Highland Trail Race 2014 – Day 4

The only photo I took during the race. Probably looking for a distraction from the Tollie Path

The only photo I took during the race. Probably looking for a distraction from the Tollie Path

I awoke a while after 4am and found my way through a cloud of midges to get up and ready. I was back on the trail by 4.30 and made my way through the cow dung bog to the road at Kernsary. It was a bit of a crap and pest infested wake up really. Straight through Poolewe, nothing available at this time, and onto the Tollie Path. The Tollie Path is difficult and most of the descent is unrideable. All in all, not a great mornings riding! Finally onto the road to Kinlochewe, however, and excited by the prospect of the Torridons next, in my opinion the highlight of the whole route. I needed to restock and had to wait 10 minutes in Kinlochewe for the shop to open. Checking my phone again I learnt that Tom and Steve were still behind me, the tyre tracks last night must have been from other people.

There was some more road before the start of the big climb. The climb is mostly pushing punctuated by a few sections of fun rideable trail. The morning sun was warming up and it was blue skies all round, what better way to experience the Torridons. I kept glancing down at the road far below trying to spot any riders but never saw any. Still, with all the pushing I expected Tom to catch me at some point. Near the top the trail becomes very steep with huge boulders and it was very difficult to wrestle a loaded bike up it. As I neared the top I looked back down the trail and saw 2 riders at the base of the climb. I couldn’t believe it, they had caught me up! I pushed on hard and tore off down the trail into Coire Lair. I was riding way, way faster than I should have but hey, I was in a race and this was meant to be the best descent of the whole ride, right? It truly was. It goes on and on, bouldery loose scree up the top and then hard-pack singletrack with big rock slabs as you get lower down.

With aching hands and a big grin on my face I continued a fast pace along the road, still convinced they were right behind me. It wasn’t till after the race looking back at the tracker I realise the 2 riders clearly weren’t Tom and Steve. Whoever they were, I have to thank them for a great boost and making an already fun descent even better. From here to Fort Augustus was all entirely new to me so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The road was fast with one very steep part which I barely managed to get up, zigzagging all the way. The trail up the next hill was similar and the descent turned into a tricky hike-a-bike along the side of the hill. Eventually I reached the road after going right through the middle of a farm. I pressed on to Dornie and restocked quickly in the shop. For some reason I had the impression that Camban Bothy was not far into the next section of trail. It was a lot further than expected. I was never intending on stopping there, it was just a milestone I had in my mind but it made this section seem very long. The road turned to a track and the track became an unrideable steep trail at the head of Glen Lichd, the push seemed relentless. Again I was checking over my shoulder constantly, expecting to be caught at any moment. Finally I reached the bothy and stopped to look around and have a quick bite to eat. It was about 8pm and I was having thoughts of making it to Fort Augustus today, just Glen Affric and 2 hills to go right?

Glen Affric was all rideable but it was long, very long. By the time I reached the end it was getting dark and I was running low on motivation. I tried to keep pushing on but ended up falling asleep briefly while riding. I pushed a short way up the next hill and set up a bivvy on the comfiest looking bit of gravel track, I was too tired to care. I set my alarm for 1.20am, an ambitious 1 hours sleep. Day 4 had been 105 miles and a 16 hour day.

Day 5

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2 responses to “Highland Trail Race 2014 – Day 4

  1. Pingback: Andrew Hutcheson 2nd in the Highland Trail 550 | Evans Cycles | Ride It Blog | News, reviews, how-tos·

  2. Pingback: Highland Trail Race 2014 – Day 3 | Andrew Hutcheson·

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