Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Saturday 16 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 9 - Plan - Lochan a' Ghaorra to 740 metre col at NN 874 779

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Wild camp by Lochan a' Ghaorra
2 Path junction
3 Feith Ghorm Ailleag
4 Path junction
5 Beinn Gharbh
6 Beinn Dearg (M)
7 Northern summit of Beinn Dearg
8 Elrig 'ic an Toisich
9 Wild camp near col - NN 874 779 (approx 740 metres)

Statistics
20 km
1000 metres ascent
8.5 hours
(1 Munro)

tgo09map09

Our full route is here.

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 8 - The Dalwhinnie Inn to a copse near Lochan a' Ghaorra (NN 761 832) - Hare Hill

Distance walked: 27.8 km
Metres ascent: 1040
Time taken including 30 min stops: 8 hrs 30 mins
No of Challengers encountered: 4 - just as we reached our camping spot

This morning I was bragging to Martin Donaldson about our morning brew stops (half an hour for elevenses) and our lengthy lunch breaks of up to an hour. Today's breaks, however, were minimal as we chose a high level route on a cold blustery day with showers.

Not stopping much does have its advantages. Arriving here two and a half hours ahead of schedule enabled us to get set up before the onset of the storm that is currently raging outside.

I am happy in the library whilst my chef is busy in the conservatory. The only problem is that the Provisioning Manager faces the sack - it's chicken (flavoured) and leek soup again. Oh, and the tent is having a flap - she doesn't like the wind!

We were expecting bad weather today, so are pleased to have had no problems on our planned route, with views from both Munro summits, and to have remained warm (except Sue's hands) and dry.

Fuelled by a full breakfast, we fairly flew up Carn na Caim this morning, stopping only to note a slug and wood sorrel zone around 700 metres. (Your wildlife reporter is desperate for content today!)


Top: setting off up Carn na Caim
Middle: the view back to Dalwhinnie
Bottom: on Carn na Caim summit, with the Munro Top of Glas Mheall Mor in the distance

No deer, few birds, but hey! There were hares. Lots of them. And rabbits. All quite well camouflaged apart from their blobby white tails.

The hills were alive. With hares.

After being on the tops above 800 metres for well over 3 hours we were pleased to drop down to below 500 metres in the deserted valley that houses Edendon Water - just a trickle today.

Sronphadruig Lodge was sadly derelict and deserted - crying out for a change of name and a new owner.

It seemed very remote as we pressed on along a faint path beside Loch an Duin.

A cyclist had been along here, mostly pushing I expect.

Soon the fresh whitewash of the impressive house of Gaick Lodge came into view and we knew our work for the day was nearly done. As we approached our planned camping spot four figures appeared - Heather T-S, John Burt, Peter Kenyon and Barbara Sanders, all on a different route from Dalwhinnie - low level apart from Heather, who had been up Meall Chuaich - a hill that I have rudely suggested doesn't need a Foul Weather Alternative. Heather may disagree!

Heather, John, Peter, Barbara, Sue and Martin - a Very Jolly Encounter

We found this nice spot (given the current flapping 'sheltered' would be an optimistic description) in the lee of a sparse copse.


The others pressed on, three of them (including Peter) sporting 'boob bags' from which they dangle their vitals (or should that be 'vittals') for the day. We hope they got pitched before the stormy weather soaked them.

That's it for today, but who knows when anyone will read this, or when this weather will abate. Will we need a Foul Weather Alternative? Will Sue's body relent, and allow her to continue? (It was the hip today, and the achilles, but happily her back, shoulder and feet are not so painful now; however, her knee is playing up. I think she's going for a 'full house'!)

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Friday, 15 May 2009

Friday 15 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 8 - Plan - Dalwhinnie to Lochan a' Ghaorra

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Dalwhinnie Inn
2 Leave the A9
3 Carn na Caim (M)
4 A' Bhuidheanach
5 A' Bhuidheanach Bheag (M)
6 Glas Mheall Mòr
7 Edendon Water
8 Path junction
9 Another path junction
10 Wild camp by Lochan a' Ghaorra - NN 758 835 (approx 450 metres)

Statistics
27 km
1000 metres ascent
11.1 hours
(2 Munros)


tgo09map08

Our full route is here.

