Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 20 March 2009

Friday 20 March 2009 - Summer in Shiel Bridge - Sgurr an Airgid

Dave S, Julie and Di headed home to parties and work, via a couple of Drumochter Munros that Dave insisted on bagging. Having pushed his tally over the 200 mark he really does appear to have momentum in his quest to become a Munroist.

Meanwhile Dave O's appointment in Sharm el Sheikh on Sunday hastened our departure from the Highlands today, but not before we had time to enjoy a short romp up Sgurr an Airgid, a small but well formed Corbett 'peaklet' above Shiel Bridge.

On the way we stopped beyond Attadale to admire the views to Lochcarron and Applecross beyond.

Conditions were truly summery - t-shirt and shorts weather on a day of mirror calm sea lochs.

The stalkers path from Clachan Duich Burial Ground car park provided an excellent well graded ascent to the 841 metre summit, reached after just two hours at 1.15.

The day was hazy, but we enjoyed fine, wide-ranging views (below to the Five Sisters of Kintail), before reluctantly making our way down to reach the car by 2.45.


On the descent we met the 11th and 12th people we have encountered in some 35 hours of hillwalking this week. This couple had foreign accents, claimed to live on the Isle of Skye, and gave 'The United States of Europe' as their nationality. The interrogation ended there, and I pondered who had migrated furthest to reach this hillside - the itinerant couple, or the flock of snow buntings that was chirruping (or should that be 'tirrirrirriping') nearby?

The gorse is almost in bloom in the Shiel Bridge area, and will be radiant when we return here in a couple of weeks.

Meadow pipits and redstarts accompanied us today, with oyster catchers busying themselves on Loch Duich's nearby beaches.

We have now adjourned a further four hours south, and have just enjoyed a good meal at the Beancross Restaurant next to tonight's home for Dave and me - the Travelodge at Falkirk.

Here's today's route - 9km, 854 metres ascent, taking 3 hours 25 minutes, including about 25 minutes of breaks. Naismith would have taken 3 hours.


So here ends another fine Highland excursion. I shall enjoy adding some images and summaries over the next few days, and perhaps some panoramas on a separate web page. (All now done - see next posting.)

Ciao for now...

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Thursday 19 March 2009 - A Favourite Mountain - Beinn Alligin

Today dawned dry, sunny and still. And it stayed that way.

Julie and Di set off for a slow motion showdown with the 'Ling Hut Corbetts'. They were bemused by the hubbub they perceived on their first summit, only to discover that it was emanating from a large group of youths enjoying a snowball fight on the nearby Munro, Beinn Liath Mhòr!

Dave S chose a Munro direct from the cottage - Maol Chean-dearg - a nice hill, I was tempted.

But the view from our living room window drew Dave O and me to that Favourite Mountain.

Beinn Alligin.

My Munro bagging records show this as my 7th ascent of Alligin, but they are not complete so it could be more. Today's route in fine, warm, snow free conditions took us anti-clockwise over the Horns of Alligin for lunch below the northern summit after nearly three hours of walking.

Dave ascends Coire Mhic Nobuil through the pine forest

View from the northern summit (Sgurr Mòr) towards the Horns, Beinn Dearg and Beinn Eighe

On the summit

View to Upper Loch Torridon, with Beinn Damh

We saw lots (4) of people - Blue Renault Van Man at the car park, and Black Taped Trouser Man ascending slowly - both men of very few words. Plus a couple of cheery chaps, effusive about the weather - who wouldn't be - who ambled past from the other direction whilst we lunched.

Today featured the heron and a shag by the beach, great tits in the ancient pine forest through which the dappled light played on the leafy path. Mating frogs were not distracted by our passage (we've seen quite a bit of spawn this week), but a sunbathing lizard was wary of our presence.

Dave's phone blared across the hillside - Pat's secateurs had gone missing. Panic ensued as Dave frantically tried to maintain marital harmony.

T-shirts and shorts would have been suitable for today; Dave did try his best by rolling his trousers up - his best Bash Street Kid impression.

