Wednesday, 26 May 2010

TGO Challenge Day 13 Wednesday 26 May - Brechin to Lunan Bay

Walking 8.50-12.30
Miles walked today - 8
Total miles walked - 175
Distance left - 0

Thought we were going to find it difficult getting a decent pint last evening. The Bridge Inn was closed for the day, the Victoria Inn didn't seem safe or desirable and the Red Lion was closed for good. Then we happened upon the Caledonia Hotel and all was well. The beer was excellent and we were engaged in conversation by a local hill walker who recognised us from having passed us on the road earlier.

All road walking today. We had hoped to walk through Kinnaird Park but couldn't find a "side gate" we'd been told to look out for. However, the road wasn't bad and the sun was more out than in. There was a slight blip just past Fithie Wood at a farm called Renmure. The map showed a white track going by it but we found that it wasn't a through route - there was a house and garden in the way. However, we were given permission to pass through to pick up a track on the other side. After battling an unclear path at the end of the track, it was then plain sailing to the beach at Lunan Bay where we wetted our shoes/boots in the water and took photos.

Then, after a hot drink at the Lunar Life Farm Shop and lunch, we walked back up to the main road and flagged a bus down to take us into Montrose where checked out at Challenge Control at the Park Hotel. Here, we were given our Challenge T-shirts, badge and a miniature of Bowmore Islay Single Malt.
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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

TGO Challenge Day 12 Tuesday 25 May - Tarfside to Brechin

Walking 8.10-6.00
Miles walked today - 20
Total miles walked - 167
Distance left - 8

Another lovely morning. I'm told Challenge weather isn't always like this!

We started with a delightful road walk, missed the turn off for a bridge across the River North Esk so carried on along the road to just before Millden Lodge where a narrow lane took us to another bridge. We walked roughly parallel to the river for five miles, really nice, easy walking. The new shoes, the weather, etc. really put a spring in my step. The end of our crossing is beginning to be in sight.

Our next path was through woodland high above the Esk for a couple of miles into Edzell where we found a café with a heap of backpacks outside. A bacon and egg roll later, we steamed through the final eight miles into Brechin. It was easy. We are now well out of the hills. The countryside is not at all unlike England, even down to the fields of oil seed rape.
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TGO Challenge Day 11 - Shielin of Mark to Tarfside

Walking 9.00-3.00
Miles walked today - 11
Total miles walked - 147
Distance left - 28

The day started with an energetic bash across heather and bog for a mile up to Muckle Cairn - no path at all but we picked up some marker posts to the south side of the top and then a path of sorts. From then there was a clear track down to Glen Lee.

We followed the track for nearly three miles. There was a little rain but it soon passed. After a further mile along a track in a valley bottom, we reached Loch Lee and followed the road along the north side - very pleasant walking with nice views.

The final three miles into Tarfside were along a clear track and we went straight to St. Drostan's Hall where facilities for Challengers were laid on. One bacon butty later, we headed for the recreation ground which is available for camping.
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TGO Challenge Day 10 Sunday 23 May - Braemar to Shielin of Mark

Walking 8.00-6.30
Miles walked today - 18
Total miles walked - 136
Distance left - 43

Most of today's walking was easy enough. We began by retracing the last three miles of yesterday's route, past a rock called the Lion's Face, followed by a lovely distant view of Invercauld House. Then along the A93, turning right just after the bridge over the River Dee to go over the old Invercauld Bridge and into Ballochbuie Forest. It was easy walking along clear tracks with light rain showers.

After eight miles, we came to Balmoral Castle and headed straight for the tearoom for refreshments. We saw a red squirrel just outside.

Passing by the Royal Lochnagar Distillery (we didn't have time for the tour), we climbed gradually up a clear unmade road on to heather moor with good views opening up all around.

At Spittal of Glenmuick, we picked our way along a narrow path alongside a burn, climbing gradually up for a couple of miles until, by a rather circuitous route (as it's easy to miss), we arrived at the bothy at Shielin of Mark. Gill is in the bothy; Frank and I are camped by the burn with a number of other Challengers.

With my new shoes, I've hardly been aware of the blisters.

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Saturday, 22 May 2010

TGO Challenge Day 9 Saturday 22 May - Hut at NJ180980 to Braemar

Walking 8.00-11.30
Miles walked today - 6
Total miles walked - 118
Distance left - 61

It rained most of last evening and there was a torrential hail storm which hammered loudly on the metal roof of our hut. Nevertheless, we spent a peaceful night and were up and about earlier than usual.

It was an easy and clear walk into Braemar, much of it downhill. We took a wrong turn along an estate road and found ourselves on tracks that weren't shown on the OS map but they were going in the right direction so we weren't too bothered. We skirted by Invercauld House, home of the Farquhar family since the 1700s. Somehow they've managed to keep hold of their money all that time. A lovely house.

