Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Tuesday 24 April 2012 – An Evening Stroll on the Sandstone Trail

Sundown on Snidley Moor

The venue for tonight’s evening walk was Beacon Hill, near the start of the Sandstone Trail.  I had thought I might be alone, but Sue made time to come along, as did Richard and Andrew.

We enjoyed a delightful evening, pausing on Woodhouse Hill to admire the views across to Liverpool and The Wirral, not to mention the Welsh mountains.

Admiring the view from Woodhouse Hill

In days past this high ground was favoured by early settlers because the heavy clay soils of the plain gave rise to a landscape of thick woods and poorly drained mosses (think of parts of modern-day Delamere Forest).  The hills were drier and had light, sandy soils which were easier to work and not so densely wooded.  Lines of communication during this period may also have followed the sandstone ridges, on which there is plenty of evidence of ancient (circa first century BC) hill forts, built in the years before the Roman occupation.

On Woodhouse Hill

The sandstone hills themselves were shaped by ice sheets during the last ice age, between 75,000 and 10,000 tears ago.  Until well beyond the Middle Ages, tidal marshes and reedbeds reached far inland.  But the building of the Manchester Ship Canal around 1894 brought major changes.  The ‘Big Ditch’ as it was known, cut off the marshland from the sea, releasing much of the wildlife rich wilderness for farming and industrial use, as you may surmise from the poor sunset picture below (taken with the ‘drowned’ Ixus 105 camera on its fourth temporary resurrection – Richard’s iPhone images should be much better).

Sunset from Woodhouse Hill

After a while it got quite dark, so our visually challenged member resorted to torchlight, but the ambient light was sufficient for the rest of us to safely regain the Simon’s Lane car park (SJ 518 766) before adjourning to the Bull’s Head to admire the thrashing of Barcelona by the most unlikely of opponents (Chelsea, for the record) and enjoy a blather with a beer.

This 10 km (6 mile) route is an excellent introduction to the 34 mile Sandstone Trail.  Allow 2 to 3 hours.  A shorter version is described here.

Our route - 10km, 250m ascent, about 2.5 hours

Postscript:

Conrad took one look at the sunset image and thought he could improve it in Photoshop.  I’d already improved it from this original:

Sunset from Beacon Hill

But Conrad did even better:

Sunset from Beacon Hill

The escarpment is Helsby Hill.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Scotland – Monday 16 to Sunday 22 April 2012

Jutta, Robert and Wolfgang with The Quiraing behind them

Monday 16 April

I reported on a sunny drive to Skye here.  This posting summarises ‘Monday to Friday’ and gives a little more about the weekend.  If you prefer just to look at the pictures, they are here.

My sunny drive was punctuated by many pauses, notably at Loch Laggan, at the War Memorial near Spean Bridge, with views of Ben Nevis clear of cloud, and by Loch Loyne, to admire the mouthwatering western summits beyond the loch.

From Loch Duich there was a good view to the distinctive slopes of A' Ghlas-bheinn in the background, with the slopes of Beinn Fhada to its right.

A' Ghlas-bheinn and Beinn Fhada from Loch Duich

Soon afterwards the Skye bridge and the Cuillin hills beckoned enticingly, and Seaview Guest House in Broadford was a welcoming venue for a reunion with Wolfie and Jutta, who with their friend (and my room mate) Robert made up this year’s complement of the ‘Dornbirn Crew’.

Skye beckons the traveller

The trio had just finished a B&B trip along part of the Skye Trail, and we enjoyed a pleasant evening and a satisfactorily spicy meal in Kyleakin’s ‘Indian’ (actually Bangladeshi) restaurant.

Tuesday 17 April

We wisely scrapped a plan to slog up Glamaig in the rain, in favour of a trip to The Quiraing which the others had not previously visited. My report on that day is here and as always there are lots more pictures in the slide show here. By way of a flavour, here’s Jutta after ascending through The Prison gully.

Jutta ascends through The Prison

We (except Robert who declined to ascend due to his vertigo) enjoyed lunch on The Table, and we regrouped in good weather for a jaunt up to the easy summit of Bioda Buidhe, and some really excellent views.

Here’s our route - 10km, 650m ascent, taking around 4.5 hours including breaks.

Monday's route - 10km, 650m ascent, 4.5 hours

Dinner was taken at Coruisk House in Elgol.  Good food in an interesting place, and I have to thank Markus, Wolfgang’s brother, for paying my bill (all the way from Dornbirn!).  I have some very generous friends.

Wednesday 18 April

Leaving the ‘Dornbirn Crew’ to make their way home, I enjoyed another sunny drive, this time to Arnisdale.  Frequent photo pauses - Loch Duich, Kintail Lodge Hotel, another view of A' Ghlas-bheinn, this time from Mam Ratagan, Beinn Sgritheall’s snowy northern slopes, resulted in a very slow journey.

