Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Friday 9 May 2014 - TGO Challenge - Day 1 - Morar to Sgurr nam Meirleach  

Route: more or less as planned

Distance: 27 km (Cum: 27 km)

Ascent: 1550 metres (Cum: 1550 metres)

Time taken: 10.5 hrs including 1.5 hrs breaks

Weather: fine and sunny for much of the day; cloud base 600 to 700 metres

Click on the link below (Day 1) for details of my planned route:

The day started with a quick breakfast in the presence of Jim Taylor, a 91 year old Challenger. I hope he makes it.  Then I made my way to the 8 am bus. The driver kindly made arrangements for me to change buses at Arisaig so that I could be delivered to the entrance of Johnny and Val's campsite at Camusdarach.

A coffee there went down well. Jeremy Prall, a first timer from Sedbergh, turned up and stayed for a bacon butty whilst I signed out and started walking at 9.10.

A path to the beach saw me diverting from my Anquet blue line and splashing in Atlantic surf before heading on past some interesting architecture to Morar.

Jayme and Peter were strolling along. I joined them for the rest of the day. Heather and David joined us for the latter stages after we'd inadvertently overtaken them.

We found Jeremy later, not far from where I am now camped. He has a prime spot by a small lochan. J and P joined him there,  whilst I moved to the other side of the hill to avoid Peter's snoring. H and D have carried on a little further, but 10.5 hours on the first day is quite enough for me, and I only just had time to finish my meal before darkness fell. 

Today's walk was very fine indeed. After a short stretch of tarmac a lovely path undulated along the north shore of Loch Morar (pictured), before heading over to Tarbet. J and P went down to the pier at Tarbet for a longer route, but I took a short cut from a large cairn. A stile took me over a fence below a steep climb, beyond which a deer fence had no obvious way through. I climbed it. All participants survived undamaged. 

The lochside walk had been a floral delight, with, bluebells, milkwort, butterwort, tormentil, violets and celandines featuring strongly together with the bright yellow gorse. Cuckoos were not unexpectedly in evidence, as were a number of diving birds and plovers.

A wait ensued when I'd gained the ridge, as I spied the foursome behind me, after which we negotiated the rough but broad ridge together. 

Cloud featured on the later stages of the walk today, but it has been generally warm and calm. I spent some time trying to resolve a technical issue - where was my sun cream? - and I've already spent more time with just my t-shirt than on last year's entire event. Having said that, the forecast is poor and it has turned showery tonight.

Sent from Scotland

Friday, 9 May 2014

Lochailort to Morar

Whilst the other Challengers at Lochailort could enjoy a full breakfast and a leisurely departure, I decided to bin my ticket for the 9.20 train in favour of the 8am school bus.

This enabled me to get to the Camusdarach start point rather earlier than I would have done via the train. I had thought the Morar start would be closer to the station. 

It was in fact some way away in the wrong direction, so the 9.20 train would have seen me setting off at around 11am, with an extra 4 km each way to the starting point to boot.

But by the time the bus had dropped me at Camusdarach campsite the rain had stopped and the sun was emerging, so everyone was smiling as I set out from Morar on this year's TGO Challenge walk across Scotland. 

The picture was taken near Morar.

Sent from Morar

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Montrose to Lochailort

Alison had gone to work by the time I rose to a sunny morning over Montrose bay.

It's a short walk to the railway station at the other side of town, where Hugh and Barbara were waiting for the Aberdeen train for the first stage of the journey to their Shiel Bridge start. A few minutes later I was on the smooth running 9.18 to Glasgow along with John and Norma, and Jacqueline and Anthony. 

A lovely sunny ride to Glasgow had me feeling a bit 'lull before storm' ish.

At Glasgow Queen Street, there was a good send off from Emily, who was looking very happily pregnant, and a reunion with many others including Mike and Marian, Markus, and the indefatigable Tim Wood.

Very green woodland throughout this trip is evidence of the mild Scottish winter at lower altitudes, though higher up there has in places been the most snow for sixty years, or so I'm told. I'm also told that the midges are active; perhaps some insect repellant would have been a good idea. 

Jayme and Tim and others provided good company for the wonderfully scenic five hour journey to Lochailort, where I'm sharing a room at the inn with Graham. 

It was drizzling when we arrived. If the forecast is anything to go by, we'll be happy if it doesn't get much worse. 

We've enjoyed a very jolly evening and now it's time for another good sleep. 

Today's picture was taken from the train window in the vicinity of Spean Bridge.

Sent from Lochailort

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Bridge of Gaur to Montrose, not via The Hill of the Soggy Raspberry

A sunny morning in Rannoch encouraged me to go round to Glen Lyon for an easy stroll up Meall nan Subh (hill of the raspberry). But when I got to a point opposite Creag Laoghain (pictured through the window) the car was almost submerged by lashing rain, with water streaming down the mountainsides and rivers in spate.

Did I really want a set of soaking wet gear for the sake of a two hour dunking? Perhaps not. The Bridge of Balgie tea shop provided an ideal refuge to which I retreated. Great food at this place, which also operates as a Post Office, General Store, counselling service, and (obviously) storage depot for TGO Challenge re-supply parcels, as well as providing a resuscitation service on their revival couch. Next week they may find a crazy local to provide a massaging service.

The weather improved as I headed east. Towards the coast the fragrance of the fields of rapeseed penetrated everything. 

