The start was relatively leisurely for such a potentially big day, and we left the midgies at 9.15am and headed West, past White Bridge, and onto the bridge crossing the Eidart for the first break. From there, the descent into Glen Feshie was superb, with a mixture of narrow path and pleasant land rover track - it truely is a beautiful glen. A quick stop at Ruigh-aiteachain bothy, and we picked our way down Glen Feshie to Achlean and the start of the road. This felt really fast in contrast to what we had done. Turning off the road about a mile north of Feshiebridge (at "The Gamekeeper's Cottage"), we followed some tracks hoping to pass another bothy on our way to Loch an Eilein. Innevitably, we missed a turning, and ended up at Loch Gamhna, but this worked out well, as the path along the side of the loch was great, and if anything, was shorter. From Loch and Eilein, we followed the signposted route across the Cairngorm Club Footbridge and onto Loch Morlich for our planned pit stop at the cafe by the campsite.
They had pies, cake, tea, coke, ice cream, and as a result, so did we. In fact, it was so good, that I threw caution to the wind, and spent not just the one, but both emergency fivers. It was quite difficult to get going again. With the two thirds of the distance done, we were faced with the uphill bit, and the roughest riding. By now it was 4pm before we got going through the Ryvoan Pass and onto the bridge where Bynack Stable used to be. Then it was the uphill. Alan cycled more of it than me, but I still gave it a go. With the long term aim of making it back in one piece, I walked bits to speed up the ascent to almost 800m on the shoulder of Bynack Mor. The path was definitely rough going in places, but it wasn't as bad as we were expecting, and arrived at the Fords of Avon refuge at 6.30pm.
The light was quite obviously on it's way out, and after a reasonable break, we pushed on. To be fair, it's quite accurate, as there was quite a lot of pushing to the top of the Lairig an Laoigh. This was the roughest section of the day. At the pass, it was getting dull, but this was it, we were over the last of the climbs, and the path was good from here on in. Just had to get on with it and not get any punctures. We stayed on the East side of the Derry Burn all the way to Derry Lodge, passing a surprised walker in the gloom. I realised I was getting tired by now when the songs in my head were innadvertantly leaking out my mouth without me realising! As we descended to Derry, the air was thick with midgies. I have to say that I have never experienced anything like it. Despite the near darkness, we must have been tanking along 20mph+, yet I was getting bitten by midgies. I could barely see as they were getting in my eyes as we did the last few kilometres to Linn of Dee, and I had to keep my gob shut, and not just because of the dodgy singing.
Arriving back at the car at 8.45pm, 11 and a half hours after leaving, we frantically stuffed the bikes on the rack and jumped in the car, stopping in Braemar to sort ourselves out. It was a superb day, and not as much of a trial as I thought it may have been. I think it was in the region of 55 miles, with 1400m of ascent (and descent!). Very nearly the whole route is on the 1:25000 OS Outdoor Leisure map, which is handy. You should be able to see the route in the map below
Sunday was remarkable as well, due to the fact that I could walk, so we went for a jaunt up Lochnagar. We witnessed a rockfall from the Eagle Ridge area while sitting at the col, although at first I thought it was from Eagle Buttress. After heading round, a rescue helicopter appeared, and it seemed that all was not well. I am forever in awe of the skill and bravery shown by the crews of these aircraft, and this was only enhanced today as we watched the pilot guide the helicopter very close to Eagle Ridge, lower a crewmember, and take one of the injured climbers off. There was a strong southerly wind, and despite getting some shelter, there was obviously some buffeting of the helicopter. It's incredible how they can keep it in the one place. I wish the injured climbers a speedy recovery.