Saturday, 21 April 2018

April BAMs

Yes you read that right, I've managed two bivvies this month, thanks to attendance at the Scottish BB Spring Thing and also an impromptu trip to avoid the Dirty Reiver.

The spring thing was local to me so an easy option to bag my April BAM. The weather forecast was finally heading towards spring and the trails were looking more brown than white so it was off towards the Lomonds via Cleish, Loch Leven and Benarty hill. I'd had a leisurely start thanks to another works night out, a need to rescue my car and also to drag the Jones out and make sure it was functional, having hardly ridden it this year so far.

I caught up with fellow BB'ers Blair and Jamie at the pub (hurrah) after chasing them down on our planned route. Beers were drank and food was eaten (I had the worlds hottest chilli) then it was off to the Fife 5 star bivvy spot as per my January BAM. After a bit of persuasion the fire was lit in the stove and we settled in for a night of chat and whisky drinking followed by a fairly restful sleep. Sunday saw us heading back over the Lomonds, down past Glenrothes to the Fife Coastal Path at West Weymmss. There then followed a leisurely ride along the FCP fuelled by coffee and cakes courtesy of the café at the Harbourmasters house in Dysart.

BAM 2 was not planned. Planned was the Dirty Reiver gravel race in Kielder forest. I'd entered this in November last year in a fit of enthusiasm for an event that was well organised and shared with others. This enthusiasm waned somewhat having had to shell out 60 quid for this privilege and waned further when I realised that despite the hype it was 200k of forest roads and Sitka spruce trees, not the gravel highways of the Midwest of the USA. The final straw was the realisation that there was nearly 1000 people in for this. I go cycling to get away from people not to fight my way through them...

Hmm. No chance of a refund so I guess I had to turn up? In the event a crap week at work, an enforced late Friday finish and a total enthusiasm and sense of humour failure meant an easy decision - stuff it I was not going. I'd hoped that the ever reliable weather would come to my rescue as there was no way I was schlepping round 200k of forest tracks in the rain but even this let me down with a forecasted heatwave.

So its going to be dry and sunny and I have a choice - spend a day riding around a vast Sitka spruce plantation or go in search of mountains. Yup - its a no brainer. I was a bit miffed at writing off £60 but I could no longer be bothered with all the furore of this event. No criticism intended, this is just not for me.

So on went the bags, bike into car and 45mins of easy driving (better than 2 hrs 30 of M74 white line fever) saw me in Dunkeld for a late start at 8pm. An hour and half later I was at the top of Grandtully hill having pedalled up through the woods of Craigvinean and Griffin Windfarm hunting for a bivvy spot. A raised and dryish level area beside the track fitted the bill just as darkness was falling.

My nights sleep featured dreams of being cold and trying to get to sleep, punctuated by waking periods of being cold and trying to get to sleep..... I gave up at 5 am, had a leisurely breakfast and got going fast to get some heat into my chilled bones. So much for spring but I'd ended up at 450m so little wonder it was cold. I resisted the temptation to head straight back to the car and instead had a fine day pedalling various easy trails over to Aberfeldy, Up Glen Lyon and then over to Loch Rannoch and east to the Tummel valley. Thereafter it was the fine trail down to Pitlochry and then an easy cruise along NCN 7 / 77 to Dunkeld.

No pics I'm afraid, I was travelling light!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

March BAM

My parting comment of my February Bivvy a Month post was something like 'hopefully next months BAM will be warmer, drier and with more daylight'. Well 1 out of 3 ain't bad is it?

I was meant to head out last weekend for a 3 dayer in the Borders which would have been three days of spring weather and sunshine. Instead I ended up on a last minute skiing holiday which left me with no option but to squeeze a trip in right on the last day of the month. Cue crap weather forecast for this weekend making 3/3 in the cold, rain and (a bit of) snow. 

I Departed the house at about 4 into a decidely uninspiring afternoon. I was heading due west to the Trossachs with a stiff tailwind and a mix of sleet, snow and rain encouraging me onward. It did clear up later apart from one parting shot of a shower so I actually ended up having a pleasant ride via various trails, cycleways and back roads to Alloa, Stirling then Callander.

