Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 18 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 9

Date: Saturday 18 May 2019

Route: Dundarave B&B in Strathtay to wild camp beyond Kirkmichael at NO 097 609, at 300 metres, near Ashintully Castle

Distance: 28 km (Cum: 204)

Ascent: 650 metres (Cum: 6800)

Time taken: 9 hrs including 2 hrs breaks

Weather: light rain, warm, calm

Rich and Jo provided breakfast in our room at 8 am. It was all we could have wished for. Chatting to them delayed our departure until 9.10, but we enjoyed the socialising.

Light rain from the start inhibited picture taking, as did the relatively boring road walk along bike trail 7. Luckily there were very few vehicles on the B898, and after passing cyclists and cowslips we soon reached the old railway bridge at Logierait. This is now owned by the community - a valuable asset as it's the only place where you can cross the River Tay for some distance. It's a single carriageway boarded crossing, one vehicle at a time.

We were soon installed in the Rivers Meet café in Ballinluig for a good ration of coffee and cake. We weren't expecting to see any Challengers, but Maggie Hems strolled in, on her 18th Challenge. She complained about rolling off her sleeping mat when camping, limiting her sleep to one hour a night!

Eventually, after about 11 km of road walking, we hit the farm track beyond Tulliemet. This took us to an old goods container outside which we lunched. A shepherdess arrived with her dog Katie, on a buggy. She was checking on her sheep, which should finish lambing in a couple of weeks.

After having discussed our route with Maggie, we decided not to take the track up towards Loch Broom, from where we had planned to yomp in an easterly direction over a minor (503 metres) summit to reach the Mains of Glendarby. Instead, to avoid deep heather and tussocks and hags, we turned east from the container up a marked path, following this to Lochan Oisieneach Mer. Surprisingly I recognised this from a bike ride I did from Dunkeld a few years ago.

We took the marked path to Kirkmichael. It doesn't go to the Mains of Glendarby, instead swinging east to skirt to the south of a big plantation, before descending to join the Cateran Trail just outside Kirkmichael.

It was 5 pm. We had had enough. Sought accommodation. None available in Kirkmichael tonight. So we carried on. Slowly. Camping here (I'll take a picture tomorrow) was a no brainer. We can easily get to Clova in two days.

We stopped just after six o'clock; the tent was soon up, and we were happy to be out of the rain. And we could reduce our load by eating some of it, which wouldn't have been possible if we'd found accommodation in Kirkmichael.

So all is now well with the world. Thanks for your comments, which are getting through despite a very iffy service. I'll respond when I can do so without draining the precious battery.

Today's pictures:
Breakfast at Dundarave
The bridge at Logierait
Lunch outside a container
On the path to Kirkmichael

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Friday 17 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 8

Date: Friday 17 May 2019

Route: wild camp at 450 metres at NN 802 431 to Strathtay (Dundarave B&B - NN 913 535)

Distance: 19 km (Cum: 176)

Ascent: 150 metres (Cum: 6150)

Time taken: 6.7 hrs including 1.6 hrs breaks

Weather: rain showers then gradually improving to a beautiful summer's day

We woke to the strange sound of the pitter patter of rain on the tent. A soothing change from the shrieks of oyster catchers and the alarm calls and night time conversations of the grouse. Otherwise, the lapwings and the skylarks had provided a more serene lullaby for our good night's sleep in this superb location.

We lay in until the rain stopped, so we didn't leave camp until 9.30, heading east along a stony Land Rover track. We had come this way rather than follow the Rob Roy Way (RRW) route from Tombuie Cottage, mainly to benefit from our excellent camping position. If no campsite is required (or you know a suitable spot), the RRW route may be a more scenic way of reaching Aberfeldy from Kenmore. There's also a riverside path.

We walked with our fleeces on in the cool easterly breeze, under light cloud with sunny periods. After an hour or so we came across a green shooting cabin that Graeme had mentioned. We couldn't resist installing ourselves there for half an hour or so, enjoying a brew whilst watching swallows struggling to build a nest under the eaves. A pied wagtail looked on at their antics. This would be a good spot to camp.