My contemporaneous report on the day is here.

The stalkers path up to above the Eas na Cuingid cascade is very easy, and beyond that, even though the route abandons the path, the ascent of Beinn nan Caorach is really very straightforward.  I suspect that Alistair P plans to go up Beinn na h-Eaglaise before Beinn nan Caorach on next year’s TGO Challenge – that would be a brutally steep, if easy, ascent from Arnisdale, or a scrambly ascent from Bealach Arnasdail if he chooses that route.  I may be in the same area!

Beinn nan Caorach, sports great views of Beinn na h-Eaglaise with Beinn Sgritheall behind, and Ladhar Bheinn can be seen in its full glory standing impressively behind Loch Hourn.

From Beinn na h-Eaglaise, Rum is clearly seen, but all bar the southern tip of the Cuillins are hiding behind the bulk of neighbouring Beinn Sgritheall.

On the steep descent from Beinn na h-Eaglaise after easily gaining the small lochan at Beinn Bhuidhe, lousewort was flowering, and on the lower slopes spring was coming along fine, the call of the cuckoo being accompanied by the sight of primroses, dog violets, lesser celandine, cuckoo flower, gorse, and more.

These docile highland cattle squinted at me as I passed, but the nearby herd of deer (see slide show) was a little more jittery.

Highland cattle in Glen Arnisdale

This most enjoyable outing, finishing just as some rain came in, was followed by a scenic drive to Newtonmore, and a welcome from Sue and Neil at Newtonmore Hostel.

Here’s today’s approximate route - 15km, 1000m ascent, taking 5 hours including breaks.

Tuesday's route - 15km, 1000m ascent, 5 hours

Thursday 19 April

Today’s contemporaneous report is here.

Basically, I enjoyed a walk from Kingussie with Sue and one of her three lurchers, Harvey.  The sun came out as we strolled up Glen Gynack  but by the time we reached a lunch hut we were glad of the shelter.

After winding through the mist from Beinn Bhreac, we were pleased to reach the summit of Carn an Fhreiceadain (878m) – this would be a very easy tracked route in good weather with no snow cover, but the swerving track did nearly fool us at one point.  We passed a strangely large cairn on the way down and even met three old fogeys ascending this easy Corbett, a rare encounter by the week’s standards.

Here are Sue and Harvey, eying up a spot for lunch by Allt Mor.

Sue O and Harvey scout for a lunch spot beside Allt Mor

Here’s today’s approximate route - 19km, 670m ascent, taking about 5 hours including breaks.

Wednesday's route - 19km, 670m ascent, 5 hours

I spent a second evening in the Glen Hotel, after brewing up a sumptuous pasta on the hostel stove, this time with a JOGLE cyclist, Sam, who helped me fail to assist a family from Birmingham in their quest to win the Pub Quiz.

Friday 20 April

The further west I went, the fouler the weather became.  I nearly abandoned walking today, but after lunch in the car at the Linn of Dee I decided to give it a go, if only to stroll up to White Bridge and back.

As it was, the rain stopped as I strolled alongside the River Dee, observed by the first wheatears I’d seen this year.  Beyond White Bridge water was rushing down the Chest of Dee’s rapids.

Chest of Dee rapids

Sgor Mor’s 813 metre summit was gained after a bit of a thrutch through deep heather, but the 3km ridge walk to Sgor Dubh’s 741 metre summit was a delight, though the higher Cairngorm peaks were sadly enveloped in cloud.

It actually turned into a sunny afternoon in the Dee valley after a steep final descent through deep heather, before I pootled back to Craiglea B&B in Braemar to write up my report on the day before being joined by The Workers – Sue, Lyn and Alastair.

Here’s my route for the afternoon - 17km, 500m ascent, taking 4.25 hours including breaks.

Thursday's route - 17km, 500m ascent, 4.25 hours

Saturday 21 April

Fortified by an excellent meal at Moorfield House Hotel, and by Dave and Angela’s fine breakfast, we felt able to tackle something hilly despite rather iffy weather.  Al’s original plan for a long day up Beinn Bhreac and Beinn a’ Chaorainn was discarded in favour of an easier route over An Socach, taking advantage of the luxury of having two cars at our disposal.

Sue chatted to the horses at Baddoch whilst the rest of us faffed with our equipment, before we set off at a cracking pace up the glen beside Baddoch Burn for about 6km.  Well, the others set a cracking pace; I was in ‘holiday mode’.

