Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Friday, 23 May 2008

Friday 23 May - TGO Challenge 2008 - Reprise

Well, it's all over for another year. A most enjoyable fortnight in superb weather. The postcard picture is of a small section of the camp site at Montrose before we left this morning.

I've now added a bit to yesterday's entry to cover last night's celebrations, and I may add a bit more later. Suffice to say here that we very much enjoyed it and needed much more time to talk to everyone we wanted to, albeit we left after 1 am.

I hope those who read my 'as it was on the day' postings over the past couple of weeks appreciated them. It was not always easy to write/post them!

Your comments are most welcome.

I will edit out any factual inaccuracies of which I become aware. Any other amendments or additions will be italicised, and pictures may be changed or added.

That's all for now as we are just off on a weekend's camping trip in the Peak District, on which I will report next week.

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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Thursday 22 May - TGOC Day 14 - The Last Lap - Motorway Camp to St Cyrus

Actual: 18km, 321 metres ascent
As planned, exactly!
Time 4 hours 40 mins including 40 mins stops.
No of Challengers seen on the walk: 4
No of bouncy dogs: 1


Yet another fine day after a later night than usual due to the length of the football match. I was quite surprised at the cheer that went up when Man Utd won. I thought they weren't generally liked. Perhaps Chelsea are disliked even more.
Anyway, the camp site did well as a result of extra time - at that point the ice cream cabinet took a real hammering, led by Sloman and Lord Elphus.
During the interval Colin Tock was severely reprimanded for the sloppy manner in which his tent was pitched. Really! As a vetter he should know better.

We left camp at 7.50 to stroll along lanes lined with comfrey, and where fading daffodils are giving way to banks of red campion.

We admired pretty buds and a house that seemed to be called 'Gallery', but there was no sign of one.


Strolling with Liverpool Bill for a while, he related how in a chance meeting with Alan and Phil, he had admired their fine selection of cheeses; in return for this wanton act Phil had given him a pot noodle that looked like a hair net!

Our exclusive route took us parallel to 'the main drag' along quiet undulating back lanes past colourful fields of mustard.

We enjoyed a brew with a view outside Mount Pleasant, where the owner offered his facilities and some friendly locals passed with a very bouncy dog.

Peacock calls emanated from Ecclesgrieg, where you can walk through the estate. We didn't - our route took us past an impressively free range chicken factory - the clucking inmates appeared to be ecstatically happy!

Several ornate wrought iron signs were passed en-route to the coast.

Soon we felt a fresh sea breeze on our faces as we approached our final destination, the secluded beach at NO 765 649. Hugs were hugged, self timed photos were taken, and pebbles admired.

A happy moment.

A figure appeared on the coast path above us. Roger Boston was strolling from his own finishing point to St Cyrus.

Looking back to our exclusive finishing point

We joined Roger for a pleasurable final few minutes of our 200 mile trek, before joining Tim and Kate, celebrating the successful completion of their 10th crossing with Ann and Alvar outside the excellent tea shop in St Cyrus.

The one-o-clock bus whisked us into Montrose and the bustle of TGO Control and then the busy, but happy and friendly camp site.

It was fun. Great to catch up with friends made on the trip and many others - more on this in tomorrow's reprise - Cinderella mustn't be late for the Ball!



These pictures show Roger Smith conducting the ceromonies at the Park Hotel, Maria Scott receiving her 10th crossing plaque from Cameron, who is also pictured with Tim and Kate, receiving their plaque.
And of course we were there with the Mad, Hungry, Lazy, Kindly and Generous, Camera Shy Austrian who started from three different places and still by some miracle made it to Montrose.
Thanks to Susan Lowery for that picture, all the way from the USA.

What a great event. Our thanks to everyone, including Peter and Avril and Robin, as well as Roger, of course, at TGO Control, and to the Weather Gods, for making it so enjoyable.
Thanks also to our vetter, Alan Hardy, and to my last year's vetter, Ian Shiel, who kindly provided some unexpected sustenance at North Water Bridge.

