Wednesday, 25 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 13 Wednesday 25 May

Raring to go on the last day but it was going to be short. Over the A90, it was a minor road walk all the way to the coast but quite pleasant with very little traffic. Other Challengers were going the same way but peeled off, going to different finishing places.

I made a really last minute change. We were to finish in Tangleha'. This would normally involve going straight there by road. Instead, we went through the coastal village of St. Cyrus (the finishing point for some) and along the cliff path to Tangleha'. There, we were met by Ian's wife, Lilian, who transported us to the Park Hotel in Montrose where we checked in at Challenge Control and were given certificates and T-shirts.

I had decided on Tangleha' as our finishing point as I was intrigued to see a place which ended with an apostrophe and to find out why. Just before we reached it on the cliff path, we saw what was left of a former castle. Very little was left of it, it having been taken by the sea. I ruminated that this might explain the name but that would make it Tangleca' (some having dropped off). In fact, we were told that the full name is or was Tanglehaven.

So, that's it for another year. We were a team of two which, from day 2, became three, with Ian joining us. He was able to identify birds for us sometimes and was always a ready source of dry Yorkshire wit.
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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 12 Tuesday 24 May

What a change in the weather from yesterday. We left the hostel under a blue sky and set off along the road, calling in at The Retreat (a folk museum, visitor centre and café) for tea (others had breakfast). I was interested in their free wifi but it didn't seem to work.

We continued along the road to cross the bridge over the River North Esk just before Fernybank and followed a clear track south of the river, past the beautifully named Rocks of Solitude. Ian and I had to wait here as Sean had disappeared into yet another wood with his trowel and seemed to be taking rather a long time about it. We speculated that, given his age, he might have nodded off with his trousers round his ankles, having forgotten why he was there. We were about to go to look for him when he appeared with a smile on his face.

We walked on to the village of Edzell and joined other Challengers at the excellent Tuck In café for lunch. Afterwards, we walked a few miles down the long straight road to the campsite at North Water Bridge. Not a drop of rain today. Last day tomorrow.
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TGO Challenge - Day 11 Monday 23 May

It was raining when we woke and that was the theme for the day except it got much worse.

We made our way down to Spittal of Glenmuick and called in at the visitor centre for a drink at the machine there. We then battled our way through the wind and rain up beside the torrent of a burn (name unknown), aiming for the bothy at Shielin of Mark. It was so wet underfoot but we splashed our way up and across to the burn leading to the bothy where we had elevenses. The burn outside was more of a fast flowing torrent but it had to be crossed. It was tricky but only knee high. We were well on our way away from there when there was a shout from the other side. It was Mervyn, a fellow BPC member, so we went back to where we had crossed the torrent to make sure he got over safely.

We then floundered 1.5km through heather and bog and a couple of smaller burns over Muckle Cairn. There was then a steep descent to the track leading down to Stables of Lee but we first had to negotiate a fast flowing torrent across the track. This was above knee level so we got a production line going. Numerous photos were taken but there were no mishaps. All this time and for the rest of the day the hurricane wind rarely let up. At one point I found myself taking some steps but not actually moving. Many times we were completely blown off course. For once the forecasters got it right.

There was a long trek down to and alongside Loch Lee. We were glad to reach Tarfside where the lady volunteers at St. Drostan's Hostel did an amazing job of providing hot meals and drinks, despite there being a power cut! The rest of the day and evening were spent at the hostel. There are lots of Challengers here. Beds have been provided for the night, even floor space. An amazing time and quite memorable.
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TGO Challenge - Day 10 Sunday 22 May

The talk amongst Challengers this morning was of Monday's weather - winds of up to 130mph on the tops. Our route today would have been through Glen Callater, Jock's Road to Acharn and tomorrow would be from Acharn down to Clova and then up to Loch Brandy over to Tarfside, heights of 800-900m. It was thought inadvisable so we switched to our planned foul weather alternative route.

So, today our route took us to Invercauld Bridge, through Ballochbuie Forest, being part of the Balmoral Estate, and out on a track south of Ripe Hill. We lunched outside Gelder Shiel bothy just as some rain swept across in front of us. Frank, Lawrence and Lesley caught up with us here but the three of us, me, Sean and Ian left first to go up a generally indistinct path through heather alongside Gelder Burn for 1.5km to meet the track at Little Conachcraig. It was quite hard going.

The track ascended with fine views of Lochnagar. The wind began to pick up and stayed with us as we descended towards Spittal of Glenmuick. We had been intending to pitch at Shielin of Mark about 5km further on but reckoned that the wind would make it a very rough night. Therefore, we stopped early and are camped in woodland next to a burn at Allt-na-giubhsaich. There are probably around ten tents scattered about amongst the trees and we seem to be below wind level. Quite idyllic.
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Sunday, 22 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 9 Saturday 21 May

Well, that was another wet and windy night. We called into Mar Lodge for tea and biscuits, meeting a fair number of Challengers there. Many had stayed overnight in the Lodge itself and eaten there. It was then just a 6km road walk (but a lovely one) into Braemar. We missed the path to go there through woodland as we were too busy talking.

