The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday 17 June 2013

TGO Challenge 2013 Photos (Part 2: Mamore Lodge to Glen Feshie)

Following on from Part 1, here we have Part 2 (you can tell that I’m going to be quite predictable in the numbering sequence of this series, but the whole purpose of that statement was really so that I could add a link back to Part 1).

Day 4

I hadn’t noticed anything odd in the sound of the rain that fell on Sunday night, so it was a surprise, when I stuck my head out of the tent on Monday morning to find that the hills had a good covering of snow (admittedly, this photo makes it look more like a dusting than a covering, but it was far more than just a dusting):

Day 4_3

The first part of the day was easy as we followed the track alongside Loch Eilde Mor and onwards towards Luibeilt. By the time stamp on the photo and the building in the background I’m deducing that this photo was taken just before we turned off that track. The blob in between Mick’s head and the snow line is Meannach bothy (which may only have one ‘n’ but the map isn’t helpful on the subject as the name on the map has far more letters than the official name of the bothy).

Day 4_4

I didn’t take many photos of the next four miles of ridiculously boggy yomping. Much of the reason for that was the inclemency of the weather, as snowy squalls kept blowing through. I did snap this one when Staoineag bothy came into view, but it’s so poor that I can only make out the bothy because I know that it’s there:


It would have been good if we had arrived at the bothy ten minutes sooner, before the most violent and long-lived squall of the morning hit us, and we sat inside for a good half an hour waiting for it to let up, just so Mick could go and get some water for tea. Eventually tea was drunk and lunch eaten and it proved to be a good long break. The sun came out just before we left. Alas, it was short-lived and by the time we set out again it was snowing again.

There is a path leading down to Loch Treig, but it was awfully waterlogged on this day. The heaviest snow of the day fell as we left Loch Treig. On and on and on it went with some violence, adding even more to those white tops.

day 4_5

The length of Loch Ossian was thoroughly unexciting, although the ‘lodge’ at the north end was noteworthy, and exactly per our plan (well, the revised plan – the original plan would have seen us spending the night at Staoineag bothy) we stopped as soon after Loch Ossian as a pitch presented itself. It was rather a nice pitch too, even if the Uisge Labhair was absolutely roaring. Oooh, look – blue sky too! (Didn’t last long, mind!)

Day 4_6

Day 5

Another day, another damp, grey start. It was a deceptively strenuous start to the day as we yomped through more bogginess:

Day 5_1

Then we reached the path up to Bealach Dubh and it was a delight of a path! And the cloud was lifting and giving us sight of some tops. And I don’t think we’d even been rained on either!

Day 5_2

Down the other side of the path there was some slip-slidy snow covering the path, soon after which we found a cold chap blocking our way:

Day 5_3

The day was still reasonably fair as we arrived at Culra Lodge bothy. We’ve camped nearby before, but this was the first time we’ve been in. There are three rooms, all accessed from outside (and not interconnected inside) and picking a door at random we found ourselves joining Adrian (the maker of the snowman, who had camped by us the previous night (Adrian, not the snowman…)) inside.

Day 5_4

The day then got better and better from a weather point of view. Sunhats came out and jackets came off, so it was a shame really that we were just marching along the track alongside Loch Ericht. Our vetter had suggested that we should go over The Fara, and if it hadn’t been for my wrist and my knee, that’s exactly what we would have done. For reasons unknown, neither of us took a snap of Loch Ericht in the sunshine, so I’ll use this one of the gatehouse to Ben Alder Lodge to demonstrate the gloriousness of the sky:

Day 5_5

Day 6

Let’s start Day 6 with 3 ridiculous photos of me!

Taking advantage of our room at Dalwhinnie Bunkhouse being big enough to swing my arms around, and whilst waiting for the weather forecast to come on the telly, I had a quick look to see whether I could find the hole in my dry bag. Mick thought it was a good photo opportunity.

Day 6_1

Is it my imagination, or is the female breakfast presenter looking a bit incredulous at what I’m doing?

The walk along the aqueduct as we headed out of Dalwhinnie towards Loch Cuaich seemed very familiar. Aside from the fact that it was cold, damp and grey, I felt like I could have been in California, so I adopted a silly pose for photo-comparison purposes…

Day 6_2

…alas, it wasn’t quite the right silly pose, but spot the similarities with our walk along the Los Angeles aqueduct, as we entered the Mojave plain on last June’s jaunt on the PCT:


Back to Scotland in May and on the spur of the moment, as we ate second breakfast, we decided to go up Meall Chuaich. Here’s the view back towards Loch Ericht and the Ben Alder range. Stunning! Best bit of the whole Challenge, in my opinion.

Day 6_3

And here’s Mick heading towards the summit cairn. We completely failed to take a summit photo, or indeed any piccies of the view from the summit.

Day 6_4

A couple or so hours later, we took our lives into our hands as we crossed a bridge at our own risk (albeit the sign wouldn’t have carried much legal weight if we had come a cropper, being sited at far end of the bridge):

day 6_5

Usually we see such signs attached to rickety bridges. This one was about as solid as they come (and it’s not at an angle, it was me that was at the angle):

Day 6_6

A wee while later we were supposed to be leaving the track we were following in favour of a path. The path didn’t exist, but we could see a definite line further up the hill, so up through the heather we huffed, puffed and bashed, as it was quite clearly a track. It was a lovely old track, being reclaimed by nature, with the only problem with it being that it was about 70m higher than we were supposed to be. That wouldn’t have been an issue, if it hadn’t been for the track suddenly ending just a few hundred yards after we joined it. We spent the next couple or three miles yomping through heather with our ankles at an uncomfortable angle. On the bright side, it was a lot drier up there than it would have been down by the burn:

Day 6_7

We didn’t completely escape bogginess. In fact, we ended up wading through considerable quantities of bog as we crossed a valley to join a track. After the first little while, the track was dry underfoot, which was the cue for the first shower of the day. I didn’t don overtrousers, convinced that it would pass within minutes. I was wrong. Twenty minutes later I was sufficiently wet to think that there was no longer any point in digging out my waterproofs. By the time we reached our intended night-stop the rain had stopped and walking on seemed like a good idea for a number of reasons, one of which was so that I could dry out before we camped.

Our second intended night-stop was on the near bank of the Feshie, but when we got there we thought we may as well cross as not, so that’s exactly what we did. My trousers had dried by this point, but the lower legs didn’t stay that way:

Day 6_8

And then a meal was made about finding a pitch. At the time it felt like we were ‘settling’ rather than having found something desirable, but actually, it wasn’t a bad spot at all:

Day 6_9

Click here for Part 3 of the Photos