At Home With Our Local Guide: Chris Gibbs, Aviemore
We head down to Aviemore for a day with H+I’s head guide Chris Gibb to ride his local trails.
The Cairngorm trail playground of local guide Chris Gibbs
Chris is H+I Adventures’ head guide and guide trainer, spending the majority of the summer months pedalling through the wilds of the west coast on our coast-to-coast adventure. When he’s not blasting through the rock gardens of Torridon or tinkering with bikes in the workshop you’ll likely find him on his home trails in the Cairngorms National Park; we jumped in the van last week for a slip and slide in the snow followed by a BBQ in sub-zero conditions!
The van’s thermometer continues to tick ever further into the minus as I peel off the A9 and into Aviemore which is beginning to stir from its morning slumber. The sun begins to creep over the snow shrouded hills into an uninterrupted blue sky. Chris opens the door and I’m greeted with the aroma of bacon frying and the world’s strongest coffee.
With a rough plan to avoid the worst of the snow and stick in the trees we pile in the van and head towards the hills, passing an ice covered Loch Morlich en-route. Leaving the main road we quickly find ourselves cutting fresh tracks through the snow, delving deeper into the infinite layers of pine.
Ditching the van we pick out our bikes and begin to cut through the crusty snow, making our way to the top of an Aviemore classic, ‘the Canadian Trail’. After pointing a couple of hill walkers in the right direction we drop into a narrow corridor of young trees, blasting through a blur of green and white streaks.
The forests here have a serenity which make you feel a million miles away from civilisation, in reality we are just a stone’s-throw from town. The trail opens up into a flat-out straight between the dormant heather before we begin dipping and diving over rock rollers and ice incrusted ruts. Popping back out at the van we load up and head back towards Aviemore, stocking up on BBQ supplies on the way. Every season is BBQ season at Chris’ house!
“I graduated from university after studying music and audio production, and I was trudging between recording studios and playing in bands on a daily basis. I quickly realised I wanted something else from life, so I set off for Japan in search of adventure. I loved the culture and ended living there for over two years. I fell in love with the Japanese alps and mountains in general, and before I knew it I was working in the mountains full time across Europe and Asia.”
“I’d ridden bikes since I was a kid, growing up in a small village riding a bike was the key to freedom. I had an obnoxiously bright neon BMX – in fact my taste hasn’t really changed since! Biking quickly overtook my love of skiing and mountaineering and I found myself reaching for my bike over everything else. Mountain biking has given me the opportunity to travel and experience some incredible places and meet awesome people. Riding in Nepal and Slovenia have been the highlights so far!”
“I moved to the Cairngorms to ride and work on bikes full time. There are a lot of trails and different types of riding in the area, from flowy ancient forest to big mountain riding in the UK’s only Arctic landscape. I love all kinds of riding but I’m most passionate about being in the big, rocky and remote mountains, here and on the west coast.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than finishing a big day in the mountains with a group and falling into a cosy highland pub for dinner and a beer!
“When I’m not guiding I can be found training other guides or coaching and in the rare moments when I’m not on a bike the you’ll find me at the BBQ!”
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