The Park Hotel accepted my sixteenth and final parcel, a suitcase - so if the overseas Challengers are welcomed by a man in a dinner jacket in a couple of weeks time you know who to blame!

Alison's yoga is on 'pause' so it was good that she could join me for dinner at the George. Large portions in red hot dishes and very good value. Luckily we dodged the showers. Alison says "Hello Sue, Graham, and any other readers I know". We have enjoyed our annual pre Challenge catch up. 

My gear is now spread around her flat in that critical condition of two piles - one to be left behind, the other to be taken away and returned via Morar.

Isn't that a bit silly?

Sent from Montrose, where the sun shone brightly this afternoon

Newtonmore to Bridge of Gaur

Dinner with Sue last night at the local hostelry was most pleasant, and the early night that followed was very welcome. Our morning walk with Harvey and Sue and Neil's cat eating lurcher took us past an impressive looking house with a turret. A house fit for a TGOC vetter.

Today's first 'drop' was a large package for JJ - a spare tent no less - but the bunkhouse in Aviemore was deserted. So coffee and a bacon butty in the town centre were in order. A Nevisports shop was next door, so I assuaged my worries about cold hands on the Challenge (the weather forecast is dire) by acquiring a new pair of Corbett Extremities waterproof gloves. Whether or not they will either work or be needed is academic - I now feel better equipped. 

On return to the bunkhouse I managed to locate a nanogenerian cleaner with whom to abandon JJ's valuables, enabling me to continue on the scenic route to Ballater. Today's picture, with its snow clad Cairngorm backdrop, was taken from one of many fine viewpoints, at one of which I enjoyed a long overdue chat with Bill. 

Luckily, the campsite at Ballater, with its shiny new reception building, was both open and welcoming.

Fine views towards Lochnagar accompanied me to Braemar, where the campsite, Mar Lodge and the Fife Arms all willingly added my deliveries to their piles of parcels. My own small packet was left at Thornbank, where a curious neighbour banged on the door. We exchanged pleasantries, soon establishing that whilst I was not the owner's father she was the recipient of my last parcel of the day. She took one look at it, swore loudly, and threw it pack. Eventually I was able to persuade her that this 'JJ' was in impoverished Ukrainian immigrant and not the man she had mistakenly assumed to be the chatterboxa from Timperley. 

Fifteen items delivered. One to go.

Then a lovely drive over to Pitlochry for a refreshing break in Biba cafe was followed by a meander to my destination and Eddie, Heather and Thomas's generous welcome. 

Sadly JD departed this world a couple of weeks ago. It's not quite the same without him.

Two Davids, a Pat and an Ann arrived for dinner, during which it transpired that we all knew people and places in common, and they bought a copy of 'A Pyrenean Adventure'. I hope they enjoy it.

Thanks go to Eddie and Heather as always for their excellent hospitality. 

Sent from the Bridge of Gaur Guest House

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Ladykirk to Newtonmore


A long day in Polly, but the first eight parcels have been delivered. This meant a rather devious route via Dalwhinnie, Spean Bridge, Gairlochy and Fort Augustus. 

Tha day started well with Humphrey's excellent waffles with bacon and raspberries, and lashings of maple syrup. 

Humphrey and Mary's garden was seething with birds. The lawn was blanketed with goldfinches and pigeons, and their feeders were hosting parties of sparrows, nuthatches, tits and chaffinches. Messrs robin and blackbird, meanwhile, were applying more effort to guarding their territories than to filling their stomachs. 

The weather stayed surprisingly dryish, so luckily the brolly (hidden under the pile of parcels) wasn't required.

Though it was mainly cloudy, sunglasses were deployed all day and the summits of Ben Nevis, pictured above from the commando memorial, and Creag Meagaidh were clearly visible below the cloud base.

Sent from Newtonmore, reached today without the encumbrance of the thirty year old Citroën 2CV that slowed down yesterday's journey

Monday, 5 May 2014

A Re-supply Service

Polly sprung into unaccustomed action today, with a new service from sunny Timperley. 

First a delivery to Bacup, then a collection from Long Preston, where it was very conveniently lunch time. Thanks Heather. 

By now the boot was overflowing, and the car phutted amiably through the scenic delights of the Southern uplands in rain.

Tomorrow (well, later today) I'm heading for a car boot sale in Berwick that is renowned for the high prices achievable for dried and dehydrated food products, as well as camping gas and lithium batteries. 

I should do well. 

Sent from Ladykirk

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Another TGO Challenge Awaits

13051709stream2ali

Today I will set off with a car full of re-supply parcels destined to be dropped off at various points on a rather wiggly route to Montrose, where I’ll park the car and get a train to Morar, taking 14 days to walk back to Montrose by a ‘low level’ (ie less than 12 Munros and Corbetts) route, starting next Friday.

That’s the plan, anyway. I’ll be posting brief entries along the way, which is shown roughly, together with my kit list, on this web page.

The esteemed route vetter who is shown above demonstrating a river crossing technique on last year’s Challenge, will be seen by many of us on this year’s event, hopefully proffering a tray of cakes…

And just before I go, some good news. Our swifts have made it back to their nest by this study window – I can hear them sorting out their belongings after having arrived overnight.

Meanwhile, Sue is sunning herself in Turkey on the Lycian Way – have fun Sue…