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 8 - From The Fleshpots of Dalwhinnie - Into the Wilderness

We've just enjoyed breakfast with Heather, Peter, Barbara and the crowd and are about to set off into the mizzle.

There may be no signal for several days as we tramp across to the Spittal of Glenshee.

We'll be back in touch as soon as possible, perhaps from our Foul Weather route.

Ciau

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 7 - Slightly Lumpy Camp with Two Ticks to The Fleshpots of Dalwhinnie - Trying not to be 'Pidgeoned'

Distance walked: 22.2 km
Metres ascent: 748
Time taken including 1 hour 30 min stops: 7 hrs 30 mins
No of Challengers encountered: Quite a few in the Dalwhinnie Inn

How to get misplaced and back in a forest:

•Follow the sign to Dalwhinnie and find an immaculate path leading to the ruins of a village in a clearing in the middle of a forest, where long-legged brown Soay sheep from St Kilda run freely.
•Return to correct 'path' = tramp through bog.
•Locate bridge that crosses stream on path leading in wrong direction.
•Go to corner of forest 1 km north of planned route.
•Brew up whilst congratulating oneself on bringing GPS and surprising a low flying heron.
•Head up boggy forest rides in attempt to locate planned exit from forest. ••Succeed!
•Giddy with success, euphorically head up deep steep heather to a rocky plateau with 40 metre drops all around.
•••Oops!

It had been a calm night.

But the cool easterly got up again during the day, so fleeces were required by lunch time. Another clear blue sky greeted us, with fluffy clouds soon scooting across the horizon. But later this afternoon the sky cleared again, so those camping (Patrick will soon set off up the aquaduct) may have a cool night.

Today should have been an easy stroll, and in truth it can't have been bad as we finished at 2.45 pm. The early morning descent to the A86 was easy, and the views down Loch Laggan were superb, with lovely reflections of snow capped mountains in the surprisingly still loch, and a soundtrack of gently chirping birds.


The road walk to Feagour was tolerable, then a small bird serenaded us and the forest fun began. After that we braved the deep heather, occasional bog, stiff breeze and false summits of the gnarly Graham with a big bite, Meall nan Eagan, before heading down to the Fleshpots of Dalwhinnie (aka The Dalwhinnie Inn), despite the efforts of the wind to blow us back west and the efforts of a house called Allt an t-Sluic to steal the path.

"Come this way!" sang the willow warbler, enticing us off route into the beautiful forest.

We had the pleasure of seeing these Soay sheep (above) at the ruined village of Druim an Aird, but our diversion left us exhausted - in need of a welcome brew!


The rough ascent of Meall nan Eagan afforded fine views back to Creag Meagaidh and 'The Window'

The fieldfare, lapwing and oyster catcher population of Dalwhinnie provided a fanfare as we strolled into town past the smart distillery that hardy Alan suggested we visit. Not even Denis had time for that today.

The biggest 'Fleshpot' that Dalwhinnie has to offer - did any of us visit the distillery?

Amongst those at the Inn are said Denis Pidgeon, Heather T-S and John Burt, plus quite a few more.

We are pleased to see that Markus collected his secret stash of CCS a couple of days ago, but disappointed that he didn't leave us any beer! "Your fellow Challengers have drunk it all" we were informed.

We are also delighted to hear that Caburn found the 'Coire Lair Whisky' and even happier to discover that he saw fit to share it out!

No news from Darren, whose blog ends abruptly at Day 3. Oh dear?

And I think we may have survived the evening in the company of Denis better than Alan Sloman did on his LEJOG walk a couple of years ago when he went 'missing' for a few days...

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Thursday 14 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 7 - Plan - Allt Crunachdain to Dalwhinnie

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Wild camp
2 Kinloch Laggan
3 Feagour
4 Forest edge
5 Meall nan Eagan (G)
6 Path by ridge
7 A889 road
8 Dalwhinnie Inn (with a proper bed at 360 metres!)

Statistics
21 km
600 metres ascent
8.3 hours
(1 Graham)

tgo09map07

Our full route is here.

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On the beautiful Forest Path to Dalwhinnie - 9.20 am - 14/5/09

Actually, this is where we went wrong - the beautiful path led to the ruined village of Druim an Aird - a delightful 'must visit' dead end. We were not alone in making this mistake, but only Heather T-S braved the 'direct exit' - the rest of us retraced our steps. All at different times, of course.

