Glencoe MacAvalanche Mass Descent

mountain biker with mountain background
Ben Nevis backdrop to the Glencoe MacAvalanche Mountain bike race

Day 33 out of season 16/17. Not really a full day snowboarding, but I did hike the top part of the mountain after getting the access chair up. Last Sunday turned out to be the last day of mechanised uplift for the ski season. However, the mountain bike season was opening with the No Fuss Events MacAvalanche MTB race. The idea was to photograph the mass descent of the MacAvalanche Mountain Bike race held at Glencoe Mountain Resort. They were due to be running the Cliffy chair and Andy at the centre wrote me a note allowing me to use it to get further up the mountain. By the time I got there though, I think the lifties were on lunch as the bikers had all finished their timed runs.

So I just decided to billygoat it up behind the Wall and up past the narrows through Happy Valley and up to the summit. I’d done this a few times before, but this time I was packing full camera bag with two slr bodies, each with lenses, one of which is the 70-200mm, not the lightest set up. On top of this I have my snowboard strapped to the pack.

It took me just over an hour to hike the 1000 feet, stopping every now and then to catch a breath and dealing with a minor rock fall in amongst the ice fractured scree.

On reaching the summit of Meall a’ Bhùiridh I stopped for a few photos. It would be another 2 hours before the Mass Descent was due to start in the remaining snow at the bottom of Main Basin. I passed a couple of walkers before bumping in to a rather handsome looking ptarmigan in spring getup, his intended was sitting, sheltered nearby. She looked equally gorgeous in her copper and dark plumage.

I strapped in and made my way down the sticky snow passed the hikers. The Spring snow slows you down as it has high moisture content, but it’s almost like slow motion and you can really enjoy the turns. My heavy pack probably helped push me downhill a bit better. On reaching the bottom of Main Basin, and the start area for the bike race, I dumped the pack and hiked back to the summit again. Strapping in once more for a fun slide down unburdened by camera gear.

When I arrived at my pack, I got a cheer from the waiting mountain bikers. A few stragglers were still pushing their bikes up from the top of the Cliffy chair which had been running again for them. This gave me time to find a spot and set up my cameras to capture the starting action.

The start was underway with some opting to run, slide, push and fall down the slope. A few even attempted to ride their bikes. All in the name of fun. The wrangles thing I noticed as a spectator was the strange hissing noise coming from the snow as the competitors made their way down. As the carnage dissipated and the riders made it onto terra firma, they soon disappeared down the hill.

I strapped in again and chose the Wall as my route down as its a bit steeper and after a few lovey turns I was down at the bottom of the Cliffy chair and walking down to the access chair. I even got some shots from the chairlift of the riders congregating in the carpark. By the time I was down amongst them the chatter volume was ramped up as the excited competitors regaled of their trials during the event.

Looks like everyone was buzzing and I was happy getting a further slide in, extending my season yet again.