Metres ascent: 1209
Time taken: 12.2 hours including 2.8 hours stops
No of Challengers seen: 0 (this is getting boring!)
No of NZ fishermen camping next to me: 1 (Brian)
It's a beautiful evening here at Loch Beanie. I'd worried about this camp site as Colin (vetter) seemed a little unsure, but there's plenty of flat space where he surmised, by the Old Boathouse, to make this last wild camp a memorable one. I'm watching Brian try to catch his supper whilst two love birds look on with amusement without pausing in their amorous intentions. It's very frustrating for Brian as all he can catch is weed and all we can hear on this perfectly still evening is jumping fish.
The morning started fine. I opened the tent to see orange early light diffusing through a veneer of mist.
However, as I shouldered the pack the mist thickened, and, to cut a long story short, it rained for three hours. It rained properly, not just short showers as on earlier days. This made my yomp up Creag nan Gobhar, then Ben Vuirich (at 903 metres nearly a Munro) a little taxing. Occasional sightings of blue sky held good omens but didn't affect the ferocity of the rain. As I left Vuirich's summit the nearby Corbett Top appeared, so I went up there in the hope of getting a view. The mist beat me, so I headed down to Daldhu for a second breakfast (of lunch provisions).
Some miserable looking DOE kids hobbled past. Their supervisor followed. We chatted. The children had not appreciated the unexpected rain.
A rickety bridge at Creag Loisk led to more rough ground before the Upper Lunch Hut was reached. Here I joined the Cateran Trail, remaining on it for most of the rest of the day.
Lunch comprised a breakfast, lunch actually having been eaten for breakfast.
By now my sunburnt arms from yesterday were stinging in today's bright sunshine, the clouds having finally evaporated. Rather than use valuable sun tan cream (perhaps a re-supply visit yesterday to Blair Atholl would have been wise) I chose to call in at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel. It has changed hands since last year and has become 'walker friendly', with a 20% discount for Challengers. Some have actually been seen go through here! I bought a meal. It was 3 pm. Cyclists on a 200 km endurance ride were passing through, getting their cards signed in the hotel and testing its soft drink resources.
The change of hands is good news.
Then, on along the Cateran Trail and up to this delightful spot by Loch Beanie, where Brian, originally from Christchurch, arrived shortly after my tent was set up. He's walking the Cateran Trail and is using New Zealand survival techniques. That means he has a surfeit of clothes, food and sundry survival equipment. But he has no fish. There is too much weed in the loch despite the love-bird swans doing their best to eat it. Brian admits he has a thing or two to learn about lightweight backpacking. But "I can carry it, so what's the problem, I have everything I need" he observes "anyway it only weighs 30 kg". I look at him in amazement. He's a strapping lad, yes, but 30 kg...?
I try to lift Brian's rucksack, already lightened by removal of his tent. I fail! It really is extremely heavy, and he's doing up to 20 miles a day.
Good to meet you Brian; have fun with your UK backpacking exploits.
The evening passed quickly. My worry about upsetting Gayle with frivolous comments on these pages has been eased by a series of text messages - she knows a wind-up when she sees one; I shouldn't have worried...
Today's yomping has been closely attended by trilling curlew and anxious lapwings. I've been careful to avoid standing on any nests. And this morning, whilst in the cloud, I noticed lots of 'cloudberry' - abundant but not yet in flower in these parts.
We are camped a few metres from another sad reminder of our own mortality. A large cairn with a plaque:
Heather (Hepburn) Halhead
1956 - 2001
Beloved Wife and Mum
Tomorrow I join a 'trade route' ('trade = easy) where there's an outside chance I may meet some other Challengers. You see, it's not all hard stuff for me - I think I'll wind down with some easy days. Have to get there first, of course.
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