Learned a few. Probably not enough. Best get back there then.

After ten years of perceived progression – be that in bike technology, fitness, riding ability*, people and places – it appears this is nothing but barely adequate preparation for proper Mountain Biking. Capital Letters Fully Deserved.

There will be more of course; more pictures, more stories, many more words, some lies, some things left untold but until my world has settled a little this will have to do.

First damage report; apart from an arse that feels it may have spent a number of long nights in prison, a twitchy abductor muscle, pock-marked knees, skinned ankles and the odd bit of random missing skin, all is good. I’m properly shagged in many varied and interesting ways except for the one pertaining to my bum cheeks. Pretty sure that was the saddle, but honestly it’s all a bit of a blur.

Bike? That’s properly broken. It’s always been a bit fragile, and exposure to high peaks has finished it off. It survived long enough to limp me home but now it’s off to the great Warranty Repair Centre in the sky and shall – hopefully – be replaced with a slightly less high maintenance example. Still lasted nearly eight months, which in terms of “Al Ownership” is a bloody lifetime.

So physically mostly fine, mentally fairly confused. Found out all sorts of things about how far into dark places you can reach when their are no crowd pleasing choices left. Discovered some traits previously hidden under a veneer of civility; some good, some less so. Realised how important your friends are, and how much richer shared experiences are than anything in your head.

It’s not some kind of spiritual surf-shit I’m pedalling here. It is how you feel when layers of stuff you thought might be important are stripped away. We got away with more than we really should have – mountains are harsh and brutal environments that will test and inspire, switchback despair and joy, first caress then bully, but after all that leave you with a sense of peace that only truly high places can truly deliver.

We never got close to finishing what we started. But that’s fine, because I’ll be going back.

* Coming from a low base obviously.

Not just me then..

Fresh in on the wibbly bush telegraph from our guide and host Si:

I just did a test run with the pack at about 14kg to Tor de Baterre, that’s our first stop for lunch about a 800m climb did it in 2hrs 18mins including stopping for 2 punctures and quite a few breathers!

The descent was fucking interesting, having a heavy pack really affected balance and braking ability, I completely lunched it twice, but no permanent damage, apart from my rear cage now puts the chain over into the spokes – nice!

Well that’s really selling it Si!

This, ladies and gentlemen, is less than half of the climbing for the first day. It’ll be a bloody miracle if there are any survivors by Day 3, and their chances of making it back alive will be severely reduced by having various body parts of their riding pals strapped to an already overweight pack.

Radical re-packing plan to be implemented. I’m going to sneak all my heavy stuff into someone else’s larger rucksack, leaving me to carry only my hip flash and mobile triage unit.

Probably be alright. Possibly. Maybe I’ll not start any long books eh?