Route: As planned, subject to a slight adjustment in Rannoch Forest to avoid a ford, and the omission of the ascent of Meall Chomraidh.
See http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2012.html Day 5 for map of planned route.
Distance: 35.8km (Cum 160.3)
Ascent: 1100 metres (Cum 4100)
Time taken: 10.1hrs including stops
Weather: sunny periods and a light but cool NW breeze, with brief showers later
Challengers encountered: none on the walk, Tony Pugh and Nik Lawcock at Bridge of Gaur Guest House
Others encountered: Heather and Eddie at this splendid Guest House, a couple who have 'overflowed' here from another establishment, and two Oriental cyclists who arrived here at 10pm
Flora and Fauna: swallows, ptarmigan, red deer, purple saxifrage
A 7am start from Bridge of Orchy meant that we avoided any congestion in the small bunkhouse common room with the international hordes of folk heading along the West Highland Way. Apart from one high maintenance lady who was worrying about everything.
The sun glared at us through Bealach Dòthaidh as we ascended
past purple saxifrage. Reaching the col presented no difficulties, nor did the subsequent stroll up to Beinn an Dòthaidh's western summit. Then we strolled easily along the broad snow clad ridge to the main Munro summit (1004 metres), and on to the subsidiary top at 993 metres.
It was great up here to feel the creak of fresh snow under our Vibram soles - a rare chance in this year of generally warm weather. Not that it was cold today, t-shirt and fleece being quite adequate in the benign conditions, albeit a dark cloud did provide a good backcloth for pictures on the ridge (see above).
After an easy descent to the head of Coire Achaladair, a good contouring path leads all the way down to the watershed at the head of Gleann Cailliche. This almost justifies climbing the Munro summit, being a much easier path than the lower route over steep ground that Poor Michael and I took last year after a stormy night in our tents.
The next 12km or so of today's walk was mainly over rough, pathless, sometime boggy ground interspersed with peat haggs and areas of petrified forest that reminded Sue of the elephants' graveyard in The Lion King.
Our first target was to find 'Tigh nam Bodach'. Last year Mike and I paused fairly miserably by an old sheep pen that we mistook for the antiquity during our two and a half day stumble over what Sue and I would achieve in today's walk alone - and last year we missed out the Munro summit.
Today we enjoyed a cuppa behind the wall of the sheep pen, out of the light bite of the gentle Arctic breeze, before moving on to locate the antiquity. The stones of an old ruined building first caught our eye, but then we soon located our unmistakable objective, next to which Sue is pictured above.
The antiquity is the site of a pagan ritual which according to legend is associated with the Cailleach. The small 'Sheiling' pictured, known as either Tigh nan Cailleach or Tigh nam Bodach, houses a series of apparently carved stones which can be seen placed outside the coffin sized space. These stones, according to local legend, represent the Cailleach (old woman), her husband the Bodach (old man), and their children. The local legend suggests that the Cailleach and her family were given shelter in the glen by the locals and while they stayed there the glen was always fertile and prosperous. When they left they gave the stones to the locals with the promise that as long as the stones were put out to look over the glen at Beltane (spring) and put back into the shelter and made secure for the winter at Samhain (autumn) then the glen would continue to be fertile. This ritual is apparently carried out to this day, though some may question the fertility of the glen!
The views in this lovely valley are stunning, with lots of fine camping spots. It's no wonder that my TGO Challenge vetter last year (Colin Crawford) recommended this route as an alternative to the boggier passage via Gorton Bothy by the railway line.
In today's fine weather, Sue and I ambled carefully on, enjoying a second lunch break (and plundering some tins of fish I'd been carrying all the way from Manchester) in view of the distinctive white plateau of Ben Alder and its outliers.
A sting in the tail of this fairly rough section came in the area of a new deer fence (inside which we spotted our first red deer of the trip) where our route approached the railway and a line of pylons that we would follow into Rannoch Forest. The peat haggs were deep and wide. Good judgment was required. Sue, being slightly lacking in this department, fell in. Sadly it was an audience of only one person that she strove to entertain, as we saw nobody else all day.
The walk through the forest was easy and uneventful, and given the proximity of some afternoon showers and the lure of Eddie and Heather's teapot we decided to cull the short ascent of Meall Chomraidh from our itinerary and head straight to the Guest House after what was quite a long day anyway.
We were surprised to find only one other Challenger, Tony, in residence, and we enjoyed a chat and then a meal with him, in between hot baths, beers, a call to Roger Smith at TGO Control and a good wash for Sue's peat coated trouser legs.
Around 8.30pm, Nik turned up and took the opportunity to grab a dessert and a room which would surely provide a more comfortable bed than her leaky thermarest in a tent. She had set up camp earlier in the forest but had moved on after a shooting party had politely indicated that it could be a bit dangerous for her. At least Nik has her waterproof back, but even the recovery of that from the Bridge of Orchy Hotel's luggage room had been a stressful experience as it had got buried under several van loads of WHW gear.
Just as we were settling down for coffees etc before bed, the two Oriental cyclists turned up. They seem to be in a bit of a pickle. We vacated the lounge to enable them to be housed on the floor, as our hosts quite rightly weren't comfortable about turning the two lads out into the night.
Cheese and wine, meanwhile, should have been the fare for some other Challengers, Alan Sloman and his crew, in a nearby glen. It looked a lovely evening for that. We hope they enjoyed it.
Thanks again for your comments, especially Gibson and Alan R, whose regular contributions are always appreciated and keep us entertained when they pop up on the phone.
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