Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday 20 April 2012 - Sgòr Mòr and Sgòr Dubh

Sam was more reliable than the previous night's Frenchies. This 'gap year' nineteen year old from Witney was finishing the second day of a JOGLE (John O'Groats to Lands End) bike ride when he arrived around 6pm. He rested whilst I cooked some pasta, then we strolled round to the Glen Hotel, where Chelsea's glorious victory last night over Barcelona had been forgotten in favour of a pub quiz with lots of intervals. Whilst Sam chomped on a venison burger we joined a friendly family from Birmingham, but we really weren't much help. I wasn't, anyway. We were one point away from the prizes in both the picture quiz and the main quiz. The man who had swaggered in with a huge trophy - Mastermind 2012 (Newtonmore) - was clearly on a roll and his team took the £25 first prize.

Today I enjoyed a slow start and a chat with Sue O, the proud owner of three lurchers, before taking the wrong route to Braemar. I'd forgotten that the main road from Tomintoul to Ballater was closed. Oops!

The morning was pretty wet, so I was happier passing through the downpours in the comfort of a car than I would have been on foot.

By the time I set off from Linn of Dee it was nearly one o'clock. At least I could carry my lunch in my stomach.

The sky tap was turned down to a dribble for most of my 17km clockwise circuit of Sgòr Mòr and Sgòr Dubh via White Bridge and the Chest of Dee. A pleasant circuit in a shade over four hours, during which I saw my first wheatears of the season. The 3km ridge between the two summits, in and out of cloud today, was very easy going, with finer views on a better day of the main snow clad Cairngorm massif. Deep heather on the steep ascent to and final descent from the ridge made for careful, slow going, apart from which it was pretty much of a romp, except that every time the sun came out it started to rain.

Today's summit picture is very much like yesterday's, minus Sue O and Harvey (sorry to confuse you, Alan), so today's image is of the River Dee near White Bridge, during one of the afternoon's brighter periods.

Sue B, Al and Lyn are due imminently to arrive here at Craiglea B+B in Braemar, and a jolly evening will be had at the Moorfield.

I may leave further reports from this trip until Monday, so don't worry (mother!) If everything goes quiet until then...

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Thursday 19 April 2012 - Harvey's First Corbett

Today dawned fine and leisurely. Happily Sue found time to join me for a walk from Kingussie, together with four year old Harvey.

A by now overcast day saw us plodding slowly up Glen Gynack towards Pitmain Lodge, where a huge new building is going up.

Harvey's ablutions were dealt with and we continued on up the path to a conveniently positioned lunch hut. Elevenses revealed my failure to re-stock the shortbread box, but at least there was a piece for Sue. "Harvey wouldn't have liked it anyway" observed Sue, "he prefers hares or ptarmigan" she added later, as he strained on the leash in their presence.

As we rose up the slopes of Beinn Bhreac, the path that stops on the Ordnance Survey map continued all the way to the summit as we passed through a fresh snowfield that became even fresher as we passed through the flaky cloud.

A winding track then delivered us to the 878 metre summit of Carn an Fhreiceadain. It wasn't entirely clear where we were, so I turned on my Satmap GPS. It was intent on plotting a route, as the crow flies, from Skye to Westminster (700km - I'm sure someone might like to know). So Sue turned on her Garmin Geko which "always tells you where you are". It didn't, preferring to interrogate the user about its 'settings'. Eventually, after numerous random pressings of buttons, the Satmap gave us our location, on the correct path to the summit. It was just as well the gadget remained turned on, as we immediately set off in the wrong direction.

Anyway, the header image should confirm that Sue and Harvey, her placid rescued lurcher, did eventually make it to the top of Harvey's first Corbett.

The descent was easy, as we soon freed ourselves from the cloud and any precipitation reduced to a very light mizzle.

Three old but jolly men were ascending, the only people seen on the hill today, and after lunching in a pleasant spot by Allt Mor we continued on back to Kingussie after about 19km, 700 metres ascent, and 5 hours.