One of many good cycleways around Clackmannanshire, Dummayat in the background and 1 million gallons of whisky in the sheds just visible behind the trees

Callander provided food for breakfast and the next day as well as fish and chips for tea. Sitting on the riverside eating them highlighted how chilly it was. I'd debated which sleeping bag to bring given the forecasted sub-zero temps and in the end had gone with my winter bag as there is nothing worse than trying to sleep when you are cold. 

Leaving Callander I headed along the south side of Loch Venechar via the excellent cycleway - this is a wee twisty gravel path which is a hoot. I'd planned to bivvy here but a group of youths (with the inevitable fire) had beaten me to the first spot and it was a bit early anyway. The national park have extended the managed camping zone to this area for this year. There were numerous fisherman camps along the road with fires and litter everywhere. Another excellent idea I don't think...

After the venechar cycleway you follow the forest drive up a steady climb past a couple of lochs. Annoyingly they have permitted campervans to stop overnight here (they do at least have to pay) and they were everywhere, it being easter. This lead me to pass several more good bivvy spots as I wanted to keep as far away from these numpties as possible - generators, loud music and, of course, fires. The cycleway leaves the forest drive for the final climb over to Aberfoyle and as the light was failing the hunt was on for a suitable spot to pitch up. This turned into a model of bivvy spot finding as I passed and discounted several sites in the quest for that perfect spot (which ususally ends up as being an anthill, bog, back garden or minefield). To be fair I ended up in a reasonable place with a view and shelter, albeit a bit lumpy. The tarp went up and I snuggled in for a cosy night. It snowed a bit later on but not to any degree so I had a reasonable night and woke up to the forecasted nice day, in a break with tradition.

I packed up after a leisurely breakfast feeling suitably smug that all I would leave was an imprint of my body in the dead bracken. I noted that even here there was the remains of some old tent poles and another former fire site which I'd missed the night before. I guess that is the price of being close to civilisation, but you'd think that anyone who had the nous to get to this fairly remote spot in the forest would be the sort to make sure they left no trace....

In view of the sun, I opted for an extened route through the Queen Elizabeth forest (I passed numerous excellent bivvy spots well away from civilisation) followed by a lap of Loch Katrine and then back home by my outward route. This was meant as a bit of a training ride for the forthcoming Dirty Reiver 200. The Straggler proved itself well capable of dealing with a variety of paths and tracks even with the bags on so it looks like this is going to be the bike I use. My fitness isn't all it should be thanks to a lot of skiing this winter but I'm fairly confident I should be able to stagger round the DR route in reasonable order.


Friday, 2 March 2018

Cycle commuting in adversity

There is a lot of tosh talked about cycle commuting these days. It seems if you are cycle commuter your either single-handedly saving the planet or the scourge of the land breaking every road traffic law in the book. In reality I suspect the vast majority of cycle commuters do it for a host of mundane reasons based on convenience, cost, guilt free calories or simple enjoyment.

I'm in the last category although training plays a part. Commuting is the training secret weapon. Whilst the contributors to Cycling Weekly et al witter on about intervals, nutrition, power outputs, cadence etc. those who know put the miles in on the journey to work knowing that your always late so your always at full gas. You go out in all weathers 'cos you have to, not because your trying to prove a point.

Well this week I was out in some pretty challenging weather, not because I was trying to prove a point, but because I had no choice. Ok I did - Bike, walk or ski. The car was buried, the nation was in panic, the roads were closed so what do you do? Choose a mode of transport which will never get stuck, will always start (not necessarily stop 'tho) and is a massive laugh to boot.

For once the weather lived up to the hype. 3 Days of constant heavy snow showers, brutal easterlies and sub zero temps. Suddenly Scotland was behaving like all those other countries sharing this latitude but don't have the Gulf Stream keeping them toasty. Within 24 hours the roads were shut, cars were stuck everywhere and the nation ground to a halt.