Hereabouts a wind farm and pylons have recently been blotted into the landscape, but the old Land Rover track remains as it was, and the intrusions can be largely ignored.

There were nice views down towards Aberfeldy as we progressed past lapwings and curlew towards Urlar Farm, where walkers are directed around the perimeter of the farm, beside a barbed wire fence.

A short stretch of tarmac led to a right turn along a path with a RRW waymark. Aberfeldy is signed the other way along the road; the RRW route took us through the Birks of Aberfeldy, a stunning path down to the town past waterfalls in a valley currently bursting with wild garlic.

We weren't alone on this justifiably popular path. After admiring the Welsh poppies and wood anemones that had crept into any small spaces left by the banks of bluebells, we came across a sculpture of Robbie Burns, no doubt admiring the waterfalls and the forebears of today's plants.

Lunch in the Watermill café in Aberfeldy had been recommended. We weren't disappointed. The huge baguettes of fresh bread, and tasty salad accompaniments, were delicious. A large group of cyclists turned up and were greeted with smiles despite bringing a brief chaos to the place. Bikes everywhere, when they could have been left outside, but nobody objected and the staff dealt with everyone in the manner you would expect from somewhere with a high reputation that they are striving to maintain.

The riverside path to Grandtully is an absolute delight. From the river bank beyond the Dewars distillery, onto a disused railway line, this 7 km pathway provides a feast to the eyes with its riverside vistas and its flower laden verges. Apart from the usual banks of bluebells etc, here there is lots of pink purslane, (cow?) parsley, white dead nettle, wild strawberry, water avens, meadow cranesbill, red campion, garlic mustard, and more that I can't identify.

Eventually, after turning left at a campsite, you emerge into JD's dreamworld. A chocolate factory! Here we enjoyed a 'velvet' chocolate. Basically a tub of delicious melted chocolate. Sadly there was no phone signal so we had to wait until we reached our B&B - Dundarave in nearby Strathtay - before making our gloating call to John on 'Control' in Montrose. He got his own back by telling us it will rain tomorrow.

Crossing the river to Strathtay, we noticed that the water level is so low that anyone wanting to tackle the canoe slalom course should go equipped with their rock climbing gear.

Later: a lovely meal at the Inn on the Tay, opposite the chocolate factory.

Today's pictures:
One of many waterfalls in the Birks of Aberfeldy
Sue receives an audience with Robbie Burns
Lunch at the Watermill café
In the green corridor to Grandtully

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Thursday 16 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 7

Date: Thursday 16 May 2019

Route: Tempar Burn below Schiehallion to south east of Kenmore - wild camp at 450 metres at NN 802 431

Distance: 27 km (Cum: 157)

Ascent: 900 metres (Cum: 6000)

Time taken: 9.8 hrs including 2.5 hrs breaks

Weather: sunny; cool easterly breeze higher up.

First brew 6.45, away by 8 am - our standard one and a quarter hours without hurrying.

No sign of Sabine on the flanks of Schiehallion, but we were looking directly into the sun. Our route took us along the track to the small shooting hut near or in which Sabine was planning to stay last night. Then a thin path skirted around the mountain and dropped down to some shielings and a rather fine bothy at NN 712 527. It had been left nice and clean by somebody.

We enjoyed a brew beside the track before heading cross country to an unnamed summit at 736 metres. After admiring the views we followed a fence back to the track.

Easy walking along the track ended when we chose to ascend Meall Crumach, 681 metres. We may be in quite a small and select group of Challengers who have braved the peat hags to get up here! Today we saw no other walkers all day, let alone any Challengers.

Anyway, once we were back on the track it was an easy stroll down past marsh marigolds to Fortingall, shortly before which we enjoyed lunch in a fine position overlooking Loch Tay.

Then past posh houses on a lane that had speedwell and water avens in its verges, to the smart village of Fearnan. Here we noticed a memorial to some Russian airmen who died here on 29 May 1943. The memorial is dated 6 May 2019. After Fearnan we found a forest track that provides a pleasant route just above the main A827 road.

