“Justin, Justin, quick look at this” was my wake up call from Andy. As I opened the tent Andy explained how he had been having a stroll along the Loch and disturbed a stag which then ran into the Loch and swam right the way across.
What was even more interesting was that there was basically not a cloud in the sky and that climbing the Bealach would be very special! Breakfast was as usual porridge with a strong fresh coffee. Fresh coffee is one luxury that I could never for go on a cycle trip.
The other side of the Loch was bathed in glorious sunshine whilst our side was still in the shade and it was pretty nippy eating breakfast and whilst packing up.
Now I am not going to ramble on about the climb itself as I want to let the photos tell the story. It was hard going and took me about 1.5 hrs which given the fully loaded bike was not too bad. The long straight 20% gradient just before the final hairpins near the top certainly get you blowing! I had a 34/50 and a 11-36 rear cassette and I would have preferred a slightly lower ratio just to keep the cadence higher.
Andy being an ex pro cyclist made it look very easy and would have had time for a brew and a nap in the extra time it took me to get to the top.
All I can say is that it is one of the most amazing climbs I have ever cycled.
And the view from the top.
It was whilst at the top that I had a surreal conversation with a motorcyclist, who having heard me say that it was a hard climb then explained to me how hard going it is on a motorcycle. It made me chuckle and left me rather puzzled. I have my bike licence too, so didn’t quite get his point. The descent down into Applecross just continued for what seemed like an age and it was brakes off and let it fly. All the while I was worried about the diverge forks loaded up with low riders snapping!
There was a pub and cafe at Applecross, but we wanted to push on and planned on getting lunch and supplies for the night at Shieldaig.
The coastal riding for the remainder of the day was just stunning
and it wasn’t too long before we found the camp spot for the night beside Loch Maree.
I walked into the Loch but it was so cold that I seemed to lose the ability to walk! Andy on the other hand wades in stark naked and dives straight in. By the time he resurfaces he sounds like he is hyper ventilating and I’m stood there thinking “oh bugger, I hope I’m not going to have to go rescue him”. He then spends all night wrapped up in every layer of clothing complaining how cold he is. Not bloody surprised the water was so cold I would have had a winter wetsuit on.
Another camp fire was lit and this time Andy had 3 massive rocks ready for his sleeping bag. What made me really chuckle was when he confessed the next morning that one of the rocks was too hot so he put it in his frying pan and lay in his sleeping bag with the frying pan on his chest.
Another cracking days riding and we both felt very fortunate to have had such a cracking days weather for what is such a great cycle climb.