Bealach na Ba ride

Just got back; a bit of a washout

Left Gatwick on a nice sunny afternoon to be told it was cold and raining in Inverness. It had just stopped when I arrived and after several battles with a bike bag into the wind along the horrible A96 arrived at the Inverness SYHA, which is very nice, comfy, warm, cheap etc etc. Decided the only practical way to do the Bealach was to get the train to Strathcarron on Sat am and ride to Torridon via Applecross with all my gear (not including the bike bag; that was safely stashed at the YH).

The weather at the foot of the climb was absolutely filthy; heavy rain and 60-70mph headwinds. I was protected for the first few turns but as I hit the steep drag towards (who knows, couldn’t see a thing) I was knocked repeatedly off the bike by the wind and ended up walking about 300m just to stay upright. A few vehicles which had passed me on the way up were coming back down, was it snowed out?

But eventually I caught sight of a hairpin (there aren’t that many and they really aren’t too hard) and was at the plateau at the top. The descent was very sporting indeed with the wind doing its damndest to unseat me. I arrived in Applecross to find the pub. I think the locals must be used to idiots like me as I was shown to a seat by the open fire and offered a mug of hot chocolate; a real life saver. Shortly afterwards I was joined by two young ladies who had passed me in a car on the way up having tried and failed to ride it. I passed up on offers of drinks and the most enormous prawns I’ve ever seen in order to continue around the peninsular. The bit up to the NW corner was marvellous with the wind behind me and Raasay visible across the sound it had even stopped raining. But then it all went pear shaped again as I struck SE wards into a fierce crosswind.

I think this is where the rest of the hills on the sportive are and they came thick and fast. Eventually I dragged my wet self into the Torridon YH; this is a wonderful place in a scenic and remote setting. Remote indeed; no pub, no shops, no food
Fortunately the only other two residents Mark and Rob; climbers from Cheltenham, offered me a wonderful and large portion of curry and some wine which hit the spot they had spent Friday “up top” but been snowed out and were loafing around on Saturday.

On Sunday the rain had got even worse if anything as I was propelled up the beautiful glen to Kinlochewe; the A road from there to Achnasheen was very nice but decidedly “up”; amazingly it was downhill all the way to Inverness (43 miles) or so it seemed; the sun even came out even though it never stopped raining. Hit Morrison’s on arrival for microwaveable food and BEER to enjoy in the YH; a very early night of 21.00.

This morning the early night led to an early rising at 0600 so I determined to make the most of a dry day by an early McD’s breakfast followed by a 28km blast (well it was a blast on the way back) down Loch Ness to Urqhuart Castle, very nice and all the grockles hadn’t arrived either. Packed the bike up for a wonderfully wind-assisted ride back to the airport.

Summary; a lovely place, 2 dry-ish days out of 3 is probably a result. Id love to come back for the sportive one day but considering how far in advance it gets booked up and how unpredictable the weather is…

MM