MTB circuit of Macdui/Cairngorm mountains

September 27-28th 2018

A long held target for me was the circuit of the Macdui/Cairngorm/Bynack Mor block and I’ve finally got it done.  The forecast was not great but supposedly improving for the afternoon. 

Day one then in the wet&windy stuff.  From Inverey past the Linn and up the Glen Dee estate track, then climbing on the walkers path past the Corrour bothy (found a guy “drying” his socks over a gas stove in there).  Onwards and upwards in the rain to the Pools of Dee and then finally the boulder field that is the Lairig Ghru (835m ASL).  Ben Macdui had been on my right but I couldn’t see anywhere near the summits due to the steepness of the valley walls at this stage.  

Somewhere in this section I tore open a knobble on the back tyre so it took a while to get sorted with a tube going into a tubeless tyre!  Said hello to eight Gold DofE kids heading the other way with the wind on their backs.  Started on down-ish then the Chalamain Gap path joins from the right as the path properly headed down toward tree level.  Once properly on the Glenmore side of the hills of course there’s a very sweet downhill section of single track that added a few kms but was a bit of fun.  Wildlife during the day was simply a small deer hind plus young one wandering past me, and possibly an eagle struggling with the gusty wind.  40 kms travelled.

Stayed at Glenmore Lodge where they do great meals for a weary wet cyclist travelling light.  And a small Balvenie was had to celebrate as well.

 The Green Loch not looking very green this time....

Friday was much better weather and that just makes being out in these hills a brilliant experience.  Target of 36 kms for the day continuing round clockwise.  So from the Lodge up past the Green Loch and fork right, the steep long climb towards Bynack Mor, and then fortunately going to its eastern flank rather than the summit.  The pass here is still over 800m ASL but its not as barren and rugged as day 1. 

Views from the top of the Bynack Mor climb/push

 Approaching the Fords of A'an and the Refuge Hut

Continuing southwards and a lunch stop at the Fords of Avon refuge hut before tackling the two rivers/streams - waded through the Avon with plastic carrier bags taped over my feet to try and keep my shoes drier; water was nearly knee deep.  

After all this there’s quite a long stretch passing down to Glen Derry.  The glen is very pretty and gets back to some decent downwards pointing single track.  Finally there’s the easy run from Derry Lodge back to the Linn and to Inverey.  Day 2 wildlife was just geese and grouse.

The whole route is about 72 kms and takes in two significant highland passes, unfortunately at least half of this is pushing your bike – not because of gradient but because of the boulders strewn everywhere.  .  .  .    8 hrs on day 1  plus 5½ hrs on day 2.

My learnings from this outing is that (just like on the big Torridon loop), there is a need to appreciate the exposure in such places if things go pear-shaped.  Any mechanicals on your bike are a bit more serious if you are wet/tired/stuck out here; being stationary for long isn’t great.  And I guess there’s no phone coverage.  I was carrying more gear for this trip than previous ones (probably 8 or 9kgs in the rucksack on my back) just in case but the uncertainty still remains the highland weather.

Great to do it, a challenging ride, not sure I’ll do it again soon!.