Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Day 14 - TGO Challenge 2015 - North Water Bridge to Nether Woodston

 
Date: Thursday 21 May

Route: as planned

Distance: 17 km (Cum: 327)

Ascent: 300 metres (Cum: 11100)

Time taken: 4.5 hrs including 0.7 hrs breaks - (Cum: 109.4 hours including 22.2 hours breaks)

Weather: drizzly

Click on the link below (Day 14) for details of our planned route:

http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2015.html

It rained overnight and continued drizzly, but not unpleasantly so, all day. Waterproofs came on and off and we eventually gave up with them.

Leaving the campsite at 8.20, we headed across the busy main road and over the narrow bridge across the River North Esk.

Soon we were on quiet country lanes and tracks in pleasant farming countryside. We were following Rob Slade and his three cohorts, with Barbara and Ellie close behind us. They were the only Challengers we saw before reaching the sea today, despite there having been loads at the campsite.

A partridge ran ahead of us for a while, pheasants replaced the previously ubiquitous grouse, and hedgerow plants like red campion, bluebells and comfrey lined the verges.

We joined Rob's team briefly, and we chatted to Barbara and Ellie for a while during a vergeside interlude before walking with them up to the turn to Tangleha, their finishing point.

Whilst we were sitting on the verge a car drew to a halt beside us. After a brief explanation of what we were doing we were invited back to the man's 'tower', a distinctive building on our road into Montrose. I wonder what he would have said if we'd turned up!

Anyway, we didn't. Sue and I headed on past a friendly local man to the beach at Nether Woodston, where a helpful couple took the picture featured in the previous entry, and we took the selfie which is the bottom of the self explanatory photos for today.

Sadly the café at St Cyrus was closed, so we caught the bus to Montrose for a sandwich in Greggs before signing in at Challenge Control. This year's goodies are StrideOut foot oil, an aquapac drysack, Nikwax garment cleaner and proofer, a white Hanwag t-shirt and the usual fridge stickers kindly donated by Mark Storey.

Thanks go to all the sponsors, especially Hanwag and The Great Outdoors magazine.

I'm ending this entry from the luxury of the Links Hotel (it's the first time we've not used the campsite) at around 5pm, before adjourning to what is guaranteed to be a most sociable evening next door at the Park Hotel before we travel home tomorrow in first class luxury.

Another great Challenge event. Thanks and congratulations go to all those involved in the organising of the TGO Challenge and its peripheral activities. 

There's a slideshow for the day (34 images) - here. Click on the first image, then click 'slideshow'.

Like Lemmings to the Sea!


 
On the beach at Nether Woodston, 12.10 - 21 May 2015.

Another Challenge completed!

Day 14 - North Water Bridge to Nether Woodston

Day 13 - TGO Challenge 2015 - Tarfside to North Water Bridge

 
Date: Wednesday 20 May

Route: as planned except that thanks to Ali Ogden we crossed a new bridge over the River Esk at NO 580 740 and then followed the 'Blue Door' route towards Edzell. We also found a satisfactory back road into North Water Bridge thanks to Bob Cartright, by turning left then right after passing Dalladies, later passing Northgate.

Distance: 29 km (Cum: 310)

Ascent: 300 metres (Cum: 10800)

Time taken: 9.0 hrs including 2.7 hrs breaks - (Cum: 104.9 hours including 21.5 hours breaks)

Weather: sunny - t-shirt weather, cooling and clouding in the afternoon

Click on the link below (Day 13) for details of our planned route:

http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2015.html

A much easier day along good tracks and paths, not to mention a little bit along roads.

I didn't sleep as well on the hard ground in the vicinity of snoring bodies as I had done in our isolated wild camping spots, but never mind - we've slept very well on this trip.

The camping ground woke slowly, and we were away fairly early at 8 am on a fine morning. After only fifteen minutes we reached The Retreat together with Richard and Rosemary.

They had opened specially early for us. Full breakfasts all round. Excellent.

Making way for more customers, we strolled off down the road, soon diverging from R&R's route by heading up to St Andrew's Tower (pictured - top), a masonic masterpiece built in 1826 with a room that holds three people - a refuge in times of bad weather.

We strolled on back to the road just as the others passed by. Barred from crossing the obvious, but private and locked, bridge, we doubled back with Barbara and Ellie to cross the next bridge upstream.

