10 October 2007

Bonnie wee Scotland

So I finally had time to upload my photos from our trip around Scotland this summer.  Asides from a drunken millenium weekend and a few relatives visits when I was a nipper I have not spent as much time in Scotland as I'd like to.  So it was a nice change to spend a week or so there this summer with Emma.  We were not alone as we met Emma's sister Nic, husband Dave and newborn Sam.  Also this fella decided to hitch a ride for some of the way:


1st stop was a short rainy no camera session in the Bike Park at Glentress and then onto my folks for my birthday.  Mmmm


Then we speed up the road to Fort William to setup camp for the week.  First up was a short walk along Glen Nevis following the river which soon turned into a bog as I chose the wrong side of the river to follow.  Fine for me to scramble the tiny slippy cliff path, not so fine for Sam in his rucsac!

this can't be right

keep going mummy

he aint heavy

mummy and aunty

Next up was a bike ride along the Caledonian Canal and Neptune's Staircase. Not exactly the marvel we were expecting as you can see from the faces of the girls.  I think it would've been better as an aerial view.

are you done taking photos yet?!

But we did managed to find an old rocking horse playground thingy.  Think we had more fun on that than Sam!

room for one more?

Unimpressed with Neptunes Staircase we decided to do a quick fly-by Loch Ness for some monster spotting.  All we found was a rainbow leading to a closed Urquart castle.

just peeking

too late to be any closer

The next day was a highlight for me.  Dave and I headed to the Fort William downhill mountain bike track to strutt our stuff.  Dave headed off to investigate the XC routes whilst I attacked the downhill run.  On my first lift up I was with the Aussie junior team including the psycho that cleared the GLC drops to flat at this years Crankworks.  Out the window I could also see the Brits training and soon realised I was a little out of place!  I managed 3 runs before meeting Dave for lunch and was glad of a short break.  On my first run I struggled with two sections, both steep drop off come boulder gardens.  Dropping say 5-6 feet with half wheel size rocks littered about the place.  You can tell the good guys just fly over the whole lot but at my speed I could not (read did not want to) hold the front wheel up that long for that high.  So I had to pick a line where to plant my front wheel which would've been easy if the line was not blind due to the steepness!  I could never see the line on approach and it took me till my third run before I ran both sections without dismounting and realigning.  But that third run was awesome, I really felt like I was gliding over the rest of the terrain rather than weaving around rocks.

After lunch and some voices of encouragement from myself, Dave was kited up in Emma's pads and buying a lift ticket.  I kept the bit about the pro's practising on the track quiet but he'd already spotted the team trucks.  Fortunately the bubble up doesn't really make the track look that bad.  It's only when your riding do you actually realise how rocky it is and how big those rocks are!  We managed one run down with Dave and full credit to him on a trusty GT Zaskar with V brakes.  A few tumbles and some walkies but he was stoked when we got to the end.  There's a huge steep roller and it looks like a drop from above.  On my first run I scrubbed off all my speed in case it was a drop, but subsequent runs I gave it all I got.  Because of this I told Dave to do the same and follow me.  He was beaming at the bottom, good on the fella :-)

There are 4 specific points on the course where I am goosed and just have to stop to catch a breather.  A round trip, including a 10 minute uplift would take me about 40 minutes.  Full credit to the pros who at this years World Championships where going down the track in under 5 mins - IN THE WET?!!!

Sorry no pictures of the track as I was too busy getting as many runs in as possible.  But you can check out the highlight video footage of the World Champs here.  It's worth watching the 4X footage as well cos the length of the 4 whoops that Lopes clears going into the final left hand berm was huge - a sweet line.  Also watch for the two step downs at the end of the 4X/downhill run entering the finish gate/arena.  At the end of my first run I dropped both of these and needed new underwear - I skirted them after that!

The next day we encountered the delights of Scottish weather.  But that was easily made up by eating Haggis and some excellent fish and chips.  The rain also filled the Nevis river and provided a worthwhile sight.  Emma and I trooped off and whilst I got all geeky about the river playing spot the sieve or the chicken shoot, Emma kept dry under the umbrella.

quick, I'm getting wet

grey fog

distant roar

The sun came back the following day and Emma and I headed to Glencoe.  Quite a beautiful place if it wasn't for the coaches full of Japanese tourists.  But we escaped them by talking a walk up to a hidden valley inbetween two peaks.  A nice little walk once away from the midges by the river and a surprisingly flat open sight at the top.

need a hand?

pose to say we made it

better head back now

where did I park?

A quick zoom back north in the car and we caught Loch Ness at Fort Augustus.  I took this panorama shot - looks a bit cold doesn't it for swimming?!

Loch Ness Panorama

Our final day in Fort William was one of the best days for weather which was lucky as it was the day we walked up Ben Nevis.  I've walked up Snowdon and a few other peaks in Wales but Ben Nevis was a surprinsgly long slog.  OK so Emma and I were not exactly running up it but we only had the one break for lunch and it still took us a solid 4 hours to get to the top.  Even more surprising was the walk down which also took us 3 hours with next to no stops.  Emma's nursing talents and my old stuffy triangular bandage came to the rescue when we saw one mother who had fallen.  It looked like she had broken her wrist so Emma patched her up and we left them to poddle down  That was pretty close to the top, poor lass - she must've been down after dark :-(

The weather was great for photos.  The one below is where we stopped for lunch:

Ben Nevis Panorama 1

Then a nice one of Emma leading McDuff:

around the corner

Below is the view from about halfway:

miles and miles

Below is the final neverendingness:

looking back up at the last struggle

But we got there in the end.  I love the photo immediately below of Emma and the two after that are of us both on the trig point at the very top:

Emma on top of the world

the very top

we made it

But my favourite photo of the whole trip is the one below peering through a window in the ruins of the observatory.  Great view :-)

an interesting view

No rest for the wicked though cos as soon as we were down it was back in the car to my parents for a brief evening visit.  Then up early to meet Dave again at Glentress for a quick loop of the red route.  Wow I do love Spooky Wood - makes the pain of the ride up easily forgotten.  And the rest is history, Leeds festival history to be precise...

So visit Scotland as the advert says.

All my photos can be found here or viewed in full screen slideshow here but I'd put the kettle on, you may be a while ;-)


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