Day 1 was the warm up (or cool down). Snow was due so I pedalled down to the station and let the train take the strain. Homeward lead to yet another wave of optimism seeing me head back via the Lomond hills. It was cold, the snow was horizontal but this time it was all behind me. I did one of many routes home in one of my fastest times. But the snow levels were building as I went to bed. 

Day 2 dawned cold, windy and white, white, white. I hopped on the Fat bike and hit the snow. It was perfect - proper fluffies about 4-6" with drifts. Scored some drifted in single track on the way into work and felt smug as when all around me were in states of near panic.

East facing bike sheds are such a bummer

The first intimation of what we were in for came on the way home. The cycleway west of Dunfermline was now 8" deep and hard going. The single track was thigh deep. The back road home had been well tracked so straightforward. That night the wind howled, the snow beat against the window and the thunder rolled. The weather was now red. The wheels to deal with it were in motion but the fact is we can't. And why should we? It happens rarely and how do you justify the army of machinery required to deal with this situation if it sits rusting for years and years.....

Day 3 dawned and the key word was drifts. The garden was full, the car a white blob, the street gone. 

No work today so it was on with the skis and off to visit friends on a outlying farm to see if they were OK. I claim the first ski descent of Saline main street. The warnings had gone to amber but the weather cares not for such classifications and got worse - 2 hours of continuous blizzard. The sun came out for some easy turns on the way home but was short lived as the snow blasted in once more. My earlier dug out drive was filled back in. The forecast was for more.

What do you do? Go home, eat food, go to bed. Time was I'd have got stressed about all of this but these days I just look at a situation and deal with it. 2015 Highland Trail was responsible for that mindset.

Day 4 was grey, windy, snowy, the same. It was supposed to be better. It wasn't. I was determined to get into work today, and more pressingly I needed food, drink, milk. It started well. The drifts were forming windslab in the brutal easterly so I could ride over the street, 12" above the tarmac in prophet like style. The road down the hill had been dug out but only so far. Suddenly I was faced with monster drifts fence to fence. 

I was dragging the bike with snow up to my waist, swimming rather than walking. Only a hundred metres or so i.e. easy. In Alaska the leaders of the ITI were dragging their bikes through waist deep snow for hours.

Road riding the hard way (its 3 feet below my bike)

I got to the main road and relaxed, briefly. It was drifted in as well. Easier this time but headwind, fatbike, graupel = hard going. Got to the local office, chatted to the Opps guys who were resting between runs in the snow ploughs, did a days work. 

Come 4pm it was time to go. The temps were up and the wind had eased but it was still winter. Tescos had been raided long before I got there. I got a few things (beer, curry) and headed home. I took a chance on a corner shop and they were cornering the market in milk - happy days. The going home was easy in the event - tailwind blast along the main road (slow cars are a real pain) and some deft fence hopping had me riding through wind scoured fields rather than head deep drifts. Dug out the drive (again). Ate food. Drank beer.

So now the temps are on the way up and its coming to an end. There is still a mountain of snow (OK Knock and Saline-hill) I don't have to go anywhere (Sunday commitment thankfully cancelled) so I can enjoy it. I checked up on my elderly neighbour but she had it sussed - of the generation who have  freezer full of enough food to live for a year. I live from week to week so I need to get out to re-supply.

In an earlier post I asked 'how much is too much'. This week it was nearly too much. An inkling of life in Alaska maybe? Months of this every year?? But then they live a different life. They don't rely on car transport for every need. They accept and embrace the weather, not try to hide from it. For a few days we've had a taste of a better life - the village street full of pedestrians because cars weren't going anywhere so we all had to walk. Maybe some will keep it up? 

For now I shudder at the thought of the recriminations, hand wringing, resignations, pontificating and rhetoric that will follow this brief period of adversity. Some seek it out, including me. Many can't cope and have to find someone to blame / sue / shout at. I don't understand that attitude, in adversity we find the best of ourselves - maybe the worst too. We live an easy life by and large. Challenges to that ease should be put into context and dealt with, safe in the knowledge that they are temporary and within our capabilities.

Friday, 16 February 2018

February BAM

BAM number 2 in the bag!

