of the year and in a way, the culmination of my bikepacking ITT career. I really can't see me doing anything harder (cue Stuart Wright, BB route setter, trying harder!) and whilst at the time I was a bit wrecked, physically and mentally, by it all, here and now I'm feeling properly proud to have managed it.

Longest ride after a bivvy

OK I'll go with HT day 2 here. A pretty slick ITT day all in - up at 4.30, away by 5, 200k, bivvy at 10pm. Plenty good riding and food in between. This set the pattern for my HT ride, dry bivvies, dry trails, stunning scenery, stunning weather.

Worst weather

March - rain before, during and after. Thank god for the roomy deschutes.

Best Weather

Some stiff competition for this one, for a change. I'll go with this:

In the hills above Donside after a roaster of a day, and just before another roaster. About my only ever completely dry and sunny trip. Frustratingly I do struggle with hot weather, likely as I don't experience it often enough to acclimatise but a bit of careful water and shade management made this one a peach.

Coldest Bivvy

At the other end of the scale, I did another -6 job in January and for longer than last year. It nearly caught me out as I had the quilt with me, not my winter bag, thanks to a -2 forecast and a bit of an inversion going on. Also snow! OK not quite a snow hole but I'm claiming this one as my only really snowy bivvy of the year. That said, the winter was a bit lame after this with only one other snowy ride. I was chatting to Karl Booth about his ride around the Iditarod Trail which saw him dealing with temps of -30 and less. That's a different ball game to my lamer attempts but this trip gave the faintest inkling in terms of the effort you need to go to, to keep warm, eat food and survive.

Most remote bivvy

None really although this one on a hill above Glen Devon is the most off the beaten track.

A good example of the stealth bivvy too!

Best trail ridden on a bivvy

The Suilven path on the HT route may seem a bit of an odd choice for anyone who has done it. But this year the weather was stunning and I blazed though it in fine style. Whilst a lot of walking ensued the stuff on the pedals seemed to be the epitome of hard, technical, nadgery riding that seems to have been forgotten in the modern world of trail centres. If there was ever a reason not to take a gravel bike on the HT, this trail is it.

Best Bothy (and most social bivvy)

Greensykes in the Borders on the Scottish Winter Bivvy. Plus a great night's chit chat with the SWB crew. Actually my only bivvy with other people...

Best Shed

Something I've sought out a few times this year but without much success. Top score was the bird hide by Loch Leven in February. 

It would be quite nice to have a fall back shed somewhere locally for those fowl(!) weather nights. This is a good one but the racket the swans made overnight meant I didn't sleep that well. Plus there is always the risk of an early morning twitcher turning up.

Worst Bivvy

No contenders this year, thanks to missing out on any kind of midge or mozzie episode or any particular weather induced horrors. That said, I had some very close shaves midgy wise but a bit of careful site selection avoided the worst of them.

No flies on me - in a wood, in the warm, in Perthshire, in September in my bivvy bag. Who would have thought it.

Best Bivvy

All things being equal I'd say my best overall bivvy was this one too, after a fab day of sunny trails and just before another fab day of sunshine, easy pedaling, great views and great food and drink.

Loch Builg in the sun. Actually my only Cairngorms visit of the year. It's somewhere I'm going to head to a lot more next year, all being well.

In fact my September trip should win an honorary 'best trip ever' prize. Obviously the weather was the main reason for this but in terms of the route, the trails, the scenery and the ease of putting it all together; it was an absolute cracker. I'm aware that this may never be repeated (particularly the weather) but I'm happy with that, more or less.

I should probably put this down as the 'Best View' as well!

Aside from the bivvies, it's also been a good riding year all round. It nearly went pear shaped in February when my dodgy knees flared up again but thanks to some focused exercise, a good physio and determination to get it sorted in time for the Highland Trail they have only really provided an odd niggle. The episode did skew my riding somewhat and doing extremely hard, hike a bike, bog and tussock heavy bike rides on a single speed is my top tip for knee recovery and strengthening - not what you may read elsewhere! That said it meant my mileage was well down on previous years come June - barely 2000 miles.

As usual I set a target of 6000 miles for the year but I pretty much wrote off any hope of doing this, post HT. But thereafter the Jones took a bit of a back seat and I bashed out some big rides on the Straggler. No 200 miler this year but a few century plusses.

Straggler on one of my usual jaunts round the Trossachs and another 120 miles done. Add in the NYM 300 and BB300 and things started looking promising....

I'll also bang on about the BB300 again at this point (as I noted above, I can't get it out of my mind, I'm going to try though...) Definitely a key ride for anyone to have bagged (200 included) and a classic of the breed which dispels the gravel bike and hipster path a lot of other events seem to have followed in recent years. 

