Loch Ness by Any Means Recap

Following the successful completion of the BDP Loch Ness by Any Means challenge, we asked David the organiser and three participants to share their experiences.

Loch Ness by Any Means was a challenge created by our own David Bull whereby participants were faced with the challenge of tackling Loch Ness by cycling, running, walking or canoeing.  Our consultants took part in this challenge to raise money for our charity partner, SANDS Lothians. You can read more here.

David – Organiser

Having been focused on getting everyone in the right place at the right time the day was finally here! The first test, a last-minute change of direction for the challenge as the Scottish wind picked-up in the ‘wrong’ direction.

Once the group mustered at our campsite at Glachbeg Croft (my family farm/ education centre) I was relaxed and happy, looking forward to helping the three groups through their challenge the next day. Having my friends, colleagues and family together, in support of a fantastic cause in SANDS Lothian, was a special experience. Having seen the forecast (dark, wind, rain) for the following day, I didn’t envy them!

Once we arrived at Dores Beach in time for the start of the challenges, I looked out on the mill pond like loch and bright blue skies, I was hit with a wave of jealousy – this was going to be a fantastic day. The experience of each group was different but, I hope, enjoyable for all involved….

Sergio – Walker

As we set off we were surprised by the sunny weather, the opposite to any forecasts we had earlier that week. We parted ways with the other participants and we set off on our hike. After a difficult climb to begin, things got smoother and we started making good time whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery as we went. The course itself is very well laid out and we got to see a bit of everything: forest, countryside, the loch itself, some waterfalls. It felt like there was always some surprise waiting for us after the next bend in the trail. With 6 miles still to go, we finally called it a day and David, who supported us all the way finally came and picked us up. Reunited with the canoers and the cyclists, we had a rest, took some photos and headed back, in a now much more quiet minibus.

The shower and meal that followed felt like heaven and it was the perfect way to end such a marvellous journey!

Chris – Canoeist

Upon arriving at the north tip of Loch Ness, following a safety briefing, we hopped into the boats and set-off. Steering was a learning curve – and a bit of a zig-zag – but luckily, we had twenty-two miles to improve on that! From mile one, my arms and legs were aching but the sun was out, the water was still and we knew we were only three and a half hours away from some Weetabix traybakes!

After a stop for lunch, we were at the half-way point. With a mere eleven miles of canoeing left the tailwind was picking up. However, with that came some rather dark clouds. After an hour of steady progress, the heavens finally opened just at the point we were able to open sails and turn a calm, steady voyage into an extreme sport.

Bouncing off the growing waves was certainly exciting. I’m sure we all wondered how buoyant our lifejackets really were at some point in that last hour. But after over an hour of extreme sailing/canoeing, Fort Augustus was in sight. With one last push to row away from the approaching tourist ferry we could see the support team and the finish line. We hit the beach, lifted the canoes up to dry land and it was over.  22 miles of rowing, zigzagging, spinning and sailing were complete!

Alex – Cyclist

We set off just before 10 am for our 26 miles cycle, a mere stroll on a bike! Sure enough, after around 40 minutes we had covered 8 miles, just under a third of our target. The weather was fine – amazingly the 95% chance of precipitation predicted from the previous day had amounted to nothing. We had directions on an A4 sheet of paper and our phones for directions, so far all was well.

David met us just before mile 9, where the route diverts from alongside the Loch to a cross-country route. From here, things changed a little. The casual flat terrain was replaced by ups and downs. Around mile 16, the route became very rough and difficult to follow. We eventually found ourselves stuck, discovering that we had turned off too early. There were many uphill struggles and a few consultations of the directions, but after asking a local we were back on track for a careful downward route back towards the loch.

Eventually, the path towards the Loch began to turn in the wrong direction – back along the Loch towards our starting position. The decline was getting steeper and we became wary that we may have made a mistake. Sure enough, Google maps satnav view showed we were headed for a dead end. After much deliberating over where we had gone wrong, we were forced to retrace around 3-4 miles of our trip, entirely uphill, on a loose track dirt road.

After all the breaks to catch our breath, check directions, and swear we were back on track almost 150 minutes later. At this point, our legs were gone, and the remaining journey was welcoming us back only with incline after incline. Several stops were required along the way, finishing with one final push before we reached what we expected to be the peak of the journey before we would finally descend towards the Loch. Surprisingly…we had got it right this time. We were met with a glorious descent for the last 5-6 miles of our journey, where the bikes really came into play. Best of all, we were still on track to finish before the walkers and canoeists.

We finally rode into Fort William just before 1530, which was just enough time to get the bikes returned to the hiring company before incurring a late return charge. We were in time to see the canoeists arrive, and shortly afterwards the walkers, with 50% of them having sustained an ankle injury, given a lift to meet us in Fort William.

It was a wonderful experience for me and I’m sure for all, a great mix of exercise, socialising and epic scenery. David did an amazing job with his organisation of the entire event, and we can’t thank him and his family for all their efforts and generous hospitality.

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