There was a bit of opportunism for this one as we seem to be in the middle of a period of decidedly unsettled weather with some large variations in temperatures. Friday was looking good so I decided to go for it, leaving work at 5 and heading north on a varied route bagging various trails old and new linked by quiet roads. I'd scoped out various woodland retreats as potential bivvy spots - I was determined to camp out this month and not use a bothy or any other form of man-made shelter - so it was just a matter of riding until the time was right and finding a suitable spot.

Pitmedden forest was my first choice but it was too early and as I needed food, I'd have had to descend to Newburgh and climb all the way back up again. Plus in the face of a not to pleasant forecast I was also keen to be close to home for an easy escape the next morning. So I headed to Kinross for the Co-op and the chippy and then climbed up into the mid Ochills on the wee road to Path of Condie.

It was 10pm by this time so once I reached the woods I started looking for likely bivvy spots. A track at the side of the road provided a way in then a fire break lead to a reasonable spot in the shelter of trees on a nice soft bed of pine needles. I got the tarp up and my gear sorted in short order and then settled in for the night. 


Sleep was hard to come by again thanks to being far to warm in my -12 rated bag. I eventually nodded of at about 1am and woke to a somewhat damp dawn with wet snow falling around me.

First trip of 2018 for the Jones, I'd forgotten how comfy it is...

Breakfast was made and eaten then I packed up sharpish and opted for an easy ride home thanks to the weather. Hopefully next month will be lighter and warmer!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

January BAM

As a way of making myself get out and camp / bivvy / bothy, I'm committed to doing the Bear Bones Bikepacking forum Bivvy A Month. Basically every month of the year you have to go out on your bike, and bivvy, camp or doss in a bothy. As long as its not in a paying campsite or other form of accommodation, anything goes. There is a cop out option of using friends back gardens but my intention was to aim to go out into the wilds for every month.

I'd meant to go out last weekend in the snow and the weather was certainly looking good for it but a day of ski-touring, on the back of some hard commutes in the snow meant I was just too knackered to even contemplate riding my bike on Saturday evening. That left this weekend and the weather was looking decidedly ropy.

It didn't help that I had a works night out on the Friday as this would have otherwise been a fine night to head out. Oh-well, I would just have to brave the elements. I'd made various plans to head for a bothy somewhere given the forecast but I couldn't be bothered driving. The easy option was my pals newly constructed cow shed on their farm near the village but this seemed like a cop out. In the event I headed for a place I'd bivvied in November, shown there by another BB forum member. 

Its an events / craft etc space owned by the Falkland Estate Trust and used for various group activities during the day. At night its gets less used and its generally accepted that anyone can use it provided they leave it tidy. Of particular interest to me were the teepees, large timber gazebo (with stove) and proximity to the house (25 miles of easy back roads and a few trails).

It felt odd leaving the house at 7pm on a Saturday evening when most people would either be in the pub or at least in a heated house watching telly. The ride went well as I had a monster tailwind. One brief splurge of rain threatened to spoil things but most of the trip was done under a clear sky and moon.

I arrived at 9, gratified that no-one else was in residence as the wind was getting up and the thought of pitching a tarp in a dark and windy woodland did not appeal. There was plenty of dry wood lying around so I soon had a good fire going in the stove and spent a pleasant couple of ours sat in front of it reading and sipping whisky.

Apart from the noise of the wind I had a good night. The temperature was around 5 degrees so I'd made do with my normal sleeping bag as a -12 rated bag would have boiled me alive. I woke up just after the dawn chorus at a decadent 8am. The wind had dropped completely so after a quick breakfast I packed up, swept up the remains of the twigs I'd collected for the fire and left. The ride home was rather wet but at least the forecasted gales didn't appear until I was sat in the house having my second breakfast.

Roll on February!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

How much is too much?

Last week saw the most snow I've seen in Fife since 2013. Depths varied depending on where you are and how high you were but here at home (145m AOD) the depth topped out at nigh on 10" just before the thaw set in.

It all kicked off on the Tuesday with a forecast of substantial snowfall throughout the day. I'd got the Ice Cream Truck ready for an early start to ride down to Dunfermline train station, catch the train to Thornton, thereafter a short hop to work. The way home would depend on how much snow had fallen and how adventurous I was feeling......