After catching them up when they stopped for elevenses, I watched them disappear into a cloud ahead as we ascended the fairly benign slopes of An Socach.  At least, they seemed benign to me so long as you kept to the left of a snow filled gully.  The others had apparently waited there, in a cloud, for me to turn up, so the 944 metre summit was deserted when I reached it.

I always knew they would turn up, as Al and Lyn had not been here before and Al needed to tick it off us ‘bagging’ list.

We were in and out of cloud as we descended to the north, but the long valley that is Glen Ey soon appeared for good.

Looking down to Glen Ey from An Socach

A steepish descent, during which Sue tried to wreck her overtrousers by bum-sliding over heather, took us to a delightful lunch spot, after which we continued into the long valley along deer trods, eventually crossing the Ey Burn cascade at the ruins of Altanour Lodge, from where an excellent track runs all the way, over 8km, to Inverey.

Four cyclists on hire bikes passed us, presumably having bagged the Munros - Carn Bhac and Beinn Iutharn Mhor.

Half way down Glen Ey, Sue spotted a big bird.  It was great to watch the golden eagle soaring for some time close above the slopes of Creag an Lochain before landing in a tree.  Oyster Catchers also accompanied us today, together with dippers, curlews, golden plovers, some ducks, and several smaller unidentified birds.

A couple of bridges over the Ey Burn later, and “we must be getting close to Inverey, mustn’t we?” by which time the sun had emerged.

On our way back to Craiglea B&B (Dave and Angela) we called in at Thornbank to visit Simon and Kat, who fed us with delicious žemlovka.

Visitors to Braemar may enjoy a visit to Thornbank, where Kat can apparently provide miraculous therapies for certain ailments – see here.  Sadly she won’t be in town during the imminent TGO Challenge, and Sue will be too busy cooking my tea to offer services in the ‘therapy room’!

Here’s our route for the day - 21km, 550m ascent, taking 6 hours including breaks.

Saturday's route - 21km, 550m ascent, 6 hours

The Moorfield provided more excellent nosh.  But we were the only customers, not that anyone seemed to mind or even look worried.

Sunday 22 April

Simon joined us on this last outing of the trip. After dumping some cars at the Spittal of Glenshee, we returned up the pass for an easy 35 minute stroll to reach our first Munro of the day, Carn Aosda.

Group on Carn Aosda (917m)

45 minutes later, on a pleasant but overcast day, we'd reached the ugly summit of The Cairnwell (933m), our second Munro of the day.

Returning to an old sign, we took the ridge to the south of Loch Vrotachan.

It's quite a broad ridge - no dangers here - with Carn nan Sac  a fairly short walk away, providing a mid point on the walk to our final Munro summit of the day.

There’s a good view to the south east from Carn nan Sac, beyond a prominent cairn, across to Creag Leacach, the other side of the A93 road.

There was snow lying above 850 metres or so, but although it was very soft it wasn't deep enough to hinder our progress.

A little over an hour after leaving The Cairnwell, our third and final Munro of the day was reached - Carn a' Gheoidh (975m).

Lyn on Carn a' GheoidhAl on Carn a' Gheoidh

After a short break on the summit, we headed to a more sheltered spot for lunch - not that it was very windy – after admiring the view south, with Carn Mor and Ben Gulabin ahead.

The steep snow was too soft for glissading, but we soon reached the subsidiary summit, Carn Mor, where Lyn seemed to spend the whole time peeling off her overtrousers whilst the rest of us enjoyed our lunch.

We enjoyed the views towards Glas Tulaichean for the rest of our walk.

Glas Tulaichean from Carn Mor

A large group of ramblers approached from the south as we ambled off Carn Mor.  “We are the Dunperthing Rambling Club” announced their spokesman, “today we are going up Carn Mor.  Is it far to the top?” adding, under his breath:  “Which club are you in?  You don’t seem to have many members.”  I explained that we were a group of private individuals and that we had ‘permission’, and left it at that.

As Ben Gulabin got closer, a wide and brutal ascent path was revealed – it turned out to be as steep as the ascent up into The Prison in the Quiraing.  Thankfully it was almost as short and a little while later we were enjoying a siesta on our final summit of the trip - Ben Gulabin (806m) - on a warm April afternoon.

In the sun on Ben Gulabin (806m)

Having admired the views at length, we then headed off home, and as customary during the course of this week, the sunshine heralded a shower, so we just failed to reach the cars left at the Spittal of Glenshee before the rain came ...

Never mind, our clothes are all dry now!  I think.

Here’s the day’s route - 18km, 800m ascent, in a shade under 6 hours including breaks. (Three very easy Munros and a Corbett.)

Sunday's route - 18km, 800m ascent, 5.75 hours

There’s a fairly lengthy slide show here, if you can stomach it.

Phew!  I’ve had this posting hanging over me all week.  Time to move on…