Highland Trail 2021

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htrider
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Highland Trail 2021

Post by htrider »

Thought I'd start a thread for post ride comments, thoughts and write ups.
Herewith my initial reflections on the previous weeks shenanigans....

1. Muppetry
There was quite a lot of this for me this year starting with that old favourite; going too fast from the gun, blowing up and then suffering horribly until I managed to recover. My guts seemed to rebel at the demands made by my legs and reacted in the only way they knew how - jamming solid and refusing to let go any energy. The corrieairyack was a study in misery and it was only by force of bone headed stupidity that I made it over the top....

I must also mention deciding to do this on single speed - what was I thinking?

Top score though was at the strath na sealga crossing. As per I removed (waterproof) socks, paddled across and refitted socks on the far side. Except I only had one sock. Looking back I noted the other one in the middle of the crossing, fortunately floating, but slowly drifting into the loch. Cue much splashing back in to retrieve it. Being waterproof it was full of water and the inner wooly sock was also soaked. I swapped socks every day so both feet got a chance to be wet...

2. Good Points
Actually a lot of these, inspite of the above, and the weather. It was dry on the first night - a first for me on the Highland Trail - which enabled a fine bivvy with Robbie L just out of Fort Augustus.

We had a tailwind most of the way round i.e. the wind kept changing but it was nearly always at our backs. This was a life saver. It probably also condemns me to headwinds for the rest of my cycling life.....

The bealach horn bit. It was pishing down, windy and bloody cold. The trail was saturated and I couldn't see much beyond the end of my nose but I really enjoyed the nadge fest this trail is. The weather also served as a motivator - I did the whole Horn section from the road and back in 3hrs 20 minutes, including a toilet stop.

Going single speed. As well as associated kudos due to Liam winning on a steel rigid singlespeed it was (at times) a hoot. Through all the boggy bits where I would be stressing about bunging gears with mud, I could just plough through. I also appeared to have smacked the derailleur hanger at some point so just as well there wasn't a derailleur on it!

The food - The FA pizza shop, the OBH and various other places were all operating as normal (ish) so we still had the great HT banter in these places. In particular the Poolewe hotel was very welcoming and the food ace after the epic of the great Wilderness.

Leaving the Spar shop at Lochinver at 16.50 and popping out at Ledmore at 20.05. I had the best motivation in the world - last orders at the OBH. I met Mike Toyn here (again) and it was good to get a chat and have a moan about the weather. Afterwards he said it was a real low spot for him and meeting me for a grumble helped his mood no end.

The new bit - as hard / harder and longer than the Coffin road / Dundonald climb but a great trail and amazing scenery.

Getting down the KLL descent clean (looks like they have done up a few bits now though)

Meeting Liam and his partner and Huw Oliver on the Devils Staircase descent and having a chat in the sun.

Finishing in warm sunshine side by side with Mike T.

3. The exceptional bit
On the descent into Poolewe out of Letterewe:- After a 'mixed' day weather wise and some hard going, me, Mike Toyn and John Fettes were riding this amazing narrow singletrack, it was dry, the sun was shining and the scenery stunning. Suddenly it all came together - after months of riding on my jack, there we were - three mates riding a fab descent, laughing out loud, going like hell and generally doing what mountainbikers do - hammering single track. Sitting in the sun scoffing huge amounts of food afterwards was the icing on the cake.

4. The not so good bits
The weather on Monday. It was raining horizontally to varying degrees (dense dreich to slashing rain) it was only a couple of degrees and I had one of the hardest bits of the route to do. At the start of the northern bit, if a taxi had happened by, I would have flagged it down and told it to take me out of there. Unfortunately there wasn't and scratching isn't really an option from this bit so no choice but to crack on...... Thank **** for Paramo.

Trying to persuade my ailing guts to get back on track. This lead me to perfect my 'going' technique, with the highlight (!) being on the Bealach horn route in rain, wind and no shelter.....

