As planned, except that we walked up the main road to Auchallater, and we continued about 0.5 km further than planned, to find a good camping spot.
Time 9 hours 10 mins including 2 hours stops.
No of Challengers seen: 18 plus lots more at Lochcallater Lodge
No of bouncy dogs: 1
This was another excellent mountain day.
Ann and Alvar Thorn luxuriating in BraemarTaking full advantage of the beautifully clear morning, we rose at 6 am, breakfasted as usual on tea and muesli, dusted the frost off the Nallo, bade farewell to our many friends on the pristine and well kept camp site with its resident pheasant on 17 eggs and oyster catchers with one fresh chick, and set off purposefully towards Lochcallater Lodge.
Looking south from the main road
We were on a mission, so took the main road for 3 km rather than faff about with the golf course. There was little traffic and lots of bird life to entertain us in the bright sunshine.
By the Callater Burn
By the time we reached the Lodge around 9 am, via a lovely river bank where we watched a dipper fishing, it was starting to cloud over, but our walk yet again was in superb fine weather with just a few showers around. Those kindly avoided us until after the tent was up.
The Lodge was Nallo Lady's last CCS point of the trip. The kilo of said goodies that found their way up here was readily consumed by the residents, many showing the effects of a heavy night.
Eat your heart out Mike Knipe, you missed out again - better luck with your route next year.
Two pieces were however briefly retained and were soon positioned on the summit of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor as sustenance for Ann and Alvar Thorn, veterans of the Challenge, who manned Control last year and were approaching the hill from a different direction (as promised in the pub last night).
I wonder whether they found them. They did!
Lochcallater Lodge, manned by Bill and 'Stan the Man', is legendary amongst Challengers for its hospitality. Today a sign pointed 'TGO Challenge - Tea'.
We found the tea most welcome. Had we arrived last night we would have enjoyed something stronger. Word has it that Prince Charles occasionally stops by for 'a wee dram'.
As we tramped away up the hill past Tom and his shadow (like bad pennies those two turn up everywhere!) we reflected on yesterday's period of 'recovery' in Braemar.
I have already thanked those who recovered my valuables from the chip shop.
We also had another problem yesterday - the stove kept going out. When it finally died on the camp site a Kindly and Generous Austrian was about. He lent us his stove, we connected it to our nearly full gas canister, and it didn't work! So we rummaged through our shoe boxes (we had two) and found a spare cylinder. It worked on our stove! So our other cylinder must have been faulty - I've never come across that before. By now the shops were shut and we were concerned as to whether one cylinder would be sufficient for the next four days (frequent brew-ups are a feature of our trips).
Markus said 'I have a spare cylinder, would you like it?'
'Are you sure?'
So the Kindly and Generous Austrian, who as I write has recently passed this wild camp site grinning, came to our rescue. Thank you Markus.
We again managed to avoid Cameron's cameras, and I was disappointed to miss Duncan (AktoMan), whose work commitments possibly bar him from entering the Challenge.
We were lucky to spend some time with Ann and Alvar, who helpfully suggested the very place we are now camped. It's an excellent spot. Thank you.
Returning to the tent on the Braemar camp site after a most welcome shower I found a neighbour - a very smart man dressed in a kilt and a strangely un-Scottish accent. Terry, of the Leyland clan, based in Salford. Nice chap. A bit eccentric?
Then there were the young Dutch lads.
'It's a walk in the park.'
'Have you been up many hills?'
'No. They make our knees hurt. We don't have hills in Holland.'
The 'parasitic Challenger' was interesting. This officially unofficial (so he said) Challenger was offered a place just hours before the event. So he found his way to a starting point. Having no route plan he attached himself to a likely looking person with a route. Judging by the size of his rucksack he's been sharing tents as well, on an impromptu basis. If so, his current companion, Koos The Dutchman, may not be his best choice of company. Koos doesn't like sharing camp sites, let alone tents. The Parasitic Challenger did us a favour by helping to consume our nut mountain.
Progressing steadily along our planned route we passed Alan Sloman and Lord Elphus (pictured above pretending to re-pack his sack but actually bent double from fatigue), flogging their way up the hill as if they had drunk 10 pints last night!
Ascending, with Ian Cotterill in towWe were pleased to see the Two Bobs, now happily reunited with Jeanette and a man with a bouncy dog that only just survived last night at Lochcallater, having marked the entire camping area as its territory! Having deposited Ann and Alvar's shortbread, and chatted to Ian 'View from the Scrapheap' Cotterill (he is now officially no longer on the scrapheap), we sped over another Munro summit past a flock of dotterel (or were they golden plovers?), ptarmigan, bits of aircraft and a mountain hare to Lochnagar for lunch.
The morning had gone well. We were over 3 hours ahead of schedule!
We admired the huge snow filled coire whilst chatting with Kevin Baldwin, a first timer of the 'lightweight generation' wearing Innov8 Roclite shoes and sporting other light gear. His bag looked quite heavy though. He had bravely resisted the temptation to snaffle Ann and Alvar's CCS!
The descent to the Spittal of Glenmuick was simple and quick, though we passed some who I fear may disagree.
Last night Weird Darren (still shy about last year's failure) had disguised himself in a buff. (Darren never wears buffs.)
At the Spittal...
'Hello Sue, hello Martin' said a body whose head was festooned in two buffs.
It was Darren, even more heavily disguised!
Colin Tock (pictured) rolled up. He had vetted Darren and Dawn's route, but didn't know them by sight. Colin explained how he had hardly touched his planned route. He'd had boot problems on an epic scale. So far as I could gather he had got new boots in plenty of time to break them in for the Challenge. The first pair was soon discovered to be faulty. The second pair was also faulty. So Colin set off in his old boots. They fell apart. His good wife was then dispatched to the boot shop for a fourth pair. She caused 'a bit of a stir'. All of Inverness knows about his boot saga!
We last saw Colin, happy in his fourth pair of boots, making copious notes - in his role as 'Bridge Man' on the bridge by our camping spot. He had been very sceptical about our proposed location.
'Much as. I respect Ann and Alvar, I think they've got that one wrong' he said, 'but I did once find a place on a little knoll near there. You could use that. I still have a hole in my groundsheet from a nocturnal visitor I had that night!'
Anyway, I'm sure it made Darren feel better to know that his own vetter had to change his route fairly radically (Darren's own route has been radicalised.)
with Darren and Dawn clearly in awe of our splendid location
But luckily for you, dear reader, for I doubt by now that there is more than one reader, it is going dark.
The next three nights are on sociable camp sites, so these jottings will truly be postcard sized from now on!
Next day: Day 12
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