I had a bit of a lie in this morning - tired after yesterday's early start! I was on the road just before 9 though.
The weather was somewhat overcast, but this was in the forecast and sun was due by lunchtime.
I started off on quite a nice cycle route that kind of follows the A9. NCN7 I think.
The first town of any size I'd come to was Carrbridge which was about 20 miles away. I thought that would do for food, but after 10 I was starving! Fortunately there was a food van parked up just off the A9, so I stopped there. Knowing a single bacon roll would not be enough so I got a square sausage roll too! Went down a treat!
After that I carried on and soon passed through Carrbridge and on to Boat of Garton. Unfortunately I just missed the Steam train!
Next I needed to make a decision. I kinda wanted to go up Cairngorm itself. But if I did that it would be up and down again for the sake of it. Then probably carry on the NCN route alongside the A9. Or... I could do a clockwise loop taking on climbs such as The Lecht and Glenshee. It was a no brainier really. So the loop it was.
Things started out with some pleasant ups and downs, but I was soon faced with a pretty steep ramp out of a valley. After that, it pretty much continued with some seriously sharp climbs of quite significant length. I stopped for lunch and had my usual cheese and ham toasty but with extra chips for energy.
That energy was required! The first proper big climb was up to Lecht ski station. Fairly uniform steepness punctuated by some really steep stuff.
The descent was OK, but quite a few bends, so you've got to be on the brakes a fair bit.
The ups and downs continued and I had to decide where to stay. The initial campsite I'd looked at was quite a long way still in Breamar. There was another one closer though. However, I missed the turning for the closer one, so Breamar it was!
There was one last big climb, then it was downhill all the way.
When I arrived at the campsite, there was nobody at reception, bit there was a number to call, so I called it. They guy said they were sorry, but were full up. That's very unusual and it was the start of a series of events!
I wasn't sure what to do as there was nowhere else nearby. It had to be wild camping then!
I had a quick look on a wild camping forum and people were suggesting anywhere just back from the road to the south. So I headed down there for a look. I saw quite a few people pitched up, so all was good. I found a couple of good spots, but it was still early evening - and a beautiful evening too and I wanted to keep going.
Never for a moment did I think wild camping spots would dry up. How wrong I was!
Anyway, on I went, feeling great. The road started going up again and I didn't realise until the ski station came into view that it was Glenshee pass!
A fair bit of cloud up there, but it was still remarkably warm. The long fast descent was a bit chilly though!
It was downhill for miles and I figured I'd wait until it wast getting dark before I found a place to camp.
This was a massive mistake. Most of the fields either side of the road were fenced off and full of sheep and attack cows. It took me ages to find anything.
I eventually found a hiking trail off the road and found a spot 100 yards or so up there. I got my tent out - I could barely see by now, even with a head torch - then realised I was trying to pitch on solid rock. So everything went hurriedly away again.
Super annoyed, I just carried on. Decided to pull an all nighter - Audax style. It wouldn't stay truly dark for long.
Anyway, that's for the next Installment...