Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Friday 13 May 2011 - TGO Challenge Day 1 - Oban to Creag an Fhithich (NN 068 344 - 220 metres)


Route: virtually as planned, with Mike omitting Deadh Choimhead.
See http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2011.html Day 1 for map

Distance: 33km (Mike 30km)
Ascent: 1220m (Mike 925m)
Time taken: 9.5hrs including 1.5 hrs stops (Mike 2+hrs)
Weather: cloudy with sunny periods and a light westerly breeze in exposed spots (surprisingly, no rain!)
Challengers encountered: Heather, Ali, Sue, Roger, Robert, Susan, Des, Frank, Jim, Lou, Phyllis, Ian, Christine, Peter, Ursula and more. Quite a few in fact...
Others encountered: very nice ladies who served a bottomless pot of tea and delicious toasties at the Robins Nest tea shop in Taynuilt.
Flora and Fauna: cuckoos, lots of orchids and red deer on the ascent of Deadh Choimhead, and much more.
Best bit: no rain, lots of friendly Challengers.
Worst bit: the Deadh Choimhead maze - where a zone of felled trees had to be negotiated.

This was an enjoyable and easy first day, with Morven's team at the Kathmore Guest House fuelling us amply for the day ahead.


After signing out at a friendly portacabin we strolled up to the folly, McCaig's Tower (pictured), before joining a slow trail of heavily laden ants along the country lanes to Taynuilt.

Mike gracefully declined to join me on the 300 metre ascent of Deadh Choimhead, the decision being made when he saw the shin deep river that had to be crossed to start the ascent. He wouldn't have liked the tree maze either, but red deer came very close, the flowers were lovely, and the views expansive despite Ben Cruachan's head being in the clouds.

My diversion, after which I continued to enjoy wearing the Crocs I'd used for the river crossing for a few km, put us behind various folk and was a reason for seeing so many Challengers today. All very jolly. But after the tea shop we headed a short way up Glen Noe and then to this spot, which is a good but not a fine site, being a bit lumpy but close to a good water supply.

It has started to rain (9pm) and that at least has shut up our resident cuckoo.

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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Thursday 12 May 2011 - TGO Challenge Day 0 - Montrose to Oban

Despite Heather T-S's best efforts - text messages in the middle of the night relating a tale of rain in Lancashire - Chez Alison provided a good night's sleep before a stroll, with a rucksack that feels very heavy, to the station for the 9.18 to Glasgow in the esteemed company of legend Ron Reynolds and three generations of the Foulkes family, including Bernard and his big rucksack. Bernard will be 83 in a couple of weeks time. This will be his and Margaret's 19th Challenge.

The usual melée at Queen Street station was followed by a most sociable train journey to Oban, waved off by Messrs Smith and Shiel, in the company of the majority of the 57 Challengers who are starting from there tomorrow morning. I forgot to buy a baguette, so lunch included Stilton and crisps, washed down with a very palatable bottle of red wine, courtesy of Poor Michael (Mike) who turned up dutifully on the platform at Queen Street.

It has been a day of sunshine and showers. We suspect that the latter may prevail over the days to come.

Then Gordon managed to gather a quota of about a dozen Challengers in the Light of India restaurant here in Oban for an amenably sociable preamble to the walk.

Great to meet up with friends old and new, today. There's a bit more effort needed tomorrow...

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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Coast to Coast in Three Days


I'm sitting at the Park Hotel in Montrose, waiting for Alison to return home. She has kindly offered her flat as my final sorting zone before heading off on the TGO Challenge. I'm getting into the mood for that, having enjoyed the company of 'Team Foulkes' in the fish & chip shop (I think I must have had Bloater).

Final packages have been delivered to a very cheery receptionist at the Park - they always give me the impression that they feel honoured to be involved with the Challenge (they are, of course!).

After an evening in the excellent Habitat bunkhouse in the company of a very jolly Cairngorms footpath maintenance team (say hello if you pass them), a leisurely day saw me finally reach the coast - pictured from the scenic road to Fettercairn, showing the type of terrain we will pass through on our last two days of the Challenge in a couple of weeks' time.

A 12km stroll brought final confirmation that the new HI-TEC boots are not sufficiently broken in to risk on the Challenge, so instead I'm resigned to damp feet in my old Scarpa Infinities. Never mind - it's entirely a misjudgement on my part - the new boots will probably be fine when the bruise they've given my ankle subsides.

Next stop: Oban.

Good luck on the Challenge, everyone, and I hope those who can't do it this year will be vicariously entertained by the various bloggers.

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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Craigendarroch

First, thanks go to Alan Sloman for pointing readers towards some information regarding wind farms. The prospect of these blots on the landscapes of Scotland and elsewhere in the UK is particularly distressing in the knowledge that whilst their 'Renewable Energy' tag appears to be unjustified, influential politicians of all leading parties have vested financial or political interests in rapidly blighting the landscape with these short term projects that are doomed to failure in the long term. Nobody seems brave enough to tackle the long term solutions to energy production in the UK.

Anyone interested in this subject will find LOTS of salient information on Alan's blog: http://www.alansloman.blogspot.com and its links.

After a good breakfast, and after admiring the resident Short-eared Owls, a leisurely departure from Heather and Eddie's excellent hospitality at Bridge of Gaur found me on the road to Pitlochry in violent rain, pausing only to pick up a message from 'Drenched in Kinlochleven' aka JJ.

Café Biba in Pitlochry provided welcome respite from the rain, which then eased as I trundled on towards Ballater. The campsite here willingly accepted my TGOC parcels delivery and confirmed that the office is manned all day except when on 'cleaning duties' elsewhere on the site.

