Epic Scottish Weekender – 1st June

Smitty watches Dom ride the last few metres of Lactic Hill

Wow, what a day! Where the hell do I start! Two weeks ago I’d never even heard of Golspie and the Highland Wildcat trails. North of Inverness and about 75 miles short of the top of Scotland.

http://www.highlandwildcat.com/

http://www.golspie.org.uk/

After a couple of hours drive from Aviemore we arrived in Golspie. A quick call to tour manager Smitty in the other car and we got the directions “If you go past the Co-Op you’ve gone too far. It’s the turn before it” Fortunately the Co-Op was about 100m ahead on our left! The sun kept bursting out from behind the clouds as we sat in the car park and had our dinner. Soon we were kitted up, bikes checked and ready and heading up the trail. The plan being to ride the black route, back to the car park and then do certain sections again.

The climb out of the car park is very well thought out, as you’re gaining altitude, but on nice singletrack with lots of technical features to take your mind off the climbing, similar to Coed-Y-Brenin and Innerleithen…. but better. The first section is a combination of red and blue, before you get to a split off point for a red route and drop onto the black climb known as Fox Farm. The style of trail doesn’t change, but the frequency and size of the rocky sections increase.

Soon you’re at the base of Lactic Hill, with another shortcut option along Treeline. Smitty had mentioned Lactic Hill the previous night, and to be honest the first couple of switchbacks were much the same as the stuff in Fox Farm. But then you turn a corner and….. Oh, my god! Rock Step, Slab, Rock Step, they came thick and fast, loose momentum and you’d stall. The terrain gave no time to look around, but when we reached the top the views were breathtaking.

The trail now dropped  onto doubletrack as we climbed “The Laing Way Round”, circling round the mountain to a shelter at Beinn a’ Bhragaidh. If we thought the views at the top of Lactic Hill were great, the ones from here were in a different league. Photo’s and Haribo break…

The trail now dropped down in a series of rocky chutes and drops “Monu-Mental” and “Dukes’s Hazzard” pretty apt names, as the statue of statue of the 1st Duke of Sutherland looked down on us. Now onto VTOL (Vertrical Take off and Landing) another well named section  as the series of massive rock faced rollers gave plenty of opportunity to get ‘big air’ if that’s your thing!

Dropping into “Running the Gauntlet” things got very technical, with some seriously big features, drops and rock chutes. Fortunately most had a chicken run, but even these needed some thought. Halfway down we took the right line and ended up at the top of a rock chute. Smitty dropped in and immediately his front wheel slipped sideways and the bike went from underneath him. He slid down pretty quick, bounced of a couple of boulders and ended up in a heap at the bottom.

Looking down, he was tangled up with his bike and I had a horrible feeling that he’d broken his leg, but once he’d had the bike removed he got up and staggered around winded and slightly shaken. After several minutes, while we all inspected the scrape marks on the rocks he felt OK to carry on. Down the remainder of “the Gauntlet” and onto the red “Valhalla” section. Whoever chose the names did a great job, and the red section did not disappoint. Fast, and twisty with rock slabs, jumps and high speed berms. All too soon we were heading back to the car park.

After a quick break, we headed back up the trail to do a shorter lap. Bruce left a short while before the rest of, and proved that Bruce’s do indeed shit in the woods. Dom took the short cut red while I bailed out at the bottom of Lactic Hill. The plan being to meet up at the start of Running the Gauntlet.

We met up, had a quick photo stop then headed off down the trail. I’m not sure who was leading, but suddenly everyone one was slowing. There was a rider lying by the side of the trail. He looked in a pretty bad way to be honest, seriously shaken up, and in a lot of pain. He’d gone over a rock drop, got ot all wrong and landed on top of his head. To be honest the next couple of hours are a bit of a blur. Ben went down to the car park to find his mate who had gone for help.

999 was called, an ambulance arrived, but couldn’t get up the hill, so the air ambulance was called. They landed above the tree line and scrambled down through the trees. Pete (as we’d now found out his name) had a neck brace fitted and was put on an inflating stretcher thing. In the meantime Ben had pushed his bike up the hill with some midge repellant as everyone was getting bitten to hell.

We stood around and did anything the medics needed us to do. Pete in the meantime had several shots of morphine and had gone from groaning in pain to lying there quietly out of it. A Sea King helicopter arrived from RAF Lossiemouth and circled a few times showering us with pine needles and assorted loose branches before dropping another medic and a winch cradle above the tree line. Several people headed up to help carry it down.

A group lift saw Pete put into the winch cradle, and the RAF medic strapped him in and prepared to be winched out. Sea King over our heads the winch line was dropped and up Pete and his RAF medic went. We gathered up our stuff and headed back down to the cars slightly slower than the first time. There’s a second photo on this post as an air lift off a mountain bike trail warrants a second photo in my book!

Pete about to be put into the winch cradle, then lifted out of Golspie Forest

We’ve since heard that Pete had broken a couple of vertebrae, but that’s all so far. When we were with him we’d checked he could move his fingers and toes etc so that’s a good sign. One thing worth noting is he’d got a light mount fitted to his lid and he’d landed on this and had a corresponding lump on top of his head so my guess is the impact went straight through this rather than being absorbed by his helmet. Time to start removing helmet light mounts when they’re not being used…

P.S. One thing we found out is that a great way to get rid of midges is get a Sea King to hover above you!

P.P.S Another thing, the Air Ambulance guys and the Sea King crew were brilliant, they have such an air of calm about them. MEGA RESPECT!

Ride – #93     Bike – Gary Fisher Paragon 29’er

Miles – 14.0     Total 2012 miles – 1918.7

“Epic Scottish Weekender” miles – 49.5

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