The day got off to a good start with about 2" already lying when I set off. It was cold but not much less than freezing. In lowland Scotland its typical for snow to fall when the temps are just above freezing resulting in what is little more than white slush, no use for anything other than causing traffic chaos and a lot of mud.... Only in 2009/10, 10/11 and 2013 have we seen snowfall at sub zeros and low levels and the resulting powder usually only found above 500m or in the Alps. Sure enough the heavy snow came but at Glenrothes was only the aforementioned white slush.

Home time saw a dilemma. I could head back to the station for an easy option and short ride home or head for the Lomond hills over one of many routes I've used to get me home over the years. Without really thinking I turned left out of the office entrance and headed round Glenrothes on a snowy cycleway. You climb all the way and sure enough when I got to Leslie, snow depth had gone up markedly and further flurries were coming in. My route took me up to Holl reservoir and then up and up past West Feal Farm and on up to the Bishop hill. 

This was a good choice. The farm track had vehicle tracks up it and despite some drifting was reasonable going. Above the farm it got harder but once in the woods the track was barely covered. Emerging onto the summit just past the radar station I contemplated the full folly of my route choice. It was blowing a gale and spin drift made forward visibility minimal. Undeterred I set off down the single track which was un-tracked and covered by many drifts. This really is where a fat bike is in its element. Normal tyres would bog down on the deeper stuff and fail to grip elsewhere. Fat bike tyres just float and grip. Exiting the trail at Kinesswood I reckoned I would be in for an easy pedal home round the Loch Leven Trail and then various back roads home.

Oh how wrong I was. It started fine with easy pedalling down the east side of the Loch through the woods. The path was largely snow free and even quite wet in places. The problems started after Vane Farm. This section is exposed and it was now snowing and blowing hard. Snow depth was around 5" with lots of tracks for easy going but longer and longer sections were drifting in, erasing tracks and increasing snow depth to 12" or more. The fat bike would go through it but it was like riding up a continuous 15% grade into a brutal wind. Kinross was reached eventually but the hard work continued. The back roads were snow covered and the wind full in my face. A further hour of hard pedalling was required before I finally got home. Total distance was 30 miles but it had taken my 3 3/4 hours. I'd tried to take some photos but the wind and snow was so strong all I got were blurred images of dark and snow.....

After two days of brighter weather and quite a bit of a thaw below 300m I was ready for another fat bike commute. The forecast was for more snow but only light falls. This time I was determined to train it from work to Lochgelly and then home via another oft used route through the Country Park, up to and through Blairadam Forest and then over to Cleish and back roads. 

However the 'light snow' manifested itself as 2 hours of heavy snowfall. This made little impact on Glenrothes thanks to + temperatures but I knew there would be much more higher up. Sure enough after an easy pedal around Lochore Meadows snow depths went up markedly climbing up through Blairadam. At first the tracks were well trodden and I was even following another fat bike track. Eventually all the tracks petered out and I was riding though an unbroken swathe of fresh powder snow.

Managed some pics this time!

The going was hard but I was determined to press on rather than back tracking to slush covered roads. The hill road over to Cleish was un-ploughed but had vehicle tracks. The key here is to get up speed on the compacted wheel tracks and then plough into the full depth snow between ruts. Its a mix of biking and skiing in that you are never quite sure how much control you have over the bike.

Proper road riding. 

Lower down the snow depth dropped off again and the back roads home were covered in a firm compacted layer of snow. 2 1/2 hours this time and only 20 miles.....

Saturday dawned crystal clear as promised  - a true bluebird powder day. I knew that crowds would be heading up to the ski centres so it was some local touring for me. I parked up the hill above Dollar and skinned up to the top of Whitewisp Hill through gratifyingly deep powder snow. 
Rare to have such a clear, still day in winter in Scotland.

After a couple of runs down the back side of the hill on some lovely firm windblown snow I went back to the summit and then followed a wide line of wind blown powder off the summit followed by a short skin up and a steady run back almost to the car.

