Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Friday 16 May - TGOC Day 8 - A Sociable Outing - Flat Camp to Wild Camp 400 metres short of Ruighe nan Leum

Actual: 28km, 748 metres ascent
As planned, except for a pleasant diversion along the Badenoch Way, and a continuation for 6 km into tomorrow's route.
Time 9 hours including 2 hours stops.
No of new Challengers seen: 10
No of Challengers seen who started from 3 different places: 0
No of other Challengers seen: 0

The food parcel was duly released by the lady of the camp site, after much bargaining, for the princely sum of £3. This covered storage for a month and our fee for the night's camping.

'You are walking all across Scotland' she said, 'I can't possibly charge you!'

Her recommendation for a meal was The Newtonmore Grill, a transport café just down the road. It proved excellent, with the steak pie crammed full of succulent meat.

We were lulled to sleep by the quack of the camp ducks and the asthmatic hum of an RV generator.

Today it dawned bright and clear. A leisurely start after Sue's foot repairs saw us strolling down Newtonmore high street in the sun by 8.20, past the Glen Hotel which looked ok, but if its food is of the same standard as its hanging baskets it may taste a bit plasticy.

Crocs were again deployed in my case, for the first 15 km today. I've now done about 50 km of the walk in them and the soles are now almost completely smooth. They are exceedingly comfy - it's like walking in carpet slippers!

Little and Large appeared in front of us. It was Tim and Kate Wood, on their 10th Challenge, fresh from the pleasures of the Watsons' B+B. We finished up walking with Tim and Kate all day. They may be in their 70s but they were carrying heavier loads than us (Tim carries 36 pounds) and are extremely fit.

Striding towards us as we entered Kingussie was Les Ellis, another seasoned Challenger, who proudly informed us that he had now started from all 12 permitted points. (The Mad Austrian will only need about 4 years to achieve that!)

Ruthven Barracks soon loomed large on the horizon.


Les stayed with us for our jaunt past the Barracks (lots of photos were taken) and along the scenic pleasures of the Badenoch Way, with lots of bird watchers in evidence. Hmmm, it's an RSPB reserve. We were entertained by trilling curlews and laughing lapwings and an out of rhyme buzzard, mewing...

The birds were too fast for me, but these Wild Pansies stayed still for a moment

Amongst all this was a chocolate caramel shortbread (CCS) stop, pictured. It went down well today.



Joined briefly by Jean Smith and Chris Kitt, then by Derek and Pat Hopkins, all on their first Challenges, we ambled along to Baileguish.


From the left: Chris, Sue, Kate, Tim, Derek, Pat, Les and Jean

During the morning we discovered that Mark Alvarez, a fellow blogger, and his US compatriots, the Le Borwits, had sadly dropped out. A great shame, condolences to all of them.

Tim, Kate, Sue and I pressed on to an idyllic lunch spot. With micro-ticks in residence. Luckily my eyesight is poor, so (officially) I am still 'a tick free zone'.

We took a route through forest which half way through was blocked off for forestry work. If they had indicated that earlier we'd have gone a different way. Anyway, we muscled our way through, past an old discarded hat. The rubbish people leave around - terrible!

Health + Safety warnings on the bridge at Carnachuin warned of the possible terrible consequences of crossing it. We ignored the suggested 5 km diversion and strolled uneventfully across.

Two huge nipple free bosoms protruded above a log outside Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy.
Wow.
As we approached they revolved in unison.
'Hello' said the two bald Bobs.
'Have you seen my hat?' said one.
Oops - Tim and I exchanged glances - knowing we should have picked up the old hat in the forest.
'It was only an old one' said Bob, but I've lost my bandana as well, and my head's hot.'
'There's a bucket of water over there' said the other Bob.
'But that's for the toilet!' complained Bob.

Bob Fyfe and Bob Forbes were doing the Challenge for the first time, guided by their more experienced friend, Jeanette Tennant, who had dropped out with blisters - she was one of those tales of woe related to us yesterday by Linda at the pottery. They should make it though, and they had chopped lots of wood to keep them warm tonight.

We noted the last entry in the Bothy Book, from John Jocys, also from Altrincham, who we are taking home next week. He likes this bothy.