We went straight to the campsite to pitch and then went back into the village. A café was doing a special lunch menu at a special price for Challengers which we went for. We then had a drink at the Fife Arms. A visit to Braemar Mountain Sports for a couple of essentials.

Challengers everywhere, of course. Braemar acts as a funnel for many routes so we met a number of others. Alan Sloman was here, so were Gayle and Mick, fresh from their Lowestoft to Ardnamurchan walk.

An early start tomorrow. Horrendous weather is forecast for Monday so we are likely to switch to our foul weather alternative route.
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Saturday, 21 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 8 Friday 20 May

It rained all night and as we were getting up it turned to sleet and snow for a while. However, it had stopped by the time we packed up and very soon the sun came out. There were stunning views of the snow-dusted hills.

We followed alongside and above the River Feshie until late morning when it turned south and we continued east. There was a difficult section where there had been a landslide and we had to negotiate some scree. Sean didn't like it one bit. The river crossings were fun. The best way across was to go as quickly as possible to avoid teetering on rocks mid stream.

The path was clear all the way although there were some boggy stretches.

We had planned to wild camp at White Bridge, 22km away but agreed before setting out to head for Mar Lodge, a further 8km, so here we are. It's very open and windy so not the best situation although very level. It shouldn't be more than 6km into Braemar in the morning.
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TGO Challenge - Day 7 Thursday 19 May

We woke to passing showers but they stopped shortly after we set off just after 8.30 and we only had one or two showers later in the day. It was good walking weather.

After crossing the A9, we took the track to Phones Lodge to follow once again General Wade's Military Road in the direction of Kingussie. The General was a busy man during the Jacobite Rebellion. We crossed and then went back under the A9 and passed by Ruthven Barracks, also built by General Wade.

Our route then followed the B970 to Drumguish and then into forest, across upper Coire Fhearnasdail and then into more forest to Glen Feshie where there was a single track tarmac road above the river. We crossed the river at 850965, the other bridge at 846938 having come down some months ago.

There was then an easy path through heather and woodland to our pitch outside Ruighaiteachain bothy. We've walked about 27km today.
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 6 Wednesday 18 May

Yesterday evening by the river was quite calm but the rain and wind really got up in the early hours of this morning. So much so that, at 4.30am, I was out repitching the tarp into it's wild weather mode.

Today was easy walking. Just 20.5km and all road walking but enjoyable nonetheless. Our route all day followed the River Spey, sometimes close, sometimes not. There was barely any traffic. We stopped at Laggan Stores and then in for a lunchtime pint at the Monadhliath Hotel. All of our walking was in the Spey valley so we had really good views. We arrived around 4pm at the Invernahavon Caravan Club site so another chance of a hot shower. We haven't seen any other Challengers since this morning and there aren't any on the site so far. Maybe they're being more adventurous.
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TGO Challenge - Day 5 Tuesday 17 May

No sign of rain this morning. We stowed away our first resupply parcels and bought more food and other essentials from McVeans supermarket in Fort Augustus. It was only when I found they didn't sell gas that I discovered the Londis attached to the garage. It sells gas and meths and is much better stocked.

We left Fort Augustus by the lane past the burial ground opposite the golf course and followed signs for the Corrieyairack Pass. It was a long but gradual ascent of about 11km, all along a rough track but with good views all the way. It rained a bit and got quite blustery as we neared the summit.

Then it was a long descent of about another 11km down the other side to our wild camp by the River Spey at Garva Bridge. There are about fifteen Challengers camped here. It's now raining and seems set for the night.
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Monday, 16 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 4 Monday 16 May

Today was a day of patchy light rain until about 4.30 when it cleared up. There's not a lot to be said about the walk into Invergarry. It was about 9.5km along a forest road although most of the forest had been felled. The last 2km or so into what there is of the village was on a riverside path which was very pleasant.

In the village we came across Bob and Rose of Backpackinglight going in the opposite direction. We called in for a pint at the Invergarry Hotel. At this point, I mentioned a tearoom by the Caledonian Canal at Bridge of Oich which I'd visited on my LEJOG in 2009. Therefore, we changed our route to make that easier, going along the path just above and parallel to the road and, thankfully, the Bridge Tea Garden was still there and open.

Suitably refreshed, we decided against the five mile walk along the canal towpath to Fort Augustus and, instead, crossed the swing bridge to take a track the other side of the canal and river. After 2.5km, we located where a bridge should have been to cross the Invervigar Burn at GR 336056 but it appeared to have gone some time ago and was impassable. It was all very overgrown around it and no sign of a path the other side. After much hunting around for another bridge and alternative ways round, we decided to go back to Bridge of Oich and bash the five miles into Fort Augustus. So, a long day. We finished walking at 7.15 but we're on a good site and have had our first shower since leaving home.
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Sunday, 15 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Day 3 Sunday 15 May

We woke in the bothy to driving wind and rain. The first challenge of the day was to cross the River Kingie. It was perhaps 30 feet across. Ian went first. He's over six feet and the water came just above his knee level. Not wishing to get unduly wet, my trousers came off. There was a video camera running. They shouldn't allow this sort of thing on Youtube!