Thanks mostly though to Sue (Nallo Lady) who on her first Challenge gave me time to write -up as we went along by acting as camp chef. Much appreciated as it also saved my knees from further destruction. And she still found time to give Denis P a foot massage!
By now you should know that I like statistics:
We kept pretty religiously to our plans and walked about 323km (plan was 325km) and climbed about 12,500 metres (plan was 12,730 metres). We got to 20 summits as planned.

Next Day - Reprise
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Thursday 22 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 14 - Plan - North Water Bridge to St Cyrus

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

1 North Water Bridge
2 Marymill – Mill of Criggie - Bush
3 Inlet at NO 765 649, east of St Cyrus (finish)
4 St Cyrus beach
5 St Cyrus for the bus to Montrose and appropriate celebrations

Statistics

18 km
330 metres ascent
6.8 hours

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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Wednesday 21 May - TGOC Day 13 - Nice to be Up High - Tent City to North Water Bridge (NWB)

Actual: 27km, 758 metres ascent
As planned, with a small variation at Dalbog
Time 7 hours 35 mins including 40 mins stops.
No of Challengers seen on the walk: the back of one walking into NWB

Having waved off the self-confessed Lazy Austrian who had spent most of yesterday asleep at Tarfside, we set off at 8.50 from St Dronstan's, duly fortified by their tea and bacon butties.
Is this Tarfside, or Fartside!?

We reflected on the amazing Roger Boston with whom we had breakfasted. His knees are allegedly shot but he has managed to summit 43 Munros and 1 Corbett.
Well done, Roger, it sounds like you had a great route.

We brought our own tally to 20 today. The Hill of Wirren tops out at only 678 metres but was hard work, with tired legs and a cold east wind adding to the difficulty of rough ground beyond the Clash of Wirren.

The white rumps of the resident wheatears beckoned us on as the words of 'My Old Man', so enthusiastically rendered by Croydon last night, fluttered through our minds.

As in the Mount Battock area, a double electric fence dominated the broad ridge. The way to the summit trig point was thus barred, but I managed to reach it with a bit of 'ducking and diving'.

There were superb views to Lochnagar and Clachnaben, and lots of lovely white flowers with bright green leaves. Thanks go to Ann Thorn who identified the plant as cloudberry, so named as it is only found on high mountain areas.

Peat had been left high and dry in places where the hillside had eroded away; this one even had a tunnel through it, and was difficult to scale due to an 'all round' overhang.

By the time we reached East Wirren and our final trig point we had fine sea views, with a foreground patchwork quilt of bright yellow, brown and green fields, intermingled with deep green woodland to feast the eye.

We saw no other Challengers up here, and for company we had the ubiquitous oyster catchers and lapwings, as well as curlew, buzzards and a very fat ferret amongst a multitude of rabbits.

Whilst we were very much enjoying being up high, today's biting wind dictated our shortest lunch stop yet, in a sheltered yet cool alcove on the descent to Dalbog.

Lanes lined with gorse and broom led to tarmac after obscure stiles had guided us around secluded Cowiehill. Speedwells, bluebells and other lowland flowers lined the lanes as we walked on, now in crocs, to North Water Bridge.

It was a long road through beautiful woods, but we didn't realise that we could have found a better route, with a tea shop, through Edzell.

Yesterday we met Bill, who had got into the Challenge as 85th reserve. It just goes to show, if you want to do it every year you probably can, if you are prepared to wait for last minute withdrawals.

So here we are in this most sociable of places, with 18 km to go before our appointment with the east coast.

Many of us in this new tent city - having moved like gypsies (one pretending to be a blogger is pictured) from Tarfside today - will soon adjourn to the camp site TV room to watch the European Cup Final or, in some cases, simply to keep warm!

