Driving through Aviemore, I was feeling rough, full of cold, not quite man flu, but not great. I would have been happy curling up on the sofa with hot chocolate and all day Netflix, but the sun was shining and the mountain bike wasn’t going to get ridden on it’s own. Exercise wouldn’t make me feel worse would it, it might just make me feel better, even if only for a little while.
Falling out of the van, I reluctantly pulled on my riding gear, before locking up and peddling up the road past Glenmore Lodge. If Katie had suggested turning around at this point, I would have done without question, as I hacked up all sorts of nasty gunk from deep within my lungs. All of this probably wasn’t helped by the fact, that despite the -1ºC temperature we had kitted up in the warmth of the sun. Now we were amongst the tree’s and in the shade, I realised I had under layered and was suffering. Pulling on my Montane Prism, finally made me feel that little bit happier, healthier and ready to ride.
Heading up the hill past Ryvoan Bothy we finally found the sun again and as the views opened out over the Cairngorms in all directions, my fog finally lifted and it was all worth while. Stopping for a snack, I thrust my hands under my armpits, trying not to spew as the hot aches throbbed away in my fingertips. I never used to suffer from the cold, but repeated broken fingers seem to have left me vulnerable to the dreaded mercy in my fingers. Even with no snow on the ground, perhaps next time I will wear my winter gloves.
The land rover track turned downhill, and we whopped as gravity sped us up and we flew into the ancient Caledonian Pine forest of Abernethy It seemed, this wasn’t going to be a quick out and back as we first planned, but a good spin of the legs. Reaching a junction in the forest road, we stopped to check the map on Viewranger and look at options: turn around now and retrace our steps up the long hill we had just flown down, or head out in a big loop. The loop won!
We cut through the forest, finally taking a turn off the forest track on to a fun little section of single track, which weaved and swooped down through the trees, before spitting us out back on to the road smiling and laughing.
The road continued for a while, rolling leisurely and roughly in the right direction before it came to an abrupt stop. Or should I be more accurate, it disappeared under a long stretch of frozen water. With boggy ground, either side of the road, which was clearly also semi-frozen, mostly under water, wet feet waited. We tried to in vain to find a dry route along the banks of the road, but at regular intervals clumps of what looked to be safe grass, turned into soggy foot traps as they gave way to the pools of freezing water beneath. Coming out the other end, we both had wet, cold feet – the next 15km was going to be slightly painful in the toe department.
Again we turned off the road, heading back uphill, back in the direction of Loch Morlich. We climbed a fun land rover track, which gradually gave way to singletrack and then, as the forest gave way to clear fell, some rather stunning views, back towards the Cairngorms. Another forest road, lead downhill from here, providing some fast rolling as energy levels started to wane, thoughts of Cobb’s Cafe at Glenmore grew, providing motivation to get down, dry and warm.