The wild flowers were particularly striking here, with huge banks of bluebells, and a track littered with flowers, including broom, bugle, daisies, dandelions, dog violets, greater stitchwort, primroses, ribwort plantain, wood sorrel and yellow pimpernel. A large bird of prey, perhaps a buzzard, was active in the trees.

The forest track eventually comes to an end. To reach the road there's a need to climb over tree roots and all manner of foresty obstacles, but it's worth it. After a short spell on the main road, a sign to the left indicates a short off road route into Kenmore. Another delightful path.

Once in Kenmore, the Courtyard Bar provided plenty of rehydration fluid and cake. That set us up for the 300 metre ascent along a quiet road apart from the warblers, ending a short way along a track, near which we've set up another excellent wild camp. As last time I was here, we got a friendly wave from the gamekeeper when he went past in his 4x4.

Sue has concocted another excellent repast despite being blinded by the sun, and later we will raise a glass to Bernie (RIP), with whom we so much enjoyed working on Control last year.

Today's pictures:
Loch Tay at Kenmore
My view as I write this diary entry

I'm afraid that Google seems to have made commenting on the blog particularly difficult for me (and perhaps others) at the moment, so whilst your comments are appreciated, I may not reply. The last time I tried to comment the text just kept disappearing. Thanks, Google!

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Wednesday 15 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 6

Date: Wednesday 15 May 2019

Route: Bridge of Gaur to wild camp by Tempar Burn below Schiehallion (NN 696 554 - 500 metres)

Distance: 30 km (Cum: 130)

Ascent: 750 metres (Cum: 5100)

Time taken: 9 hrs including 2.3 hrs breaks

Weather: sunny and warm, t-shirts, sunglasses and sun tan cream all recommended

We lingered at our favourite B&B, chatting to Eddie and Heather and their other guests, Ron and Jackie, until 10 am. They looked after us brilliantly, even lending me a spare pair of trousers while mine were in their washing machine with the rest of our clothes. What a contrast to the Bridge of Orchy experience. Heather's home cooked dinner was far superior, as was everything else at Bridge of Gaur.

We set off with Sabine, from Landshut near Munich, and had the pleasure of her company all day. She is on her fourth Challenge and will be climbing her 40th Munro (Schiehallion) tomorrow in her 40th year on this, the 40th Challenge.

Just one minute into our walk we met two laden backpackers. None other than our good friends Mike and Marian. The latter struggling with sore feet. What a shame they didn't know Eddie and Heather had a spare room last night.

We left them to their road walk and took the narrow path along the southern flank of Leagag, before entering forest to complete the walk to Carie along pleasant forest tracks. Twittering birds and the usual flower strewn verges, including bird's-eye speedwell, brightened our journey. The last section into Carie was along a 'yellow' footpath route that was particularly attractive. We saw just one person, a mountain biker carrying out a recce for a walk for some scouts. We ignored the 'No Entry: Forestry Operations' signs. There were no such operations. It's quite disturbing how such signs are allowed to litter forest walks and give unnecessary stress to members of the public who are trying to enjoy the paths.

The 5 km walk along the quiet road to Kinloch Rannoch wasn't unpleasant. A runner passed us twice and gracefully declined to help carry our heavy bags!

Peter and Rachel were debating where to camp at the head of Loch Rannoch, where there are lots of spots to put a tent. Many of these places had been taken by folk with cars or motor homes. It's a great spot, with lovely views down the loch.

We headed to the village shop for ice creams and cold drinks. Most refreshing on the hot day. We chatted to a jovial local, and to a chap who had flown in from Ben Lawers. His paragliding kit was neatly packed away; he seemed to be wandering aimlessly - we wonder how he got home...