After an hour in the good company of The Two Bobs, with CCS all round and a supply left for The Mad and Hungry Austrian, the four of us ambled on up the glen just as another Challenger arrived at the bothy.

The landslide about which many warnings had been issued had a nice path across it, and we progressed easily for another 6 km up the glen, to join Derek and Pat at an excellent and roomy camping spot with a good 'tap' at NN 882 890.

We were well ensconced in our tents by the time the light rain started, and even that relented whilst I went out to fry the crispy noodles (hot fat everywhere!) to go with our chow mein.
Disappointment of the day was that of Tim and Kate. It seems Cameron McNeish has been following them around with a TV camera and a dolly bird from the beeb, even at one point filming their feet. T + K have got used to this celebrity lifestyle and were devastated that Cameron had deserted them today, despite his promises.

There don't appear to be any midges or ticks here. Just a plague of slugs!

Next day: Day 9
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Saturday 17 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 9 - Plan - Ruigh-aiteachain to Geldie Lodge

Today’s report is here; the planned route and statistics are shown below:

1 Ruigh-aiteachain – Glen Feshie
2 Ruighe nan Leum
3 Path junction by waterfall
4 Carn an Fhidhleir
5 An Sgarsoch
6 Geldie Lodge
7 camp by Geldie Burn

Statistics
26 km
1300 metres ascent
11.0 hours

(2 Munros)

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Friday, 16 May 2008

Friday 16 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 8 - Plan - Newtonmore to Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy

Today’s report is here; the planned route and statistics are shown below:

1 Newtonmore – cycleway to Kingussie
2 Ruthven
3 approaching Tromie Bridge
4 path jnc
5 Baileguish
6 Turn to Glenfeshie Lodge
7 Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy (Glen Feshie) – wild camp here or beyond

Statistics
22 km
450 metres ascent
8.1 hours

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Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thursday 15 May - TGOC Day 7 - The Long Road East - Idyllic Camp to Newtonmore

Actual: 27km, 411 metres ascent
As planned, except for the extra 3 km (more like 2 km) left over from yesterday.
Time 7 hours 35 mins including 2 hours stops.
No of new Challengers seen: 0
No of Challengers seen who started from 3 different places: 1
No of other Challengers seen: 0


Apologies - the headings have been a day out of phase since Sunday - I hope that hasn't caused anything more than amusement! (Now corrected - Ed)

'They come in all shapes and sizes' said Linda as we left her carrot cake emporium after a fine lunch.

'There was one with a bare patch this big (expansive gesture) where the skin had come off, and another one that looked like a pumpkin, but they insisted on continuing until the doctor told the one with no skin to stop.'

Linda, owner of the Kiln Room Coffee Shop and Pottery Bunkhouse in Laggan, purveyor of the finest carrot cake Scotland produces, was telling us about some of the feet (attached to Challengers) that had recently passed through.

Even though we are going easily and well, Sue's feet have some heat rash today.
It was hot again; the path was mainly along tarmac lanes.
The secret of my own easy passage was crocs, which were just like wearing ventilated slippers for the full 27 km of today's stroll.

We had woken late on another windless, misty, high pressure day, to the avant garde symphony of an aviarian orchestra beside the bubbling infant Spey.

It was an easy stroll down to Garva Bridge and the start of today's gentle route. The skies cleared and cuckoos, rabbits, lapwings and house martins tracked our route. We sighted oyster catchers for the first time, which I recall from last year were noisily present, together with lapwings, all the way to the coast.


Chancing upon a nice man from Cumbria with a powerful telescope, we brewed up and swapped some CCS for magnificently magnified views of red-breasted mergansers and red-throated divers. There were also goldeneye and greylag geese and many more, but what we really wanted to see was something bigger.
Our excitement was momentary when the big bird appeared - but it was only a heron, not the desired osprey.

On we went, heading east down the long green lane, past banks of violets to reach the Kiln Room for lunch, featuring Coronation Chicken and Succulent Salmon, followed of course by two huge slices of the much vaunted carrot cake.

Then more stories from Linda - the bunkhouse has a hot tub - its customers feature many middle-aged deviants, from what we could gather.

