Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Creagan na Beinne

On a cloudy (500 metres cloud base), calm and mercifully dry day, seven of us chose this gentle hill for today's Corbett bagging exploits. Some are pictured on the summit.

Others went up Glen Lyon to bag Meall Buidhe.

One slightly insane member of the club went up into the cloud to bag the entire Ben Lawers ridge. The ghost of Culdees must have got to him! He got as far as Ben Lawers - four Munros.

Our own ascent was uneventful, subject to the obligatory sinking up to the hips in snow episodes (mainly Margriet). The only other inhabitants were a large herd of red deer and a pair of Black Grouse. Later we saw a friendly stalker who explained that the gunshots we'd heard were simply a check that the guns were working. We assume the pheasants laid out on a table bore no connection.

We were jokingly accused of chasing the deer away, but I think we beat them towards the stalkers and it was a group trying to learn ice axe skills in a safe place that scared the deer.

Adjournment after our 18km stroll (750 metres ascent, 7 hours) to the Kenmore Hotel located Bill and his newspaper and tales of his near demise in the local woods. A most pleasant indulgent interlude.

Then back to Culdees for hot showers and a cramped dinner.

The weather forecast is great for next week. But not for tomorrow. So we'll probably hit the road to Timperley earlier rather than later.

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Friday, 15 February 2013

Otters, Imirean and Meall Glas

I have to be brief. Or antisocial. So I'll be brief.

This morning Les passed us his binoculars. "Look at that family of otters" he suggested. We did. From his living room window. Wonderful.

The weather was better today, as you can see from the picture of Sue (rather distant) on the top of Meall Glas. She was moving faster than me today, so I went up a rather easier hill - Beinn nan Imirean.

The snow was soft. Hard going. Lovely and sunny, though. An excellent outing.

We reconvened at about 500 metres and strolled back down to Auchessan together.

After collecting provisions in Killin, we proceeded to Culdees Bunkhouse above Loch Tay, for a weekend with 14 other members of the XXL (Aberdeen) Hillwalkers Club.

A very sociable evening ensued.

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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Coire Buidhe

Plan A: Beinn Sgulaird and Creach Bheinn
Plan B: Beinn Sgulaird
Plan C: Creach Bheinn

So we should get up a Munro or a Corbett, or even both.

About 50 metres after setting off from Druimavuic, we got our first dose of cold rain. It eased after a while, and with the temperature at sea level being 8C, with full waterproofs deployed we soon began to overheat then feel our nice warm clothing change into a damp, cold waterproof wrapping.

We plodded on along the good track beside Allt Buidhe, watching the rain lashed hillside above us playing hide and seek with the cloud. It looked windy and unpleasant ahead.

Plan D: go to about 500 metres in Coire Buidhe. Take tea. Go home!

So we will now enjoy the rest of the day at Cruachan B&B. We are on holiday...

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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Glen Stockdale

Today's weather forecast, offering the prospect of violent winds and 'snow pellets (refrozen rain)' [isn't that hail?] deterred us from anything ambitious. So we drove to a lay-by near the police house at Appin, scene of Les's former life, and enjoyed a relatively easy stroll up Glen Stockdale. The track ended after a while, but a series of wooden posts guided us towards the 300 metre bealach.

A gentle breeze, vaguely moist, wafted us through Glenamuckrach, a ruined village, where we wandered through recent snow, adding to the footprints of many red deer.

The deer were out of sight, but a buzzard was hunting and small birds, mainly chaffinches but also robins, wrens and goldcrests, were also finding sustenance in the snow sprinkled vegetation.

Our 20 km route descended through the forest to join a track that led easily to the main road and the excellent cycle path that links Oban with Fort William. Benches placed at frequent intervals soon provided an opportunity for lunch as the atmosphere thickened. A lone snow bunting followed us for a while, searching for food.

The walk back along the cycle track was pleasant enough, so far as it could be in the face of the predicted storm. Ducks, herons and cormorants were busy fishing in Loch Linnhe, and we passed Castle Stalker and strolled along the disused platform of Appin Station. More about these (perhaps) in future posts.

Back at Cruachan B&B (we are staying here, not at Creagan, Alan), Les had wisely stayed indoors and was ready with a fresh pot of tea and excellent banana cake as we dripped our way through the porch.

Izzy soon arrived, and between us we spent some time with a library of flower identification books, eventually confirming that the pink flowers beside the cycle track are early flowering Butterbur.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Vetters and Wildcats

Today was a 'Fine Weather' as opposed to a 'Blue Sky' day, but very pleasant nonetheless.

An easy drive from Bridge of Gaur, after fond farewells to Eddie and Heather and their tribe, found us enjoying elevenses at Newtonmore with Sue O, a TGO Challenge vetter of routes. She then dragged herself away from arduous vetting duties for a 10km stroll up Glen Banchor with us, with Molly and Harvey in tow.