By now it was 5.30, so we set off again on a short section of quiet road next to fields of deer and wires lined with swallows. Thrushes pecked in the verges. Then we headed up a well graded 300 metre ascent along a Land Rover track to this spot, which turns out to be precisely where I had planned (by guesswork) to camp. We reached it at 7 pm, our latest finish. Sabine carried on a little way so that she could tackle tomorrow's ascent of Schiehallion from a high point along the path.

Today's pictures:
Outside Bridge of Gaur Guesthouse with Eddie and Heather
A chance meeting with Mike and Marian
Sue and Sabine on the flanks of Schiehallion
Wild Camp on Day 6

More photos from Sabine.

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Tuesday 14 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 5

Date: Tuesday 14 May 2019

Route: Coire Fhiuran to Bridge of Gaur Guesthouse

Distance: 21 km (Cum: 100)

Ascent: 750 metres (Cum: 4350)

Time taken: 8.3 hrs including 2.5 hrs breaks

Weather: sunny and warm, slightly hazier than previous days

Clear overnight but not cold or windy. Our lovely spot could be desolate in bad weather. But not today.

The sun had dispersed any condensation long before I put a brew on at 6.45. A leisurely breakfast and packing saw us leave this vast expanse that we were sharing with a large herd of deer, at 8 am.

We spent the morning wandering along a broad ridge that traversed the summits of Meall na Fèithe Faide (826 m), Meall Buidhe (907 m), skirting Gleann Daimh to Creag Riabhach (779 m), Meall Cruinn (830 m), and Meall nan Aighean (790 m), which we reached at 1 pm.

During the morning herds of deer had punctuated the horizon; mewing birds were the only sound apart from the grunts of the deer and the chirp of the wheatears.

There were no proper paths. Just deer trods and a mysterious and very rough Land Rover track that led puzzlingly from nowhere to nowhere. Perhaps used for stalking, but would they airlift the Land Rover in? Good heathery going was interspersed with peat hags and well constructed cairns.

From our lunch spot we descended to (with difficulty locating it) pick up a narrow path that led to a track and a couple of ladder stiles over deer fences. From there the easy route down to Bridge of Gaur was punctuated only by a call to 'Control' and a long chat with JD.

The hospitality from Eddie and Heather at the Bridge of Gaur Guesthouse was excellent as always. Sabine arrived as we were enjoying 'beer o'clock' in the garden. So we are three Challengers here tonight. The weather and the company are wonderful. Beer, wine, and a fine meal have all 'flowed'.

Today's pictures:
Early morning at camp
One of many summits
Bridge of Gaur (2)

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TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 4

Date: Monday 13 May 2019

Route: Bridge of Orchy to Coire Fhiuran (NN 402 449, 700 metres) with excursion to Creag Mhor at NN 404 458

Distance: 15 km (Cum: 79)

Ascent: 1100 metres (Cum: 3600)

Time taken: 8.25 hrs including 2 hrs breaks

Weather: sunny periods, southerly breeze, t-shirts

'Renton's Rest' - the name of our twin bedded room on Bridge of Orchy station, lived up to its name. When we finally emerged from our slumbers the occupants of the dormitory had already left or were deeply involved with their breakfasts. It had been a noisy night for all bar Richard, who was identified as a source of said noise.

We all felt the price paid (£40 each for the twin room, £30 each for the dormitory) could have included a bit of breakfast, but we weren't overly stingy with the honesty box when it came to paying for the bananas and muesli bars that amounted to said meal. Sue enjoyed some 'instant porridge', as well as a tot of Cotswold whisky, as Richard strove to reduce the weight of his rucksack.

Richard and Rosie got ready to set off briefly along the West Highland Way, which they would soon leave in favour of a track to Loch Lyon and Bridge of Balgie. Sue and Chris would be taking the same route.

Sue and I set off at 8.45 up the well worn but thankfully dry path to Coire an Dothaidh, a 600 metre climb to a col at 744 metres. It went remarkably well. Just a few spots of rain! and lots of lady's mantle. We reached the col, strewn with wood anemones, at 10.05. During this ascent my phone seemed to be in 'bleep mode'. Amongst a variety of messages were four that notified of the relocation of a cheese and wine party due to snow. Luckily we have not seen any snow, other than a few scraps, and our route passes nowhere near the location advertised.