A woodland path took us through the outskirts of Balmoral Castle (we have to go back that way tomorrow) to The Invercauld Caravan Club site - excellent facilities and a shower and shave made a lot of difference, although it wasn't until I was stepping into the shower that I realised I didn't have my towel with me and my T-shirt had to suffice.

The heel blisters continue to be my constant companions so I've bought a pair of Inov8 Rocklite trail shoes and the shop will post my boots home at no charge to me. Let's hope the feet are more comfortable from now on.

The weather is quite got now and I'm enjoying what's left of a lazy day with today's paper.
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Friday, 21 May 2010

TGO Challenge Day 8 Friday 21 May - Faindouran Bothy to bothy above Braemar NJ180980

Walking 9.15-5.30
Miles walked today - 11
Total miles walked - 112

Because of the necessary extra day's walking (see yesterday's posting), I'm not sure of the miles remaining.

We had lovely weather to pack away in and start today's walking. It was easy, just following an unmade track generally alongside and above the River Avon. After six miles, we reached Linn of Avon, a point where the river comes down a rocky incline and is then channelled through a small gorge. The colour of the water here was beautiful [photos to follow].

A right turn here brought us into Glen Builg, with Builg Burn alongside. After lunch, the heavens opened and this formed the pattern for the rest of the day. We had to wade the burn (maybe twenty feet and up to nine inches deep) and then Bill, our navigator at that point, took us back across it two hundred yards down before realising we shouldn't have done it so we had to go back! The others changed into sandals for this. I only had boots, but with my new ankle gaiters (thank you, Sue) and overtrousers, I managed to keep dry feet. It was on the fourth burn crossing, where the water was a little deeper that water came in but it could have been worse.

A little further on, we parted company with Bill (again).

We are overnighting in a bothy and tomorrow we have about five or six miles to reach the fleshpots of Braemar. The place will be teeming with Challengers.
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TGO Challenge Day 7 Thursday 19 May - Glenmore Campsite, Loch Morlich to wild camp at Faindouran Bothy NJ082061

Walking 9.15-7.00
Miles walked - 13
Total miles walked - 101
Distance left - 74

The prospect of another nice weather day. We are so lucky (now it will rain all day tomorrow).

Our route took us east, past Glenmore Lodge, a national outdoor training centre. It was then a rough surfaced trail past An Lochan Uaine, a delightful lochan ideal for a quick dip (we didn't).

We then took a right fork and then, after a mile, a right into Strath Nethy, where the Garbh Allt, a clear, fast-flowing burn was our companion all day. We lunched by it and drank from it more than once. Higher up, we trudged through more snow. In one or two places, the snow completely covered the burn, forming a tunnel of maybe 100 feet.

Eventually, after something over seven miles we reached The Saddle, a magnificent viewpoint overlooking Loch Avon (A'an) and mountains to the immediate south and far reaching views eastwards.

Our aim then was to walk the 1.5 miles to the Fords of Avon (A'an) and cross the river there. After much debate, however, we decided not to ("bottled out" is the term) - the river was a little too wide and fast-flowing and we didn't want those at home to be reporting a claim on life policies. This was unfortunate as we had to switch to our FWA (foul weather alternative) route which means an extra day's walking, although we are a day ahead of ourselves so it's not a great problem, just a little annoying. Better to be alive though.

We walked on some four miles to Faindouran Bothy, where we are camped outside, apart from Gill, who opted to sleep in the bothy, never having slept in one before. We haven't told her of the possibility of mice. Here also, we found Bill again, having parted company with him yesterday in Aviemore.
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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

TGO Challenge Day 6 Wednesday 18 May - Wild camp to Loch Morlich campsite

Miles walked today - 14
Total miles walked - 88
Distance left - 87

A little rain fell around 7am but soon cleared up and we were able to pack away everything dry.

We started with a short level walk to the bridge over the River Dulnain and then followed a long, laborious ascent of about three miles up the Burma Road. This was an estate track, not difficult but all the time we could see it snaking before us with featureless heather all around.

At the pass at the top, we were met by a flock of ewes and lambs being herded to their summer grazing.

We then had a gentle descent of some two miles to the A9 which we crossed to follow the B road into Aviemore, we headed straight to the Cairngorm Hotel and ordered the venison casserole in a Yorkshire Pudding on Frank's recommendation - he'd had it last year. Excellent it was too.

A walk then of six miles, much of it on an off road forest track, brought us to Loch Morlich Campsite, quite large but very nice, overlooked by the snow capped Cairngorm mountains. We head that way tomorrow.
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TGO Challenge Day 5 Tuesday - R. Findhorn to wild camp at NH805163

Walking 9.10-4.00
Miles walked today - 11
Total miles walked - 74
Distance left - 101

Woke up to a perfect sunny morning. If this is Challenge weather then I like it! The long trail through the River Findhorn glen was quite lovely. From here, we ascended the track above Allt a Mhuillin, a really pretty walk. We lunched by a burn.