Roadside forgetmenots, lady's smock, marsh marigolds, wood sorrel and surprisingly attractive sprouting bracken accompanied us along our route. Quite a contrast to yesterday's frogs and adders.
A ferret dashed across the road ahead of us and a buzzard mewed high above.

Phone reception had returned and messages from Heather T-S revealed that she was 'walking off' a visit to a distillery. She sounded happy!

But still no news from Weird Darren (WD).

A huge cairn commemorating the life of Ewan MacPherson of Cluny, a prominent figure in the '45 rising, came next. From here there was a good view back to Creag Meagaidh and 'The Window'.

'Touch Not a Cat But a Glove' is the curious (to me) MacPherson motto. Explanation?

Next we visited Markus, the Austrian who started in three places. He was asleep all on his own at the Glen Truim camp site.

He was in a bit of a state.
Someone (who shall remain nameless but who should know better) had told him that his visit to the summit of Corrieyairack Hill had been in vain as it was no longer a Corbett.
We consoled poor Markus and told him the truth about the hill where he had been - and the effect that good weather can have on Grumpy people at TGO Control.

At Glen Truim, courtesy of Markus Petter

Newtonmore camp site was reached around 4 pm. It's 7 pm now and we still haven't gained access to our food parcel, but we are washed and cleaned, have reported in to control, and are ready for 'town'.

We also have very good news from WD. He called to let us know that whilst they have had some problems (no doubt his own blog will present the graphic detail) he and Dawn are now this side of the Corrieyairack Pass, and heading for Laggan, where we had lunch.
They should catch us up at Braemar or earlier.

Now, about that Food Parcel?!!

Next day: Day 8
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Wednesday 14 May - TGOC Day 6 - Wonderful Vistas - Cheery Camp Site to River Spey

Actual: 26km, 1283 metres ascent
As planned, except for minor variation out of Fort Augustus, and we stopped at nice camping spot (see photo) 3 km short of Garva Bridge.
Time 9 hours 20 mins including 1 hour 55 mins stops.
No of new Challengers seen: 1
No of golden eagles: 1
No of idyllic camp sites: 1
No of ticks: 1 (Sue - easily removed)

My apologies for curtailing yesterday's entry - a night in the pub was to blame.

Now, enjoying a lovely evening by the River Spey, I can add a bit about Cougie that was intended for yesterday.

As we left Cougie yesterday morning, waved off by Val, the sadly recently widowed matriarch of a big family, we looked back to what appeared to be a small village, with residencies and chalets littering the area. We'd arrived the day before to see ponies in the fields, pigs in pens, rabbits in hutches, a rooster high in a tree next to the house, on the open front door of which a swallow was perched, watching a group of Challengers tuck into hard earned tea and biscuits. Birds pecked at plentiful food, cats cuddled and dogs wagged.
An armadillo lazed unseen in an airing cupboard.
These are all Val's family, together with her 8 children and many grandchildren, and she is proud to be expecting her 10th great grandchild! What a woman!

Anyone not up by 7.30 today would have been woken by Roy's Wonderful Whistling Kettle.
A kettle that doubles as a fire alarm!

The cloud was down as, leaving such noises behind, we left Fort Augustus accompanied by a heron, and hedgerows with bluebells, stitchwort, vetches, red campion, ramsons and plantains, to name but a few.

Heading up the Ancient Monument that is General Wade's Military Road, we passed a huge pink mansion and lots of pheasants and spent cartridges.

It was a dour trudge up the track to the Corrieyairack Pass, but the lingering mist kept us pleasantly cool.

We passed an unlikely positioned house with a green roof, then an unlikely positioned sign - no 8 - but there was no house.

After a welcome brew with stonechats we did reach a home. It was 11.15 and Mark Storey, Challenger 270, was having a lie in.

Some CCS got him going - fortuitously he was at a CCS distribution point!

Blogger on the Pass (not Mark Storey - he was still packing up)


The cloud now cleared to reveal a fabulous day with extensive views. The two Corbetts were well worth the climb and a soaring eagle completed the picture. (Not quite - there were some ugly construction works to the north.)