Is it a trail or a river? Or both? Don't care, just get down it and crack on.

And speaking of which, I'm going to dust off my 'West Highland 500' route I put together after HT2015 and maybe do it this May. No tussocks, no bogs, no death marches and nice scenery. Definitely one for a drop bar bike if that's your thing but in my case age is my excuse, not tyre width...

Another highlight of the year was doing 6 nights just with the bivvy bag. I've now realised the way to do this is to use my normal lightweight borah bag and just not pitch the tarp (assuming it's definitely not going to rain). It would be nice to think I get a chance to do this a few times next year...

No tent or tarp to get in the way of the view.

And lo and behold, on the 28th of December at the end of a particularly soggy ride round the trails of West Fife and Clacks, my annual mileometer clicked over the 6000 mile mark. Better still I then bagged a couple of bonus snow rides - always a score at this time of year - on my annual trip to friends in Speyside for hogmanay.

A classic example of the breed - lower slopes easy with some crusty snow, leading you into godawful breakable crust through which me and my mate Rob postholed for around half an hour before giving up and heading out on a trail down the leaward side of the hill.

So I'll set to BAMing again next year, although as we appear to be having a proper winter some interesting early season bivvies could be in the offing. I've had a few chats with various people this year on the lines of "why?" (BAM that is) and having done it 5 times now I've certainly nothing to prove. But it gets me out, gets me thinking of trips and keeps my tarp skills sharp. I can't think of any better reasons than that.

Until next year...Cheers!

Monday 11 December 2023

Scottish Winter Bivvy '23

A weather warning for heavy rain across the whole weekend didn't fill me with much enthusiasm for this trip. Memories of last years effort where only Jimmy made it to our bothy after an epic hike through deep snow loomed large in my mind. A quick message round to get contact numbers in case people couldn't make it (and leave someone on their own) and to convince ourselves it would be fine, got me motivated. The venue for this year was another Borders bothy - Greenskes at the southern edge of Craik forest. One I'd not visited before and would mean a dry night in front of a fire rather than cowering under a tarp.

In the event, come Saturday morning the weather looked a lot dryer, for the afternoon and evening at least. So I packed up the bike, threw it in the car and had an easy run down to Moffat. By the time I'd had a snack and got myself organised the rain was a light drizzle and actually made for a pleasant run down quiet roads to Wamphray and the climb over to Boreland. The bike felt somewhat heavy, given I was carrying two fire logs and a few cans of beer. I was in no hurry so plodded up at low speed, the drizzle coming and going.

Deja vu as I passed through Boreland thinking of last years December bivvy in Dryfehead in remarkably similar weather... That said by the time I'd got up the climb and was contemplating Craik and Castle O'er forests the rain had gone off completely and there was even a hint of blue sky.

Darkness fell as I passed the monastery at Eskdalemuir, looking even more out of place than usual on a damp December evening.... Then into the woods on a route I'd plugged into the GPS to avoid too much nav faffing. That said, I can no longer read the screen without my reading glasses - I think I need a bigger screen...

The first few k had been well tracked by timber wagons and was rather mucky but I was quite happy, despite the lack of views and dark woods all around. At one point I passed a house all on it's own, right in the middle of the forest. The noise of the generator must surely detract from living in such a quiet spot. I looked in the window as I trundled past and noticed a bloke sitting by a fire with headphones on! After this the track improved for the last miles and finally I descended down to the bothy. At one point I spied red lights ahead which I couldn't fathom. Finally I twigged - they were navigation warning lights on distant wind turbines and not a gaggle of cyclists up ahead! As usual I wondered what the reception at the bothy would be - nobody, just Justin (hopefully) or a gang of numpties... Lights were on and as well as Justin from the BB forum in one room, three lads from Newcastle were in the other but like us were bothy regulars. Justin had the fire going and the kettle on so I had a hot brew and then un-packed.

Annoyingly one my cans of beer had burst, soaking spare gloves and tarp plus my rear light had gone AWOL. Funnily enough the same happened last year - I need to sort out a proper beer carrier!

Anyway much chat followed. Justin has a bamboo bike he made himself from a kit supplied by the Bamboo Bicycle Club in London. I have to say I'm mightily tempted by one of these, especially as they can be set up singlespeed! Dave appeared soon after, heroically bringing some coal which got the fire going much better. Then Jimmy appeared with another fire log and some dry wood so we had a merry blaze and much chat, drink and good cheer until we all crashed out just before 12.