Then followed a heather and bog yomp of two to three miles, quite hard work. This then brought us to a track near the River Dulnain. We are camped close by a wooden hut with a red roof. Bill is still with us but I think we part company tomorrow.

Today's weather has been perfect. We were joined by six Air Force officer trainees and their instructor, mountain biking & camping as a training/bonding exercise towing little trailers behind their bikes. However, they are overnighting in the hut.

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TGO Challenge Day 4 - Monday 17 May Drumnadrochit to wild camp near River Findhorn NH674170

Walking 7.00-8.00 & 8.50-6.00
Miles walked today - 15
Total miles walked - 63
Distance left - 112

An early start at seven was necessary to walk for an hour to catch the ferry for the forty minute trip across Loch Ness to Inverfarigaig. The jetty there was little more than a rocky outcrop so we had to scramble up on to it. A bit precarious!

We breakfasted at a picnic area not far from the jetty. A road walk of about two miles then brought us to Errogie and then around the northern end of Loch Mhor to Farraline. The wife of a Challenger couple who had been on the ferry turned back around this time, suffering from bad blisters. I've got blisters on both heels but am dealing with them.

We also met Bill, who was also on the ferry. He's the treasurer of the Munro Society, membership being open to those who have climbed all of Scotland's Munros.

It was a long ascent out of Farraline, much of it over pathless heather, very uneven and often difficult to walk on with unexpected holes and bog to stumble into. We went through the grounds of Dunmaglass Lodge, a lovely, large Victorian house.

After this, there was a seemingly endless uphill grind of four miles or so l some on tracks, some across more heather and bog. We came across patches of drifted snow.

We were glad to finish and we have a good pitch next to a burn. Bill is camping with us tonight. He's good company.

Apart from a few passing showers, today's weather has been dry and sunny.
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Sunday, 16 May 2010

TGO Challenge - Day 3 Sunday 16 May - Cannich to Drumnadrochit

Walking 11.00-7.00
Miles walked today - 14
Total miles walked - 48
Distance left - 127

I wasn't alone in my sleeping bag last night. When I got into it, something stung or nipped my foot. I kicked around a bit and scratched. Things seemed then to settle down. This morning I aired the bag and found an ant, still very much alive.

Got off to a late start as the village shop didn't open till 10am. A lovely sunny day. We started with a climb up east of Cannich above Kerrow Wood and emerged near to Loch Riabhachain. There then followed a cross country bash for nearly a mile to meet a track entering woodland, at the end of which, was the hamlet of Corrimony. At a chambered cairn there we met some other Challengers, having a siesta.

We then had a long forest walk via Shenval, following mainly wide forest roads all the way to Drumnadrochit, where we are camped at Borlum Farm.

Apart from a little light rain this afternoon, it was a warm, sunny day. We picked up our resupply parcels at the Cannich site so our packs have been heavy with nearly a week's worth of food. Still, they should get a bit lighter each day.
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TGO Challenge - Day 2 Saturday 15 May

Walking 8.15-6.15
Miles walked today - 18
Total miles walked - 32
Distance left - 141

Quite a lot of rain in the night. A very good and long night's sleep.

First night's camp

After a mile, we joined the northern side of Loch Mullardoch and followed this for nine miles. We had been led to believe this would be very hard work and the path often non-existent. So much so that our original plan to do the nineteen miles to Cannich was split in two to satisfy our route vetters. In the event, it wasn't too difficult and we were able to cut a mile off as a torrent of water crossing proved to be possible (photo to follow) and we reckoned that, with a bit of effort, we could get to Cannich. Frank only slipped over three times and Gill only filled her boots with water once.

The weather today was mixed - some showers but lots of sunshine. The last nine miles into Cannich was along a very quiet minor road and, for road walking, as good as it gets. Much of it (from Liatrie Bridge to Cannich) was a stretch of my LEJOG last year and so was familiar, even down to the herd of deer at Liatrie Bridge.
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Saturday, 15 May 2010

TGO Challenge - Day 1 Friday 14th

Walking 9.15 - 4.30
Miles walked today - 14
Total miles walked - 14
Distance left - 159

A little rain around 7am but it turned into a glorious morning and just right for striking camp. The view from the campsite over the loch with mountains behind was quite stunning.

The campsite

Cottages overlooking Loch Long

Eilean Donan Castle

We made our way into Dornie and signed out, as required, at the Dornie Hotel.

