Into the Valley of Death rode the 6 idiots
The ride itself started quite well, with us heading down towards the river following a nice bit of stony track sheltered behind a wall. We turned right to ride parallel to the river where Jamie couldn't resist rescuing more wildlife by freeing a sheep that had caught its head and horns in the fence. Another short but sweet bit of track, then through 6 inches of standing water and up onto the bridge over the Water of Nevis and into the deserted visitors car park.
We then turned briefly northwards on the tarmac before finding the entrance onto the WHW. Slogging up the gradual climb of the fire track, Radek (as usual) disappeared off into the distance, while the rest of us blew up one by one on the climb. Looked like some nice bits of singletrack on either side of the road amongst the trees, and more importantly, by this time we were in the forest and behind a nice big hill that sheltered us from the worst of the wind.
It was a bit stop and start as the gradient varied, and Radek came back down the hill several times to mutter 'words of encouragement'. Not far from the summit, TK's eyes were drawn to a cat's eye stuck in the middle of a switchback, while the rest of us tried not to too obviously leer at a delightfully attired young lady runner passing us on the way down. Hypnotic, and let's leave it at that.
We stopped at the crest of the pass (300-odd metres) next to Dun Deardail - an Iron Age fort apparently, but we'd be buggered if we were about to go 400m out of our way to have a look at some rocks.
The wind had picked up again by this point, but it was onwards and downwards as we joined the WHW proper, the rain needling into our raw faces as our speed picked up, the fire road giving way to a nice rocky path descending along the recently logged hillside. Nice bit of track this, occasional water bars to jump and rocky steps to navigate.
All too soon though the riding juddered to a halt, with some bigger rocky steps, a couple of gates and bridges to traverse, and at least one not so nice hike-a-bike section up some wooden stairs then continuing up a bouldery steep path.
Bright sunlight streams through the canopy of trees
We emerged from the protection of the last of trees and out onto exposed hillside, finally facing the full fury of the wind and rain.
Jamie strains to hold his thumb up in the gale. Gazz holds his face on to stop it being blown off
Radek wonders a) If it's dry inside his rucksack, and b) Can he fit in there?
We continued on the rocky singletrack, still heading south along the WHW. Again, some really nice riding here, a gravelly stony path following the contours of the gently rolling hills, although it was hard to appreciate the good riding now that we were exposed to the full force of the weather.
We stopped at Blar a Chaorainn, where the WHW meets up with the Single Track road from Ft William. Sheltering behind a walker's noticeboard, food was eaten and options discussed. Mr P was keen to forge onwards to Kinlochleven, another 7-odd miles distant. The rest of us were however not insane, and that was that... We joined the road and less than 30 minutes later we were cycling through Ft William, where my £10 eBay lights were apparently way too bright for the local shouty idiot. Suitably chastised, we made our back to bunk house, where Radek of course won the car park dash by being the only one of us capable of still riding his bike into the bloody headwind.
Back at the bunkhouse, we piled our bikes and all our wet gear into a huge steaming heap, doused the lot in petrol and set it on fire. Standing around the flickering flames in assorted undercrackers, with a mad glint in our eyes we swore the strongest of oaths that never again would we bicycle. Our day was done...
Apart from Iain, who clearly unhinged by the brutality of the conditions, decided to go out once more...