Pushing deeper!

Winter bikepacking in the Cairngorms

The Trip Report

For five years I lived the city life, dead to all that matters to me. This is the type of weekend I live for. I feel like I am reaching my previous levels of fitness and fun again. Still a long way from being able to ride consecutive 100mile MTB days. But that’s ok, I’m pushing deeper into adventure again and this first winter back in Scotland is all about finding form and fitness. My physical fitness, mental fitness and skills all need work. Scotland isn’t to be messed with and I want to build up gradually, taking my time learning to deal with the weather, navigation, landscape and risks travelling solo again.
This trip was all about riding the Northern Corries and perhaps Ben Macdui if conditions and energy levels were right. I’ve fancied riding the Northern Corries for a while, they are a magical winter location famous for hard winter climbing and great views. Sunday I planned a long ride over Beinn a Bhurd back to Aviemore. As it turned out I had to use one of my planned escape routes off the Cairngorm plateau due to changing weather and tired body which meant my planned Sunday ride was out.
Friday night camp at the site of the now removed Bynack Stables bothy, I wake to find ice, snow and good skies.
Friday night camp at the site of the now removed Bynack Stables bothy, I wake to find ice, snow and good skies.
Heading up Bynack Mor, lots of fresh snow.
Heading up Bynack Mor, lots of fresh snow.
I was the only human. The mountain hares, ptarmigan and foxes prowled about too.
I was the only human. The mountain hares, ptarmigan and foxes prowled about too.
Bynack Mor, not pedalling that, going to need a push. I actually spent most of the day pushing, never mind, it's all good.
Bynack Mor, not pedalling that, going to need a push. I actually spent most of the day pushing, never mind, it’s all good.
Bynack Mor summit
Bynack Mor summit
I've always loved the light and rock formations up here. Bynack Mor and the Barns of Bynack are two of my favourite places in the Cairngorms.
I’ve always loved the light and rock formations up here. Bynack Mor and the Barns of Bynack are two of my favourite places in the Cairngorms.
The Barns of Bynack
The Barns of Bynack
omg it's rideable, 3cm of fresh snow on hard frozen older snow. Now heading towards Cairngorm and the Northern Corries.
omg it’s rideable, 3cm of fresh snow on hard frozen older snow. Now heading towards Cairngorm and the Northern Corries.
Below Cairngorm summit after a sketchy ascent direct from The Saddle rather than try Corrie Raebert which might have been full of snow. Using the bike like a pair of ice axes used dagger style I kicked steps with cramponed cycle boots or stepped into the depressions in the snow left by the bike tyres, taking it easy as the ground got steeper and the snow icier higher up as the temperature dropped. A corniced cliff at the top had one possible ramp through it, would it, wouldn't it work? It did work, the ramp avoided the cornices at the top. I do sketchy things like that sometimes, I'm never sure if they are dumb, it feels within my limits but backing off down the icy slope would have been tricky. One and a half hours front raising a loaded fat bike is going to hurt tomorrow though.
Below Cairngorm summit after a sketchy ascent direct from The Saddle rather than try Corrie Raebert which might have been full of snow. Using the bike like a pair of ice axes used dagger style I kicked steps with cramponed cycle boots or stepped into the depressions in the snow left by the bike tyres, taking it easy as the ground got steeper and the snow icier higher up as the temperature dropped. A corniced cliff at the top had one possible ramp through it, would it, wouldn’t it work? It did work, the ramp avoided the cornices at the top. I do sketchy things like that sometimes, I’m never sure if they are dumb, it feels within my limits but backing off down the icy slope would have been tricky. One and a half hours front raising a loaded fat bike is going to hurt tomorrow though.
Lots of people on the Northern Corries having icy fun. Lots of videos taken of the guy on a bike and many questions asked about the bike and what I was doing up there. Having fun was what I was doing and I was heading to ride that horizon on Sunday.
Lots of people on the Northern Corries having icy fun. Lots of videos taken of the guy on a bike and many questions asked about the bike and what I was doing up there. Having fun was what I was doing and I was heading to ride that horizon on Sunday.
By Cairn Lochan the weather had deteriorated so Ben MacDui was off the plan. Who cares? I just rode Bynack Mor, Cairngorm and the Northern Corries in full winter conditions.
By Cairn Lochan the weather had deteriorated so Ben MacDui was off the plan. Who cares? I just rode Bynack Mor, Cairngorm and the Northern Corries in full winter conditions.
Descending into the Lairg Ghru, tired of the snow now, my mind aches, decisions were getting wobbly. I was glad I had backed off Ben Macdui, it would have been too much solo.
Descending into the Lairg Ghru, tired of the snow now, my mind aches, decisions were getting wobbly. I was glad I had backed off Ben Macdui, it would have been too much solo.
Campsite at last. Fire pit and dry wood for a fire all present and correct, whiskey waiting in my bike bag.
Campsite at last. Fire pit and dry wood for a fire all present and correct, whiskey waiting in my bike bag.
Sunday morning I hurt, hurt like I haven't hurt in years, it's an easy route for me today. I get warm by tidying the fire pit and campsite. The firepit has been there for a while, the wood I am ashamed to admit I left there a couple of weekends ago. It felt good to tidy it all up and leave the meadow looking nearly natural again.
Sunday morning I hurt, hurt like I haven’t hurt in years, it’s an easy route for me today. I get warm by tidying the fire pit and campsite. The firepit has been there for a while, the wood I am ashamed to admit I left there a couple of weekends ago. It felt good to tidy it all up and leave the meadow looking nearly natural again.
There and back again up into the brooding amphitheatre of Glen Einich, trying to avoid squishing all the mating toads on the trails, we are all enjoying Spring.
There and back again up into the brooding amphitheatre of Glen Einich, trying to avoid squishing all the mating toads on the trails, we are all enjoying Spring.

The Gear

I realised as I was packing up my bike during this winter bikepacking trip that my kit list is pretty complex so I’ve written a separate winter bikepacking kitlist article. Enjoy.

The Route

Friday in to work, and on to the train station

Mike McFarlane
Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Morning Ride

17/3/2017

Friday night from Aviemore to first wildcamp

Mike McFarlane
Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Evening Ride

17/3/2017

Saturday over the Northern Corries

Mike McFarlane
Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Morning Ride

18/3/2017

Sunday a pootle up Glen Einich and back to Aviemore

Mike McFarlane
Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Morning Ride

19/3/2017

And then a quick ride back home from the station

Mike McFarlane
Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Afternoon Ride

19/3/2017

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