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Our campsite at 430 metres by Allt Crunachdain - 13/5/09

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 6 - Heathery camp to Lumpy Camp by Allt Crunachdain at 430 metres - Arctic Winds on Creag Meagaidh

Distance walked: 21.9 km
Metres ascent: 1289
Time taken including 1 hour 20 min stops: 8 hrs 35 mins
No of People encountered: One day walker from Geordie Land


We woke to clear blue skies - the day was cloudless

We thought we had found a calm spot for lunch. Tea had been brewed and I'd succeeded in opening my small can of mackerel with hot chilli sauce with only a minimal amount of the inevitable spray from the peel-top container. My spork hovered as I held back the saliva.

Suddenly, half the mackerel jumped out of the can and ran down my leg. The chilli sauce tried to follow.

A sudden gust of wind had given the last laugh to the dead fish.

Sue stood up in surprise. Her sitmat blew away...

Luckily we saw only one other person today. He didn't comment on the smell. Some washing will need to be done when we reach Dalwhinnie tomorrow.

The chap we met said it was 't-shirts and shorts weather down below', so we suppose most Challengers will be complaining of the heat. After all, the sun has been beaming all day from a clear blue sky - and it's dazzling me as I write this from the library at the back of the tent - we are pitched in exactly the same direction as yesterday; the wind hasn't changed.

But we spent over 7 hours today on Creag Meagaidh's gusty 16 km ridge - mostly over 1000 metres. Gloves and windproofs were needed for all of that, and anyone spying on us might have put money on us being afflicted by 'TGO Challenge Syndrome' (an affection for whisky).


Sue enjoys temporary respite from the wind on Beinn a' Chaorainn



Above: on the summit of Creag Meagaidh

Below: taking a breather in the most comfortable position available, anchored by my rucksack


Both our right shoulders now hurt from the constant efforts of the wind trying to drag the rucksacks off our backs to our left!

We took, with some difficulty, a blog photo on the main summit. Moments later we lost the signal for the day, so the image should appear at around about the time of this posting. N'ere mind, we are doing our best, and it's not a very good image anyway.

Today's views were fabulous. The visibility remains excellent, with the Cairngorms beckoning and the summits of Knoydart now looking quite distant amongst an array of peaks to our west.

With 4 Munros on this fine (and thankfully broad, given today's wind) ridge has more than doubled our tally to 7 - we couldn't have Gayle and Mick out climbing us, could we? Though we stand aside in admiration for people like Heather, whose impressive tally makes ours seem paltry. We also admire 'low level' Challengers like Carole and Judith, whose challenge is simply to enjoy a two week holiday walking across Scotland. And there are folk like Ian, who will be straining to cross the country despite debilitating ailments.

At least our debilitating ailment today, the wind, was self afflicted and temporary.

The wildlife was mainly hiding from the wind, but there was a bumble bee on the ridge (we've seen a few ridge loving bumble bees!) some busy small birds - wheatears, pipits and the like - and lots of deer, even on the ridge. It was disappointing to see some dashing away from our camping spot (we are camped more or less exactly as planned), and we have already seen a few ticks here, mostly drowned in the soup (the same as last night's) "to add extra protein" says the chef.

Quite a bit of snow was encountered, some hard, some soft and deep. I struggled to escape from one drift. Some was mobile - it seemed as if unseen people were chucking snowballs at us from below the cornices - it was sharp and stinging...

We managed this particular obstacle without too much difficulty!

The only Challenger we had any contact with today was Heather T-S, with a 'lonely in Fort Augustus, where is everyone?' message sent last night. Sorry we couldn't be there Heather - we recall a jolly get together there last year.

We still have no word from Darren, Markus and John. Hope they are ok.

Our campsite down at 430 metres is warm and luxurious, in the lee of the wind by a babbling brook with sun early and late.


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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

On Creag Meagaidh Summit - 11.40 - 13/5/09 - VERY WINDY!

