Corrieyairack Pass

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The Corrieyairack Pass is an east-west connection through the Monadhliath Mountains, east of Fort Augustus. The road was made in 1731 by General Wade, and almost saw some military action when the Jacobite army in 1745 camped on top of the pass and withstood an English army of 4000 man. The Pass was so easy defendable, The English saw no point in taking it and withdrew.

For me The Pass was just a way to get of the asphalt and to a bit of off-road. Together with Peter M (who gave me the idea of driving here) we thought with the little information we had, the road seemed drive able, even with a bike loaded with panniers and 20 kg of luggage. We we're a bit optimistic.
In the past the road had been open for all traffic, and large four by fours have damaged the road considerably. The damage got so big that they had to close the road for traffic. Stupid cars!

That day I started in Aberfeldy and arrived late in the afternoon in Laggan, already cycled 80 km with some nasty hills on the way. In Laggan at the start of the road there is a nice little shop where you can buy some stuff, which I did. No shops along the way for quite some time.

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From Laggan the road conditions are good with nice flat asphalt. The road takes you along some stunning views. Right at the start I saw a hiker. It would be the only traffic I would see for quite some time. Along the road is the river Spey, which broadens into a lake simply called The Reservoir. Behind the lake there are some houses, one of them called the Glenshero Lodge. Crossing some wild country and forrest you'll end up seeing the last farmland in this valley with some houses called Garvamore. Then a nice old bridge goes over the river, probably made by General Wade himself. If you are with a car, this is a nice place to stop and turn back. Going further The Spey is leaving us going to the south with an odd house by it in the distance.

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Then a big red sign is trying to tell me something. The asphalt is gone and things will be a bit rougher from now on. I shrug my shoulders and go on. Right after that another sign with a strong metal fence tells me to piss off. I shrug my shoulders again and move on. At Melgarve (house) a sign tells you the road is Private, No Unauthorized Vehicles. Well, I'm on a bike, so no problem there. Still cycling and the road not being that bad.

Oke, that didn't last very long. A small stream marked the end of the good gravel and it was time to get off the bike and start walking. Not long after that a bigger stream had to be crossed with an old bridge along side it. It didn't look solid, so no way I wasn't going over that. Crossing the stream trying not to get the feet wet.

The road looked a bit better and I tried to cycle. But as it was pretty steep and only walking speeds could be archived. In the end I decided to walk to avoid getting on the bike, of the bike, on the bike . . .

At te bend the road got really bad and even walking was a problem with big loose rocks sliding all over the place. It was time to get off the road and to walk through the rough. The elevated side of the road provided for some good walking. Some trails could be seen there as I wasn't the only one walking there. One trail led me too far of the road and I decided to head back to the road.

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The road got better again and I could even do some cycling. I wasn't going very fast as I still had to go on and off the bike a lot. It was getting late so light conditions were getting poor. The end of the valley was in sight, but as it was a dead end, the place looked really dark and weary. The fact that probably no one else was around for miles and miles only heightened this. At the far left the electricity pylons marked the way the road was going up. The last bit of the valley was really bad, so I had to jump off my bike again (which I was getting pretty used to).

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At the beginning of the zigzags the road was completely washed out. Which was strange, as I saw some photo's on Google that work had been done here. So I had to take a shortcut through the rough to end up on the zigzags. The zigzags were pretty bad as well with big loose rocks. Walking here wasn't easy. But the view made up for it as the altitude increased. The zigzags ended and I was left with the best view of the entire route (25), the end of the pass was now in my grasp. The road was getting better again with some snow along the side! The last bit up hill was good enough to cycle. This seemed only fitting as it gave me the feeling I cycled to the top.

I reached the summit of the pass at 19:50 in the evening at an altitude of 775m. Being here really gives you a sense of height, as all the big mountains around you are at eye level ... AWESOME!!! This is probably as heigh as you can get in the whole of the UK with a loaded bike with panniers.

Right beside the road is an electricity building with overhanging cables. On the other side visibility was poor due to low light and low cloud. Enough lingering, time to get down!

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Getting down was not as easy as I thought. The road being very rough, only speeds could be archived around 6-8 km/h. Standing on the pedals and carefully manoeuvring through the big rocks a lot of breaking had to be done. The titanium handlebar really did wonders here softening the bumps. Half way to the bridges Loch Garry could be seen in the far distance (29). Around the bridges some road work had be done, and things started to look better.

This didn't last long and the road got worse again. Going some uphill again, I even had to get off my bike and walk again. That was a real bummer as I hadn't expected that. With no sight of civilization I was getting inpatient to get to the end. Then out of nowhere the first houses of Ft. Augustus appeared, what a moral booster!
Road conditions we're getting a little bit better, but speeds of 10 km/h or more were still very rare. In the mean while stunning views of Ft. Augustus and Loch Ness could be seen. Near the end some work on the road was being done, increasing my downhill speed. One road worker was still there with his car, the first person I had seen for hours. Then I reached civilization again with a very strange pink castle on the right. A few hundred meters after that I hit the asphalt and the end of the road.

16:30 The start at Laggan
17:40 Rough road at Melgarve (1:10), 17.1 km
19:50 Top of the pass (2:10), 23.4 km
20:30 Two bridges (0:40) 27.8 km
21:10 First view of Ft. Augustus (0:40) 32 km
21:30 Asphalt (0:20), 36.6 km

Bike: Van Nicholas Pioneer (titanium)
Tires: 26 inch Schwalbe Marathon 47mm
Panniers: Vaude Aqua front panniers, back panniers and handlebar bag
Saddle: Brooks B17 Titanium (springs would have been nicer)
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Shoes: Shimano Touring shoes