Sunday was the change day but it was not clear how it would pan out and how quick the thaw would set in. The night before temps had dropped to -9 so I knew that the snow would still be good. Time for one more fat bike ride. The plan was to find well trodden tracks up and then do some powder surfing downhills. This took me up the flanks of Seamab hill above Muckhart with a modicum of hard pushing seeing a great run down totally off path through 18" deep powder between the trees. I had the tyres at 2psi for this and the snow depth you can go through on even a modest downhill gradient is really quite amazing. 

Deep powder and trees!

Some more hard pedalling took me along various other paths and then I took a snap decision to climb back up a forest track which had some firm cross country ski tracks in it. This worked well in the main but as snow depth increased and the thaw was starting to set in lack of traction eventually beat me. Up top the wind had re-appeared so I took a short cut down to Dollar gratefully following a well trodden slot in the deep snow. The forecasted sleat was heavy, if wet snow, which was lying quickly. This made for hard going as you tend to slither around all over the place. I also had a rather spectacular crash on a fast descent when my front wheel strayed out of a wheel rut and immediately washed out in the soft slush in the middle of the road. One second I was upright, the next I was face first into the thankfully soft snow in the opposite road verge. Only pride was hurt along with more scrapes on my shins....

Later on the snow inevitably turned to rain and the big thaw set in, in earnest.

Since getting my first fat bike in 2012, I've enjoyed pushing the limits of what they can do and where they can ride. Prior to this week my snow riding has been mainly high up in the hills where wind blown snow is the order of the day. This can be incredibly frustrating and / or hard work. It was immensely satisfying seeing the panic on colleagues faces as the snow set in and they contemplated trying to drive through the crowded roads, knowing that no amount of snow would stop me. Yet they all thought I was mad for riding a bike in such conditions. In fact, despite the physical hardship, I had an absolute ball and discovering just how deep you could go into powder snow and still keep riding on a fat bike has been a further education into just how versatile these beasts are.

So how much is too much? Not enough yet!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Scotland Winter Bivvy 2017

Last weekend was the Bear Bones Scotland Winter Bivvy. This comprised and informal meet up of regulars on the BB forum from various parts of Scotland. The aim was to bivvy or bothy out somewhere - simple!

The plan was to meet at Duinish bothy at the watershed of Loch Garry near to Drumochter on the A9. I'd scoped out a route starting from the Garry bridge just north of Pitlochry heading west through the woods above Loch tummel, a bit of road riding to Loch Rannoch and then up the ROW to Glen Garry. Likely attendees were Ray and Alasdair from Edinburgh, Blair from Falkirk Jamie from Yorkshire and Colin from Aviemore. There was no fixed plan for a meeting time as we were all heading up under own steam at various times. For my part I was limited by alchohol consumption the night before thanks to my works xmas night out. I eventually got up there for just before 3.....
The machine ready for the off. Depsite only going out for one night it was jammed with stuff.

The temp was around 0 and there was a dusting of snow. I was concerned that a lot of the tracks we would be riding would be melted / frozen snow and lethal. Sure enought the first section was exactly that so it was a case of slithering around or using the still snowy middle bit. Several sets of tyre tracks indicated that Ray et al was in front. Entering the woods got us off the ice and into around 2-3" of powder snow. Vehicle tracks made for easy going and at the high point of 450m there wasn't much more. As this was the same height as the bothy it looked like we would have a straightforward climb up to it.....

I caught up Ray, Blair, Blair's mate and Jamie not long before the woods section finished (they were all on normal bikes). They seemed to be making good progress in the snow so all was well.

Looking back to Ben Vrackie.

Looking up Strath Rannoch. We just missed the sunset.

Heading along the road to Kinnloch Rannoch seemed to take ages. The temps dropped alarmingly and I was getting chilly so with Rays blessing pushed on. Blairs Mate was on his first trip and was a bit under dressed so departed back along the road at this point. Given what was to come he made a wise choice....

