MTB Borders © 2006 -
So I completed the way last Sunday, really enjoyed it apart from from the section from Inversnaid to the Drovers but thats well publicised in most writeups of the way. I started off in very much the wrong way that is I didn't get up early enough so missed breakfast and had some at costas at the start in Milingavie. The first half of the day was pretty easy TBH until the start of Conic hill (apart from getting bitten by a dog on the way out of Drymen, que loads of TCP!) which is 50% hike a bike. I also climbed to the top just for sh*ts and gigs, good view.
The conic descent if damn good fun and 100% rideable apart from the stairs at the bottom if a bit let go the brakes and pray in areas. From then on its mostly fun singletrack with a little road until you hit the 'snaid. From there on is one of the most disheartening three hours of my life topped off with a broken chain that put me over the bars, you will never want to see another water bar in your life! I was also pretty screwed through lack of decent food during the whole day, a mistake not to be repeated the next two days.
I reached the Drovers at just before 7PM after a 9 AM start, quite a long day. The food was ace and accommodation adequate so had a good nights sleep ready for the next day.
I woke feeling like crap, had a large breakfast, put an extra couple of links in the chain after bodging it on the trail the day before and set off on what was to be the most enjoyable day of the three. From the Drovers to Tyndrum was dispatched in three hours of landrover/singletrack.
A couple of average climbs led to a brilliant descent to the road out of Crainlarich and easy trail/track to Tyndrum for before midday for a fuel stop. From there to bridge of Orchy is good quality landrover track which you make good time on.
The climb out of B of O is pretty easy apart from a little hike a bike and the descent of the other side is great fun down to the start of the old military road again.
I was in the bar with a pint by 15:45 and feeling really good, could have ridden another few hours TBH, a really fun day!
Good food and few hours sleep later the third and last day broke to a view of grey cloud and rain, joy! My decision to buy a new waterproof instead of a larger backpack and the chance to try it out allowed me to start the day positively and after another as much as I could eat breakfast I headed out into the rain, heading along to the bottom of the Devil’s staircase.
At the bottom I necked an energy gell and clambered up it in one, getting to the top feeling a bit underwhelmed, its nowhere near as hard as folk make it out to be, leaving me with good legs for the truly epic descent to Kinlochleven.
Its really rough and rocky in places with lots of waterbars but the big 29er wheels made short work of them and felt surefooted enough to push pretty hard even though everything was slick and wet. I reached KLL before 12 with a big grin on my face after a fast fireroad drop, ready for the last section and feeling good.
The hike a bike out of KLL is a friggin nightmare, I actually found it worse than the Devil’s staircase but once at the top you hit the old military road again, its much sandier and heavier going than you might think especially with the storm that kicked off as I started it. Conditions were pretty biblical from there to fort bill and its pretty damn exposed and isolated up there which was a bit of a buzz.
The descent from there is awesome, its on the old military road but its so broken up its like constantly riding over piles of bricks for about 40 mins, you can get up some proper speed and just let the bike float around under you, unintentionally scared the crap out of a few walkers on the way down.
Six or Seven miles from Fort Bill you have a short DH section through the forest and then a blisteringly quick 3 mile run on fire road with BIG two wheel drifting, mega fun if a little out of control. From then on its couple of miles of road to the finish which if I’m honest was a little underwhelming. I reached Fort William for just before 15:00, still in torrential downpours but not giving a crap
All in all I reckon anyone with a half decent level of fitness will easily knock out the WHW in three days, if you don’t mind a couple of long days you’ll do it in two, took me just over 22 hours and I wasn’t pushing hard in the afternoons. The bike was spot on the whole way and another feather in the cap of my mega versatile Niner EMD, apart from DH there is NOTHING this bike cannot do well, full suss is completely excessive for this trip.
I would do the second day again as a day out without hesitation, its great fun. As a result of this trip I now need to plan others like its as when I had finished I was disappointed that I didn’t have another few days to ride, I love the simplicity and zoning out of riding for a few days to get to a place in a certain amount of time, the ride becomes all that matters and any day to day worries just don’t exist.
Hope this garbled nonsense encourages other to do it, it’s a blast!
Cheers to Chris (a.k.a. Sabrezx). Nice write up :)