Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These Conditions Reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Over the water, baking in the sun even at 8am, the Cuillin Ridge is an awesome sight. Tony and I set off for our traverse of the 11 Munros by boat from Elgol yesterday morning knowing it was going to be a long, hot, dry slog. We were right!

We started very well hydrated but even then we had each drunk 2ltrs of water by the time we got to Coire a'Grunda. A long rest at the spring there was needed with another litre or two to drink and a fill up before we could carry on to Sgurr Alasdair. We met few people on the tops which was a bit of a surprise with the great weather. One group stayed at the loch which looked very inviting.

We managed to keep going but the heat and the continuous technical ground was having an impact so we called it a day in Coire na Banachdich. There is plenty of water not far down this coire and some very nice bivi ledges. Unfortunately it was a terrible night, despite being dry and calm.

In the warm and calm conditions the midges were fierce. You can often count on a gentle breeze on the ridge to keep them away but last night there was nothing. I've never seen so many midges on the Cuillin and due to the heat of the sun it was too hot to get right inside the bivi bags too! Torture. We were very close to quitting the ridge and walking down.

Thankfully we persevered and survived the night. This morning was dry and cloudy so it was much cooler. If it had been like this yesterday we would probably have got further along the ridge yesterday. Sgurr a'Greadaidh is always a favourite of mine and today it was as spectacular as ever.

However with wet weather coming in at noon and a long way to go we decided to go as far as Sgurr a'Mhadaidh and descend by An Dorus. This was a good move since the rain came in early and was very heavy this afternoon. The Cuillin traverse is always an emotional roller-coaster and it was like this for Tony this time. However he is much better prepared for next time when he comes back to complete the traverse with experience of the ridge at its best and the scale of the challenge it presents.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Another scorching hot day and the last day of biking with Kate and Sue. We went to Ardverikie to ride a loop over the big col and down great single track to Loch Pattack. It's a big ride up with 600m of ascent but the trail is just about all rideable and it goes quite quickly. Mercifully there was a breeze at the col so we had a nice stop for a sandwich.

The run down the other side is a delightful 300m drop in 3.5km. It's a skinny wee bit of single track in a vast ocean of heather and unrideable ground. Today the ground was very dry so the going was good. I have ridden this after rain and it goes but it's a very wet experience.

The long loop back round to Lochan na h'Earba is a fast run on gently down hill double track in a huge landscape. It was so hot today that a wee dip in the loch was essential and even felt warm. So five days of brilliant biking with Sue and Kate in excellent weather. Five different adventures, miles and miles of excellent trails and great riding with none of it at a trail centre. Scotland is a great destination for mountain biking.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

On paper, the Morvich loop should be a relatively short day. Our Tour of Ben Nevis was about 60km with 1600m of ascent. So the 27km of the Morvich loop should be quite simple. This is not the case! Apart from the first few flowing kilometres the going is tough all the way and it took us a full seven hours in the blistering heat today.

There is a good amount of pushing, udging, tumbling and grunting required on this trail. So much so that you start to query whether the balance of fun vs. effort is leaning the wrong way. Even with National Trust for Scotland doing an excellent job of path maintenance here there is a lot of hard work and little flowing biking to do.

However, if you like sustained, technical single track you know you have found an awesome trail when you reach the Gates of Affric. 550m of descent over many kilometres with continuous interest all the way down makes it about the best descent in Scotland. Well done to Kate and Sue for a great adventure today. It was hard won!

Monday, 21 July 2014

The No Fuss Events Orange Tour of Ben Nevis route is one of my favourite rides. Kate, Sue and I also got to enjoy brilliant weather and views as well. It was a magnificent ride and the Orange 5 29er was the perfect bike for the trail. We started riding at Lundavra and took the West Highland Way to Mammore Lodge. This is where my bike started to let me down. First up was a big explosion of a flat caused by a rip in my tyre sidewall. I patched it but decided to do a quick run down to Kinlochleven to borrow a tyre for the rest of the ride.

I had another pinch flat going down to Loch Eilde Mor. The ride along the loch was great with a nice tail wind and wild scenery. We got to the river crossing in good time and stopped for a sandwich before wading across the shallow water.

The push up to the next beallach is always a bit of a drag but if you let your mind wander and soak up the scenery it goes well enough. As we started riding again my rear mech wrapped in the spokes and snapped off. So another fix was needed with my spare hanger before the run down to the Lairig bothy. This is some of the best riding you'll ever do because it is in about the most remote place you can think of as well as being really good fun biking.