Next day: Day 14
Plan
Report
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Wednesday 21 May 2008 - TGO Challenge Day 13 - Plan - Tarfside to North Water Bridge

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

1 Tarfside – Clash of Wirren – West Wirren
2 Hill of Wirren – East Wirren – Hill of Corathro
3 Gannochy
4 North Water Bridge (camp site)

Statistics

26 km
750 metres ascent
10.2 hours

(1 Graham)

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Tuesday 20 May - TGOC Day 12 - The Short Road East - River Camp to Tarfside

Actual: 20km, 468 metres ascent
As planned, except that we started 0.5 km along the route
Time 7 hours 15 mins including 2 hours 15 mins stops.
No of Challengers seen: 10 plus lots more at Tarfside


An easy day in fair weather. Very sociable as well.

We enjoyed a lie in and set off at 8.45, with other Challengers passing by.
Mark and his son Sam, the youngest Challenger, were soon passed in an excellent camping spot (who said it was hard to camp up here?) then we stopped for a chat with Colin Tock. He has kept his wife busy - apart from the boots saga his stove broke and she had to track him down with a replacement.

The 'Spot' gadget that Colin and four others are testing was not used for that!
And we later found Roger at Tarfside so his is intact.
But one of the testers got appendicitis and used his 'Spot'. Apparently he was rescued within 2 hours from an obscure place with no phone signal.

After passing the Bad Penny and reaching Shielin of Mark bothy, we enjoyed a brew with the Parasitic Challenger, along with Phil East and Dave Catanach. It was lovely and sunny, but encroaching cloud dulled the rest of the day.




Jeff Rowe at Shielin of Mark (above) and Tom Hume looking for his shadow (below)
aka the Parasitic Challenger, and The Bad Penny

We enjoyed some smoked oysters for lunch in Glen Lee, and chatted to John Jocys at length in his bijou lunch spot at the end of the loch.



Strolling on, we passed a castle - a posh new one and this ruined old one - and the last of the fading daffodils.


Then it was over the top (less than 150 metres ascent actually) catching up novice Challengers Bill Devine and Jim Harris on the way to Tarfside, where we are now camped with many other Challengers.

(The picture was taken before most of them arrived.) There must be 60+ tents, with others staying at St Droston's Lodge, around the corner.

This is a social focal point of the Challenge.

It was great to find Ian Shiel in good form after some serious back problems nearly prevented his participation this year.

St Drostan's is a place of character. We enjoyed a baked potato there after having our camp starter of pasta and tuna, so we were well fed today. They had 4 sittings of 12 people each.

Alan Sloman (pictured relaxing at the table) was on hand to rope in his chosen victims for washing up duties that were needed as a continuous process.

Many others obtained food from The Retreat, a mile down the road, but they came to the camp site to take orders and delivered the food later to the tents, which are actually in the Sports Field - this is not a proper camp site.

Then nearly everyone partied the night away in 'The Mason's Arms'.
Many folk crammed into a small room with a roaring fire, and a sing song led by 'Croydon' - Mick Hopkins, on his 10th Challenge.

Amongst all this, Sue found time to give Denis Pidgeon a foot massage!

Next day: Day 13
Plan
Report
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Monday 19 May - TGOC Day 11 - A Still Day on Lochnagar - Luxurious Camp to Wild Camp near the bridge over Allt Darrarie

Actual: 28km, 1396 metres ascent
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 Braemar

Taking 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?'
'Yes'
'Great'
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.'
'Hmmm.'

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 tow

We 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.

All the other wildlife was too quick for me!

The morning had gone well. We were over 3 hours ahead of schedule!

We enjoyed the usual sumptuous lunch - tuna salad today, and the magnificent views in all directions that have become a feature of this trip. An orientation point told us that the distant sea horizon was 82 miles away, but we couldn't quite see the Cheviots - 106 miles away.

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.)

Here are two pictures taken from the same spot,
with Darren and Dawn clearly in awe of our splendid location
And that leaves us here in this last wild camp, with little to do but push buttons on a telephone.

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!

Goodnight!

Next day: Day 12
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