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]

Thursday, 23 May 2013

TGO Challenge 2013 Index

To make life easier for anyone who fancies taking a look through the story of our TGO Challenge of this year, I’ve put together an index of the relevant posts. I’ve also put ‘next post’ links at the bottom of each (alas, I forgot to put ‘back to index’ links, and I’m not going back through them now!). After someone asked me, a couple of months back, why I never use tags, I’ve also tagged all of the posts (second time I’ve ever used a tag in over 6 years of this blogs existence; I will try harder in future!).

Day 1: Acharacle to Ariundle
Day 2: Ariundle to Gleann Seileach
Day 3: Gleann Seileach to Mamore Lodge
Day 4: Mamore Lodge to Beyond NW End of Loch Ossian
Day 5: NW End of Loch Ossian to Dalwhinnie
Day 6: Dalwhinnie to River Feshie
Day 7: River Feshie to Mar Lodge
Day 8: Mar Lodge to Braemar
Day 9: Braemar
Day 10: Braemar to Water of Mark
Day 11: Water of Mark to Tarfside
Day 12: Tarfside to North Water Bridge
Day 13: North Water Bridge to Nether Warburton (actually, I didn’t write a post about this day; this link is just to a few words about the finish)

Photo Selection:
Photos Part 1
Photos Part 2
Photos Part 3
Photos Part 4

The post-mortem:
Why I didn’t much enjoy the TGO Challenge 2013

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

At Nether Warburton

We did go and stand in the sea (and I have a photo on the camera to prove it), but I forgot to get a photo on my phone until we were part way along the beach.

My plan to avoid the cliff path at St Cyrus was foiled. Having reached the sea at Nether Warburton, the obvious way to then get to Montrose (other than by walking), was to walk along the beach to St Cyrus - and up the cliff path. So that's what we did, finding Aussie Mike, standing in the sea there.

And now we're off to sign out at Montrose.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Day 12 - Tarfside to Northwater Bridge

Tuesday 21 May 2013 (0730-1410)
Distance: 17 miles?
Ascent: negligible
Weather: overcast start with a cold wind, becoming increasingly sunny and warm
Number of bulls seen during last 4 miles of the day: 7


The thing that was odd about this morning's walk alongside the river North Esk, was that it was so unfamiliar to both of us. It's the third way we've walked that way in the last five years, yet repeatedly we answered 'no' to the question "Do you remember this bit?"

Once again, we were without maps for this walk. I did consider printing them 'just in case', but Mick insisted that we wouldn't need them. At the time, his belief was that we wouldn't come this way, but as it goes, he was right that we didn't need the maps. As long as you keep reasonably close to the river and follow its course, you can't go too far wrong.

It would have been rude to pass the Tuck Inn in Edzell without giving them some custom, so a good leisurely lunch was enjoyed there. A whole hour, without another Challenger appearing. Where was everyone?

It turned out that two were already at Northwater Bridge (NWB), having had an early start from Tarfside (they'd passed through Edzell at 8.20!), and another chap approached as we donned our packs to continue on our way.

The walk along the road to NWB gets shorter each time we do it and it was a good half an hour earlier than I expected when I spotted the flags which mark the entrance to the campsite.

I did point out that, being so early, we could be at the coast by tea time, but Mick didn't fancy adding painful feet to his woes (today his hand is so swollen that you can't see his knuckles, and there's a definite tint of blue too, but he reckons it's getting better and doesn't need xraying...). In reality, I couldn't see any value in continuing either, so here we are, basking in the sunshine at the campsite.

Alas, my lazing around is ice-cream-less, as the Cornetto, over which I had been fantasising for the last five miles of the day, was not available. The campsite no longer has an ice-cream freezer. Nor cold pop. What a blow at the end of the day!