After the first off-road stage across moorland, we now moved to picturesque farmland paths beside the River Esk (second picture), down to the new bridge that was duly crossed. The path soon led to a road and thence to one end of the highly recommended 'Blue Door' walk.

A lovely waterside stroll all the way to a footbridge to Edzell followed. Sue is pictured at the southern end of the Blue Door walk, and the woodland we then passed through is also shown.

The Tuck Inn café in Edzell is a favourite with Challengers. We spent a good hour there in the company of Vicky and Toby and others before making way for a large contingent led by birthday girl Lynsey, who appeared to be gaining quite an entourage.

Lots more were at the pub, soon after which we picked up Graham Brookes for the easy walk to the campsite at North Water Bridge.

The breeze from the sea was now cooler, so fleeces were donned as tents went up and soapless showers were enjoyed. We've been using baby wipes and dry wash gel, and this was the first time we'd noticed soap was absent from our possessions.

Our good friend who lives in Aberdeen, Jon Metcalf, had been waiting for us at the campsite. We had nearly run out of provisions, with nothing for tonight and just enough in our bags to see us to the coast tomorrow, so the cold buffet for four that emerged from Jon's vehicle was both a treat and necessary sustenance. The four picnic chairs added to our comfort, to the envy of others drifting into the campsite after eventually having torn themselves away from the fleshpots of Edzell.

Our party was complete when Alison arrived with the beer. Alison gives us a bed and a car parking spot when we travel up to Montrose by car and get public transport to the start of the Challenge. That was not needed this year, so it was great to see Alison here.

The cold buffet provided by Jon was extensive. You are a star, Jon. There was enough to provide a few titbits of sandwiches, mini pizzas and dips, etc, to other Challengers in the vicinity, and whilst Lynsey already had a selection of birthday fare, the large chocolate cake provided by Jon meant that none of her gathering cluster of friends went short.

The weather held, and the birthday party continued outside whilst Sue and I dozed, replete, in the comfort of our cosy sleeping bags.

A lovely day, crowned by the superb buffet supper. Thanks again, Jon and Alison. 

There's a slideshow for the day (38 images) - here. Click on the first image, then click 'slideshow'.

Next Day - Day 14

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Day 12 - TGO Challenge 2015 - Broom Hill to Tarfside

 
Date: Tuesday 19 May

Route: as planned except:
1) we walked beside Water of Unich from Wester Balloch, rather than go between the two Watery Knowles, and
2) we omitted the final hill, Hill of Rowan, (tut-tut) as Sue was desperate for a cuppa at Tarfside

Distance: 31 km (Cum: 281)

Ascent: 800 metres (Cum: 10500)

Time taken: 10.1 hrs including 1.5 hrs breaks - (Cum: 95.9 hours including 18.8 hours breaks)

Weather: sunshine and occasional showers; cool

Click on the link below (Day 12) for details of our planned route:

http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2015.html

A tough day, on which the first seven hours to Hunt Hill were pathless with frequent peat haggs, groughs and grikes. The final three hours were a little easier despite our being followed at times by spitting rain through a weak sun, but after an 8pm sitting for dinner at St Droston's it was midnight before we left the sociable gathering at the Masons.

So this entry is written hurriedly. Tomorrow.

We didn't see anyone until we passed Freddie and Darren, then Mr Grumpy geocaching and complaining he was "past it", a hundred metres from St Droston's.

But we did see two grouse nests, one with eggs, the other with chicks, lots of hares, lizards, a ring ouzel, grey plovers, lapwings and oystercatchers, skylarks and meadow pipits, lots of lbjs, clumps of milkwort, bog asphodel and a buttercup like flower that I'll call 'bog buttercup'. Great crested grebes were seen on a high lochan, with tufted ducks on Loch Lee. After a brief respite, cuckoos are back with us in Glen Esk (the home of Tarfside).

A highlight was the remote summit of Wester Balloch, where a visitors book had been placed in October 2014. We were the first to sign it.

Otherwise it was seven hours of hard going over scenic terrain, including the delightful but pathless Water of Unich valley, followed by three hours of easy going, also over scenic terrain.

A great day, and great to meet up with friends old and new at Tarfside, where there are about 50 Challengers' tents pitched on the village green.

Today's pictures:
Top - our final 'wild' campsite of this trip, near the top of Broom Hill
Middle - descending beside the Water of Unich
Bottom - the Water of Lee from Hunt Hill

Fine views, all of them.