After the Euphoria of reaching the OBH on the Monday night, the realisation that I still had 350 k to go.....

5. The bike and gear
Was flawless - glad I went with my 3 season bag as I had 5 warm(ish) and dry nights kip. Being able to make a brew every morning as well as Beef Stroganoff for Thursday morning breakfast was a life saver. No probs with the bike although on day 1 I kept hearing a high pitched squeak everytime I hit a big bump. After much head scratching I realised it was coming from my mascot pink rubber rat (long story) - the bar roll was squashing it into the bars on a bump of a certain size, causing it to squeak. From then onwards I started categorising trail roughness on my squeak-ometer.

Pics:
Image
The weather on the Bealach Horn
Image
Totally amazing waterfall on the new bit
Image
Mike T on 'The Crossing' (he has 36" legs apparently) It was just above knee depth for me and I did it twice!
Image
Stunning view on the Tollie Path after a long day
Image
Slug in boot - For all the hype, highs, lows, fame, fortune, suffering and jubilation, its still just a bikepacking trip.
redefined_cycles
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by redefined_cycles »

Well done phil and thanks for starting the writeup thread. Looking forwars to the rest of the stories. It might just tempt me into joining the next Cairgnorms loop groupstart :-bd
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redefined_cycles
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by redefined_cycles »

*whenever it is
https://youtu.be/hvWERHBBdhU why I don't buy Israel goods.

CNN/BBC bias called out https://youtu.be/HM-UqJUPhl8
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by stevewaters »

After doing a solo ITT in 2019, I loved the camaraderie of the group start. I arrived Thursday night and stayed in "Hobbit House" at By the Way and had a relatively relaxing Friday - including a little ride down to Crianlarich with Karl, Andrea, Andy and Lars. This all helped to minimise the pre-start stress.

The relaxed nature of the pub on the Friday night plus advice from the above persuaded my to leave the stove which proved a good decision (for me).

After all my recent stomach issues I tried to take it "easy" on the first day but still got to the pizza shop in Fort Augustus feeling close to puking. I only managed to get 2 slices down. A lot of others seemed to be feeling poorly too at that point.
My sleep kit worked really well for me: Descutes with BB pole, Borah bivvy bag, Cumulus 250 quilt supplemented with Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer 2 Hooded Down Jacket Thermarest mat and Klymit cush pillow.

I found some good bivvy sites - the best being the covered veranda of the Attadale Gardens ticket office. The worst being the verge of the main road just beyond Ullapool. For the last 36 hours I just had short (30 - 90 minute) kips at the side of the trail on my polychro ground sheet which worked well. I could have done with a pop up sign to notify passers by that I was OK and did not need to be woken up!

I considered taking the Paramo Velez Adventure light jacket but ended up with the Rab Mens Kinetic Plus waterproof/softshell jacket and the R7 Goretex Shakedry Trail waterproof jacket for when things got really dire. I had full length bib tights and gaiters which worked well plus Alpkit Parallax waterproof trousers.

I think I was lucky with the weather and wind. I did the northern loop at the start of Day 3 which was the really wet day but I didn't think it was too bad. Perhaps the forecast had been so dire I was steeled for far worse. I was never uncomfortably cold. I seemed to have more tail winds than head winds.

After all the glove-talk, I spent most of the time wearing Montane Power Stretch Pro Grippy Gloves - these retain some warmth even when wet. When it got too cold, I put on top my Buffalo mitts. I did take a pair of Marigolds and was briefed by Alan as to how best to use them, but I didn't really get on with them.

I never took off my thermal vest, bib tights and cycling top. I did swap to a spare pair of Woolie Boolie socks half way through, but not sure it made much difference as they were soaked almost immediately.

I had forgotten just how much hike-a-bike there was so was pleased that I wore my Shimano XM7 shoes.