Me, Gill & Frank

After a visit to the village shop for some essential supplies we were off, at first alongside Loch Duich to Bundalloch, and then east for just over three miles following the valley and River Glennan to Camas-luinie, a little settlement of just a few houses. We met four other Challengers along this stretch. There was a little rain but not too bad. Continuing east, we followed the metalled track alongside and above the River Elchaig for several miles, hilly in parts but not too demanding. There were fine and clear valley views all the time.

At Iron Lodge we took a steep winding track south east for three miles to our pitch for the night, beside a gurgling burn called Allt na Criche, just before Loch Mullardoch, which we shall follow all day tomorrow. A good first day. A bit tiring but we're off to a good start.
Loch Mullardoch

Unfortunately, I've managed to pitch with a lump in the ground underneath my torso. The advantage of a tarp is that I can just shift to one side and a couple of feet down and use it as a pillow!

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Friday, 14 May 2010

TGO Challenge Thursday 13th

A lovely day (so far) for travelling to the start of the Challenge. I believe we may head into rain later. We (that's me, Frank and Gill) are cheerful and full of optimism. Two other Challengers joined the train with us at Rugby. There will be many more as we converge on Glasgow and then Fort William.

Our day started early, boarding the 6.17 train at Northampton, changing at Rugby for the very fast service to Glasgow. We were at Carlisle by 9.15.

I was very impressed with what I've seen of the centre of Glasgow although maybe the weather helped. A long weekend here would be nice.

An early lunch (chicken tikka masala) was had at Bonapartes on Glasgow Queen Street Station before the train to Fort William. Lots of Challengers were gathered here and it was good to see some familiar faces, including some other bloggers. For anyone who wants a change from this blog, try or
They'll both be blogging the Challenge.

The final train of the day to Fort William was packed with Challengers, full of cameraderie. The weather became quite overcast and it started to rain as we travelled northwards but the scenery more than made up for it. It was a long, quite slow journey, the train seeming to struggle at times as it wended its way around the desolate wild country. Rannoch Moor was particularly forbidding. It was a four hour journey, about the same as Rugby to Glasgow!

We had a couple hours to kick our heels in Fort William before our last transport link, the Glasgow-Portree coach which took us to Dornie where we are now pitched on a very nice site overlooking Loch Long with mountains behind - perfect.
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Sunday, 9 May 2010

TGO Challenge final details

OK, final preparations made and decisions taken. I'll be wearing boots (Alt-Berg Fremington), not trail shoes. Having tried out my three backpacks fully loaded, I'll be taking a Golite Breeze (weight when empty 13 ounces) - despite it having no hipbelt, when loaded, it's more comfortable than the Kimmlite Mountain Mover and the Osprey Ariel. I don't really find hipbelts comfortable. They tend to rub raw my bony hips. It's capacity is 50 litres (with a further 20 litres in an extension collar at the top, but this shouldn't be used for heavy stuff). In fact, I shouldn't need to use the extension collar. The complete pack weight will be 17lbs, with food and water in addition. I'm also taking a bumbag for camera, snacks, etc.

The Anquet map sheets are printed out, the route and intended camping spots marked on them. They'll be carried in an Ortlieb map case. Why is it that the Ortlieb isn't wide enough (by about 3/4 inch) to take the A4 size map sheets? I've had to cut a strip off each sheet.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

TGO Challenge update

Only a few days to go. I'm trying to avoid last minute gear freakery and purchase thereof (see Alan Sloman's blog and Peewiglet's for sad cases of this). I'd thought a bit about the risk of contaminated water on the Challenge and had toyed with the idea of a Travel Tap available from the excellent Backpackinglight but had been put off by the cost of £34.99. However, at the recent Backpackers Club AGM, where there is always a car boot sale at the end, I was fortunate enough to buy an early version of the Travel Tap (the filter is fixed so, when it becomes clogged and unusable, the whole device is thrown away) for only £3.00. It's owner assured me that a fair amount of the 100 gallon filtering life should be left so I went for it. On the way home from the AGM, I filled the bottle from a stream which would probably have had some farm run-off pesticide in it and that tasted fine. Last weekend, on a visit to my brother, to his disgust, I sampled the dregs of his water butt and suffered no ill effects and it tasted fine. So, I reckon I got a bargain and am sure that at some time I shall invest in the full price up to date model.

I'm having my usual problem with rechargeable AA batteries for my camera. I have two sets. I've charged one set and, as usual, can't find the other. Why does this always happen? I come across them from time to time, put them in a safe place and then can never locate them. I may have to buy some more (again).

Pack weight is another of my obsessions. I've done a dummy run and, including my heaviest resupply food parcel, I'm up to 22 lbs, including fuel (but not water). Without that resupply parcel, it would be 17 lbs. I can't really see any ways to bring it down without compromising safety so will have to live with it.

Now for a walk up to town to post parcels to Cannich and Braemar.