Metres ascent: 1119
Time taken: 9.25 hours including 1.75 hours stops
No of Challengers seen: 0
No of Day Walkers coming down Ben Vrackie: approx 50 - the first walkers seen since Tuesday am in the Mamores (excluding Arbroath Spacemen)
No of Cool Mountain Summits: 1
"That's a long way down the road" Amanda observed, looking at the 11 km thin blue line on my map to Garry Bridge, "why don't you use the footpath to Blair Atholl? It starts next door."
I looked up the road to 'next door'. Sure enough, "Blair Atholl" announced the green footpath sign.
The map confirmed that by taking this route to Killicrankie rather than my planned route I would be walking just 3 km along a minor road rather than 11 km along a main road, the overall distance remaining similar and the height gain being slightly less by the Blair Atholl route, with the promise of better views.
A 'no-brainer'. Thank you Amanda. She and Tom run the establishment that is the 200 year old Loch Tummel Inn. They were very disappointed in having been forced to close the previous day because of Scottish Power having turned off their supply for most of the day. They apologise to any disappointed Challengers.
Those people rightly deserve to be disappointed. I sampled as much of the menu as I could and found myself asking about the recipes.
"Chefs' own" Tom explained, "one them is from Gleneagles and the other trained as a pastry chef under Gary Rhodes."
So, after the best part of a day spent luxuriating in the lovely surroundings of Loch Tummel and Schiehallion, and waiting patiently for my 8.30 breakfast (I suppose it's only reasonable to start late if you work late into the evening running a busy restaurant) I set off along the footpath to Blair Atholl, fortified by the bacon, egg, haggis, black pudding, mushrooms, tomato, potato scone and (just one) sausage that constituted their excellent Full Scottish Breakfast.
As yesterday, when it actually rained as I took the tent down, low cloud dominated the early morning, slowly raising its cloak to produce another warm sunny day.
The footpath was well marked with Scottish Rights of Way Society signs and finger posts. The reflections in Loch Tummel were replaced by views in mature woodland, the paths lined with wood anemones, wood sorrel, speedwell, etc. Only one short section was akin to a forest 'ride' in Snowdonia.
Shorts were deployed.
The woodland route reached pretty Loch Bhac, from where a footpath across open moorland provided an easy heathery stroll down to Blair Atholl, the ugly scar of the Munro baggers' route up Carn Liath (Beinn a' Ghlo) drawing ever closer.
Butterwort, tormentil, vetches, milkwort and speedwells were all in flower. Perhaps I know why...
It was Hot.
Cool Mountain Air was required.
My route provided the solution. After a quiet lane lined by a plethora of brightly coloured flowers, and lunch at the Killiecrankie Visitor Centre (it's a shame I didn't get to walk up the riverside path from Garry Bridge, but I've done that a few times, and the route via Blair Atholl was in all other respects superior) I set off up a well marked path up Ben Vrackie. As the traffic noise from the A9 slowly subsided, so did the air temperature, making it feel like a high Alpine day. Delightful.
Suddenly I started meeting people, for the first time on the hill in four days. One of them explained why:
"It's the only decent hill that you can walk up from the door of any B&B in Pitlochry. And it's a well constructed path."
Anyway, it was very pleasant on top, where I lingered for a while before donning trouser legs and gaiters for the 5 km yomp past herds of deer to this delightful 8th wild camp of the trip (pictured).
The deer are very noisy, I hope I'm not in their way.
Talking of yomping, I've worked out that out of 9 days so far I've walked the equivalent of 5 days on pathless terrain. Perhaps it is a truly exclusive route...
There's more yomping tomorrow. And a Fleshpot. Will I see my third Challenger?
Now for a few messages and a gear supplement:
Gayle, are you inferring that my friends, my fellow bloggers, are taking 'girlie' routes. Tut tut! The hit squad will be after you! I have however noted that one of my fellow bloggers has wimped out of crossing the Fords of Avon. Maybe he's lost his crutches? Yes, I'm sure. That Must be the reason.
Geoffrey, I'm not really against trial (or is it 'trail' bikes), other than the numpties who bring them into disrepute in the Peaks and Dales. But I've seen ancient, fragile paths ripped to shreds by them during the course of this trip.
As for the crutches - see below.
Nick, you can't tell me in one breath that you are going to live in Zug, and in the next breath you won't be fit enough for TGOC 2011! The two don't compute.
I'm not a gear freak, and I don't think going light is necessarily the most comfortable way to travel. But I'm lucky, I seem to be happy to carry more to stay comfy. I've not bought anything significant specifically for this year's backpacking trips, but I'll comment on the following fairly recent acquisitions:
Thermarest NeoAir (short) - I didn't get on well with this at first and nearly re-sold it. But I have to say that on this dry trip, with seven successive wild camps, it has been brilliant. So in dry weather, on flat pitches, it's great.
Pacerpole Crutches - I find these much easier on my wrists than the Lekis that I lost in Italy. Crutches are of course a Necessity of Life, Geoffrey, when your knees have had as many bits taken out or exchanged as mine have done.
Scarpa Infinity boots. Like last year's equally comfy Asolo Fugitives, these have now spent many days sloshing through boggy, pathless terrain. Unlike the Fugitives they are still keeping my feet dry.
John West seared tuna fillets - an excellent addition to flavoured 'pasta n sauce'.
Aquagear Water Filter (now 'Travel Tap') - a provider of much peace of mind, even if it does encourage laziness regarding the sourcing of spring water.
Golite Quest rucksack - ok in good weather, really annoying in bad weather, for which I find the slightly heavier Karrimor Jaguar better because it has a tent compartment. Is there anything like the Quest on the market that has a tent compartment, which is really useful on wet days?
Alpkit titanium tent pegs - as recommended by Gayle and Mick - for complete peace of mind in a storm.
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