Distance: 18.5 miles
Weather: continuous light rain/snow (depending on altitude)
Number of train (and station) wrecks witnessed: 1
We spent last evening doing little except for eating, eating and eating some more. Yet I still woke this morning ready for a full cooked breakfast. Can be hungry work, this walking!
Even though our breakfast was reasonably early, by B&B standards, we were late away, and then made later by much faffing. First off a detour to the chemist was in order for ointment to sooth Mick's swollen, blistered lips, then a few paces down the road he realised that he'd accidentally packed his hat right at the bottom of his bag.
Onto the railway station platform we went for some shelter whilst he unpacked, where, over on the Steam Train platform men were in the process of using a small 'tug' sort of an engine to move another engine. Then there arose such a commotion! It turned out that the 'tug' and the first sets of wheels of the towed engine had successfully moved track at a set of points. The rear wheels had continued along the original track. The result was a bogie was partially ripped from under the engine and the engine swung at such an angle as to do some significant damage to the platform - all of which, as you might imagine, occurred with quite a lot of noise. The engine came to rest with its rear buffer wedged on the damaged platform, with men in orange jackets scratching their heads as to what to do (I imagine the answer was to order a large crane and some station-platform repair people).
All that excitement, and we hadn't even progressed 100 yards from our night stop!
As it transpired, being so late setting out was beneficial.
We had discussed the best option for today often over the last six days. Our route sheet stated three possibilities: for good weather we would go over Ben MacDui and Derry Cairngorm; in mildly foul weather we would go through the Lairig Ghru; and in really foul weather we would detour down to Glen Feshie.
After what we found on the hills in the west, and knowing that there was even more snow in the Cairngorms, it seemed unlikely that we would do the high route and we debated at length the other two options.
After the snow of the last couple of days, we were even wavering as to going through the Lairig Ghru - plus it seemed like a rather weak option in that we did it last year.
Then yestersday I came up with another alternative: to go via Glenmore and Fords of Avon. It was our favoured plan until we called Challenge Control and were told that people had been passing over the Lairig Ghru without issue, but that the Fords of Avon were proving difficult to cross with the current water levels.
Lairig Ghru it was then (even after the extra snow that fell last night), and it wasn't an exact repetition, as this time we paid attention and didn't accidentally take a big detour via Rothiemurcus Lodge, plus last year we didn't do the route in the snow.
And it was the snow that made me glad that we were late out of Aviemore. It would have been hard work had we been first over there today, but as it was others had broken trail before us, so we just followed in their boot prints (even when we wondered at the line they'd taken!).
The snow wasn't inconsiderable either. Even using other people's boot prints, and choosing the shallowest of them, I was often up to my knees, and every now and then I went in up to mid-thigh.
That said, it was an excellent and interesting walk, and even though the place looked entirely different to last year, it was still completely stunning.
Alas, the snow which had been falling gently on us turned to rain as we descended, but it was very light until about 4pm. We were just passing the path to Corrour Bothy when we had to concede that the it had become enough to need waterproof trousers.
Corrour wasn't to be our night-stop this year. I reckon it's going to be busy tonight (we've seen 7 people intending to stay there). Instead, we continued on down the path, which bore a remarkable resemblance to a stream (everywhere's either waterlogged or running with water this afternoon), to Derry Lodge.
We're camped here with another Challenger, Dave. We caught up with him on the way up the Lairig Ghru this morning, but he went on ahead when we stopped for a series of faffs, and we didn't catch back up until Luibeg (where we all detoured to the bridge as the ford didn't look advisable).
He's off to Braemar tomorrow, whereas we've got an incredibly strenous day of walking all of 4.25 riverside miles to Mar Lodge.
(John - I think we'll be getting some of that paint. Maybe if the whole peg was a startling colour, rather than just the top, then we'd notice them lying in the grass!
Alan - it was a bit cool when the sun went in and the showers passed on Tuesday, but overall the weather hasn't been too unfriendly thus far - and as long as we keep moving we've not been feeling the cold.
Geoff - I saw your report about your shoes. An outrage, if you ask me - I'd be livid to see such wear after so little use on a boot of that price. No mention of boots from me because I'm not weating any - it's carpet slippers again for me (Inov8 Terrocs) and I expect to get 500 or so miles per pair. On our LEJOG I wore Scarpa ZG65s and I've just thrown that pair away with about 1200 miles on them (which seemed pretty good for a £85 boot). I do hope Scarpa does the right and honourable thing and replaces them for you.)
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