There were fabulous all round views of the Torridon peaks and Hebridean islands, but all too soon, after a gentle 900 metre descent, and nearly 7 hours in the sun, we were back at base and ready to adjourn to the remains of our beer, wine, backyard and coke, etc.

There was a lovely sunset, viewed below from outside Annat Lodge.


The resident cook has a day off so tonight's meal may be 'interesting'. [It was excellent - well done Dave S, Julie and Di.]

Here's today's route - 11km, 1226 metres ascent, taking 6 hours 45 minutes, including about 1 hour 30 minutes of breaks. Naismith would have taken 4 hours.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Wednesday 18 March 2009 - High Pressure Cloud - Beinn Liath Mhor

Annat Lodge on a bright morning

A drive past Lochcarron (the place) led to lovely reflections on the mirror-still waters of Loch Carron (the loch).

A 10.20 am departure saw all five of us trudging up past Achnashellach Station to ascend Coire Lair on a now gloomy day dominated by High Pressure Cloud.

Dave O finds an excellent gate through a deer fence

Julie soon retreated from her planned hill, Fuar Tholl, leaving it for a day with a view. She ambled on with Di whilst the rest of us shot off up the Coire, pausing briefly for Essential Business en route to the 620 metre col.

By Loch Coire Lair

After lunch in a sheltered spot (it turned out that all spots were sheltered today - the wind was on holiday) we ambled up occasionally steep ground to the summit of Beinn Liath Mhor - 926 metres (2pm).

This was Dave S's 200th Munro.

Well done Dave.

Reluctant to linger on 200 he left us here to shoot off to Sgorr Ruadh, number 201.

Meanwhile, Dave O and I ambled slowly along the 2km ridge, bidding our greetings to Harold the ptarmigan and his wife, Heather.

Three people appeared out of the mist on the 3rd and final summit. They had climbed Liathach yesterday, and were staying at Kinlochewe Bunkhouse. Crampons had been needed on Liathach, but on the lower heights we have frequented there has been hardly any snow, let alone the need for crampons.

The ice axe I carried today was strictly for Essential Business and use as a toilet trowel.

The descent back into Coire Lair was steep. "Oh no, oh no, oh no, me pooer nees" whined Dave. I ignored him, especially when he decided to bathe them in the river. "It's a bit like putting on an ice pack" he wittered....

Nearly back at the car, we chatted to Hilary, who runs a tea room at the Station House at Achnashellach. We discussed the TGO Challenge, and she looks forward to providing teas for challengers in early May. Scottish readers may see more of her sometime as the tame pine martens in her garden have attracted media attention. Earlier, Julie and Di had been her first customers this year - she opened last week.

A scary journey in Dave's painter's car was followed by another catering miracle, with my wounded kitchen assistant ('fingers' Dianne) being replaced by 'disappearing Dave O'. "Can't we use that 500ml of left over cream from yesterday" he exhorted, when I produced a fresh carton; he failed to realise that the chocolate bread and butter pudding he was anointing with the new cream already contained all the old cream.

Dave O has now retired to bed after his cholesterol fuelled apoplectic fit!

Here's today's route - 15km, 1130 metres ascent, taking 6 hours 45 minutes, including about 1 hour 15 minutes of breaks. Naismith would have taken 5 hours.

Bye for now, and apologies to any commenters from windowless rooms and elsewhere - I can't seem to acknowledge them from here - will catch up in due course.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Tuesday 17 March 2009 - Spring comes to Torridon - Beinn Dearg

"It's the first time I've seen the mountains for over a week" said our neighbour, admiring the view across the bay to Beinn Alligin. The mountain had been bathed in pink light as the sun rose this morning, and it remained sunlit all day.

Dave S went off to bag Beinn Eighe, whilst the rest off us headed up Coire Mhic Nobuil towards Beinn Dearg. The waterfalls below Alligin were impressive but the high contrast between sun and shade didn't produce a satisfactory image. So here's a rare photo of Dianne, shortly before she left us for her unexpectedly (due to a misunderstanding) low level walk back to Annat via the Ling Hut.

