Editor’s Note: We’re proud to welcome Nick Tryon to our staff of cycling adventurers. Nick is a former Royal Marine and lives on the West coast of Scotland. Nick loves all things outdoors and is one hell of a great photographer. Look for more groovy stories from Nick in 2022! ~gomez
With a cold front approaching from the North, for several days I was consumed with the weather app on my phone, hoping for some snow or at least a decent freeze. The conditions leading up to the flurry of snow where almost perfect, it had been dry for several days with high winds and then a cold spell, so the snow fell on cold ground.
Sunday was the day to pack the van with bikes and kit and head North to the Bridge of Orchy and see how far we can get up Glen Kinglass.
The climb over the old military road to the view point was to be the first challenge but the views from the top made it worth the effort. From this vantage point, the view over towards Glashgour confirmed our hopes that the snow was on the lower ground as well. The wind started to cut through you, so we didn’t hang around too long. The decent is normally tricky but great fun in the summer, but with the added snow and ice it was requiring much more concentration in-order to safely get to the bottom.
Once back on the singletrack road we made our way to Victoria Bridge and then head down the track towards Loch Dochard.
The track meanders next to the river as it heads West, the Glen is looking magnificent and the deer were roaming in great numbers. The path has become eroded in parts and the river has claimed back several stretches, after a few kilometres we have to cross the river. The water is quite low and the stepping stones are fully exposed and after some discussion it was decided that I would try out the icy stones. I managed the crossing incident-free and we both started to make our way towards the climb before reaching Loch Dochard.
Upon arriving, we quickly found a spot to boil water and have a well-earned cup of tea. I brought my multi-fuel stove as it was now cold enough to put my gas away until next spring. Before packing back up to leave, the wind dropped and the reflections on the loch were incredible. We decided to decend back to the estate bridge and cross there instead of using the tricky stepping stones.
The light was beginning to fade and the temperature drop but the views were breathtaking. As we looked East towards Loch Tulla the surrounding hills glistened and the tops were bathed in gold.
Once we crossed the bridge, which was not as easy as first thought, due to the ice on the wooden boards. We hiked with our bikes back to the path and then join the farm track back to Victoria Bridge. The sun was setting and producing some amazing light behind us as we made the journey East, I stopped to look behind me and was treated to a spectacular sunset.
We continued east on the estate track running alongside Loch Tulla towards the A82 with the aim of getting to Gorton bothy for some food. The lights were now on and we winded up the glen, picking our way between puddles as the temperature was now in the low minus’s and water was freezing on contact with our bikes.
The track became quite flooded and navigating frozen puddles became very problematic and then we broke through the ice and plunged into a good foot of water. Although this was initially a problem but both our drive trains became frozen sold and gear changing became an issue. Jockey wheels had to be de-iced using a multi-tool but the mech cable had become frozen solid, after a short discussion it was decided to turn back. Although we didn’t reach the bothy, it was insight, so we had done the mileage but not had a warm meal. We had enough snacks to get us back to the van and the day was still a great adventure.
Once back at the van we loaded the bikes and it was only then that we discovered the full extent of the amount of ice that was encased on our bikes. On the journey back we chatted about the problems we encountered and decided that we were just unlucky with the state of the last few kilometers of the track. Once the winter has settled in and the majority of these puddles have frozen solid, we will look at repeating the trip with a stay overnight in the bothy.
It was a great trip and we are both looking forward to more winter cycling.
Welcome aboard Nick!
The bridge carrying the track over the Allt nan Slat a mile or so before the bothy collapsed a couple of months ago, the burn is wide, fast flowing & rises very quickly, fording is north side of track & tricky after rain; after rain the burn is frequently in spate, & in the wettest conditions, the safest place to cross is a long haul uphill at the point where the burn narrows before the lochan, the width here being a comfortable stride over very deep fast flowing water; the bridge is likely to be out for months, when the situation changes this will be posted on the Gorton bothy page on Mountain Bothies Association website. David Houldershaw MO Gorton bothy
Yes, I should have mentioned that in the write up. Due to the snow and ice the crossing was rideable, except both our mechs froze up. Like you have mentioned, I wouldn’t fancy the crossing in the current conditions.