See http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2011.html Day 9 for map of planned route - we took a lower option to the south
Distance: 30km (Cum 214) [Mike 30 - Cum 204]
Ascent: 660 metres (Cum 8255) [Mike 660 - Cum 6545]
Time taken: 9.2hrs including 1.7hrs stops
Weather: spitting with rain in the morning, but we ignored it; steady rain in the afternoon and evening, with strong wind easing. Noticeably warmer this evening - 14C in the tent
Challengers encountered: we were pleased to see Peter and Barbara shortly after setting off. They had waded across the River Feshie last night during which Peter had a Jelly (Croc) failure, but their spare tent pole had worked and they were fine - last seen heading effortlessly towards Mar Lodge. Then we came across Ken and Norma Proudler, with impressively light loads and a very relaxed regime involving low levels and a B+B or hotel every third night. Next we found first timers Sue and David Tooth crossing the Geldie Burn after walking up the Tilt from Blair Atholl this morning. They managed the crossing easily in their Terroc shoes, and we then walked with them for a while before sheltering from the rain in a copse whilst they brewed up and sorted out their socks. We left them to wander down to Mar Lodge in their own time. On our way up Glen Lui we met a friend from previous Challenges, Judith Barnes.
Others encountered: a mountain biker on his way from Montrose to Fort William in four days - heading for Kingussie tonight - he looked fit but wet. Three backpackers came from the Braemar direction. More mountain bikers were heading down to the Linn of Dee, including a couple with dogs in their rucksacks! Then numerous day walkers coming from the direction of Derry Lodge. They all looked very wet.
Flora and Fauna: there's a fair smattering of Cuckoo Flower (Lady's Smock) over the route at this time of year, and much of the Butterwort we saw today was in flower.
Best bit: bumping into Judith / realising that my feet are still dry!
Worst bit: the rain has returned - we have worn full waterproof gear for five whole days and for half of two days - ie 6 out of 9 days so far.
Poor Mike. He burnt holes in his groundsheet last night when a match head misbehaved. Then his watch adjusted itself to Central European Time and he got up "an hour early" - at 4am, though why he should normally get up at 5am I don't know...
Anyway, he was all packed up and waiting to leave when I woke at 6.30 - he had been reluctant to enter the bothy as he didn't want to disturb Richard, whose snores were as loud as those coming from Mike himself whilst Stefan and I were chatting last night.
We left at 7.45 and soon came across P+B, then we plodded happily up the Feshie valley, through natural pine woodland - very pretty.
Once in the open, at around 400-500 metres, the cold wind gnawed at us. We were so thankful that, as throughout this Challenge, it was on our backs.
A draughty brew stop provided a welcome break before we moved on to the Eidart Bridge (pictured), and the watershed where we met the friendly mountain biker.
Past Geldie Lodge (a ruin), Ken and Norma were enjoying lunch in a sheltered alcove. We joined them.
Then it was a slow descent all the way down to the Linn of Dee, during which we walked for a while with Sue and David. Mike's feet started to suffer for the first time, so he was relieved when we finally came to rest at this scenic spot. Unfortunately heavy rain has stopped play on the scenery front, and we are stuck in our tents, cooking and snoozing.
Just before arriving here, a familiar figure approached.
"Where are You going" quizzed Judith. "Braemar" I joked. Judith looked puzzled, "where's my shortbread" she countered. "Next year!" I offered, "I have a plan*."
"Is this 'Poor Michael'?" asked Judith, pointing at my weary companion.
"Yes" replied Mike, "do you mind if I sit down, M'I duggereb", he said, before giving an impressive impersonation of a jelly.
"Oh dear, Poor Michael" observed Judith, before hastening on to Mar Lodge after having come through the Lairig Ghru today.
(I'm giving Mike a day off tomorrow - don't worry - he'll take a short, low route whilst I go over Ben Avon.)
I hope this rain stops...
*I'm hoping to get Sue, the 'shortbread lady' back on the Challenge next year. She will no doubt arm herself with goodies for everyone she meets, and will also be available, at a high price, (Mr Pigeon!) for foot massages.
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