Emil Carr-Ross


Cycle Mechanic and Bikepacking Rider in Glasgow, Scotland.

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26 May 2024

HT550 Day 1


I really wish somebody has warned me about the drainage ditches.

The day started in Tyndrum, with 63 of us setting off together. We shared breakfast at the Real Food Cafe. The place was buzzing with excitement. Last minute information about resupplies was shared, warnings of bogs and hikes. Excitement. But perhaps also a little more anxiety than any of us cared to admit.

The crowd there to see us off was large, and so were the swarms of midges. I hung back and let people pass me so I could roll down the rough start of the West Highland Way without fear of colliding into someone.

The first pass into Glen Lyon was a breeze, and with the tearoom being a last resupply before Fort Augustus, where I write from this morning, I stopped for a roll and tattie scone, Irn Bru, and water. I pass Sam Kerr on her way out and other familiar faces.

The pass into Rannoch im familiar with, and also breezed over, finding my gear ratios to be perfect for a lot of climbing that others were walking.

Next a small diversion off the road around a new addition to the HT550, then the pass over to Ben Alder.

The approach onto Loch Ossian was beautiful, but soon overshadowed by bog.

“And so it bogins” I thought to myself, in ultra race delirium.

Next the high bridge and the bothy, another beautiful aight. A slightly risky lift up and I was over.

Then; Ben Alder. 10 minutes of pushing up then it becomes ridable singletrack; almost.

A very well made hiking trail, with good drainage, just so happens to be what bested me. Drainage ditches every 10 metres or even 5; Some of them rollable, some not. Initially I took them carefully, but before I knew it my overconfidence bested me and a rim strike tore a hole in the beas of my tyre.

— picture to follow later —

A temporary fix got me a little further down the hill, but I soon realised it wasn’t going to hold. Another attempt at another, slightly better but still not good enough, temporary fix got me a little further, but ate into alnost 2 hours by this point.

Finally I stopped for a permanent fix. One side of the tyre off, careful as to not leave any sealant, and a vulvanising patch cut in half to patch it from the inside. CO2 to reseat the tyre… x2. I got another puncture when the temporary fix left my pressure too low.

I caught up to Emily and we rode together or close to each other for a while. She told me about a bothy before the Corryairack pass where I decided to stop, I has already missed the cutoff for pizza at Fort Augustus.

Just before the bothy we saw Chris and two other dotwatchers, with a sign that read “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whiskey. HT550”. They had a fire going and gave me a dram of whiskey. I told chris about my plans to eat noodles with peanuts; then I ate noodles in peanuts.

With a 6am start I got to Fort Augustus right on time for Spar opening. Restocked with sweets, bars and water and food in my belly, I should be ready to go. But here I am writing this post, in an attempt to find the motivation to go on