Whilst Di continued on the low level path. Dave O, Julie and I headed on up the good path to Bealach a' Chomhla before attacking the steep west ridge of Beinn Dearg.

A ptarmigan tried to chat to us...

"Hrrh, hrragh" - "I'm Harold" he chirped.

T-shirts had been in order lower down, but up at the summit of Beinn Dearg, reached after lunch in a sheltered spot on the ridge, an extra layer was welcome. It had taken nearly four hours.

On the final stretch to the first summit of Beinn Dearg, with Beinn Alligin behind

The views in all directions were magnificent, with the Cuillins on Skye, and Clisham on Harris, shining in the sun in the distance.

The Cuillins are about 60 km away!

It's quite a long ridge - about 4km - with some rock steps that challenged Julie's short stature. She now has bruised knees and is accepting Dave O's herbal remedies - we hope she survives his ministrations.

On the ridge, with Liathach beyond

Julie crashes down one of the rock steps

Looking back at the steep rock steps - they come directly down the steep prow (unlikely but true)

On the north side of the ridge the ice on Loch a' Choire Mhoir was breaking into a white mosaic.

At the far end of the ridge we paused for some time at Carn na Feòla to admire the twin Corbetts of Baosbheinn and Beinn an Eòin.


The descent from Carn na Feòla was steep, but sported excellent views of Liathach and had no difficulties, apart for Dave who marched purposefully across the path and to the wrong side of the river.

It was a pleasant amble back to the car park, past a young but very dead deer (we also saw lots of live specimens today) and then encountering the first people we have seen this week, a painter near the waterfalls and a young couple on a slow stroll.

The 16km walk took us 8 hours including 1 hour of stops - a slow amble in lovely spring weather. The route, shown below, involved about 1167 metres ascent and would have taken Naismith 5 hours or so.


Reunited at Annat Lodge we enjoyed lamb tagine and other goodies before flaking out in the intense heat of the living room.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Monday 16 March 2009 - A Gnarly Corbett - An Ruadh-stac

Overnight rain was slow to clear, but whilst Dave S waited until after lunch to nip up and down Slioch (and yes, I always thought that was a full day's outing), Julie, Dave O and I set off from the cottage at 10am.

Julie and Dave set off up towards Lochan Domhain on the Coulags path

Di looked on as we headed along the good path towards Coulags, taking care not to step on the frogs that are just starting to spawn. A dipper hunted by Lochan Domhain's outflow. The stepping stones were well submerged - it would be a wet crossing. Dave headed north to where the river was wider and easier. Julie and I looked at our maps. There was no need to cross here - we could yomp to where our path re-crossed the river.

Dave eventually rejoined us but missed a tea and CCS stop. The rain and wind strengthened. Red deer scooted away from our lunch spot at 500 metres. Then it was up to Bealach a' Choire Ghairbh, where we left the good path in favour of the steep slopes of An Ruadh-stac - at 892 metres our target for the day. Smooth steep rock, slippery in the wet, made for slow progress. Then, after a shallower incline, the terrain turned to loose broken steep rock. This made for slow progress.

After a false summit and 4.5 hours, at 2.30pm, we finally reached the lofty summit of this gnarly Corbett. It was still misty.

Dave and Julie - summiteers

Only the summit was in cloud and the route off was easy to find. On a dry day the rock would be easy and grippy, but in the damp care was needed to avoid dangerous slips.

A short cut avoided the bealach and took us back to the excellent stalkers path. As forecast, the weather was clearing, and looking back we had good views of our mountain.

An Ruadh-stac - the route of ascent is along the skyline from almost the very left of the image

Further down we passed the stepping stones where the stalkers path crosses the outflow from Lochan Domhain. It was several inches lower than when we ascended, but we still took evasive action.

Maol Chean-dearg and the stepping stones

On the descent the weather improved and we got some views, including sunset over Loch Torridon. The weather had finally acknowledged the presence of Dave O and me.

Upper Loch Torridon, with Beinn Alligin in cloud

We were back at the cottage at 6.15, after which my kitchen staff rustled up a fine Chicken Chardonnay meal whilst I whisked some eggs ineffectually - must really try to learn how to do this!

