Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kirroughtree ride review

Last Friday/Saturday I went up to Kirroughtree with 5 friends. This is the first time I've been to this trail centre, hotly tipped as one of the best of the 7 Stanes, vying for position with Glentress. We've been to Glentress twice before, so it was only fair that we give this one a shot.

We stayed at the Galloway Activity Centre, with a view to stay in the big cabin. 6 men needs a bit of space. Sam however, decided to mix things up by changing the booking for us to stay in a Mongolian yurt. He actually arrived there first as he was working in Scotland that day. After viewing the yurt, he then decided that it was too small and rearranged the cabin booking. It was probably a good thing that the centre was quiet (it was October and the weather is getting colder) and the cabin was available for us.

I drove up with Alec (first time biking with us) and arrived when it was dark, so we couldn't get a feel for the place. Ben (has been to Glentress with us), Colin, (has ridden with us plenty of times before) and Stuart (ridden many more times with us before) all arrived in a short time of each other. The cabin had two heaters - one of which didn't work. Never mind, we'll leave the functional one on while we go into Castle Douglas to eat and it'll be warm when we get back, we thought. Not quite. After arriving back to the cabin with a few bottles of beer and snacks after a fairly sub-standard steak and chips, the cabin was still freezing cold. The car thermometer was registering -0.5 degrees Celsius. 
The less than comfortable bed
 So we all climbed into our sleeping bags and had a few drinks and a bit of chat. At this point, I'll mention that the bed I was to sleep on was also less than functional. The slats weren't broken, but just had enough flex in them to allow them to slip off the lip that supported my weight. "It'll be OK" I thought, "When I'm laid on it, the weight will be spread and it won't collapse". Sure enough, at 3 AM, whilst turning over, it collapsed.
Although to be fair, I was glad that I didn't draw the short straw and have to sleep on the fold out sofa bed. Poor Alec and Stuart didn't sleep too well. How the centre could advertise the cabin as "comfortably" sleeping 6 adults, I don't know. A complaint was made in the morning.

The view in the morning was stunning though.

A beautiful day for riding.
We ate breakfast and lost two riders. Sam had hurt his back lifting his bike into the car the previous day and it had only gotten worse during the night. It was deemed too unsafe for him to ride, so he sadly went home. Ben also succumbed to some illness, dubbed by Alec as "Scottish Night-time AIDS", as he was fine before going to bed but sick in the morning. So he also went home. The trail centre was 45 minutes drive away so the 4 remaining quickly made tracks to the trail head.

We got going and the trails were in great condition. Nice and dry and feeling quite fast. There is some nice climbing through the trees and some quite technical descents. I felt that the single track sections were quite short and finished really quickly and spat us back out onto the fire roads too often This meant frequent saddle height adjustments which got a bit annoying. Not annoying enough for me to fork out £300-ish on a remote dropper seat post though. Still, it was nice to be able to regroup often for a bit of chat and Jaffa Cakes. We were taking it reasonably easy along the red route and would decide whether to do the black route when we made it that far. The first black route trail feature we came across was a really steep rolling drop, about 2m high and caught me off guard. After some discussion, I attempted it and cleared it well. That set the adrenalin going and after that the black route would be getting ridden!

After a couple of hours, Colin decided to call it a day as he had to be home for a party and it was a good 3+ hour drive home. We bade him farewell and continued on.
Colin left us at the top of the climb called "Stairway To Heaven". This was one of the two climbs I could recall the names of after studying the map, the other being "Heartbreak Hill". I was recording my ride with Strava, so I decided to really attack the climb. I'm glad I did because I recorded my first King Of The Mountain achievement! I was very pleased with myself.

It was at this point that I had to stop recording as my battery was just about flat and I wanted to see how I had done on the climb. I'm glad I did. Because of that, I had to estimate the rest of the route (16.7 miles):

View Kirroughtree - estimated in a larger map

It was a good ride, but I don't think it's the best trail centre in the 7 Stanes. It loses out on being a much longer drive to get there and facilities are nowhere near on a par with Glentress. The trails are relatively similar too. The only thing that Kirroughtree has over Glentress is "McMoab". This was by far the hardest part of the ride, even with the best route indicated with arrows painted to the surface.
Stuart in the distance, taking on McMoab. McMoab won, Stuart's saddle rails almost snapped!
I'd go back to Kirroughtree and fully complete the black route, by making sure we had more time. And also booking better accommodation!

A whole load of photos of the ride can be seen here.

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