There's a slideshow for the day (31 images) - here. Click on the first image, then click 'slideshow'.

Next Day - Day 13

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Day 11 - TGO Challenge 2015 - Braemar to Broom Hill (NO 281 798 - 700 metres)

 
Date: Monday 18 May

Route: as planned

Distance: 26 km (Cum: 250)

Ascent: 1100 metres (Cum: 9700)

Time taken: 9.2 hrs including 2.1 hrs breaks - (Cum: 85.8 hours including 17.3 hours breaks)

Weather: after early sunshine, a showery day with variety - snow, rain and hail; little wind but below freezing on the summits

Click on the link below (Day 11) for details of our planned route:

http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2015.html

Our earliest start yet. We left the cottage at 7.15 just as overnight rain was exhausting itself. It started again before we reached Lochcallater Lodge, shortly after we'd bumped into Morpeth (Peter Shepherd) trudging back to his car after a wild night in the Lodge, where Denis Pidgeon was still in residence. Bill and his mate were most welcoming and Sue's tub of shortbread was traded for bacon butties. Richard Fuell was nursing a hangover, having enjoyed a night of revelry. Rosemary was making herself useful whilst Richard sought sufficient feeling in his legs to attempt walking, JJ and Margaret were about to leave; others demonstrated inability to hold their drink. Apparently Ian Cotterill filmed the proceedings. That should be a top seller!

Anyway, we enjoyed our 45 minute sojourn. John S arrived just as we left; we wonder what the first timer made of Lochcallater. If Simon and Kat, who we again thank for the use of their cottage in Braemar, are reading this - Bill sends his best wishes and hopes to see you all soon. He has happy recollections of Simon flying in for a cuppa.

After unexpectedly bumping into Italian pin-up Biagio Pellegrini (not doing the Challenge this year), and despite following a trail of Challengers along the path up towards Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, we saw nobody else all day apart from two folk on Broad Cairn whilst we were nipping between Munro Tops, and Graham Brookes who poked his head into our tent at around 6 pm. He's had a disappointing Challenge summit wise having only been able to summit 18 Munros and Corbetts - more than we have ever done I think.

After easy paths over today's three Munros and three Munro Tops, notwithstanding the hail and snow that turned everything white, the day ended with a tough, bouldery descent from well named Broad Cairn, and after a short stretch of track to get up Sandy Hillock, a landscape of peat haggs greeted us, across which we had to stumble to gain the summit of Broom Hill. I fear there will be lots more peat haggs tomorrow.

A good spot to camp revealed itself just after that, so here we are at 700 metres relaxing in our final wild camp of the trip.

How fast the time flies by! (But who knows when there will be sufficient phone signal to post this entry?)

Today's pictures:
Top - on the sunny approach to Lochcallater Lodge in Glen Callater
Middle - lunch in view of Lochnagar (in cloud) on the descent from Cairn Bannoch
Bottom - ascending Broad Cairn in the snow

There's a slideshow for the day (25 images) - here. Click on the first image, then click 'slideshow'.

Next Day - Day 12

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Day 10 - TGO Challenge 2015 - Glen Luibeg (NO 020 937) to Thornbank Cottage, Braemar

 
Date: Sunday 17 May

Route: as planned from a little beyond Luibeg Bridge

Distance: 17 km (Cum: 224)

Ascent: 300 metres (Cum: 8600)

Time taken: 5.2 hrs including 1.2 hrs breaks - (Cum: 76.6 hours including 15.2 hours breaks)

Weather: showery at first after overnight rain, improving to a sunny afternoon

Click on the link below (Day 10) for details of our planned route (we took an easier alternative today):

http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2015.html

An easy day. After a lie in we left our excellent camping spot (pictured - top) at 8.45 and strolled down to find John pitched in a more sheltered spot by some trees. He had found a good place.

We continued to the new temporary bridge that we had been assured was in place (pictured - middle), near where John sploshed across the river in his skirt and Innov8s to join us for the rest of the day's walk.

Mar Lodge provided as much tea, coffee and biscuits as we wanted in return for a small donation. This is where the Lairig Ghru route joins the Glen Feshie and Glen Tilt routes that funnel Challengers into Braemar. I won't try to enumerate everyone we met there or later in Braemar. Jacqui and Tony Ford joined the  three of us for the pleasant walk to Braemar through the Birkwood Forest. A route much better than the road walk most Challengers endure. The other four are pictured by the orientation table before the descent to Braemar at Tomintoul.