It was a very pleasant interlude in what was essentially a day of travelling, or should that be 'touring'?

Sue gleefully spotted an 'exotic' specimen. A wildcat that had clearly arrived together with grey squirrels and mink from the USA. Sue O remarked that these distinctive but elusive animals are enjoying a resurgence in Newtonmore, where we spotted quite a few today, including one on the roof of her bunkhouse. The village is currently under siege from an invasion of around 140 of these exotics.

Neil made a brief appearance before setting off towards Spean Bridge on his tricycle. It took us a good few miles to catch him, despite setting off only a few minutes later.

A further couple of hours saw us at Cruachan B&B, where our hosts for the next three nights are another pair of TGO Challenge vetters, the redoubtable Les and Izzy. Both are in good form, as is The Creagan Inn, whose jolly staff have taken care of tonight's culinary requirements.

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Monday, 11 February 2013

Leagag (Again)

The sun shone for our third ascent of this 601 metre hill just to the south of Bridge of Gaur. It's a good 17km circuit with over 500 metres ascent, taking about 5 hours. Sue is pictured on the summit.

The snow line was soon reached, and we chatted for a while with a chap who was preparing the ground for a new plantation. He had a lovely snowball chasing black dog.

The wind seemed to ease as we got higher on the ridge. The going became easier. The sun was out. We enjoyed tea on the summit.

An abrupt descent through deep, snow-laden heather brought us fairly quickly to the track by Allt Camghouran, beside which we lunched at the cairn erected in memory of Alex Menzies, Shepherd. Later another shepherd, Ewan, drew up beside us and related the events of the sad day in 1990 when 62 year old Alex expired whilst clipping sheep at a spot near where the cairn has been erected.

Ewan offered to show us the local fox covens, and told us we should keep our eyes skinned for a golden eagle that sits on a nearby fence post, otters that swim in the loch, pine martens that are 'everywhere' and numerous other types of wildlife. We explained that we had seen a bullfinch! Actually, we've seen quite a bit of wildlife on this trip, including a red squirrel and a tree creeper in Simon's Braemar garden, hundreds of red deer stags, a dipper, and all manner of small birds such as wrens, robins and a wide variety of tits and finches.

Back at 'The Middle of Nowhere' by 3pm, we've had a most relaxing afternoon.

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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Morrone, and a Favourite B&B

"Well I never!" we both exclaimed, as an 'Are you in Braemar?' message appeared yesterday afternoon on the screen of my phone. We hadn't had any significant contact with Gayle and Mick since our Christmas walk. They have been working, and producing vast spreadsheets on the TGO Challenge.

Anyway, our host, Simon, soon arrived and due to a minor glitch with the shopping for food, we found we had far too much for the three of us. So Mick and Gayle, fresh from their afternoon drive from Staffordshire, were co-opted to assist. Extra red wine was found, and masterchef Simon, who did have something to celebrate, produced an impromptu banquet for the five of us.

Thanks Simon, and congratulations.

Today dawned to reveal a relatively benign landscape of snow, speckled with trees, vegetation and habitation - a ski resort under a steely grey sky.

The closest hill to Thornbank Cottage is Morrone, which stands at 859 metres, looming about 550 metres above the fleshpots of Braemar. It looked benign enough when the three of us set off up its northern flanks below gently descending snowflakes, but as we rose up the hillside the conditions became more wintry, albeit there was no need for any winter hardware to be deployed.

Morrone's summit is pretty distinctive, even in a white out. It took us an hour and forty minutes to reach it today, and once there those who hadn't already donned their winteryest layers did so in the shelter of the buildings that accompany the mast.

Our circular route then chose the vehicle track to guide us down in the teeth of a fierce wind. Soon the spindrift obliterated the slippery (I took a tumble) track and although this is Simon's 'easy' local hill, a bearing was needed to continue with any confidence in the white out. We negotiated a rough route in true winter conditions. Without a compass, even this seemingly benign little hill could have caught us out today! This evening our faces are still stinging from the blast of the spindrift. Once we had rediscovered the track lower down, the snowy walk back to Braemar was uneventful.

A late lunch fortified us for an interesting journey to 'The Middle of Nowhere' aka Eddie and Heather's excellent Guest House at The Bridge of Gaur, on the edge of Rannoch Forest.

We do apologise for not helping those folk stuck in a snowdrift on the Glenshee pass who we sailed past without stopping, but we didn't want to get stuck ourselves!

The snow flurries by Loch Rannoch have now turned to rain, so we are enjoying the evening with Eddie and Heather, somewhat below the snow line...

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