Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 4 (short, strikingly beautiful & very hard)

The 4th day was overall probably the most spectacular day from a constant WOW factor.  But was also one of the hardest days from a motivation point of view.  Up and going by 4:30 am, it had been a less than restful night, buggy, interruptions from other racers, little recovery, just a bad night overall.  And to rub salt in the wound about 2.5 miles into day 4 I pass by a nice modern Bothy with a bikepacking bike leaning up against the wall.  Later I would learn I had this bothy pegged once in my pre-race prep as a potential stop but had lost track of it and neglected to place it on my final cheat sheet map.  Ahh, if I had only rode out my planned 100 miles for day 3 I would have stumbled upon it and had a perfect camp with 1 fellow racer—if I ever get a re-do I hope the route and timing takes me to this specific bothy (humm, does this sound like good excuse, I mean reason to go again?).

Schoolhouse Bothy (lifted this pic from the web) http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/bothy-details.asp?bothy_id=7

Side note; I never hit a bothy at the right time to spend the night, always to early or to slow to reach one.  I did spend about 30 min in one the following day, took a short nap under a sunny window all the while wishing I could stay much much longer….

Shortly after I the missed Bothy I was joined by the occupant who had the good fortune to spend a solo night there, Karl Booth.  Karl was back to finish the HT 550 in 2016 after a missed attempt the yr before.  Karl is a younger, stronger rider but we did spend some time together working our way thru some tricky sidehill tracks and on to Ullapool.  A late grocery store breakfast and full re-supply in Ullapool and back on the route about 1 hour later.  After stopping for 1 hour, eating and drinking all I could get down, I could tell that I was not fully recovered.  Normally this would have been upsetting but I was still taking in all the fantastic Highland scenery, enjoying unusually good weather and basically was quite content to ride along in a ‘fast tour’ frame of mind.  

A long steep climb and I had a reached this high point with great view.  I tried to take a quick 360 deg video but had the start/stop settings backwards and shot 30 sec of my feet—but you get the idea with this still shot.

The route drops down and across the Dundonnell River then up and back down to the head valley above Loch na Sealga.  Again I was being wow’ed, almost overwhelmed by the terrain.

Old cottage on the way to Loch na Sealga

I rolled by the Shenevall Bothy at 3pm, again wishing my timing was different, although this particular bothy was busy with backpackers

Inside of Shenevall Bothy

Moving on after a quick tour of Shenevall I arrived at the “potentially dangerous river crossing” mentioned in the route discretion, the same one that in other years proved a huge stumbling block with high dangerous water.  I had been stressing about this river crossing ever since I began serious HT 550 prep. 

Well for my HT 550 it was all cake, ha a sunny day, shallow, still water, maybe almost knee deep at best  

On the far side, putting the socks and shoes back on

Pushing the bike across the rock, on route along the beach at the tip of Loch na Sealga.

Around 4pm I was climbing away from Loch na Sealga and starting to mentally drag a bit.  There was a bit of hike-a-bike, trackleader says about 30 min for me, before the drop back down to the Duba Lock Causeway.

Nice trail after some hike-a-bike.  Plus size tires would have been way more fun in these type sections….

Causeway can be seen in the upper left

Causeway, after which the route heads to the far right and then hooks left and up a valley

Around 8:40pm I topped out above Letterewe Estate (http://www.letterewe-estate.com/estate)

Looking down on Letterewe.  The route comes up the now closed road that was cut in just to build this estate. So this building now only has access by foot or boat if I understand correctly.

Hum, I wonder if they drove that truck on the left in or ferried it in.

The route skirts along the edge of the main buildings and shoots off to some tricky sidehill singletrack.  Once I reached this section, apparently an old ‘walking postman path’ dark was closing in and I became a bit concerned about crashing and walked the bike more and more.  This was also one of the few times I got ‘bogged’ with a bad line choice and had to wade thru some mucky muck to get back on track.  The hope was to reach the end of this 'postman path' before camping but it was not to be. 

Only 60 miles in a long 18 hour day I was cooked and found a small hill top with a light breeze to keep the pesky Midges mostly at bay.  A short, hard day but in the end a very rewarding day….but I did sleep good this time.

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