I was away for the weekend with my mate, Craig, for a long trip on our mountain bikes.
Day 1 took us from Dalwhinnie to Carr Bridge and back – a huge mileage of 82 miles – which is the longest distance we have ever undertaken. The trip was mostly on the Route 7 cycle path.
Day 2 saw us pretty knackered but somehow still craving some more mileage. We had scoped out a section of the Cairngorms which was shown on a Sustrans map so we decided to check it out.
The Gaick Pass
First of all we had to locate a place to park.
The very start takes you up a stony forest track and uphill for a few hundred yards (turn left when you hit a junction) but the reward for this comes when you are spat out into the valley.
There’s a well deserved wee downhill section as you drop into the start of what proved to be a bit of a slog (probably because our legs were already killing us from the day before) but the track is very good and well maintained.
Another short downhill section sneaks up on you just as you spot the first bothy on the route. There’s a couple of railway tracks built into the path to stop it falling away but nothing tricky.
For the majority of this section the path is very good and mostly a mix of loose stones and smooth paths. This takes you on a lot of uphill sections towards your first real sight of the gully ahead.
The “feel” of the route seems to change at this point as you start to realise the enormity of the landscape that surrounds you. The river widens and for us, the clouds were becoming more menacing on the distant hills.
The path starts to become more stones than anything else and there’s a few more uphill sections in front of you, but the trail is just getting started!
Man-made elements come into play with bridges and there a lot of re-routed sections where the main path just disappears into the river.
As the state of the path deteriorates there is a large building that we had spotted a mile or so back. It turned out to be a bothy which is out of commission due to it’s dangerous condition. We would have liked to explore this area further but needed to push on as my knees were starting to properly give in by this stage (again, purely down to the previous day’s riding).
This is where you are starting to ride on hastily made roadways consisting of large and loose rocks that we assume were taken from the river bed. There are also some grass sections which really started to take it out of us.
With the bothy still partially in sight behind us – the path ended! Once again it was directing us into the river but with no real alternative.
If this had been our only trip for the weekend we would have gotten across the river and carried on. However I was starting to lose the little power I had left in my legs so we called it quits and turned around.
It took 1 hour 15 minutes on tired legs to get to this 5 mile marker on the trip. It only took 30 minutes to get back to the car! We hadn’t realised how much uphill we had done on the way in!
We are planning to return and complete the journey but that might be one for next year. The river will only get higher from this point on so it may be best to plan for the middle of summer.
SUSTRAN’S MAP – shows the route as a green line
GOOGLE MAPS – shows the starting point
VISIT SCOTLAND – a text description
MTB TRAILS INFO – another description
All images taken by Ian on an HTC M8