Thursday 27 August 2015

Day 11 – Friends, Old and New

For the first time since leaving Land’s End, breakfast this morning was a rather subdued event. There was little chatter, just the occasional “good morning” with a sort of grunted reply. Whenever eye contact was made it wasn’t held. Everyone was in their own world, mentally focussing on a point about twenty metres ahead of their front wheel. What brought the group together were eight letters; two words. Two short words – ‘The Lecht’. For today was the climb that everyone had been fearing. Opinions were united that the climb was going to be tough – tougher than anything we had faced so far. But no one could anticipate how hard. So it was a somewhat reluctant peloton that rolled out of Ballater, bound for Conon Bridge 87 miles away.

Simon Warren has this to say about The Lecht in his climber’s bible. “The Lecht can lay claim to being the most formidable-looking climb in Britain, lying like a giant staircase across a barren land, a petrifying slope of tarmac bisecting an empty moor. You know you’re in trouble when a road has a ski station at its summit. In all its glory, laid out before you, the Lecht strikes fear into the heart.”

A short, sharp warm up climb at 20% was the prelude to the main event. Then it was a long steady one mile ascent to the first false summit. A rapid descent through Cock Bridge in the rain brought us to a wall of a climb; the easiest bit was 20%, the hairpin bends were steeper still. This was a climb to dig deep.

The long and not so winding road after the steep bit.
Before leaving this morning I had decided to dedicate today to a couple of friends who are no longer with us. As I climbed I found myself thinking about them and what they would have made of my efforts. What I know is that they were there for me and without them I doubt I could have got to the top. So thank you B and I for your support, help and encouragement. And most of all for pushing me through the temptation to give up.

The descent off The Lecht was fast and furious. Fortunately the heavy rain didn’t start until we reached the bottom. Then it was a case of going full gas to Grantown-on-Spey with raindrops the size of peas rattling off my glasses. At Grantown I met Matthew, the son of old friends, who rode with us all the way to Inverness. I certainly enjoyed his company and it was nice to spend a some time riding with a new companion. All too soon we were in Inverness and then it was a 10 mile solo ride to Conon Bridge, our overnight halt.

So today was a very good day – but for totally different reasons. The best of reasons and the best of friends – old and new, here and gone.

Miles today 87
Total miles from Land’s End  856 (+ 17)
Miles to John O’Groats  130

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