All the changes to my bike set-up meant that I don't think I have the same nerve damage to my hands and wrists this time. I did however develop a floppy neck which I since found out is call "Shermer's Neck". I first noticed it on the Torridon descent and it got progressively worse so by the last day I could only lift my head up by riding one-handed and using the other hand to twist my visor up. - Obviously that meant that all technical riding was out and I did a lot more pushing. - West Highland Way walkers thought I was mad that I not only pushed up the Devil's Staircase but then pushed all the way down to the Glencoe Road !
Anyway, it is heartening to know that James Hayden suffered from this in the past and obviously can now manage it: https://www.jamesmarkhayden.uk/knowledg ... lt-with-it.

After that first day, my stomach seemed to have toughened up to the task and by the end I was shoveling whatever I fancied into it. The resupply points worked really well. The highlight for me being the Oykel Bridge Hotel which I stopped at both ways and who were so welcoming this time.

The experience is so much more than the ride itself. - All the training, preparation, planning, logistics, camaraderie are so much part of the big adventure. It was such a treat and privilege being outside in that stunning wilderness.
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Landslide
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by Landslide »

Trepwatch: having ice cream in Fort Bill.
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by FLV »

Very well done Phil and Steve ( and all others who set off )
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by htrider »

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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by Bearbonesnorm »

Andrea was good enough to answer some questions: https://www.bearbonesbikepacking.co.uk/ ... a-rodgers/
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larsmars
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by larsmars »

Phil - Fun reading your write up. I could relate on so many points both good and bad. Great getting to know you better during our three course meal in Tomich! I'll be having a read of your post!

Steve - I think you helped me get through Fisherfield. Good chats and photo ops. Hope your neck is feeling better!

Andrea - How many pints did you have with those lads on the fishing trip at Oykel? When John and I stopped there at ~1730 they said they were 8 pints deep. They were all dot watching and talking about their cryptos. I'll be reading your words witth Stu too!

I've posted some words, photos and a video of some of my favourite sections, including that incredible new section into Fisherfield with the slabs.
https://www.tourintune.com/highland-trail-550-2021/
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by Richpips »

Enjoyed reading your write-ups everyone :-bd
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by ScotRoutes »

Andrea - was the weird bird noise the winnowing of a Snipe?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dam0sDp6Xig
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htrider
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by htrider »

Nice one Lars, I enjoyed reading and watching that, good to meet you too over three courses! Looks like you missed the worst of the weather round the northern bit. Annie Le reckoned we should keep going to beat it but it was well beyond me...
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by TrepidExplorer »

ScotRoutes wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:34 pm Andrea - was the weird bird noise the winnowing of a Snipe?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dam0sDp6Xig
I think that's it, thanks.

@Lars I was both relieved and disappointed to find those lads weren't still there when I got back the next day. They were replaced by a bloke that refused to believe the race bike was mine (questioned all the other cyclists in the bar) then when he came out to find me packing up asked if it was an E-bike. Sadly he's now lost in the forest forever.
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by sean_iow »

Phil, Trep and Lars, great write-ups :-bd

They're not exactly helping my resolve that I don't need to go back :lol:

Lars, watching your video I can't believe how much of it I remember, I remember riding the bits as if I was there yesterday when it was 3 years ago!
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Landslide
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by Landslide »

sean_iow wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:35 pm Phil, Trep and Lars, great write-ups :-bd

They're not exactly helping my resolve that I don't need to go back :lol:
Ditto on the write ups, and I'm worryingly close to deciding I need to go and ride it. Hopefully I'll catch up with Trep soon, and her tales of horror will put me off for a while yet. :wink:
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by RIP »

As a non-competing/tive person I found Trep's Q&A with Stu interesting, thanks for your time on it.
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by K1100T »

Landslide wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:41 pm
sean_iow wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 3:35 pm Phil, Trep and Lars, great write-ups :-bd

They're not exactly helping my resolve that I don't need to go back :lol:
Ditto on the write ups, and I'm worryingly close to deciding I need to go and ride it. Hopefully I'll catch up with Trep soon, and her tales of horror will put me off for a while yet. :wink:
I'm loosely aiming for 2023.
Need some serious adventures under my belt first though...
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by mikedeber »

Nice writeups everyone, bring me right back out there. It was nice to meet a few of you out on the trail. Lars you had such a great attitude when we were riding together on the second day, it really made those miles fly by.