Click here for Day 13

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Day 11 - Water of Mark to Tarfside

Monday 19 May 2013 (0800-1220)
Distance: 11 miles
Ascent: not a lot
Weather: misty start, then fine
Number of premature snack breaks: 1
Number of adders seen in perilous positions: 1


It was a warm and damp night, the dampness stemming from the fact that we spent the night inside of a cloud which had descended sometime around nightfall. When we awoke this morning we couldn't even see the bothy, a little way upstream.

As we set off for a yomp/navigation exercise up Muckle Cairn, there was good news and bad news. The good news was that Mick's cold was vastly improved. The bad news was that his wrist was very swollen, with no movement.

Our navigation exercise in the mist was a success - kind of. We managed to land exactly at the end of the track we were trying to find, but the triumph was lessened by the fact that we had intended to aim off. Still, we were where we needed to be and from there it was a fast and straightforward walk down to Tarfside.

A pause for elevenses was had on the way. I'd been looking out for some convenient flat-topped rocks for a while, until, at the end of Loch Lee I decided that no comfortable perches were going to appear and so I declared a halt at two of the least comfortable rocks ever seen. Finally dragging ourselves back to our feet after our break, I'd gone about three paces when I spotted the huge bench, not ten yards around the corner from where we had stopped. Pah! I hate it when that happens!

It wasn't long after we'd stopped kicking ourselves about the bench incident that our attention was taken by a slow-worm on the road, but that sight was topped a few minutes later when we came across an adder (of quite a size), basking exactly in the line of the wheels of the next car to pass. Obviously, we didn't want to get too close, and our attempts to shoo it into a more suitable position using our walking poles only caused it to coil up and start hissing at us. At a loss as to what else we could do, we left it to its fate, and on we went for the last few miles to Tarfside.

Even though all of the beds were still available at St Dronstan's when we arrived, we stuck to our plan to camp. It's been a fine day and the damp sleeping bags have aired just as effectively in the tent as they would have in a room.

We even managed to drag ourselves away to pitch the tent after just 2 hours of chatting, eating and drinking, albeit we did return later for more tea and cake.

As I type this the jury is still out on tomorrow's plan. I think our intended route will likely be abandonned for another finish in St Cyrus. Mick's hand probably needs some medical attention, and it will get it sooner that way (or as Mick said "I don't want to take any route where I might fall over").


Click here for Day 12

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Day 10 - Braemar to Water of Mark

Sunday 19 May 2013 (0815-1630)
Distance: 17.25 miles
Ascent: 2300'
Weather: morning: grey, damp mist; afternoon: sunny
Number of working wrists we have between us: just 2

Poor Mick! Not only did I have him walk over 17 miles today, when he was full of cold, but he also managed to submerge himself in a stream. However, that wasn't until just before lunch, so let's leap back to the beginning of the day.

After no small degree of faffing, we left the campsite (where it turned out that we had chosen the worst pitch - we found Vera to be sitting in a puddle when we returned to her last night and had to move her to drier ground), and the first task of the day was to get ourselves to and through the Ballochbuie Forest. We've headed that way a few times before, but today the distances didn't seem as far as I remembered them to be.

A while later we broke out of the forest (a lovely old forest, not a commercial plantation) and saw ... absolutely nothing. When we had been shrouded in mist even at the campsite, it didn't bode well for a day of views.

The lack of visibility gave us no visual references against which to gauge our progress and it seemed that we were spending forever gently climbing up to the high point of the track. We knew that there would, on a different day, be a stunning view of Lochnagar to our right to capture our attention, and the Corbett I'd planned to nip up should have been visible on our left.

There was no way I was going to be motivated to go up any hill in that level of visibility, so on we plodded. We had finally reached the top of the track when the first hint of sun shone through the damp murk, and I assumed it to be just a solitary hole in the cloud, rather than a hint of an improvement in the weather. But no! Slowly but surely the cloud grew thinner, the views grew greater and by the time we were lunching at the picnic tables in Glen Muick, we were bathed in sunshine and all of the tops were visible.

The sunshine, and the warm temperature today, were a blessing for Mick, who, not far before Glen Muick had taken a very nasty slip when crossing a burn. Down he crashed, into the water and came up sodden.

It looked the sort of fall that could have done a nasty injury, but he insisted that he was okay. It took him a while to realise that he couldn't move his left wrist very well, and then to notice the bruise and swelling. What a pair of crocks we are!

Anyways, after a good long break in the picnic area, off we headed up a horribly muddy path to reach Shielin of Mark bothy, outside of which we found three generations of the Fowkes family. They weren't done for the day and soon moved on, but before they did we must have reached the peak time for arrivals. Within minutes there were twelve of us.

With no alluring pitches around the bothy, we have headed a little way downstream - not that there's any improvement in the lie of the land down here, but it's nice and quiet, save for the gentle babble of the water.

The afternoon, which warmed up somewhere towards 'roasting' (or at least, warm enough for me to be walking in my shirt sleeves) has stayed fine, and even as I type this at 1830 (oooh, must be time to add the rice to our rehydrating dinners) it's warm enough to be lying around in the tent trouserless and jacketless.

(The photos were taken about 4 hours apart; the views were definitely better this afternoon!)

Click here for Day 11

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Saturday, 18 May 2013

Day 9 - Braemar

Saturday 18 May 2013
Distance: 0
Ascent: 0
Weather: dry start then persistent rain
Number of times Mick sneezed: 73

Yesterday's plan would have seen us arriving at Callater Lodge about now (16.30 on Saturday afternoon), ready to go over the Lochnagar tops tomorrow. But then Mick woke up this morning with a cold, and a walk in the rain today followed by a strenuous day tomorrow no longer seemed the best choice.

So, we've taken a day off in Braemar and will be heading out on a low route tomorrow (although I do have my eye on a Corbett that lies next to that route and I'm not discounting the possibility of nipping up it).

Yesterday Braemar was quite a quiet place (just 18 backpacking tents/tarps on the campsite last night); today it is rather busier, with lots of soggy, dripping backpackers having arrived.

There's nothing to report from our day, having spent it going from one place with chairs to another. At least we should be well rested and refreshed when we set out tomorrow (or I will be; bunged-up Mick may be rather more groggy).

... Some time later ...

... Oh my! I didn't expect to have to wade today, but in a quick trip back to the campsite found the entrance flooded. It really has been hammering down. Hope it's passed through by morning. Moreover, I hope that our pitch doesn't get any wetter.


Click here for Day 10

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Friday, 17 May 2013

Day 8 - Mar Lodge to Braemar

Friday 17 May 2013 (0920-10.50)
Distance: 4 miles
Ascent: very little
Weather: dry with sunny intervals

It was a leisurely start involving more than one cup of tea, and sufficient watching of the breakfast news to enable us to double check that the weather forecast for tomorrow is not as good as we would like.

Then it was a stroll into Braemar, taking the path through the forest rather than the road. There are some forestry operations going on, but only for the first half a mile, whereafter the old paths were as pleasant as ever.

Being a bit early to pitch up at the campsite, our first port of call was the Old Bakery where we ate a meal nearly as big as last night's offering at Mar Lodge, before waddling down the road to join the tent town (which tomorrow will no doubt swell to be a tent city).

Having splashed out on washing, we're now attired in fresh, clean clothes and a stock-take has shown that only a few groceries are required before we head out of town tomorrow.

Finally, we are meeting lots of other Challengers, so chatting has been the order of the day. I'm sure there will be plenty more later too.

Wrist update: it is still very painful and swollen, but no longer bruised, and I can now wiggle my fingers. My firm self-diagnosis is a nasty case of tendinitis and I have to now conclude that it's not going to get better whilst I'm still walking. It's surprising how much hands are required for this walking malarkey (although in truth, it's the camping, not the walking that's the main problem). Amongst many annoyances and inconveniences, I can't even put my own backpack on. If I was solo I think I would have been on my way home on Day 2, so it's a good job I have a helper to hand (he even cut up my lunch for me today, much to the mirth of others in the cafe!).

(Conrad - no Munro agenda, but I do like a summit (of any, or even no, classification) on a fine day. We spoke to someone today who went around the side of the hill, rather than over it, and confirmed that it was an arduous yomp, as we suspected it might be. Does your lack of recollection of the hill suggest that you did it in poor weather (and so didn't see it) or that they all merge into one blur after a while?

JJ - four shin-high channels rather than one deep channel. Still a lot of water either way, although probably not as much as if we'd arrived there a couple of days earlier.)

Click here for Day 9

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Day 7 - River Feshie to Mar Lodge

Thursday 16 May 2013 (0735-1500)
Distance: 17.75 miles
Ascent: not much
Weather: dry!

Clear blue skies greeted us as we emerged from the tent this morning. Not a cloud in the sky and the tent was bone dry - for the first time since Day 1! I took the snap above just as soon as we got out into the open (having slept in some woodland last night), convinced that clouds would roll in any moment.

My pessimism was not misplaced, but they were high clouds and they refrained from dripping on us. It was still a fine day to be walking up the Feshie, which turned out to be an attractive walk.

Second breakfast was had at the point where we were to leave the Feshie, which is also where the going became somewhat softer and wetter underfoot. It was still easy walking on a well-defined path, so no yomping for us today.

A bridge took us over the top of an impressive waterfall - one of a few we saw today, albeit not all from such close range - then a few miles further on we reached the point which was supposed to provide our night-stop for tomorrow night. It looked like there were some good pitches there, but we walked on through.

What can I say about the track which runs from Geldie Lodge through to the Linn of Dee? It's hard on the feet and goes on forever, and whilst the surroundings are perfectly nice, they didn't strike me as anything particularly special. My feeling, on having reached Mar Lodge, was that I've been that way now, and don't ever need to go that way again, barring necessity for bad weather.

Our first question on reaching Mar Lodge was whether they had any beds available (they did - lots, as tomorrow is the busy night, so I'm typing this from my comfy twin-bed) and our second question was whether we could have a cup of tea. Apparently a few people have been through today, but the only Challenger we have seen today was Ian C, and that was a few miles back up the glen. All has been quiet since we arrived here.

Post-script - we opted for the meal at Mar Lodge last night, which was served in the dining room, under the watchful eyes of lots of deer heads. There were four of us for dinner, at a grand table which seats 20. I should have taken a snap of one of the meals, for the comedy value of the enormous portion sizes. We must have all looked very hungry!

Click here for Day 8

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Day 6 - Dalwhinnie to River Feshie

15 May 2013 (0815-1730)
Distance: 18.5 miles
Ascent: 3500'
Weather: dry morning, showery afternoon (all pretty light and some wintry)
Number of accidental summits: 1

A few hundred yards into our walk today we had to make the decision we had been putting off. To go high or to stay low. We decided that an amble along our low route was the order of the day, so off we went along a track which turned out not to be at all attractive.

Ten o'clock came, we had covered five miles and had come upon a sheltered spot outside of a shooting hut. Sitting there having second breakfast (along with Adrian and another chap, who caught us up within minutes of us stopping), I looked at the map. Then I looked at the lump in front of us, which we were about to skirt. Then I looked at the map again.

My sales-pitch to Mick pointed out that with a baggers' path visible on our side of the hill and a path marked on the map on the other side, and with the extra ascent being only 1600', it would be almost as easy to go over as to go around. And it was good weather for it too.

To my surprise, Mick didn't just agree with me, but he added to the list of benefits the thought that the low path would involve a very wet yomp, whereas the high route would be dry.

And so it was that elevenses were had in the lee of the summit cairn of the Munro Meall Chuaich (along with Adrian, who scampered up faster than my little legs could go). The views were excellent, with the Cairngorms in one direction and Ben Alder and its pals in the other, all snow capped.

Back down the hill and back on our intended route I had thought that the rest of the day would be pretty straight forward, being all on tracks and paths. Alas, one path proved elusive (and the excellent old track we found in the right direction suddenly ended), so we spent about two and a half miles yomping across a rough hillside. Having ascended quite a way to seek better ground, we were smug about avoiding the bog lower down - until we got to a valley we had to cross. Splosh, splosh, splosh.

The pull up the opposite side of the valley had me thankful that my legs seem finally to have accepted that they're going to get this sort of abuse every day. Even when the next path we intended to take, through a patch of forest, proved impassable due to blow-downs, my legs didn't baulk at the thought of another 300' of ascent to follow an alternative track around.

We should have ended our day a couple of miles further on, but the weather was being a bit inclement at the time and we thought it would be nice to get to the Feshie tonight, ready to ford it tomorrow.

Of course, when we got there we thought that we may as well get across tonight. It then took a while then for us to find a passable pitch on the other side, hence our day was prolonged further, but we now are well placed to reach Mar Lodge tomorrow. That will put us the best part of two days ahead of schedule. Ooops. We do, however, have a plan to use up an extra day (weather permitting).

But, for now, it's time for me to add some instant mash to my lentil stew and hope that some of the heat of the evening meal makes it to my feet. We had to ford four channels of the River Feshie (each only shin deep), and it seems that my feet haven't quite forgiven me yet.

(Conrad - we received your comment atop Meall Chuaich, just as we were saying "Conrad's been here, you know". Glad to hear you have a rail card and the back pack is being dusted off :-))

Click here for Day 7

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Day 5 - NW end of Loch Ossian to Dalwhinnie

14 May 2013 (0740-1550)
Distance: 18 miles
Ascent: no idea! Haven't got a map on me.
Weather: mainly dry, with some sunny periods
Number of snowmen found to be blocking the path: just the one

Today looked very straightforward on the map and the only bit which I perceived as being strenuous was the final pull up to the Beallach Dubh. I was wrong again!

After setting off under grey (but dry) skies, we took to the path beside the torrent which today was raging slightly less than last night. Perhaps it didn't rain all night; perhaps it was only for the hour and a bit that I lay awake waiting for it to stop so I could go and use the en-suite.

That river-side path was a good, solid path in some places, which were a joy to walk. In other places it was waterlogged and quite often it disappeared into bogs and wallows. Combined with the undulations, it made for hard work for my weary legs. I was definitely ruing that we'd brought forward our reservation at the bunkhouse, meaning that we had to make it to Dalwhinnie.

Then we crossed the valley and climbed up to the path which would take us all the way to Culra Lodge, and found it to be about as perfect a path as you could ask for.

Along we sped, only slowing when patches of snow proved to be very wet and slippery.

So good was the path, that I barely noticed the final ascent up to the pass.

Down the other side, some of the snow patches were surprisingly deep, but it was the thinner areas which had us skating about. It was down there that we met the snowman blocking our path. We had no doubt that it had been left by Adrian. He had camped by us last night and his were the only prints in the snow.

Culra Lodge Bothy was reached just before noon, and who should we find there but the snowman-maker himself.

He left before us, but missed the path which gives the shorter route to Dalwhinnie, and so we found ourselves in front until we stopped in the sun, alongside Loch Ericht, for afternoon tea.

It was then just a fast 3 miles into Dalwhinnie where we wasted no time in creating a veritable kit explosion in our room in the bunkhouse. Hopefully everything will be dry by morning.

After having only met a few Acharacle starters over the first 5 days, this evening we are in the company of 5 others Challengers from various start points.

And on that note, I have some chatting to do...

(Thank you for the comments - even Alan R who cruelly pointed out what good weather he's had further east!)

Click here for Day 6

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Day 4 - Mamore Lodge to beyond the NW end of Loch Ossian


13 May 2013 (0740-1610)
Distance: 18 miles
Ascent: 2000'?
Weather: sunshine and showers (mainly snow of various degrees of wetness, until 3pm when they became rain)
Number of 'I don't want to plunge my feet into this cold river' moments: 2


Our night hiding behind the old Mamore Lodge Hotel was peaceful (except for 20 seconds at midnight when the alarm on Mick's watch went off).

We awoke this morning to even more peace - the rain had finally stopped. Taking my customary look out of the door vent whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, I saw that the rain had fallen as snow a little higher up. More than just a dusting too.

We had already decided we were going long instead of high (given the option of three moderate days with two more nights with everything wet or damp in the tent, or two long days and one night, we opted for the latter and changed our reservation at Dalwhinnie Bunkhouse), so off we set to track our high route at a lower elevation.

Most of the day was on tracks, of varying age and quality, apart from a few miles alongside the Abhain Rath (a river that was running fast and high today, although not to the extent of some we passed later). Our first two miles alongside that river were a veritable bog-fest. In fact, worse than that as the amount of standing water made it more of a wade than a walk.

The real wade came just before the bothy, which was originally to have been our night stop but had now been earmarked for lunch. Our feet had just warmed up as we got to the bothy, but it was a shame that we weren't ten minutes earlier arriving as we were caught in one of the longest snow showers of the day.

On and on it went as we sat in the bothy awaiting a break so that we could get water to make tea.

Finally the sun did come back out, but it was shortlived and when, after an hour of sitting, eating and drinking, we headed back out it was snowing yet again.

More sploshing, along a path which would be a delight in drier weather took us back onto tracks, although water obstacles were still plenty (I'm sure you're getting the idea: it's pretty damp around these parts just now).

The heaviest snow of the day came as we headed towards Corrour Station. Huge flakes fell fast and furious for about twenty minutes. Then the sun came out and we declared it time for afternoon tea.

After the previous three hard days (which wouldn't have been nearly as hard if I wasn't so unfit), my muscles were protesting loudly as we reached Loch Ossian. The end of the day was almost in sight, and the track on the north side of the loch (ooops, our route sheet had us on the other side - it was a spur-of-the-moment change of plan) got us there quickly but without much to capture our attention.

A whole selection of potential pitches presented themselves at the point we intended to stop. We've chosen the highest we could find, but we are right on the banks of an absolute torrent of a river. Fingers crossed that it doesn't rise by another 3 feet over night (given that I won't be posting this until at least tomorrow, if you're reading this then we didn't get washed away. We have the sound of crashing water to lull us to sleep tonight.

(Today's photo is the view through the vent of the fly this evening)

Click here for Day 5

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Day 3 - Gleann Seileach to Mamore Lodge

12 May 2013 (0735-1620)
Distance: 10.5 miles
Ascent: 4500'
Weather: a trifle damp
Number of spectacular views wot we didn't see: at least 5 (but difficult to say, as we didn't see them)


After a gentle mile along a forest track this morning (during which mile it didn't rain on us once), we shunned gentle terrain and took a brutal line up through the forest. It may have been a tad steep in places, but it got us to where we needed to be and after another long while of rough yomping we were atop Tom Meadhoin, our first top of the day (a Marilyn and a Graham, apparently).

Next up was the rather taller Mam Na Gualainn (a Corbett), but by the time we reached the ascent path, the weather had been less-than-favourable for a while and the top was in cloud. We paused for elevenses, watched five people head up, the cloud cleared a bit and off we went.

It's a straightforward ascent, and even though we tried to misplace ourselves on the way off the top in the cloud, we turned out to be exactly where we needed to be and a glimpse of visibility told us the way to the next rise.

It's a bumpy ridge but the only major loss of height is just before Beinn na Caillich. At the bottom of that dip, out of the wind and with the rain only lightly falling, lunch was had. It was another quick affair. This weather doesn't lend itself to long breaks.

The ridge up to Beinn na Caillich is truely lovely (even in today's weather). The views must be fantastic and one day maybe we will see them. Today wasn't to be that day, so we simply enjoyed the walk along the ridge, to the summit and down a little way.

I don't think any of us (we were still a group of 3 with Kirsten today) much enjoyed the second half of the descent. It goes on forever and is very stoney. I didn't mind the surface so much, but it did seem never ending.

We were due to finish our day at the bottom of that descent, but, as so few miles had been covered and as no idyllic pitch presented itself, we opted to walk on a short while.

As Kirsten peeled off to Kinlochleven, on we went towards the (closed and decaying) Mamore Lodge hotel. Whether their garden transpires to have been a good place to pitch remains to be seen. We're hoping it will be quiet on a Sunday night, without undesirables frequenting the car park.

(As for the photo, I don't remember taking it, but it looks like it must have been early in the day, as we made our way to the top of the forest.)

Click here for Day 4

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Saturday, 11 May 2013

Day 2 - Ariundle to Gleann Seileach

11 May (0950-1900)
Distance: 16.5 miles(ish)
Ascent: 1200'ish
Weather: a few showers, but far better than forecast (we even saw the sun briefly)

Number of times our feet were plunged into water: 217 (possibly more)
As you may notice from the timings above, it was not an early start today. As we left the warmth of the tea-room, just after 10 last night, the lovely owner agreed to open for breakfast this morning. She was happy to start early, but 8.30 seemed early enough to us as we had already decided in favour of our foul weather route.

Kirsten joined us for breakfast. She had decided that, given the likely state of the burns in Glen Gour, if she had to go alone, she would opt for the road instead, so our decision to go that way was popular all around.
Having set out as a group of three, we stayed that way, until (many many stream crossings, bogs and flooded path-sections later) we caught up with Laura at the foot of Glen Gour.

Joining the road, we would have almost immediately left it, except that Laura uttered the words 'tea room' and 'this way'. We were seduced. Alas, when we located it we found it had already stopped serving for the day, but (being part of the village store) there were other goodies available (ice creams :-)) and picnic benches upon which to rest our weary bones.

A few other Challengers were met in the vicinity of the Corran Ferry a short while later, but we didn't tarry. The day was marching on apace, so over we sailed to head on as far as necessary to find a pitch. We did lose Laura on the way as she had some belongings that needed drying out and so opted for the bunkhouse.

By the time we found a decent pitch we were too close to a farmhouse to just take it, so over to the house we diverted to seek permission. There we found notices on the window saying the house was vacant, locked up, stripped of furniture, and would be up for sale this year. We took that as permission to camp in their garden, which is exactly where we are.

The bad news of the day (which is why this post is curter than is my usual style), is that I've done quite a mischief to my right wrist. There are two areas of swelling and hint-of-bruise and it's very painful. The pain wasn't helped when I slipped over and flung out that arm to break my fall. I would never have thought that a poorly wrist could affect someone walking so much, but my opinion on that score is now changed. Fingers crossed (metaphorically, for pain avoidance purposes) that the ibuprofen do some good soon.

Click here for Day 3

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Friday, 10 May 2013

TGOC Day 1 - Acharacle to Ariundle

10 May 2013 (0845-17something)
Distance: 14 very long miles
Ascent: 3600' (felt like more!)
Weather: 3 hours dry, then persistently wet

That photo above, taken out of our hotel room window this morning, makes it look like we had a lovely fine day today. The weather forecast made it look like we were going to be favoured too. Looks can be very deceptive.

It was fine as we walked down the road from Acharacle, where, after a mile and a quarter we were faced with a decision: to take the road to Resipole to pick up the 'baggers' path up Beinn Resipol, or to go through the forest and cut across the hillside to pick up that same baggers' path. We contemplated the merits of both routes and came down on the side of our route sheet (rather than on the side of our vetter) and took the forest track.

Even in retrospect, we were happy with our choice, and in terms of timing there was almost nothing in it; we arrived at the path up to Beinn Resipol in between two other Challengers, who had signed out within minutes of us and had gone the other way.