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Wednesday 13 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 6 - Plan - Tom Mor to Allt Crunachdain

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Wild camp
2 North top of Beinn a' Chaorainn
3 Beinn a' Chaorainn (M)
4 South top of Beinn a' Chaorainn
3 Beinn a' Chaorainn
2 North top of Beinn a' Chaorainn
5 Bealach a' Bharnish
6 Creag Meagaidh (M)
7 The Window
8 Stob Poite Coire Ardair (M)
9 Summit at 991 metres
10 Meall an t-Snain
11 Carn Liath (M)
12 Summit at 903 metres
13 Wild camp at stream junction by Allt Crunachdain - NN 510 909 (approx 450 metres)

Statistics
21 km
1300 metres ascent
9.6 hours
(4 Munros)

tgo09map06

Our full route is here.

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 5 - Gairlochy Holiday Park to Tom Mor (Heathery camp at NN 369 873) - Not a Cloud in the Sky

Distance walked: 29.6 km
Metres ascent: 1166
Time taken including 2 hours 15 min stops: 10 hrs 25 mins
No of Challengers encountered: just yesterday's 4

"I don't snore" said Alan, pitching his tent beside Carole's last night. The snoring didn't disturb us unduly, but it was very evident. "It must have been me" confessed Alan, meekly. "Sorry."

Tonight we are back in the wilds, camped at 620 metres in a bed of heather with the sun beaming in. We will not be disturbed by Alan or anybody else's snoring. The nearest human is probably several miles away.

We enjoyed a speedy turnaround on this cloudless morning, rising at the same time as the others and getting away within an hour, at 7.40.



The scenic route to Spean Bridge - with views of Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis (see above) - sported fly pasts by curlew and oyster catchers and involved gaiters and a compass when we encountered bog and got mildly misplaced near an impassable stream by a disused railway line.
So by the time we stumbled into the 'Little Chef' we were well up for their Olympic Breakfast (me) and Early Starter (Sue). We are not accustomed to visiting this much maligned eatery, but today it did us proud.

As we left we bumped into Carole and the 3 Likely Lads, who, lacking in any sense of adventure, had walked down the road to Spean Bridge. They must have lingered for an hour at the camp site, despite having long days ahead.

Carole is a day behind her schedule and will adjust her route. We walked with them for 4 km to a point where their heavily signposted track led off south to Corrour, Rannoch and various other places not on our itinerary. They were good company while it lasted, and we enjoyed listening to Carole about her life as a crofter on the Isle of Lewis.

Above - Alan, Mike and Brian


The only other people we saw today were seven folk descending Beinn Teallach - some time later.

We passed this immaculate, deserted, remote white cottage by the south bank of the River Spean.

Meanwhile we enjoyed the leafy tracks that led eventually to a footbridge over the River Spean beyond Monessie, and the A86 road along which we endured 6 km. It wasn't too bad, as I discovered the road to be a 'hot spot' for a phone signal and internet access! A holiday was organised, and it was good to receive comments from Paul (yes, we were pleased with our route of descent to the River Carnach - we managed to avoid any serious difficulties), Louise, Nightbird, Stay at Home But Not For Long Hazel, Phil (we still don't know whether the 'stash' was located, "I bet he's pig sick he wasn't there" sympathises Sue), Bill/Alison and Martin. Sorry if we've forgotten anyone.

It was also good to hear from folk away from their computers in response to our limited circulation 'textblog'!

Yes, it's a wonder that we actually manage to take a daily stroll in between all these chores!

So the road walk soon passed. Beyond Burnside Cottage we headed north on a good path (compared with Knoydart) with only occasional bogs.

Remarkably, it's still a dry trip from the foot point of view, though Sue's are vying for attention with her painful shoulder.

Beinn Teallach was a doddle after the thrutch up Gulvain a couple of days ago, but the views were as fine, with snow-capped peaks in almost every direction.


On the way up we were treated to more low flying jets - one had tried to scalp us by Loch Arkaig yesterday - then a pair of black grouse seemed to be valiantly trying to imitate the jets, whilst a ptarmigan looked on, perplexed as ever.


A chill east wind had us donning fleeces and hurrying down to locate, at 6 pm, this dry but lumpy patch of heather near springs, about half a km 'off route'. It's not quite perfect, one of its flaws being that I am being dazzled by the low sun whilst composing this in the library (my small work station at the back of the tent).


The soup has been eaten (chicken and leek, but I don't think I got my share of the 0.9 grammes of protein) and the risotto is cooking - should be delicious.

Later: it was yummy, as was the butterscotch dessert.

