This weekend I went on an “Introduction to Bikerafting” course with Backcountry Biking run by regular Wednesday nighters Andy and Rob.
It’s been a very long time since I did any sort of paddling so I was slightly worried about spinning round in circles, capsizing and abandoning my bike forever to the cold, dark depths of Loch Morlich. Amongst other things…
However, Saturday dawned, and in keeping with the rest of the week it was a scorcher (as they say).
We (Dave, Colin, Jim, Sanny, Gari and me) met up at the Old Bridge Inn car park; packed our (incredibly light) Alpaca rafts and headed for Loch Morlich.
Jones and Horsethief at Loch Morlich
We were shown the correct use of the ‘Inflation Bag’, which is an incredibly simple way to pump up yer raft.
Inflation Bag technique dialled
All my own work
Soon we were out on the loch, the largest collection of Bikerafters in the UK… ever!
On Loch Morlich
After a play around we repacked our rafts and went for a ride around Loch Morlich; riding with a (deflated!) packraft on your back is much the same as with a loaded up 30L rucksac: the paddle splits into four bits for carrying, just make sure you don’t lose any of the bits…
Rob ridin’ the hood
Next we had a play around in the Allt Mor, to get used to paddling in moving water. This was fun!
Playing in the Allt Mor
Having a bike on your boat certainly invites interest, pretty much everyone who saw us felt moved to make a comment!
Is this Benidorm?
Aviemore had gained a lot of publicity earlier in the week for being the hottest place in the UK; as a consequence the beach at Loch Morlich was mobbed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so busy there… I was worried they might have sold out of ice cream, but thankfully the Boathouse Cafe had plenty.
The sun shines on the rafters
Andy promised us a following wind for the journey back to the far end of the loch; unfortunately this was not to be, but it was probably better to experience the difference a headwind can make to paddling time.
Back ashore again, we packed up our kit (getting good at this now) and set off down the Old Logging Way back to the Old Bridge Inn for a well-earned pint.
On Sunday we took no time to pack our rafts and get ready to ride, this time heading for Inshriach Forest where we planned to ride some sweet singletrack on the way to a suitable place to join the River Spey.
Maybe next time…
As it happened, this included a stop off at Inshriach Nursery cake shop where we spent far too much time.
We chose cake…
After all that eating, some excercise was called for, so we headed to the Inshriach clifftop trail, which was riding soooo well. Unfortunatelty, Andy discovered his under-frame bottle cage system is incompatible with a particularly gnarly rock section, and had an over the bars episode as a result.
Getting ready to raft
Down by the Spey, we inflated our boats and put in at a nice gentle section, after being shown some hazardous bits from the river bank.
I absolutely loved paddling down the Spey… it was so relaxing, and so great to see stuff I cycle past every day from a different perspective.
We stopped in a few places where Andy and Rob showed us some fallen trees which looked pretty innocuous, but as it turned out could cause serious problems (such as getting trapped and drowning…) if you drifted into them. The stretch of river we did looks very easy, but there were plenty of tree-lined sections, submerged tree stumps etc which could catch you out. I’m glad we had good guides!
Kinrara from the Spey
Craigellachie from the Spey
Lairig Ghru from the Spey
I really didn’t want the journey to end, so it was cool to discover that the river takes a couple of huge meanders just before Aviemore. This also gave us some opportunities to practice our ferrying technique.
Back at the Old Bridge Inn, we packed up our gear for the last time, and, over a beer, started planning further bike rafting adventures.
I’m hoping to go on the next Backcountry biking packraft course, which won’t involve bikes, but will give an introduction to white water technique. Packrsfting is the best – I can’t wait!
Check out the following for more on the weekend and details of courses: