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, 20 May 2019

TGO Challenge Day 9 - between Mar Lodge and Braemar to Gelder Shiel Bothy

Saturday 18 May (0920-1000 and 1230-1630ish)
Distance: 11 or so miles
Weather: rain almost all day

I slept incredibly well last night and only have the vaguest memory of the rain starting. It was, per the forecast, still going when we got up this morning.

On the downside, we had a soggy tent to deal with. On the plus side we were wearing so much that our packs were noticeably lighter, and we only had 2 miles to walk to Braemar, where two cooked breakfasts had our names on them.

Gordon's tearoom was fantastic. When I asked for a full cooked but without the bacon and sausage (they do a veggie breakfast, but I don't like Quorn sausages and did very much want the black pudding) they offered me an extra egg and some fried mushrooms. I made short work of the huge plate of food that was put before me, as we chatted to Colin, Jenny and various other people who passed by.

After a couple of hours (which did also feature tea and coffee, we didn't just loiter) it was time to move on, but not in the direction we had intended when we woke up.

Until this morning we had intended to go over Lochnagar tomorrow. It has been on our route sheet three times now and we really hoped this would be the year that the weather was good for it - which it has been for the last week. Checking the forecast one last time two out of three factors looked good: it will likely be dry with almost no wind tomorrow. It's also forecast to be foggy even in Braemar and the tops are likely to be in cloud all day. Would it be worth expending all that effort just for a navigation exercise with no views? No, we decided. Lochnagar is a hill with fine views; we would rather return on a fine day.

So, after a trip to the Co-op and to the outdoor shop (ouch - that canister of gas was expensive!) we headed off towards Balmoral.

About an hour later, not far into Ballochbuie Forest, we saw a chap coming towards us. We wouldn't have thought much of it, except that as we got closer we saw it was Mike, with whom we had walked the final part of yesterday, from Mar Lodge. "You seem to be going the wrong way!" we astutely observed. He had got about five minutes further along the path when he remembered he hadn't checked in with Challenge Control whilst he had been in Braemar (as his route sheet required) and thus was walking back as far as necessary to get a phone signal. We saved him a bit of backtracking when we turned on our phones to find that our network had good coverage there.

We then stuck together for the rest of the day, through rain that did stop for a while but otherwise was just drizzly (except for one wetter interlude whilst we were taking a break in a curious shelter; it became a long break when two other chaps arrived, then the rain came) until we reached Gelder Shiel Bothy. It was dim, full and very warm inside. The fullness mattered not as camping is our preference and outside there is a bowling green-like swathe of lawn (okay, maybe not quite bowling green, but compared to all of our other pitches on this trip, it is remarkably flat, level and cropped).


  1. It was in that Braemar outdoor shop I had a blur moment. Having put up with the irritation and awkwardness of a Paramo smock jacket for more than a year, I went in there snd came out fifteen minutes later with a new Psramo zip front jacket, with no knowledge of what had been happening but knowing my credit card had just taken a big wallop.

    1. I didn't have any opportunity for accidental purchases - I must have been in and out within 90 seconds and managed to stay focused on gas (which, incidentally, it now looks unlikely we'll need).