Last night at the Fife was sociable as planned, though it may have been more lively at the Moorfield, where I hear the Austrian contingent was practicing its 'Ve are not Germans' sketch.
Sunday, 18 May 2014
Sunday 18 May 2014 - TGO Challenge - Day 10 - Braemar to Ballater
Route: as planned
Distance: 30 km (Cum: 248)
Ascent: 750 metres (Cum: 9100)
Time taken: 9.1 hrs including 1.6 hrs breaks
Weather: overcast and slightly threatening at first, turning into another sunny t-shirt afternoon; rain later
Click on the link below (Day 10) for details of my planned route:
This morning brought a lavish breakfast of croissant, and bacon and sausage butties, thanks to Simon and Kat's cooker. Then I hope the house was left as I found it, as I set off past Russ Manion who was enjoying his own croissants outside the Fife.
As I neared the top of Creag Choinnich, a slightly surprised Richard Baker greeted me, out for a walk with his dog. He plans to do the Challenge again next year and asked me to pass on his best wishes to Roger Smith.
Why should he be surprised to see a Challenger on the best route out of Braemar? Because most of the ******* are too lazy to climb this small hill.
After admiring the views from the top, I was surprised to meet Ian Sommerville and David Williams coming up the back of the hill. A brief discussion revealed the error of their ways and they turned round. These two provided excellent company until, together with John Sanderson, they turned off at Connachat Cottage to head towards Gelder Shiel. That left me for the rest of the morning with David Wishart and Graham Weaver - more excellent company on this most sociable of days.
Soon after enjoying coffee and scones at the castle tearooms, I left the others to dodge the traffic on the B road whilst I took the lane past the distillery, pausing for lunch en route.
I passed the others again on the busy road where they were taking a well earned breather, before heading off through the woods and up to the minor summit of Creag Ghiubhais (486 metres - pictured near the summit). In practice this was not an entirely straightforward ascent. Knee deep heather, deep holes, large rocks and the occasional rock band were all hazards waiting for a disaster to happen. There were also flies, ants and spiky low branches, all queueing up to wreak vengeance on mankind. At least there was a cairn on top and a view through the trees towards Lochnagar and also to the high hills to the north of Ballater. The creeping azalea and dewberries that had graced yesterday's hillsides had been replaced by thickets of fruitless bilberries. Taking care with every step, I managed to get down without any mishaps. I reckon it took up to an hour and a quarter longer than the alternative route around the back of the hill that Sue and I took in 2012.
From Littlemill it then took a further hour and a quarter to reach Ballater's welcoming campsite via the scenic river path that skirts the golf course. An excellent way into Ballater.
Sue O arrived at the same time, and after the usual campsite activity - you can see our flotilla of TGOC tents in the lower picture - we set off to be sociable in town. Sadly the Alexandra was unable to find a table for us, so we chose 'India on the Green' which turned out to be the classiest Indian restaurant I've visited for some time, with a couple of extra courses thrown in while we waited for our mains. Only two other Challengers were there - Joe and Steven from Florida, who seemed to be enjoying the experience. Joe turns out to be a very accomplished walker, and is managing the Challenge (including hills like Ben Macdui) in very ordinary looking sandals. Not recommended for mere mortals!
On leaving the restaurant it was raining. Raining hard. We had a quick look for 'scenes of action', failed to find any, and returned to camp. I'll have to catch up with Humphrey, who I seem to have missed here, in Montrose.
A quick call to Sue in Manchester reveals a forecast for a lovely day tomorrow. Whoopee! Though it's bucketing down as I send this posting.
Sent from Ballater