JJ and Margaret were Challenger spotting from the window of The Old Bakery, so we joined them for a natter before they headed off to Lochcallater Lodge for a night of revelry.

Our afternoon at Thornbank Cottage, which Simon and Kat have again kindly let us borrow for the night, was all too short. Then it was back to The Old Bakery for a meal with John S, Jacqui and Tony, and Graham Brookes (on another of his customary mega routes), before adjourning for wine and chat in front of a log fire at the cottage.

Excellent.

There's a slideshow for the day (22 images) - here. Click on the first image, then click 'slideshow'.

Next Day - Day 11

Day 9 - TGO Challenge 2015 - Aviemore to Glen Luibeg (NO 020 937)

 
Day 9 - TGO Challenge 2015 - Aviemore to Glen Luibeg (NO 020 937)

Date: Saturday 16 May

Route: planned back up route over the Lairig Ghru to a little beyond Luibeg Bridge

Distance: 29 km (Cum: 207)

Ascent: 900 metres (Cum: 8300)

Time taken: 8.3 hrs including 1.0 hrs breaks - (Cum: 71.4 hours including 14.0 hours breaks)

Weather: sunny periods and very occasional light wintry showers

Click on the link below (Day 9) for details of our planned route (we took an easier alternative today):

http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2015.html

Despite Alvar's concerns at Challenge Control expressed yesterday, today's walk over the Lairig Ghru proved to be a most enjoyable experience with no difficulties whatsoever.

I'd not previously walked through the Lairig Ghru, always having preferred the tops, but on a day like today when conditions high up looked dubious, this well marked trail served us well.

We started late. Ellen's B&B breakfast was served at 8.30, a meal that lasted us all our walking day apart from a tin of fish and a round of cheese for lunch.

So at around 9.30 we plodded out of Aviemore and onto the Coylumbridge road in weather that required a few changes of overgarments, ie sunshine and showers. There was no sign of the predicted 50 mph winds. They didn't materialise, though conditions above 1000 metres looked challenging, so we were happy with our decision to stay low.

The stroll through Rothiemurchus Forest (Sue is pictured here) was a delight, despite the absence of bells on the majority of mountain bikes. A brew stop in the forest provided a welcome break before the long, gentle ascent to the 835 metre Lairig Ghru pass that leads towards Braemar. Here we were further reassured by a comment from Andy Dawkins concerning the bridges on the approach to Linn of Dee. Thanks Andy.

We met several folk coming down having crossed the pass, and bumped into a couple of lads going over to Corrour bothy for the night before returning to Aviemore.

Sue is pictured (middle) ascending, with our original objective, Braeriach, in the distance on the right. Not pictured is the nearby family of ptarmigan - one male trying to keep both his wives happy, oblivious to our passage.

I must admit, I'd expected the route - not allowed on the TGO Challenge as a foul weather alternative - to be harder. I didn't expect to find an obvious and well marked path all the way, albeit it is a cairned path over some small boulder fields. There were a couple of snowfields to cross, but that was no doubt easier than going over the rocks below the snow.

I took a photo of Sue at the top of the pass - pictured bottom. She turned and exclaimed "OMG, a bus driver in a skirt!"

A little further on we encountered John Sheffield, first time Challenger and devotee of lightweight equipment. He had gone up to the first Munro top before taking the judicious decision to retrace his steps and go over the Lairig Ghru pass instead. We enjoyed a most pleasurable walk with him all the way down past Corrour bothy and on beyond Luibeg Bridge to our camping spot in the open. Here John decided to continue a little further to below the tree line where any wind will have less impact on his cuben fibre tent. Apparently it's a great tent, but noisy in wind!

We got our tent up on some nice flat, well drained ground just before a light shower.

Three backpackers soon strolled past with a friendly wave. Challengers perhaps; perhaps not...

Up at just 500 metres, this is one of our lower campsites of the trip, though it is also one of our coolest. Hardly May weather, but we are very cosy in our Rab 400 down bags.

Erratum: in a previous entry I think I may have referred to Ted and Jenny Spiller being on the ferry across Loch Ness. If it had been them I'm sure they'd have been at the correct pier! The couple we met at the wrong pier were Gordon and Jenny Selley.

There's a slideshow for the day (35 images) - here. Click on the first image, then click 'slideshow'.

Next Day - Day 10