Views back along our route, south to Ben Nevis, and east to the edge of the Cairngorms - were wonderful.

Then a steep descent to Melgarve, where many TGOCers have recorded their passage over the last couple of days, and an early evening stroll to this idyllic spot with lots of deer in attendance (hope they haven't brought their ticks!).

Later, Tom and Gordon passed, followed by the camera shy Austrian, Markus.
Thanks Duncan (Aktoman) for your comments - much appreciated.
Congratulations to Notchy, who today managed to scale Ben More Assynt.
Commiserations to Heather T-S who is here but unable to join in, and very envious of us - it seems David Albon has been keeping her informed of our progress.

My excuse for ending now is a weak battery, and there is no signal here, so who knows when this will transmit.

Next day: Day 7
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Thursday 15 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 7 - Plan - Garva Bridge to Newtonmore

Today’s report is here; the planned route and statistics are shown below:

1 Garva Bridge – Military Road
2 Laggan (Monadhliath Hotel) – Catlodge – Mains of Glentruim
3 leave A9 near Raliabeag
4 Newtonmore (camp site)

Statistics
24 km
400 metres ascent
8.7 hours


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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Wednesday 14 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 6 - Plan - Fort Augustus to Garva Bridge

Today’s report is here; the planned route and statistics are shown below:

1 Fort Augustus
2 Military Road
3 Corrieyairack Pass
4 Corrieyairack Hill
5 Geal Charn
6 Gairbeinn
7 Melgarve
8 Garva Bridge (wild camp)

Statistics
29 km
1300 metres ascent
12.2 hours
(2 Corbetts)

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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Tuesday 13 May - TGOC Day 5 - New Friends - Rustic But Nice B + B to Fort Augustus

Actual: 26km, 676 metres ascent
As planned, except for an inadvertent 2 km short cut.
Time 8 hours 05 mins including 1 hour 25 mins stops.
No of Challengers seen: 5.5



We set off at 8.40 after a fine breakfast prepared by Val.

With us were our new found friends, Dave, Susan and Roy, with whom we walked all day. Tom Hume and his friend Gordon had arrived late last night and breakfasted with us then lingered behind. Tom is on his 10th Challenge - an old hand.

After a misty start the skies soon cleared to produce a lovely sunny day.

On joining a track by some pylons we lingered for a brew whilst admiring the snow adorned hills east of Cluanie.

Later we lunched at a track junction beyond Dundreggan. We were so absorbed by the fine views back west and the stimulating conversation that we failed to check where we were. Setting off in the wrong direction, we soon chanced upon some pylons.
'Should those be there?' Dave and I pondered.
Dave's GPS gave us the answer - we were on the wrong path about 1 km north of where we should be. But we were on a path.
Nevertheless we headed off on a cross country route in search of our correct location. This was particularly annoying for me as I had to change back from crocs to boots.
Soon we noticed the track - it was actually mimicking our boggy cross country route, just a few metres away.
We followed it.
Nice one!
The newish track, not marked on the map, soon rejoined our planned route, cutting over 2 km off our planned day in the process! Lucky!

The sun continued to shine, and gorse, broom, primroses and violets lined the hedgerows as we reached Fort Augustus and strolled into the excellent camp site at 4.45.
A convivial period of installing tents etc followed, with yoga featuring on the agenda.
After a while Marcus Petter, the Challenge's Austrian contingent, strolled in.

Marcus, you may recall, started from Applecross, not an official starting point. He related his progress to date. After two days he had reached his official starting point, Strathcarron. Going beyond there, on the third day, he felt unwell. He decided to self rescue and stumbled back past the Falls of Glomach to Morvich to safety. At the start of his 4th day he found himself tucking in to breakfast at the Kintail Lodge Hotel, where we had started from three days earlier.
He must have cut a forlorn if not puzzling sight.
The Austrian Challenger who started three times, from two official starting points.
He must also have recovered his health, as he arrived in Fort Augustus only two days later.

Then we were visited by another Challenger - number 279.

This was our old friend Heather T-S.

I thought about reporting her arrival to TGO Control, but decided that as she had arrived in a Peugeot with sliding doors I would not blow her cover.