A very jolly little outing, and thanks go to Sue and Harvey for finding time to accompany me, and to Neil for not seeming to mind being left behind with the tough job of cleaning the hostel after last night's occupants. Apart from me a French couple had arrived at around 1.30am! So any mess was probably mine!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wednesday 18 April 2012 - Beinn nan Caorach and Beinn na h-Eaglaise

An early start for the Dornbirn Crew had them heading off to Stirling via the ferry to Mallaig. They had enjoyed their food last night, at Coruisk House in Elgol, as had I - especially as Markus (in absentia) was treating me as a thank you for my help with his imminent Fort William to Cape Wrath route and maps. Thanks Markus, you are a star.

As for Sue's shortbread, it received an even greater accolade - voted 'best ever' by the Dornbirn Crew. And unlike other fayre, it wasn't affected by 'Skye Speed' (or lack thereof). Nor was the excellent breakfast at Seaview, where I reluctantly left Penny and Bill, a most entertaining 'double act' after a very pleasant stay at the B+B that they bought on impulse six years ago.

On reflection, on this beautiful morning, I might have reverted to yesterday's 'Glamaig Plan', but having enjoyed yesterday's visit to the Quiraing so much - I've been there many times but it never ceases to enthral me, The Table is one of my favourite places - I was happy to head back over the bridge and beside Loch Duich to Shiel Bridge.

The single track road over Mam Ratagan was busy. I paused for a number of 'photo stops' but the light or the trees always seemed to foil the 'perfect shot'!

Arnisdale welcomes walkers. There is plenty of parking by the seafront. I was today's only walker. Setting off at 10am, I headed around the two Corbett summits of Beinn nan Caorach and Beinn na h-Eaglaise in an anti clockwise direction - a straightforward five hour (15km, 1100m ascent) walk under the unceasing watchful bulk of Ladhar Beinn.

Reflections in the loch were indicative of a windless day, as a heron lazily flew over the greylag geese.

The call of a cuckoo filled the otherwise empty air as I ambled up the excellent stalkers path past the cascade of Eas na Cuingid.

No gloves needed today, just t-shirt and fleece, despite the summit snow.

The plaintive calls of a pair of golden plover rang out as I paused on the descent of Beinn nan Caorach to take advantage of the light for today's image. The second Corbett, Beinn na h-Eaglaise, is on the left, with Beinn Sgritheall's higher peaks to the right.

There were fine views of a vast array of summits from the 804 metre climax of the impressively narrow ridge of Beinn na h-Eaglaise.

After tea and shortbread on this second summit, an unrelentingly steep but safe descent past early lousewort and ptarmigan still wearing their white winter vests, led to a zone of dog violets and primroses. Lower down, lesser celandine, cuckoo flower, dandelions and gorse were all flourishing. A swan flew over the highland cattle - it wasn't mute, it was whooping.

Finally, a large herd of deer, one of several groups seen today, seemed quite at home in Glen Arnisdale near Corran.

After this enjoyable solo outing on the deserted hills above Arnisdale, the three hour drive to Newtonmore passed quickly. Perhaps I slept.

Tonight I enjoyed a seafood platter at the Glen Hotel, just across the road from the Hostel now being run by TGO Challenger Sue Oxley and her husband Neil. They were busy over Easter, but tonight I have the place to myself. I think I'll donate a 'single room supplement'.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Tuesday 17 April 2012 - The Quiraing

After an excellent spicy Bangladeshi meal at Kyleakin, we slept well but woke to drizzle and low cloud.

My plan to nip up Glamaig was discounted - fortuitously as it turned out, as Robert suffers from vertigo to a debilitating extent.

So after Bill and Penny's sumptuous breakfast at Seaview Guest House, we headed up past snow capped Glamaig, past The Storr and through Staffin to Bealach Ollasgairte.