Here's today's route - 21km, 1093 metres ascent, taking 8 hours 15 minutes, including about 45 minutes of breaks. Naismith would have taken 6 hours.

Sunday 15 March 2009 - A Long Drive to find some Cloud


0800 - Leave the Snake Inn after fond goodbyes to the TGO Challenge crowd.

0845 - Timperley - unload/reload.

0945 - Chauffeur No 1 provides a lift to Bolton services before returning to dry tent etc, domestic chores, fund raising for future trips etc.

1015 - leave Bolton services with Chauffeur No 2 (Dave) and snow shoes etc.

1400 - Lunch and supplies at Stirling, and a muddle with Tesco's car park (we never did find the entrance).

1700 - Blasting through Inverness, the sunglasses have been employed all day, and the sun blinds us as we turn west.

A message from Julie, in Torridon, announces "Just returned from our wet walk".

Pass an informative sign that appears to announce "High risk of beer on road" - make note to book eye test.

Approaching Achnasheen, cloud cover increases, with mizzle in the air. But don't be dismayed - Dave and Martin, purveyors of good weather, are approaching, to bring respite to the residents of Torridon.

1810 - arrive safely at Annat Lodge, Torridon, to find Julie and Di drying out after their wet walk, with another Dave honing his skills in the darting room.

Enjoy a leisurely evening with fine food after our 430 mile, 8.5 hour drive.

But the snow shoes are greeted with derision - "there's no snow" says Julie "you should have brought a canoe instead".

It appears they had trouble with a river today.

Note: sadly this 500th posting of the 'Postcard' has no image*. So it's a landmark without much celebration. There's simply not a strong enough signal here to transmit images. So please bear with me for the next week or so - images will be added later.

*Yes it has - the daffs outside Annat Lodge now provide a header...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Friday 13 to Sunday 15 March 2009 - TGO Spring reunion at Snake Inn

It was a select crowd that gathered at the Snake Inn on Friday evening, to reminisce and enjoy a conservative amount of ale in front of the fire. Outside, tents were pitched on the grassy spaces around the car park and campervans vied with each other for the flattest locations.
Friday night was blustery and wet at times, but we were comfortable in the 'luxury tent' with pillows and thermarests - no backpacking this weekend.
Saturday morning dawned dry, but windy and gradually the car park filled with people anticipating a walk. Richard had organised two buses to transport around 30 of us to Edale and the journey passed quickly with challenge banter on board.

The group milled, with no-one wanting to act as 'leader', so it was a few minutes before the first bravely forged ahead on the nicely paved Pennine Way, followed by a steady crocodile of people. The wind blew strongly, making conversation tricky.

Jacob's ladder strung us out and warmed us up, opening up views behind.

With most of the height gained onto the Kinder plateau, it was time for a break, on the lee side of a large rock outcrop. Boxes of caramel shortbread were distributed, with few refusals!

The route then continued north around the edge, passing the trig point on Kinder Low, with views opening out to Kinder reservoir above Hayfield. The blustery wind played with my limbs, giving me the appearance of a drunk staggering along the path. Kinder Downfall provided a distraction because the water was failing to make it downwards, but being blown back up in clouds. Quite a sight!

The only rain of the day was here! A quick dash across the river bed was required to avoid a soaking. More rock outcrops provided a shelter for lunch, where an impromptu competition was held - who had the oldest Dark Peak map? The prices gave the game away because whilst one had cost £2.95, the clear winner was the £1.10 version! While some grumbled that
they had not had time to have pudding, there appeared sufficient time for Alan to have a post-lunch nap....

At the path junction with Ashop Clough, a few more hardy souls continued to Mill Hill and followed the paved path over the top to the Snake Road, continuing down Doctor's gate culvert and along the river in the woods. Others descended down Ashop Clough, on a slightly more direct route.
Tea was in order at the Snake Inn and relaxation before dinner. Richard had succeeded in bringing together 48 challengers and the Inn provided a good meal over which much conversation flowed.