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Our camp site at 620 metres - 8 am on 13/5/09

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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Nearing the summit of Beinn Teallach - 4.45 pm - 12/5/09

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In the Woods

Much of today has been spent in pleasantly shady woodland.

Here Sue enjoys the coconutty aroma of the gorse.

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Tuesday 12 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 5 - Plan - Gairlochy Holiday Park to Tom Mor

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Gairlochy Holiday Park
2 Spean Bridge
3 Bridge
4 Achluachrach
5 Burnside Cottage
6 Path junction
7 Turn to ascend
8 Beinn Teallach (M)
9 Wild camp near Cairn at Tom Mor - NN 371 867 (approx 600 metres)

Statistics
29 km
1200 metres ascent
12.0 hours
(1 Munro)


tgo09map05

Our full route is here.

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By Loch Arkaig - lunch time 11/5/09

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Brew stop above Glenmallie - 10.30 - 11/5/09

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 4 - East ridge of Gulvain to Gairlochy Holiday Park - More like Today, Please!

Distance walked: 23.2 km
Metres ascent: 481
Time taken including 1 hour 45 min stops: 7 hrs 45 mins
No of Challengers encountered: Carole Sinclair plus Mike, Alan and Brian

The night was still and cold and clear and silent. Whatever condensation had formed was soon vapourised when the sun hit the tent at 5.30 am.


A leisurely start saw us leave at 8 am on a beautiful day.

Here Sue collects water from a spring - as fresh as you can get...

Our route along the broad 8 km ridge of Mullach Coire nan Geur-oirean was pathless but easy compared with previous days. We have left the Knoydart bogs behind; our boots slowly dried today. We lingered at the summit to take advantage of a rare 'phone signal. Birds (dotterel, I think) and deer were spying on us; Loch Arkaig far below was mirror still, reflecting in its waters the mountains beyond; a reddish backed eagle soared gracefully below us; a fox dashed away once it realised it had been spotted, and a ptarmigan strutted nervously, perhaps wondering whether we could see through its camouflage.


On the way down we found an antler, so we stopped for a brew whilst deciding whether or not to retain it as a trophy. We left it by some rocks.

Down in Glenmallie we said goodbye to the pathless/boggy terrain we had enjoyed for most of the trip thus far, zipped off our trouser legs, and set off along a much quicker rough track. The weather was wonderful. It was a shorts and t-shirt day. We were both glad of our convertible trousers.

A slow worm decorated the track alongside pretty Loch Arkaig, and the path was bordered by wood sorrel, primroses, dog violets, daisies, bluebells, wild strawberries (sadly only the flowers) and more.

By Loch Arkaig (above), and a Slow Worm (below)



Wood Sorrel

We stopped for lunch near trees with soft new leaves. The copper beech foliage was most attractive. Our food supplies had been judged about right, as we were now down to some powdered milk and a couple of tea bags.

Two fishermen in a small boat were the first people we had seen for nearly 24 hours.

A couple of backpackers came the other way near a small museum by a huge mansion that heralded our return to civilisation. They were too young to be Challengers. And too thin. And they were walking too quickly!


From the end of Loch Arkaig a quiet road led all the way - along the shores of Loch Lochy (above) - to Gairlochy, where we picked up another Challenger, Carole, outside a telephone box (a bit of a give away for identifying Challengers) for the last few steps to the friendly camp site at Gairlochy Holiday Park.

It was 4 pm; after an easy day. We set up camp, enjoyed a brew, washed and dried ourselves and our clothes, collected our food parcel, and relaxed in the sun. The table and chairs helped to make us feel at one with the world.


After mistaking several foreign backpackers for TGO Challengers we took a while to identify Alan and Brian as such. Mike drifted in a few minutes later. They had come from Tomdoun today. Quite a hike.

Our food stash provided an excellent meal, including some very powerful chilli con carne that we 'diluted' with new potatoes and mushrooms. Delicious, as was the broccoli, stilton and bacon soup, and the butterscotch dessert.

Sadly, our perfect day has had to come to an end, but at least some chaffinches tried to sing us to sleep before the owls took over..

We managed to exchange a few messages today and were pleased to hear from Alan Sloman, who has reached Beauly, and from Heather, from atop her 12th Munro summit. Also 3 messages from Dave got through, but the vagaries of our phone signal prevent us being more than envious of his excellent Madeira holiday deal.

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