The rain had by now stopped and we encountered just a bit of drizzle on the early stages of our walk past violets and daisies on the walk in to The Quiraing. By late afternoon in Broadford we have a very sunny 'Sea View'.

Visitors to Skye will probably be familiar with our itinerary - a 6 km jaunt along the good path to The Quiraing, which means 'fold' or 'pen'. To our right, an outcrop that I had always thought was The Prison. We climbed nearly to the summit, leaving vertigo stricken Robert cowering behind a rock near the bottom.

Back on the main path leading to Flodigarry, a small cairn at the high point marks the start of the steep path up to what I now know really is The Prison, which is enclosed by a jumble of needles, towers, pinnacles, gullies and cliffs.

Robert looked up and felt sick. So the three of us left him and headed off into this 'wonderland' to The Table, a horizontal platform of grass that is the centrepiece of The Prison. In days past, livestock was apparently hidden up here to conceal it from Viking raiders.

Lunch was taken on the lawn, under the watchful eye of some people on the main ridge - not far above us but pretty inaccessible from where we were. Beyond the lawn - lovely views, albeit slightly obscured by the showery weather.

It didn't take long to slither back down a gully under the watchful caw of a raven, back to Robert and back along the well repaired path to the bealach, where we were greeted by a coach load of mainly Japanese tourists mainly in wellington boots.

With time on our hands, we then enjoyed a further 4 km ramble up to the summit of Bioda Buidhe (466 metres), from near where the header image of the Dornbirn Crew was taken, with The Quiraing in the background. (Too easy for a quiz, Gibson!) We returned to be greeted by a kilted bus driver with a coach load of 'Wild and Sexy' passengers. The mind boggled!

A visit to The Quiraing is always a pleasure, and today's was no exception.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Sunny Day for a Drive to Skye

With a few things thrown into a bag I managed to leave Timperley by 9am on a bright sunny morning.

And the sunglasses stayed on all the way to Seaview B+B in Broadford, with many stops for roadworks and snaps during the latter part of the journey. Sadly the best views always seemed to be directly into the sun. But can you recognise where today's snap was taken from?

Not even the Ben had a hat on, the visibility was excellent and the views were fine, with just a splash of recent snow on the higher summits.

Wolfgang, Jutta and Robert, the 'Dornbirn Crew' were already installed at the B+B, so I've just time for a mug of tea before we nip off for an Indian meal.

Snow is forecast, but there should be a walk tomorrow.

Monday 16 April 2012 - Another Trip!

Alpine Reflections

Today I’m booked into a B&B in Broadford, together with Austrian friends Wolfgang and Jutta, and Robert, a complete stranger with whom I’m sharing a room.

On Tuesday we’ll do something on Skye.

If anyone would care to join me, I have a few days to fill before meeting Sue in Braemar on Friday, as there seems little point in returning to Timperley.  I’m planning the following:

Wednesday – Beinn nan Caorach and Beinn na h-Eaglaise from Arnisdale.

Thursday – Carn an Fhreiceadain from Newtonmore Hostel.

Friday – Sgor Mor from Linn of Dee.

Call me or leave a message on mobile@topwalks.com if you fancy any of these.

Martin

I’d better get going!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Saturday 14 April 2012 – The Calderdale Hike

Martin and Richard after the 26 mile hike

With Robert in Mallorca, and others lacking energy or interest, I’d set myself a modest target of eight and a half hours for this year’s Calderdale Hike, along a new 26 mile route.

That was until a call from John at the Austrian Alpine Club suggested we arrive at Crowden by 6pm for an evening I’d expected to start at least an hour later.  With Calderdale and Crowden both not much less than an hour’s journey from Timperley, that created a little time pressure.

So, with plans to travel directly to Crowden from Calderdale and meet Sue there if necessary, I jumped out of bed at 6.30, scraped the ice of the windscreen, and made it up to Sowerby Bridge in time to hand back last year’s trophy and get my kit checked before the 8am start for the short (26 mile) course walkers.