I'm not sure when the rain started in earnest, but with 100 metres of ascent left (at which point I declared a hunger so great that we had to stop for lunch, rain or not) it had been decidedly wet for a while. That wet persisted in various degrees all afternoon (and, indeed, is persisting as I type this).

The east side of Beinn Resipol is not the best place to find yourself when enveloped in cloud and when being rained on. It's a tussocky, boggy old yomp over many an undulation, and probably quite good fun when you can see anything of your surroundings.

That wasn't the worst bit of the day, mind (I'm making this sound like it was all doom and gloom, which wasn't actually the case). When we finally picked up the miners path down to Scotstown (I confess that I did shout a little over-excitedly when I spotted that path which had proved so elusive for so long) we found that the Scottish Six Day Trials (a trail-motorbike event) had been through two days ago. It was hideously chewed up. (How ever bad you're thinking, it was worse than that.)

We were due to stop just above Scotstown, but Kirsten, with whom we had been walking since lunchtime, told us of an excellent bunkhouse at Ariundle, and we didn't take much convincing to continue on and take advantage of the facilities.

Alas, there was no room at the inn. But, the tea-room was open so hot bowls of soup and vats of tea gave us the opportunity to steam gently. It was one of those days when 'waterproof' proved not to be so and all three of us were wet through.

By and by the big wood-burning stove was lit and we migrated over there. We must have looked a sight: two ladies and a chap, all standing in front of a stove, with their waterproof trousers around their knees, trying to dry out the seats of their pants!

The owners of the bunk-house/tea room are lovely. So lovely that they took pity on us and said that we could camp in the garden and make use of the tea-room facilities until closing time. It transforms into a restaurant at night, so closing isn't until 10.30pm. We are mightily glad, as we have had the chance to dry out a bit.

Alas, there are other casualties of the rain. It seems that both Mick and I have leaking rucksack liners and as a result I have a wet-in-places sleeping bag (bin bags have been obtained to rectify that leakage). And, it seems that I still haven't learnt the important lesson that when putting things in plastic bags, it is necessary to seal those bags. Happily, my maps have now dried out on the stove in the tea-room.

Well, it's getting late, so it must be time to go and crawl into our sleeping bags, ready for another rainy day tomorrow (tomorrow I'm going to put both waterproof jackets on; wish I'd done that today!).

Click here for Day 2

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

TGO Challenge - the journey begins

Why, oh why, do I so often find myself trying to make a footwear decision right at the last minute?

It was at bed-time last night when I finally came to sort myself out with a pair of shoes. A rummage in the bottom of the wardrobe turned up two pairs of Inov8 Terrocs, but one was quite worn, and the other had a potential issue with the heel cup (hmmm, I meant to send those back a year ago!). After a bit of dithering, I decided to break out my last brand-new pair and trotted off to the kit cupboard to retrieve the box.

I didn't come to open that box until this morning and when I did it was with great surprise that I found that it didn't contain a pair of Terrocs, but a pair of Saloman XA Pros.

Oh, decisions! With an hour and a half until we were due to start our journey north I had to decide whether to go with the brand new XA Pros (the right foot of which didn't feel as spacious as it should), the dodgy-heel-cup pair of Terrocs or the quite-worn pair of Terrocs, all of the time wondering why I hadn't sorted my shoes out weeks ago.

Being an Imelda Marcos of the outdoor world, I rummaged some more and managed to locate three more pairs of Terrocs: one very old, one too big for the cold weather of the Challenge (good for California, though), and one pair that had good tread and an intact heel cup.

Phew! Shoe quandary solved. The same pair of shoes that I wore for the Challenge last year are on my feet for this year.

Our journey north has now begun. Journey times and timings dictated that to set out from Acharacle on Friday morning we needed to leave home on Wednesday morning, so I type this from the Glasgow train which forms the third part of our five-part journey.

As for the pack, it's awfully heavy, but that's one of the costs of choosing a route that only passes one shop and one other place that we can pick up a parcel. As a result we're setting out with six days' food. At least the pack weight will decrease by the day.

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