After that, it was a wet yomp up to meet a track which we followed for 3km to the forest of Glen Kingie. The path for the first 3km was wet underfoot in places and muddy but easy to follow. We then joined a better track east for 6.5km to a new bridge at GR129000, then taking an indistinct path NE back down towards the river - very wet underfoot and at first we thought it was going nowhere but after a few hundred yards a path appeared at the point where there were the remains of an old footbridge.

We emerged from woodland on to a wide area of marsh and bog with the River Garry beyond. The path here was non-existent but was on the map. We followed it for 3.5km to Garrygualach. It was all as wet as could be but the rain, which came and went, was light.

On then to Greenfield, consisting of about four houses. I'd intended that we'd camp here but there was nothing. About 2.5km further, in the forest, we (the three of us, as Ian is still with us) came across a wooden hut. Two other Challengers, Jane and Terry, were in occupation. We are camped behind. It's a bit rough but quite acceptable and very peaceful. I've been to a party at the hut! We were joined by Nicole (German but resident in Inverness). We feasted on olives and single malt.
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TGO Challenge - Day 2 Saturday 14 May

It rained all through last night but my trusty tarp kept me well dry. It eased off sufficiently to strike camp comfortably and there was a good breeze to ensure that the tarp was packed dry.

Our route for the first 1km was a level walk always within sight of the Finiskaig River. It then climbed quite steeply. My Goretex socks keep me dry up to six inches above ankle level. A river crossing here prompted me to take them off and wear shoes barefoot. We then climbed more, eventually reaching Lochan a' Mhaim. Around here we met with Ian from Gayle in North Yorkshire and he stayed with us for the rest of the day.

The rain set in and remained with is for much of the day. Our route took us on a good track through the forest of Glen Desserarry down to Strathan.

In Glendessarry
From here, we took a path signposted Tomdoun, which was some way past our stop tonight. It was mainly a vehicle track but very indistinct at times and very wet underfoot all the way. The rain came and went as we climbed up the Dearg Allt. After about 4km, we eventually arrived at Kinbreack Bothy but to get to it involved another socks off river crossing. We are overnighting, with about six others, in the bothy. At last count, there were two tents outside but it is raining heavily now and shows little sign of stopping.
Ian on his way to Kinbreack Bothy

Kinbreack Bothy
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TGO Challenge - Day 1 Friday 13 May

We woke to passing showers. We were down at the harbour by 9am to secure our tickets for the ferry crossing to Inverie. It was mainly Challengers on board but also a few cyclists with their bikes. The ferry is also used for transporting supplies to the few residents and, presumably, the pub.

It was a smooth crossing, lasting 45 minutes. We called in at the Old Forge for a pint, if only to be able to say that we've been in the most remote pub on the British mainland.

Sean waiting to go in to help the local economy
There was only one track east out of Inverie and we took it.

The view west just outside Inverie
After rising a bit, we followed a track along the foot of Sgurr Coire Choinnichean, taking a track off to the right a little way past a monument up to our right. We passed a bothy (marked as a ruin on the map) and followed an easy track along Gleann Meadail which eventually started to climb up to the col at the foot of Sgurr Sgeithe. The mountain views ahead of us were impressive, looking across to Ben Aden.

Crossing the bridge over Inverie River

Looking back to Inverie

It was then a long zigzag descent down to Carnoch, a large ruin, possibly an old farmstead. Then over the River Carnach on a very bouncy bridge which a notice told us we crossed at our own risk.

Once over the bridge, we had to make our way across a wet and boggy delta until we reached Sourlies Bothy at the edge of Loch Nevis. We are camped with others. All is quiet, apart from the now steady rain. Apart from the early showers, it hasn't rained today until now so it's been a good walking day. We've walked about 13km I think.

At Sourlies Bothy
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Friday, 13 May 2011

TGO Challenge - Thursday 12th May - Journey to Mallaig

Today started inauspiciously. Sean and I were to get up at 4.45 to leave for Northampton station at 5.30. For some reason, I set my alarm for 5.30! Oh well, I woke naturally at 4.45 and we were in good time for the train, thanks to Sean's wife, Jude.

We were in Glasgow by 10.30 and now, at 3pm, we are well up into West Highland Way country. Having suffered from a blocked ear this past week and even bought more Otex on Glasgow station, it seems to have improved due to the pressure change from the rising gradient of the line.
Now in Mallaig, ready for the 10.15 ferry crossing to Inverie in the morning. Most of the people we've seen around the village are fellow Challengers.

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