Here we are, milling around on the sunny morning before the 8am start of this year’s Calderdale Hike.

The Calderdale Hike - waiting for the start

Philip Whitaker (who I may have mistakenly maligned in the past for running – I apologise if that was incorrect, I don’t think he ran today) set off at a blistering pace.  He has very long legs. 

“Hello, I’m Richard.  Are you Martin?” asked a complete stranger.  He turned out to be a ‘blog stalker’ who had found my previous scribblings about this event, which he was entering for the first time.  Richard had reconnoitred some of the route, and he could match my pace, so that was very helpful.

Here he is on the descent to Hoo Hole near Mytholmroyd.

Descending towards Mytholmroyd

Philip disappeared ahead into the far distance.  We would never catch him – he finished over twenty minutes ahead of us, regaining the Veteran Walker trophy that he and I have both won on several occasions.  On the other hand, two youths and a couple were on our tails as we ascended to Stoodley Pike Monument, and a short cut on the way down from there took these four ahead of us until all six of us were held up for a few minutes by a farmer moving some sheep along the narrow path.  He got quite frustrated with our perceived impatience. 

We apologise…

After excellent refreshments at Lumbutts we negotiated our way through Todmorden and up to the golf club for the next checkpoint.

We nearly made the mistake of following the runners on the long course – they had started an hour later than us – but then realised we should turn in our tracks and return past the sad looking church at Hole Bottom, where the clock face has been replaced with an alarm box. 

The derelict church at Hole Bottom

Across the valley, Stoodley Pike Monument already appeared quite distant.

Stoodley Pike from Hole Bottom

By now the weather had changed, and we narrowly missed some sharp showers on what was now a rather grey day.  But it was good walking weather and we sped on at an admirable pace, leaving the young lads and the couple behind.  We didn’t see anyone on the 26 mile walk after Hole Bottom, about a third of our way along the route, but we were regularly passed by runners, including Richard’s doctor.

With a vast choice of routes between the checkpoints, we chose a blend of country lanes and moorland trods.  The latter were quite boggy as we crossed Heptonstall Moor to reach Blake Dean, where Richard had a longer than usual wait for me due to my longer than usual ablution stop on the moor, which thankfully was vacant at the time.

Moving quickly on, we enjoyed the very pleasant stroll past Hardcastle Crags to Gibson Mill, a National Trust property well known to Richard.

Gibson Mill near Hardcastle Crags

After failing to spot that the New Bridge checkpoint was hidden up a hill in the upper car park (we eventually found it) we continued, partly along the Calderdale Way, up to Delf End checkpoint, where the long course runners rejoin our shorter route, so from here we saw more people.

Here’s the support point at Delf End, putting on happy faces especially for the camera as Richard takes on board some liquid.  He was suffering a little up some of the hills by now, but still keeping up a good pace, and he had recced the route from here so he knew the way home.

Helpers at Delf End checkpoint

Manning checkpoints wasn’t the most pleasant of jobs this year, as the intermittent cold drizzle must have been a bit tiresome.  It was a day for down jackets if doing that job.

Nevertheless, by the time Richard and I reached the steep haul back up to Sowerby, the day had improved a bit and Richard had changed his leaky boots in favour of some nice clean trainers for the last few miles, which were largely on metaled lanes and a canal towpath.

Richard ascend to Sowerby

The sun attempted a reappearance as we passed Sowerby’s church on our way back to the cricket ground, completing the 26 mile route in 7 hours 11 minutes, with Philip the only short course walker to finish ahead of us.

Sowerby Church

Luckily our unexpectedly speedy pace left time for a meal and a beer at the cricket club – a tradition that I’d have been disappointed to have missed!

Here’s our route - 42 km, 1350 metres ascent, 7 hours 11 minutes.

