I never usually have a problem describing certain climbs. I’m so fond of them with their different twists and turns, feelings and emotions usually stick with me until I’m able to compute them into words.
This climb however is an exception.
The climb was timed from top to bottom with the event organisers offering a ‘climbers jersey’ for the fastest time up the mountain. I wasn’t really interested in this though, I wanted to take the climb in and really digest my surroundings as I may not get the chance to visit again next year.
Three of us begun at a steady pace, passing other riders taking it a little easier (wise). I got into a rhythm of about 10mph, happy with the cadence and speed I chose to stick with the pace leaving the others behind.
It’s one of the most deceiving climbs I’ve ever ridden – coal road or winnets pass have a similar deception but those are mere hills not mountains.
After the first corner I’m immediately reminded of the length of this climb. The start begins at a steady 5%/7%, slanting to the right as it twists and turns until you get to the mouth of the climb about 5km in.
Heart rate up and already my efforts are beginning to dip, the cloud draws closer and so does the wind.
As soon as you hit the cloud the wind picks up like nothing I’ve experienced before, almost like turbulence the change is so fast. Out of the saddle, pulling on the huds to gain momentum, only the silhouettes of riders to follow and now my body is beginning to scream – in particular my calves. Foolishly I chose to give a good push up the majority of the climbs prior to Bealach Na Ba which didn’t leave me in a good state when I was half way up the main climb.
About 2km from the top my calves cramped in a way I’ve never experienced before, agonising pain I almost came to a holt. I was determined not to stop though, I must have done about 0.5 of a kilometre at snails pace until the cramp eased. Frustrating to say the least, although I had to remember my first thoughts were not of getting a good strava time etc, I wanted to make the most of the climb but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.
It was a welcomed relief reaching the summit – many other riders had stopped to regain strength & put on a jacket ready for the 10km descent.
Climbing Bealach Na Ba fixed was challenging but my most fondest memory, or rather frightening memory was the descent. The one time I’ve been so close to having to purposefully fall off in order to stop, there was no slowing the memento and given my lack of energy after the climb I couldn’t pedal backwards to slow myself down to a halt.
This time I knew I wasn’t going down the same way so I had no idea what to expect. Not only that but it was slightly unsettling being submerged in cloud too. As you can see from the photos, visibility was next to nothing.
I thought the climb was unsettling enough – the descent down towards Applecross was absolutely terrifying. I’ve never been so fearful of a descent in my life and I usually love descending.
Setting off from the peak it seemed as if it was one long flat road but as a I couldn’t see far infront I proceeded with caution. Picking up speed I soon see these two headlights just slowly appearing, brakes were applied as I approach what appears to be a sharp left turn with no barriers on the verge, just a mountain rescue jeep on the verge. It was at this point I went from ‘*proceed with caution* to *constantly applying brakes*.
There was quite a of these deceptive corners on the way down, one in particular where a motor cyclist waved people around (avoiding another verge). I stopped to take a a photo and he told me one gentlemen was being a little speedy, missed the corner and went right over his handle bars and down the slope. It was understandable why they shut the roads up the climb and down the descent, cars and motorcycles would have made for some really sketchy moments.
Luckily, as far as I’m aware, there were no fatalities, some one broke their collarbone (on the descent I think) but apart from that, all okay.
We thought that was the worst of it but we were so very wrong. From about 50km to 80km the road was up and down with no rest at all, a beautiful costal road none the less but the landscape was rolling and seemed endless at the time.
Shattered and almost out of fuel I decided to push on for the last 15km on my own – I was tired, out of energy, hungry and getting cold. I got in the zone and TT’d the last 10 miles trying to keep flat out about 20mph, luckily it was relatively flat with a tail wind.
Over all the sportive was incredible, one of the most challenging to date. If anything the views and scenery were a massive part of the sportive and the riding was purely a added bonus. I would have benefitted from a few more longer rides prior to this event as maybe that’s what didn’t help too much on the main climb. Either way the Bealach Mor sportive successfully destroyed me and made walking for the next 2 days after very difficult – a great feeling none the less.