This weekend marks the next big challenge of this year. And what a challenge it is. 185 miles, in real mountains, unsupported.
The Cairngorms Loop has been weighing on my mind since Steve confirmed that I definitely had a place a month or so ago. I have done a good few multi-day trips in the mountains, some with bike, some without. None have been quite this long.
I’m feeling pretty fit, but my head has been struggling a bit recently though. For the most part, I know exactly why it has been, and it probably isn’t appropriate to talk about it in an open forum, as it involves someone else. This has also had the impact of knock on physical side effects. Vomiting, dizziness and finally a cold aren’t ideal preparation. Mentally, I cannot wait to get out into the wilderness, to be by myself and to concentrate on riding my bike. However, the act of preparing has been incredibly hard. Concentrating on what I need, what I don’t, what I might need has been challenging. This might sound a bit pathetic, but after working all day, I was struggling to be able to concentrate on anything in the evening, and tended to fall asleep by 8pm each night.
Luckily a quiet weekend got me back on track, and despite a long “to do list”, I’m well on the way to being prepared.
FAST AND LIGHT
Did you ever do the Duke of Edinburgh award? I did. Well, I didn’t. I did the “expedition”, but got bored during the other bits, and never finished. I just wanted to go back outside…. but, I digress. I still see DoE students out in the hills every now and then. They are easy to spot, because they are walking around with a 75litre rucksack, filled to bursting point. All for a night out in the hills. Teenage legs crawling forward under the weight of trangias, big tents, 25 layers and a few tins of food.
In contrast, I’ve long been a fan of the fast and light approach… taking it to extremes where suitable. (Such as Saunders Mountain Marathon… summer in the Lakes, with good forecasts can allow sensible, calculated risks around sleeping bag weights etc).
Now, for the Loop, I want to go as light as it is safe to do so. Every unnecessary gram will be pedalled around for well over 24hours. Not only that, but a dramatically heavier approach will actually guarantee a significantly longer time. To bring a full tent and overnight gear will guarantee that I need them. However, the Cairngorms have experienced some pretty wild weather over the last 6 weeks. There is a significant amount of snow on the tops (fortunately, this is mainly a low level route). Rivers will be in spate. I estimate that I’ll be riding for at least 30hrs. Temperatures could be anywhere from high teens to sub-zero. Sun, wind, rain and snow are all on the cards.
So, given this, what will my approach be?
Flexible. I don’t want to take every bit of kit with me around the route. I will probably bring it up in the car with me though, and take my pick before the start. Having said that, I’ve already made some decisions:
- Bivvy bag and lightish sleeping bag, to be carried in drybag secured to bars
- Tri-bag on top tube for easy access re-fueling
- Saddle-pack for bike spares
- No stove
- Primaloft jacket as additional night time warm layer
- Satmap GPS navigation
- USE Exposure Joystick/Six pack combo
- KIMM sack
- Water bottles for hydration – easier to refill than a bladder
- Aim will be to push on, with minimal stops, including through the night. I have made note of some key decision points though, and more suitable looking bivvy locations
All that remains is to concentrate on getting my head back fully in shape, ensure the body follows and drive up on Friday pm.