Anyway we all went to The Bothy for a meal and a beer.

Very nice it was, too.

But that didn't leave much time for blogging!

The End

Next day: Day 6
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Monday 12 May - TGOC Day 4 - A Day of Contrasts - Camp in Cloud to Cougie Lodge B + B

Actual: 25km, 1328 metres ascent
As planned, except for a two sides of a square incident at Affric Lodge.
Time 10 hours 05 mins including 1 hour 50 mins stops.
No of Challengers seen: 3
No of Munro Baggers: 2



Camping in Coire na Cloiche

As we strode along the ridge in bright sunshine above a sea of cloud it seemed strange that we'd woken to 5 metres visibility, in a wet cloud.

The chink of the walking poles, the crunch of the schist, the rush of the wind, and the rhythmic creak of Sue's rucksack. These were the sounds that accompanied us over the heights north of Glen Affric, as we watched the clouds spilling over the ridge ahead whilst we descended steeply from our first Munro summit of the day, An Socach.


Our first humanoid contact of the day was with Weird Darren, after whose progress we had been enquiring. His message to us was short and to the point:

'Not in hospital'

...He obviously hasn't been issued with one of those 'Spot' gadgets.

First brew stop, beyond An Socach

We soon encountered a 'bagger', then another one, John from Bournemouth, who has 54 Munros to 'compleat his round'. It has taken him 38 years to get that far. Apparently someone in the hostel last night had done them all in 4 months!

Now Notchy sent us a message. He was trying to impress us with his efforts to get fit.
'At top of Canisp' he bragged.
'At top of Mam Sodhail' we replied, 'much higher than you - so keep trying'.

We chatted to John at length here whilst I stood aloft the massive summit cairn waving this gadget in an effort to dispatch yesterday's 'news from the Challenge'.

'Will anyone read it?' 'Why does the Orange network work to within two metres above this summit and no lower?' are thoughts that crossed my mind.

We strolled over to Carn Eige with John, a lovely chap, before wishing him well and hastening back past a flock of golden plovers to recover our sacks from a col high above Glen Affric.

The col was fringed with steep snow, which we gingerly skirted around before gaining a path/stream (it can't decide) which led us to an excellent lunch spot.

Here at 980 metres we were above a sea of thick cloud, but as we descended into Affric we found ourselves enjoying a sunny afternoon in the valley amongst ancient pines.

At Affric Lodge our carefully crafted blue line on the map took us over a bridge to the south side and onto the track to Cougie. Our way was barred by a man:
'There is no path that way - you must walk down to the car park and back up the other side'.
An extra 3 km to cover a few 100 metres.
Relenting a little, the man suggested an alternative. This resulted in us going to NH 209 228 and then bog and heather bashing south to join the track to Cougie.

This was very tiresome - hot, sweaty, boggy, unpleasant tramping, with an uncharted deer fence to climb over to gain the path that's by a lake that isn't on the map (Andy Howell had warned of this), and the gentle stroll in to Cougie past new birch saplings and banks of primroses to complete the day's walk by 6.15.

We were soon installed with a pot of tea and goodies with what we had been reliably informed was Val's customary hospitality to Challengers.

We knew from 'Jungle Drums' that two Americans and a Brummie would be there, and we enjoyed a lovely evening with Susan, Roy and Dave, bloating ourselves with Val's tasty soup, fish pie, curry, and apple strudel and ice cream.

And an added bonus.

We knew Denis Pidgeon had ordered some beer, but we naturally assumed that he and his cronies would have drunk it all. But it seems they didn't. I'd like to think they had deliberately left it for us, but...

Anyway, it was beautifully cold Tennants lager from the fridge, and we drank it.

Nice one Denis.

Next day: Day 5
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Tuesday 13 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 5 - Plan - Cougie to Fort Augustus

Today’s report is here; the planned route and statistics are shown below:

1 Cougie
2 Turn east at 450 m contour
3 Join track on 450 m contour at NH 292 168
4 Dundreggan
5 Old Military Road to Fort Augustus - camp site

Statistics
28 km
700 metres ascent
10.8 hours

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