The further west we went the more the snow cover increased. Past Kinnloch Rannoch the road was pretty snowy and off to the side it was solid white away from tree cover. At the start of the ROW you were straight into it. Climbing up from the farm there was 5-6", way more than had been in the woods previously. I stopped to drop tyre pressures to 3 / 5psi and got stuck in.

This looks horrendous but was actually straightforward - just aim along the rut and pedal. A quad bike had been up so no need to break trail!

I was following another bike track and up ahead I started to get glimpses of a light. Some tread spotting suggested this was Alastair on his half-fat Jones. I eventually caught him just before the track met the main estate road up the glen. He was riding and walking so I kept going with my steady pace. On the main track the quad tracks were replaced by an tracked argo cat track. This is pefect fat bike riding as it leaves a nice level  surface on which you can ride pretty easily (Alasdair, Ray, Jamie and Blair will probably want to repeatedly punch me for saying that) The only spoiler was loads of foot prints. They all seemed to be heading downhill so hopefully there would be no-one in the bothy but Colin. It was now seriously cold -  frost  was building up on my bags and I had a proper Iditarod icicle under my nose! The climb was steady but seemed to go on way longer than the map suggested. Its always hard to guage your pace in the dark as all you can see is a small pool of light in front of you and no idea of how quickly the landscape is passing. A flurry of snow came in but otherwise the sky was crystal clear. I turned my lights off and stopped to check out the stars. No Northern Lights tho.....

At one point all the footprints turned off in the direction of, presumably, the local munroe / corbett. So it was just me riding across a pristine argo track. It was still climbing but good going. I've no idea as to snow depth but 8-10" I'd guess. There was barely any wind but I started seeing snow drifts of increasing size as I made my way along to the bothy. Fortunately the argo had ridden across it all and it hadn't drifted back in. Finally I got a glimpse of the bothy windows reflecting my light back to me. It still seemed ages before I at last got to the turn off. The bothy was dark and cold. No sign of Colin which was slightly alarming as he'd said he would be aiming to get there before dark o'clock. Oh well hopefully he'll be here soon.

Made it at last, 42k and 4 hours after setting off.

The bothy was occupied after all - two wee sparrow hawks were curled up in the entrance and seemed mightily p*ssed off when I clomped in.

The only way to avoid the rest of the party from lynching me for riding up so easily was to get a fire going. Ray had stashed some coal two weeks previously but I'd no idea where it was. A big bag of kindling, fire lighters and a couple of spadefuls of coal from someone elses visit saved the day. Alastair turned up not long after and Ray, Blair and Jamie arrived about another half hour after that, cursing the bloke on the fat bike that had ridden everything they had spent 2 hours walking up...

Ray went in search of the coal, the stashing of which should earn him a BB hero of the year award. Sadly it wasn't to be found - either buried under a snow drift or found by someone else the previous weekend. Instead he produced two fire logs that he'd humped all the way up with him, earning him the BB hero of the year award. We managed to chop up some bits of wood that were lying in the back room and got a good blaze going in the grate. Not only that but he'd also brought tunes! So there then followed a very convivial evening chewing the fat, listening to good music and having the odd nip of whisky finally turning in at 1 am. I'd guess at about -7 to -10 outside but a balmy 2 or 3 inside so everyone seemed to have a decent nights kip (judging by the snores anyway....)

The next morning dawned grey and damp as forecasted. It was a case of eat breakfast, pack up and get going. The temps had gone up to above freezing so with the heavy rain the snow cover was rapidly heading for porridge-hood. The fat bike can be a liability here as it floats across the snow / slush rather than digging in. I left the narrow tyres pushing and slithered my way back down to Loch Rannoch. Overall the going was OK but much harder than the previous evening - I even had to push at one point! The downhill seemed ludicrously short given how long it had taken to grind up it so I was onto the road after less than an hour.

Loch Rannoch looking west.

After a stop to pump the tyres up it was a case of pedalling steadily east. Santa greeted me at the FC place at Queens View but all I wanted for xmas was a flushing toilet so I quickly side stepped him. Xmas music blared out of the speakers whilst I was doing what had to be done, further driving my humbug like spirit away from this nonsense that we put up with every year....

Back to the car at 1 and straight of home for heat and hot water!