The first day went well for me until I was on the final tarmac approach to FA, my etrex decided it didn't want to stay on anymore. I was pretty stressed at the pizza shop trying to get it to come back to life. I'm glad that I stopped there because someone suggested doing a factory reset and it actually worked, didn't lose any of my data either!

My ride really started to fall apart on the second night. I was planning to stop for the night around midnight, but with the rain having started I decided to push along the coastal road to see if I could get lucky and find something to sleep under. I had no such luck. Next thing I knew it was getting light out and I was almost to Lochinver and feeling the chill from the rain get the best of me. I popped into a phone booth for a quick respite and decided to sit down. One thing led to the next and I set my alarm for a 20 minute nap. 11 minutes later I woke up to my head drooping. I hit the road again, feeling surprisingly refreshed.

I didn't want to research too much of the ride so I would have some surprises along the way. Note to self: research more next time... I had no idea about the Ledmore Traverse. That was a big surprise. When I finally reached the road to Oykel it was a blasting headwind in the cold rain. I sat just inside the door with a hot coffee and a couple of sandwiches to bring me back to life.

I rode into Ullapool with Jim Higgins and we resupplied at the Tesco. I decided to get some hot food at a cafe and dry out for a bit before tackling the Fisherfield. It was a welcomed break to have some hot food and drink to bring my core temp back to operating temperature. I set off up the road on a mission to catch Jim but didn't end up seeing him until about 30 hours later. I caught up to Rich Rothwell and we had a crazy time crossing all of the rivers in spate, just in awe of the situation. It was probably the wildest time I've had during a race. There was so much water everywhere, it was easy enough to keep warm as long as we kept moving though. We hid behind the building a few k's before Sheneval to eat some food and were both pretty much shivering after about 5 minutes. On the big push up and over towards Dubh Loch the cloud was so thick that our headlamps were bouncing off it. We ended up walking most of the descent too, tragic!

On a previous scouting ride through the area about a month prior to the race I saw a sign that said hikers could stay in the barn behind the main farm just before the causeway. We ended up spending about 5 hours in there and it turned out to be a crucial shelter. We got there sometime around 1am, it was still raining and windy, and I was on about a 44 hour push, staying there was the only sensible option. It dawned on us that it was probably a bothy, certainly not an MBA bothy, but a bothy nonetheless, and that it would probably DQ us. To seal the deal When I pulled my sleeping bag out from my drybag on my bars I was devastated to find that it was almost completely soaked. I sort of draped part of it over me and tried to get some rest. I shivered through most of the night glad to at least have a roof over my head. I was really upset by that because I specifically brought my warmer bag in order to get the best sleep I could.

I leap-frogged the next day with Rich to Tomich where we bivied for a couple of hours. I had another shivering, restless "sleep". In FA for a big Londis breakfast the next morning and then the final push. My soul was crushed as I pedaled onto the Great Glen Way and saw the sign saying FW was 40 miles away, my homemade cue-sheet had that as around 20 miles - ouch!