Our original plan had been to turn left here and traverse several Munro summits, but I had decided that the 1600 metres of ascent that route involved would leave me uncomfortably tired.

So we headed down the coire to the east, with good views down to Loch Lyon, which looked rather empty. Although our own route was pathless, we didn't envy those slogging along the Glen Lyon tracks towards Bridge of Balgie.

Elevenses were taken on a contouring route on a steep hillside that caused one of Sue's feet to hurt even more than usual. Then we made our way around to Glen Cailliche and down that beautiful glen past a sheepfold and a dipper to reach Tigh nam Bodach for lunch. We dined with the Stone family who kindly permitted us to use their garden. I've written in detail about this place on previous occasions, so I won't go into any more detail about this ancient site just now.

More contouring took us towards our planned overnight stop near Sith Trom'aidh. There were fine camping spots here, but it was early. So we started into the Day 5 route, which will be very helpful tomorrow as it slightly shortens a long day.

We ascended easily up grassy slopes dominated by dog violets and lesser celandine to Coire Fhiuran, where there are many streams and a plethora of places to camp. It's new ground for both of us.

Having set up camp by 4 pm, we wandered off to ascend a 788 metre summit, Creag Mhor, with fine views. Two sightseeing ptarmigan were most reluctant to leave the summit. We hadn't seen anyone (apart from the Stone family) since leaving Bridge of Orchy, so it was something of a surprise to see two backpackers in close proximity in this remote spot. They turned out to be Neil and Jane, who are spending the summer walking to Shetland from Stoke. And back. I think they were equally surprised to see us.

The views over Rannoch Moor to Glencoe and beyond were superb. Very similar to what we would have seen on our planned route. The campsite is superb. A very comfy spot near a small waterfall. As I write, well after 8 pm, the sun still has quite a lot of life, though when it goes down the night will be cool. Having enjoyed another splendid wild camp banquet (just hot chocolate to come) we are ready for that.

Today's pictures:
Outside Renton's Rest
Wood anemone
Sue converses with the Stone family at Tigh nam Bodach
Camp in Coire Fhiuran

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Monday 13 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 3


Date: Sunday 12 May 2019

Route: Allt Dhoireann to Bridge of Orchy

Distance: 23 km (Cum: 64)

Ascent: 500 metres (Cum: 2500)

Time taken: 8 hrs including 1 hr 40 mins breaks

Weather: sunny, t-shirts all day

We awoke in the shadow of the hills on a gloriously sunny morning. Frost on the tent confirmed that it had been a cool night. Cosy in the tent in our Rab 400 sleeping bags though.

We eventually got going at around 9 am. There was no hurry as we knew this would be a comparatively easy day. Pathless down to the main valley, but not difficult, and for the first kilometre it was in the company of the lovely 'babbling brook' known as Allt Dhoireann. Absolutely delightful. The stony valley fringed with dog violets and lousewort.

Glen Kinglass was reached cross country by heading directly north after crossing streams at a confluence, to reach the bridge at NN 152 369.

Thereafter it was straightforward paths and tracks all the way to Bridge of Orchy.

At Glenkinglass Lodge we passed a sundial cairn erected in memory of Lorna Schueller (1911 - 2009).

Cuckoos blasted out their predictable song. Butterwort and birdsfoot trefoil lined the track, with lots of bog cotton nearby. Wonderful views in all directions.

We encountered a Graham bagger, a fisherman at Loch Dochard, and a Munro bagger, and as we lunched at the Clashgour suspension bridge Chris and Sue Marshall turned up. They are on their tenth challenge, and like us were heading for Bridge of Orchy.

At Victoria Bridge we commenced our encounter with West Highland Way walkers. It's a popular route. By the time we had finished we'd seen about fifty of them. After a pot of tea at the Inveraron Hotel, we found the walk over to Bridge of Orchy via Mam Carraigh most pleasant, with fine views from the summit.