A quick trip up Ballater's small hill, Craigendarroch, saw the afternoon off, then I booked in to Habitat, a swish bunkhouse that puts Bridge of Orchy's version to shame. And it's cheaper. And there's a good pizzeria next door.

Today's image from Craigendarroch shows the view east down the Dee valley. There are also good views (into the sun at this time of day) towards Lochnagar and the Cairngorms National Park. Thankfully these views are unlikely for several reasons to be blighted by the sight of windfarms for the foreseeable future.

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Monday, 9 May 2011

The View Across Loch Ness

Here's the view across Loch Ness towards the Monadhliath hills, where huge windmills are planned to desecrate the landscape.

The picture was taken from near Drumnadrochit on a day of sunshine and showers, on my route from Bridge of Orchy to Bridge of Gaur via Inverness. Several TGO Challenge participants will be pleased to hear that the car boot is now virtually empty as their food parcels have been successfully delivered.

Tonight I have the arduous task of not assessing the Bridge of Gaur Guest House's food and accommodation (I know it will be excellent).

Later: it was excellent. We will return next week...

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An Encounter with Mick and Gayle


Today my role is as a courier.

Parcels are being deposited at various places in The Highlands.

One such parcel was for Mick and Gayle - their dehydrated meals for the first section of their TGO Challenge. I did not expect them to collect it in person, but having completed their Lowestoft to Ardnamurchan walk yesterday our passage through Fort William coincided sufficient for the courier service to be extended briefly to a Glen Nevis taxi service.

M+G are pictured here, deliriously happy after completing their 'East to West' walk, and looking forward to their TGOC adventure which starts from Strathcarron on Friday.

Well done, both of you, and enjoy your rest in Fort Bill.

Readers may be relieved to know, as were M+G, that their maps for the TGOC were in the package that Gayle is clutching. My own maps have now been posted to Oban, so their fate is in the uncertain hands of the Royal Mail. Thanks, Sue, for coming to the rescue!

Thanks also to everyone, especially the Alans and Louise, for your messages of encouragement. They are all very much appreciated.

Now then, next stop - Drumnadrochit...

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Sunday, 8 May 2011

A Weekend at Bridge of Orchy


The rest of the team have now departed for home after a successful 'bagging' weekend for Alastair.

A smooth journey with Sue on Friday, via Glasgow Airport to pick up Lyn, found three of us (Alastair was following close behind) enjoying fish 'n chips at the Real Food Café in Tyndrum. That was excellent, a word that cannot be applied to the bunkhouse at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

However, the hotel staff were friendly enough, and were happy to take in a TGO Challenge food parcel for a week or so.

Once the brainless Glaswegian rabble that had kept us awake for most of the night had transferred their reign of terror to the West Highland Way in the direction of Kings House, calm descended and we enjoyed the rather average hotel breakfast before setting off down Glen Etive.

It was raining - the forecast for the whole weekend was pretty dire.

Leaving Alastair's car at Coileitir at 10am, we headed east to an unrelenting 700 metre ascent. Luckily it stopped raining before we started up the hill, but it was hard work anyway. The pretty pink flowers of creeping azalea were hard to miss as we climbed steadily with eyes to the ground, where young frogs were also jumping, friskily.

Elevenses were taken (pictured) with a pretty excellent view.

We lunched in the lee of the wind before heading on up to the summit of Stob Coir an Albannaich - Munro number 201 for Al. Despite the MWIS forecast of 10% chance of a view from the summit, we nearly got one! (1.20pm).

Heading east for 500 metres, we came upon the small cairn that indicates the ongoing route - steeply down to a col at 754 metres. This could be tricky in winter.

After that, it was an easy stroll over Meall Tarsuinn to our second Munro summit, the grassy hump of Meall nan Eun (2.40pm). This summit was completely clear of cloud, with fine views. A leisurely descent down Glen Ceitlein got us back to the car by 5.20pm, in deteriorating weather with thunder echoing around the valley.
We had met just five people all day on this 18km stroll with about 1300 metres ascent - 7hrs 20mins.

Saturday night, thankfully, was much quieter, and we all slept well after a good meal in the hotel and a very sociable time with JJ and Viv, who turned up by chance on their West Highland Way jaunt.

Today (Sunday) was forecast to be better weather. It wasn't. After waving goodbye to JJ+V, we embarked on a five minute drive to Achallader. A path to the south of the river led us into a forest and over a railway footbridge. The path then ran boggily beside the railway to the edge of the forest, from where another unrelenting ascent took us to a grassy col below Point 961, from where Beinn a' Chreachain was ascended up a blustery ridge in driving rain. A splendidly coloured pair of ptarmigan paid close attention to our progress.

The rain lasted for about three hours. It was windy, but visibility was pretty good. The stroll along the ridge of Beinn Achaladair was pleasurable, especially the scrambly ascent from a col at 813 metres. We headed on to the next col before descending back to Achallader, with fine views north to Ben Nevis.

Today we met just two people - at the start, half way, and at the end. They did the same 21km walk with 1300 metres ascent in the reverse direction (sensible in view of the wind direction), taking, like us, 7hrs 20mins for the two Munros, the same as yesterday, but we stopped less today.

The others then left and I joined them at the Real Food Café for chicken curry and chips, before returning for a third night in the bunkhouse.

I was to start the task of naming waypoints on my downloaded GPS route for next week's TGO Challenge, but I couldn't find the maps. I think they are still on the desk at home after my hurried manufacture of a web page on Friday. This is a mildly distressing faux pas on my part.

Hopefully Sue will post them to our B+B in Oban...

...and hopefully she will note the details of that B+B before she posts the package, and let me have those details.

Tomorrow? I have a boot full of packages to courier around Scotland, and a possible rendezvous with some proper long distance walkers.

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