Yet another pinch flat on the long and exhilarating descent past the minister to Leanachan forest before we took the new forest trails and puggy line all the way back to Fort William in blazing sunshine. A fabulous ride. The girls bikes performed faultlessly, mine was more of a challenge. It just goes to show, you really need a few trail side mechanical skills on a ride like this. It's a long walk back pushing a broken bike!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Glencoe has a major trunk road going right down it but if you ride the skinny single track just below the road you can go all the way up the glen and not be too disturbed by the traffic. Kate, Sue and I did this starting from Glencoe Lochain and going all the way to the Devil's Staircase. The peaks emerged from the morning mist as we rode, revealing the drama of the buttresses and gullies.

Riding up the Devil's Staircase is all but impossible for regular riders like me but we did our best. Sue and Kate took on the challenge and did very well before plodding up the last few metres pushing the bikes. The ride down the other side of the col is brilliant and quite rocky and technical. You need to stop to soak up the atmosphere too, the view is immense in all directions.

Despite Kate's rear shock blowing a gasket leaving her with no damping and a very bouncy back end we managed the ride in good time and enjoyed the fast fire road down to the Ice Factor Cafe for a coffee. A short bit of quiet road back to Glencoe leads to a wee shifty through the trees and straight to Glencoe Lochain. From wide open, wild mountain scape you go to pristine, calm and clean lochain. A great way to finish another great ride.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

For the last two weeks I've been on holiday with my family. A week in Dornoch (huge beaches) and a week in Applecross (amazing scenery). However going back to work this morning was not hard work - it was the first of five days of biking with Kate and Sue. Both have done plenty of biking in the past, abroad and in Scotland, including many of the Torridon trails.

We warmed up with a 48km loop in Glen Nevis and along the West Highland Way with a bit of coaching on manuals and rear wheel lifts to help clear the water bars on the trails. With only one pinch flat we did well. It was super warm and humid and we welcomed the light rain during the day to cool us down a little. It has been good weather for Blaeberries which are looking great just now. While I was on holiday I found a new setting on my camera which makes everything look even more dramatic than usual. What do you think?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Sam and Stuart from Australia knew that The Outdoor Capital of the UK is the place to go biking on their trip around parts of Europe. Even better was that we got a great day to explore some of the best trails here. We started out up Glen Nevis river bank and the long climb to Dun Deardail, the vitrified Fort with an amazing view onto Ben Nevis.

The West Highland Way from there to Lundavra is a classic ride at about red standard. It has fast flowing sections, rocks, steps and a few short sharp climbs. Some of it is in the trees but a few sections are out in the open and you get a great sense of the scale of the countryside you're in.

We came back in on the road towards town before taking the track up Cow Hill and the super fun descent back down the Glen Nevis side of the hill to town again by midday. Out to the North Face car park and the steep ascent up to the Allt a'Mhuillin trail - this steep trail has had a new less steep trail built at the bottom and the top bit is still being worked on. In future the walk up to the North face of Ben Nevis will be a little easier going. The Allt a'Mhuillin trail is really trialsy and fun in ascent and descent. We then rode a bit of the World Champs Red, Rainbow Nation (slippy hand made single track through the trees) and Broomstick Blue back to the Puggy Line and home. All this in seven hours of brilliant and varied riding! Well done Stuart and Sam, you earned your dinner tonight!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Yesterday the weather on Ben Nevis could not have been better. Deep blue sky with just a few fluffy white clouds, light wind, warm but not too hot. The rock on Tower Ridge was dry and warm to touch. So it was a perfect day for Martin to enjoy his birthday treat!

This was a step up in challenge and scale for Martin and Jonny but they both got on fine and enjoyed the experience. We made great time up the ridge and soaked up the very fine views in all directions from The Great Tower. It was all arranged by Connor from the excellent Atlas Mountaineering who even put on pink doughnuts as a birthday surprise half way up the route.

There were a couple of other teams on Tower Ridge, one pair which was going up all the classic ridges and a team or two on Carn Dearg Buttress as well as all the regular walkers and CMD Areters. Today it's all change though. The rain arrived at 2pm and the wind was already quite severe by then and has got worse. Our scheduled Ben Nevis walking group made it to Corner Number 5 at 1050m before turning back down the trail. It looks blustery and showery over the next few days as well.