Bealach Mor

Yet another stunning weekend in the North of Scotland. And still too early in the season for midges. Despite the frost overnight it's still the best time ever for camping.

We drove up to Torridon on Saturday morning -leaving at 5am and with only one small detour, due to the navigator being asleep. Luckily that gave me the chance to have a look at the ride I was going to be doing later. Met the others at the campsite and the boys went climbing while I set off for the longest bike ride I've ever done.

The Bealach Mor sportive takes place every year and involves 90 miles of riding and 3000m of ascent, including the Bealach Na Ba (pass of the cattle) which climbs from sea level to 650m over 6 miles. I didn't do the actual race but decided to ride the route by myself.

The ride has a brutal start too it, going round the Applecross peninsula with some nasty up and downs where you’re either flying or struggling to make it to the top. It was hard to get into any kind of a rhythm as some of the hills were so steep that I was struggling up out of the saddle to get to the top. But I couldn’t really complain as it was like some sort of cyclist paradise – beautiful, well-surfaced roads and traffic that stopped miles in advance– giving me the respect of a car and waiting in the passing places so I never had to kill my speed. The views were really striking and some of the beaches around Applecross rival any I’ve seen in the Hebrides. And such a sunny day – it was blissful. I rode with my sleeves rolled up all the way so now have a big stripe of suntan between the line of my gloves and just below my elbow.

I really wanted to stop for a big dinner in the Applecross Inn – it looks like amazing food with giant seacreatures on a plate. However, given that it's just before the Bealach Na Ba I decided it might not be wise so I procrastinated for a while with an orange juice and enjoyed the lovely views. Then started the climb...

So many false summits later and lots of encouragement from drivers and I finally got to the top. I was melting in the heat but didn't stop for long as I knew I'd get chilly so just took a few photos and chatted to people at the viewpoint. I saw a couple of mountain bikers pass going the other way. Did they really cycle up that on mountain bikes? eek! It took me nearly an hour as it was for the 6miles. Then about 15min for the next 6! It was actually pretty scary going down the other side as it was really steep and narrow and you never knew whether there'd be a car round the other side of a bend. My hands got really sore breaking and I had to stop a couple of times. I'm not sure whether I'm just a complete wimp or everyone finds it scary.

Once I got to the crossroads before Loch Carron I had to make the decision whether to turn left for a 60mile ride or go the whole way for 90. I was really glad I'd seen what the road to come was like as if I thought it was going to be like the first 30miles I wouldn't have done it. As it was, I was half way round in distance at the crossroads but 2/3 of the way in difficulty and the next 40 miles were actually pretty good (and fuelled by fruit pastilles and tracker bars!). A few steady climbs and some beautiful descents, particularly coming into Kinlochewe where the downhill lasts forever with amazing views of Loch Maree.

The last 10 miles to Torridon village were pretty tough going and took nearly 50 minutes but finally I was back and got to eat a lot of yummy salt and vinegar crisps and collapse for a bit before putting the tent up. It took me just over 8 hrs and, looking at the race times on the website, that's probably not too bad, given that I took lots of photos and stopped in the pub for a bit. I think if I was racing I'd want to do it in around 7.

I think the Cairngorm sportive, judging by the spread of times must be a wee bit easier (I'm hoping) so maybe I'll aim for 6.5hrs for that and see where it gets me. I'm almost tempted to enter the Skye one as well. I'm not sure whether to be shocked or impressed by the fact that I ate nearly 5000 calories on Saturday!


Becky said…
I was reading about this route just the other day. It made me feel tired just thinking about it!

Well done!

Becky (Warren)

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