Our route - 42 km, 1350 metres ascent, 7 hours 11 minutes

Our route - 42 km, 1350 metres ascent, 7 hours 11 minutes

All in all an excellent day out.  Thanks for your company, Richard, it certainly enhanced the day, hopefully for both of us, and I hope you can find a place in your office for the Clayhouse Shield that you won for being the fastest (non-veteran) walker to finish.  Well done!

This entry has been rather hastily written, due to time pressures, so apologies for that.  Last year’s report is here, and my 2009 report is here.

My Garmin gadget (not turned off for a few minutes after we finished) recorded our route as follows:

PS I did manage to get home to pick up Sue and get to Crowden by 6pm.

PPS Greetings, Michael!  Fancy doing this next year?

Friday 13 April 2012 - The Lancashire Trail – Part 7 – Whalley to Barley

Near the start of the Whalley to Barley section, near Whalley

This penultimate stage of the East Lancs LDWA’s Lancashire Trail ‘Plod’ will officially take place next Wednesday 18 April, but those of us who can’t get to that event enjoyed the privilege of joining Reg on his ‘recce’ of the route.

In the event, the original route from over thirty years ago was proven to have stood the test of time, unlike some of the earlier sections that had needed adjustments following Reg’s recce’s.

We started from Whalley in a jolly mood - Nancy, Jim, Norman, Reg and Martin, as pictured above on the ascent of Clerk Hill, on a rather overcast day that had the pessimists reaching for their waterproofs and the optimists (Reg and me) ignoring any moisture and relying on our fleeces.

A boiler with a big chimney was reminiscent of the early days of steam.  Norman, clearly the only person amongst us who was old enough to cast his mind back to those days, announced "I'm a Master Plumber, I can get this going."

"Press the button, Norman" said Jim.

Boiler men

A hasty retreat was made from Wiswell Moor Houses, from where the nearby hills to the south east were lounging under a light haze.

Did this fine sign herald the time for a decision?  Not really, the Nick of Pendle was our clear and easy objective.

Footpath sign

A good path led towards the Nick.  Suddenly, Norman and his cohorts turned on their leader - "It's gone eleven, why haven't we had a tea break?"

Rebellion

"Ok" replied Reg, and we all sat down.

From beyond the Nick of Pendle, expansive if dull views drew the eye far beyond the cement works of Clitheroe.

There was a good path by Ogden Clough, where the sun made a brief appearance.

The ascent of Pendle Hill beside Ogden Clough

Pendle Hill - 557 metres – was eventually summited.  The summit plateau was gained via a superb stone pathway, a great improvement over the eroded bogland that I recall from my youthful visits to this hill.  There were fine views in all directions, albeit a bit hazy, with the distinct outline of Ingleborough hiding behind Norman’s vast bulk.

On the summit of Pendle Hill, 557 metres

Norman (The Clown) tried to fly. "Oops" he exclaimed "I think I’m too heavy for this!"

Norman tries to fly

We met two reprobates with china mugs and large lunch boxes.  I hadn't seen Dave since I bought his old mountain bike from him last year, so we joined the jovial duo for lunch and a chat.

Lunch, with Dave and Alan

Norman and Nancy were tickled by Dave and Alan’s choice of crisp manufacturer.

A ticklish time with Lancashire Crisps

These two jokers were soon seen descending to Barley, hand in hand, with Clenched Buttocks (it’s a long story).

We passed a stream whose banks were loaded with Primula.

Primroses in Barley

Looking back to Pendle Hill, it seemed quite small to me, but I suspect it is the high point of this route.

A fine cobbled path led inexorably to the fleshpots of Barley – a restaurant and a pub, and a cafe…where we all enjoyed a coffee.

Coffees at Barley

Here’s our route - 12 km, 500 metres ascent, taking around 3-4 hours.

Our route - 12 km, 500 metres ascent, 3-4 hours

What a pleasant day.  I hope the actual ‘event’ proves to be as enjoyable for those who go along next week.

My photos from the day can be viewed as a slideshow, here.

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