Midweek Bikepacking Adventures
We all dream of adventures...the GR20, the JMT or the West Highland Way. Often the reality of life or other events stops us. This is a lesson I have learned over the years with unexpected family illness, mountain rescue commitments or global pandemics all contributing to a long sought after adventure going on hold. In this short piece, I’d like to tell folks about how I work around this.
The trick is to adapt, miniaturize and be creative by having midweek adventures close to home. The Cairngorm National Park where I live lends itself perfectly to midweek adventures with the variety of terrain available. Within one or two hours bike ride I can reach camp spots beside beautiful rolling fields of barley, moorland with grandstand views above the town and across to the big mountains or remote, committing places on the edge of the Cairngorms with the added bite of an uncertain river crossing at night, or first thing in the morning. Sometimes I just need to do the ‘Etch A Sketch’ wipe from reality for twelve hours, the notion is usually there most weeks.
Typically I will get home from School and quickly toss my sleeping kit, Lunar Solo Shelter, some snacks and stove, spare clothes and bike bags on our bed to be packed away after our family dinner. By heading out after dinner I can have a little time with my family and simplify the food that I need to take. Perhaps just some oatcakes with cheese and a hip flask with coffee and a granola bar for breakfast. Pitching your shelter less than 4 miles from home might not sound that exciting but setting up in the dark with the urgency of an incoming weather system is totally real. It is also excellent training for having to do the same thing somewhere like on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
Midweek adventures are also fun if you can persuade a friend to join you. One of my most memorable was meeting Neil off the Edinburgh train at 5:00 pm then heading up into the hills above my home town for an open bivouac. At 6:00 am we woke to a cloud inversion with the Cairngorm Mountains just visible in the distance. In fact, we were pretty much in it! By 8:30 am I was in my classroom preparing to teach and Neil was heading south on the train to a black-tie event in the city.
So, by all means, dream big during these challenging times but don’t forget the fun memories that a midweek adventure can provide...it’s a bit like stealing a day from work during the week!
Words and photos by Jim Sutherland.