I ate lots of food at the FW Co-op and had my bags filled for the last big push to the finish. My ankle had been getting pretty stiff over the previous 18 hours but after that lunch stop it was really not happy with me. As I started climbing away from FW it just wasn't functioning - I couldn't really pedal, let alone unclip, and I couldn't bend my foot to walk uphill. Prior to that point I had no intent on quitting, it never even crossed my mind. I took my sock off and saw just how swollen it had become and it freaked me out a bit. My mind was made up. Could I have clawed my way to the finish? Maybe, but I didn't want to ruin the rest of my summer and be injured just to say I finished. It seemed like an easy out, just roll downhill. to the train station. It felt like an "adult" decision and I'm still under the impression that it was the right call. It was my first scratch from one of these events. So, not a feeling I know well, but it's good to have a failure to learn from, and man did I learn a lot. I had so much fun and I can't wait for another go.

In the weeks post-race I've been working with an Osteopath for my foot/ankle. Nothing too serious, some tendon/ligament issues on the outside front of my ankle, but the swelling has gone down dramatically and mobility is getting there as well. I'm back on the bike but hiking isn't the most pleasant feeling. It's amazing what some targeted massage and acupuncture can do. She has a theory that it could have been caused by my shoe, the tongue digging into the top part of my foot causing the tendons to get irritated. I think there's some validity to that. I guess that's a good excuse to get some new kicks!
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htrider
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by htrider »

Cheers for that Mike. Nice to meet you at the start and in the pizza place - I should definitely have gone at your pace on the first day!
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by Calzzak »

Hi everyone,

It's over 4 weeks since the race and I'm still buzzing. I've really enjoyed reading everyones write-ups. It's great to get a picture of what amazing experiences other people had out there.

Particularly impressed with Phils dry feet at Fisherfield! That is something I could definitely work on. And the sock floating in to the loch made me laugh. :lol:

If anyone still has an appetite for reading about the race then I wrote some words here:https://pedalmoment.com/2021/06/12/a-hi ... firmation/
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Landslide
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by Landslide »

Really liked that, especially,
No bins are harmed in the undertaking.
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htrider
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by htrider »

Great tale that Andrew, well done for doing it in that time. Not fancy it singlespeed this year?!
I suspect keeping dry feet would be more faff than you could cope with at that pace....
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larsmars
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by larsmars »

mikedeber wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 11:02 am Nice writeups everyone, bring me right back out there. It was nice to meet a few of you out on the trail. Lars you had such a great attitude when we were riding together on the second day, it really made those miles fly by.
Likewise, great riding with you on Day 2 Mike. I was inspired by your SS and HAB skills. I watched you hike away from me just before Bealach Horn. Sounds like you had some brutal moments from then onwards!

Hope the ankle is on the mend. I have some similar issues with my left foot. I think we had the same shoes. Pearl Izumi Alp X Elevate? I was loving these shoes until Ledmore and Fisherfield. To be honest, I think it was my lack of hiking prep. No shoes would have saved me.

Hope to catch you again sometime!

Cheers,
Lars
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by ChrisS »

larsmars wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:23 pm
mikedeber wrote: Fri Jun 18, 2021 11:02 am Nice writeups everyone, bring me right back out there. It was nice to meet a few of you out on the trail. Lars you had such a great attitude when we were riding together on the second day, it really made those miles fly by.
Likewise, great riding with you on Day 2 Mike. I was inspired by your SS and HAB skills. I watched you hike away from me just before Bealach Horn. Sounds like you had some brutal moments from then onwards!

Hope the ankle is on the mend. I have some similar issues with my left foot. I think we had the same shoes. Pearl Izumi Alp X Elevate? I was loving these shoes until Ledmore and Fisherfield. To be honest, I think it was my lack of hiking prep. No shoes would have saved me.

Hope to catch you again sometime!

Cheers,
Lars
Good to meet you Lars at the start and over lunch after I'd finished. I was wearing close-fitting Specialized 2FOs and ended up with similar ankle issues on my weak right leg and badly swollen feet. I definitely chose the wrong footwear! I would be tempted to wear comfy approach shoes and flats next time (if there is a next time, not decided yet!)
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Re: Highland Trail 2021

Post by htrider »

Annie Le's tale - a really good read:-

https://annieleoutside.com/highland-trail-550/
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