At Home With Our Local Guides: Mark Clark, Fort William
In the first part of our story series ‘At Home with our Local Guides’, Mark Clark takes centre stage as he shows us round the hills of Fort William.
On the trails in the shadow of Ben Nevis
Fort William lies at the foot of the UK’s tallest peak in Ben Nevis and is often dubbed as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK.’ It’s also where H+I guide Mark Clark calls home. Each year Fort William and the weathered slopes of Aonoch Mor are shot into the limelight of international mountain biking when the DH World Cup rolls into town, but there is plenty more to Fort William’s trail portfolio than gondola-fuelled gravity chasing.
After a brief stop in at Nevis Cycles for some craic and to put the finishing touches to Mark’s fresh Yeti SB4.5c we head for the sheltered slopes of Torlundy with an advancing snow line clawing downwards as winter stretches its legs. This is the real Fort William riding right here. Tight, twisty, turns; steep, roots, slop – a distinct flavour. On the flip-side, firmer and slightly grippier trails can be found too. The rocky mountain walking paths making for reliable riding even after days of deluge… something else the Lochaber area is famed for!
After a morning diving and ducking between rows of pine and silver birch above the North Face car park, we head for a little flurry on the Ben path, an in-and-out, whilst the light begins to fall from the glen. The roots and peaty mud from earlier are but a distant memory, now replaced with a teeth chattering ride back towards town as we pass disinterested sheep going about their afternoon’s grazing. Fort William has a tonne of different riding spots in its circumference, and we spend a night here on our Highland Odyssey adventure. Rolling down the high street we pull up at Deli Craft for a late lunch and to warm up over a coffee after a day playing in the Fort William filth.
“I lived in Fife originally but it was a little boring in terms of riding so I thought it’d be wise to move further north into the mountains, or Fort William as it is. I didn’t want to go into a desk job so studied an adventure tourism course at the college here which involved biking too, so that was one of the main drives to come up here as well as the riding on my doorstep.”
“Outside of biking, I ski and do a little hill walking now and again when I want to keep things fresh, but the majority of my time is spent skiing and biking which makes Fort William a good base with the hills surrounding it and the Nevis Range ski area close by.”
“The riding terrain around Fort William is very steep, rooty, boggy, wet, but plenty of dramatic scenery and some nice trails in the middle of all of it! The steep stuff is what I enjoy the most and is something my riding skills benefited from by moving up to Fort William.”
“There’s a good riding scene in Fort William, there’s loads of different people to ride with, there are a couple of good bike shops as well so there is a good scene from them. The local West Highland Wheelers club is great for getting people out on the trails and meeting up, there are local races through the winter to keep people stoked during the winter months.”
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