Our twin room at West Highland Sleeper on the station platform is quite adequate, and at the hotel we enjoyed a good meal. Then Richard and Rosie arrived. They had got to the top of yesterday's first Munro summit but were far behind us and had wisely descended to Loch Awe, where luckily they had found a hotel with a spare room. From there they had taken the minor road through Glen Orchy to reach here. Well done!

Today's pictures:
Morning at camp
A Kinglass suspension bridge
The river leading to Loch Tulla
Bridge of Orchy

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Sunday 12 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 2

Date: Saturday 11 May 2019

Route: Loch Etive near Glennoe to Allt Dhoireann, south of Glen Kinglas, NN 159 352, 300 metres, via Beinn Eunaich and other summits on the 11 km ridge

Distance: 15 km (Cum: 41)

Ascent: 1500 metres (Cum: 2000)

Time taken: 9.5 hrs including 2 hrs breaks

Weather: sunny with a few clouds. Cold wind strengthening from the NW

A fine mountain traverse along an 11 km ridge with five summits. Pretty tiring when you are each carrying about 13 kilos, as we were.

I wouldn't say our night was disturbed, but there were interesting noises from the loch after the cuckoos had retired and the shore was silent. Fish were jumping. Sploosh.

William, Peter and Rachel all left well ahead of us on their low level routes, but when we went to visit Richard and Rosie at 8.30 they had only just risen. Like us, they were planning to walk along the long ridge above Glen Noe.

So we left them to enjoy a lazy start to a big day. On our way to the Glen Noe path, we bumped into Ken and Nina. We soon left them to take the low level path to Glen Kinglas. Not many Challengers go high - it is hard work! And we only met one other person - a shy Munro bagger - all day.

It was hard work. We admired the lousewort, milkwort and rock roses that manage to flourish on the steep hillside. Note that forgetmenots (lots) should be added to yesterday's list. We were glad of a break for a brew after a while. Here there were fine views over to Ben Cruachan, looming high above us. We failed to spot Caburn, but the golden eagle that was floating high above us might well have been able to see him. A herd of deer ran off in the distance.

The first summit, at 730 metres, was reached at 12.20, shortly after which we enjoyed lunch on a small plateau sheltered from the wind.

Then it was a slog to reach the Munro summit (980 metres) of Beinn a'Chochuill. There were fine views to Glen Kinglas, and also across to Ben Cruachan. Sue called Dot and having just turned my phone off, I turned it back on for another photo. That produced a 'screen of death'. An exclamation mark in a 'danger' triangle, above an upturned turtle, above the words 'no command'. Nothing I could do would bring it back to life.

There were great views from here on this really clear day. In the west we could see from the Paps of Jura to the Cuillins of Skye. Most of the recent snow had gone from the closer hills, but slabs of white remain on some - such as Ben More above Crianlarich.

Meanwhile, we progressed to the second Munro, Beinn Eunaich, and thence to a summit at 880 metres. Here after a good couple of hours of pressing buttons as per on-line guidance, the phone finally decided to come to life again. Lesson learned - don't try to turn your phone on whilst it's still shutting down from having been turned off.

En route we had seen ptarmigan and a noisy gathering of plovers.

With an increase in the velocity of the cold wind, and a desire to set up camp we hastened over our final summit, Meall Copagach, before descending steeply to Allt Dhoireann, where we soon found a flatish spot on which to camp at 6 pm.

I was really tired and Sue's shoulder was bothering her, so we were glad to find this spot. No sign of Richard and Rosie, who we'd seen on the ridge about an hour behind us. We will find out where they finished up in due course.

Once our camp was established a brew was on (the first effort fell over!) and then Sue cooked another excellent meal.

Now 8.30 and our site by a babbling brook is still in the sunshine.

Today's pictures:
Ascending to the ridge - the view back
Ben Cruachan from Beinn a'Chochuill
Glen Kinglas from Beinn a'Chochuill
Camp by Allt Dhoireann

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