It was dry the next morning as we got our selves together. Justin scooted off early to get his train and I left after a leisurely breakfast. At the gate up the hill a pick up truck was just passing through. The driver hailed me as he was the bothy maintenance manager and wanted to know if the bothy was OK. I let him know all was well and off they went. This is good stuff as I've heard of a few problems with neds occupying and trashing the borders bothies, given how accessible they are, so nice to see it getting this level of attention. As I climbed back up the hill, a few spots of rain came on, only for me to remember that my overtrousers were still hanging up in the bothy!

Teeth grinding followed but I really needed them and there was no guarantee the others would find them. So back we go and sure enough, there they were. After a second goodbye to Jimmy and Dave I was off again. Then, just after the first bend, I spied my rear light lying right in the middle of the track! I'd missed it the first time up the climb so me forgetting my waterproofs was fortuitous.

This also enabled me to go back to my original plan to ride out to Jamestown and down to the lower reaches of the Esk. This was a much nicer track than the forest route and there then followed some fine back roads to Eskdalemuir and a retracing of my route of the previous day from there.

The drizzle had been on and off all morning but on the last miles it got steadily heavier until it reached full on downpour status when I got back to the car. So all in all a successful trip and a fine completion of BAM 2023.

Sunday 12 November 2023

November BAM

I'd a notion to do some gravel bashing up by Loch Rannoch to check out a wrecked bridge on the HT route for this one, but as usual I couldn't be bothered driving so loaded up the straggler and headed out after work on Friday eve. 60 odd k of easy pedaling up to Callander followed on my usual route. It was quite chilly (-2) at home but the temps crept up above freezing by the time I got to Callander. So nothing special but a relaxing way to finish the week. Best of all the weather was looking to be stunning, again! Pie and chips in Callander were eaten sat on a bench on the main street and the co-op provided a beer for later.  

I'd roughly scoped a potential bivvy spot in the woods above the cycleway by Kilmahog with an option to bash on if I fancied. But it was nearly 9pm so went with plan A. A large number of camper vans in the car park at the start of the track made me worry my night would be disturbed by generators, fires and music (quite why you would want to cram into a car park with a camper van, alongside a load of others is totally beyond me) but all was quiet as I pedaled a couple of k up the hill to where I thought would be a good spot. As usual, in the dark it all looked a bit iffy. Eventually I spied an area of dense-ish pine trees just by the track so piled in and after a bit of wandering about around various fallen trees and through a bog found a perfect spot. Unroll bivvy bag, inflate mat, dive in, sip whisky, read book, relax! On the strength of a 0% chance of rain forecast, I didn't bother with the tarp (7th time this year!) but the forecast also said little or no wind and it got pretty breezy at one point. Stars were all around so I crashed out, fairly confident I wouldn't get a soaking. Thermorest quilt super cozy.

8hrs solid sleep followed. I woke to the sun peering over the Menteith hills opposite. Up and out sharpish (such that I forgot to photo the bivvy) and off up the glen on the track. This took me high above Loch Lubnaig and will make a fine alternative to the cycleway which can be a bit busy with peds on a normal Saturday. That said it was deserted at this early hour and this continued to Strathyre.

Mist boiling off the falls of Lenny. I'd an inkling there might be an inversion hence my high level spot and the breeze kept everything dry.

Annoyingly I was 25 minutes early for the cafe at Strathyre but they were setting up and the helpful owner came out and suggested I try the place up at Kingshouse. In the event I grabbed a coffee and a pie at the shop and sat out in the sun.

Sun! (and snow on Stobbinein)

Sure enough, a few k up the trail at Kingshouse, the cafe cum pub was open and I fancied a fry up, having not brought the stove. £15! it was pretty good but what a rip off.... Suitably fortified I vowed not to eat anything else until Bankfoot, some 100k away.

Fine viaduct on the cycleway (again - I always take this pic) and as usual a good blast down to Killin. Thereafter I had a fairly easy run along Loch Tay and then down the Tay strath on NCN7. All fairly mundane after some of my rides this year but very pleasant in the autumn sunshine, the loch below and snow frosted hills opposite. And actually very little traffic - I seem to have been plagued by cars on normally empty back roads of late - really not sure why, so this made a nice change. Finally at Bankfoot I raided the shop I'd used on my September tour and then followed the same route home.

Sunset over Ben Ledi and Vorlich - my bivvy spot was just below these. It was quite nice going over the Dunning road in the dark. Of concern was the temperature: -3 and a sparkle of frost on the road but I took it fairly steady and got home at half 6, some 10 hours and 170k after leaving my bivvy spot that morning, making a total trip length of 235k! Actually my longest none ITT bivvy of the year.

So a good outing with lots of lovely Autumnal colours. After my soggy ride of last month and last Novembers dampness this made a nice change. Just December to do, hopefully on the Bearbones Scottish winter bivvy.