TGOC 2011 Day 6

DAY 06 WED 18TH MAY 2011  
Coignascallen (Ruins) - Aviemore

Distance  24.5 Km   Ascent  807 m  - (I remember why I love the Monadhlaith)

After a rather blustery night, we decided on an early start, there being a bit of a walk on today, and having had something or other for breakfast, tents up, and away by about 8.00. Actually I cannot remember the actual time, but it was about then, and anyway, it doesn't really matter. The weather was quite good, and the tents were reasonably dry. Not dry, just reasonably dry, which means damp.
Al and I headed round the north end of the wood, and across to the river. We needed to get to the LRT along Allt a Mhuillin. The river was a little more full than normal and we had to go upstream on this side a bit before crossing. There was an interesting bit with a dodgy fence that I traversed and Al more sensibly went round, and then we were across onto the wide LRT that leads up to the bridge.
This is another pretty Monadhliath valley.

At this point, the weather was good, but quite breezy. Luckily down in the valley you are quite sheltered. At the other side of the bridge, the track winds up quite steeply. There are various route options from here, but it was decided to stay on the slightly lower path and go round. This is not shown on my map, but there is a track there.

You can head up and over Allt Mor, Via Capchan Ei, or go further along the Allt Tarsuinn and then up and over the top. Just before the Capchan Ei junction, there is another new track that heads South. We had gone past this, and were heading along, when it started to rain. It was one of those short sharp showers that you get. So waterproofs on, we then continued. Since the track was not on the map, I decided to take a GPS reading, and we checked our position. Al decided we were drifting to far NE and headed back. I was originally going to go up Capchan Ei aand across to the Lochan's, but just as we got to the track that Al was going to take, we bumped into Rod, Steve and Bernie. Rod, who has done a few, and been this way before said that you could carry on this track and then bash over the top to the Red Bothy. So, this seeming like a plan to me, Al and I said a tearful farewell (no we didn't, we're 'Ard we are), and Al headed off up the track. He was off to Kincraig to stay at Val's and my end point for the day was Aviemore, so it was time for different routes for a few days.
Thus, I headed off up the track with Rod and co, until we got round to about where the river forks again. At this we could have tried to follow the river futher, but it was a lot easier just to gain some high ground and then take a bearing, so we headed up. To be honest, I am not exactly sure where we went up. The weather was good, and the visibility excellent. I had a small compass, and knew where I was heading, so it was really just a matter of taking a bearing and heading that way, with a few minor corrections.
Rod Steve and Bernie as we head over the top

It was wonderful wild land. I love heather bashing over this stuff. I was on a roll today, and going at a good pace, and loving it. I seemed to be pulling away from Rod, although they had I think stopped to check maps and stuff. I was working in trusty compass mode, and the fact that I could see for miles. I knew from the map the geography. It was just a matter of not getting suckered off into the wrong valley, and staying high. I headed Just South of East. I knew that if I kept high, I would eventually arrive at the Dulnain, and be able to see the Bothy, so on and on I went.
The ground underfoot, was not that wet, and nice and soft and springy. The only difficulty, was the very gusty wind.
Indeed, although I was not to know this, but before they got to the Red Bothy, the wind, and heather bashing was going to cause Bernie's tent to fall off his rucksack, where it was on the outside. Unfortunately, he was not to notice this until they were a long way across, and the top of the Monas, is not a place that it is easy to go back and find dropped items, even if they are as big as a tent. Sadly this was to be the fate of Bernie's tent. Not exactly lucky. but at least fortunate that the nights stop spot was going to be Aviemore, a place that he would at least be able to replace his tent. A very expensive accident, but it could have been a lot worse if intending to camp high that night.

The wilderness of the top

Heading to the Red Bothy

Just before the descent to the Bothy

Dead wood on the way down

Sheep Pens before thr red bothy
I just love it up here. And actually it was a great place to be walking on your own. Quiet, and in the middle of a wilderness, but knowing exactly where you were heading. If you've never gone across the Monadhliath Mountains, then do it at least once. And do it soon, before they completely bugger it up.
It was a wonderful bumpy heather bash down to the bottom, with small lochans, and amazing colours, despite the fact that it looks like it is all brown in most photos.
Amazing coloured moss, on the way down

Inside the Red Bothy

When I arrived at the bothy, there was just Bernie Roberts there, (Good chap is Bernie). He had just finished his lunch stop, and was heading over to Aviemore. I was later to catch him up at the top of the Birma Road.
So, no one about, I took off my shoes, to rest my feet, and had a nice break. 
The weather outside was still good, although the wind was picking up. 
I had a break for about 20 min before packing up gear and heading off. 
I was suprised that Rod had not arrived by now, and when I looked back I could just about make them out a long way up the hill. I had not at this point realised the problem with Bernie's tent, nor the fact that they had been asked by the sheep farmers, to wait up the hill until they had herded the sheep to the bottom.
As I left there were quite a lot of sheep and dogs there, and three farmers who had been rounding them up. I had a brief chat, and then headed off to the bridge to go over to Aviemore in every increasing blustery winds.
The bridge across by the bothy to start the Birma road

So across the bridge, and the rather tedious walk up and over the track to Aviemore.
The never ending Birma Road

Somewhere between the start of the track, and first small bridge, an enormous gust of wind had taken my rucksack cover, at the speed of sound in a northerly direction. I did not even notice it go, and it was not coming back. So, lesson 2 for the day, attach you rucksack cover with some shot cord or something. Lesson 1 being:   
Don't have your tent on the outside, and if you do make sure it is secured like Fort Knox.
On the way up, I could see Bernie R in the distance. I also encountered an enormous digger, that was flattening the track and filling gaps with sand. There is a huge amount of money spent on maintaining this track and making it smooth. So big was the digger, that I had to walk off the track on the heather to get round it.

It is a long way up the track. As I reached the top, I caught up with Bernie. A brief chat and as the weather suddenly changed into a squally shower, it was time to head off on the equally long journey down.
It is a bit mindless this bit, and so I plugged my headphones in, and boogied on down to something rocky. 
I think it was Michael Angelo Batio.
If you want to find what that sounds like, then check out the link.
So, there I am drifting down the hill in boogie mode. Hood up to keep the rain and wind out, and 3 off road vehicles full of farmers and dogs in convoy behind me waiting to get past as I walk down the middle of the track. Luckily I did eventually notice, and moved over to let them pass. They waved and smiled as they drove off, but were probably thinking wa?ker!
I have no idea how long they were waiting, but according to Bernie, 2 or 3 minutes. OOPS!
I boogie on a bit more and at the bottom sat down for a shoe adjust and a read. Bernie caught me up at this point, along with another couple of Challengers who I apologise for not remembering, and together we walked to the end of the track and down the road past Lynnwig.
From here (to quote Al), it is just a half mile and a bit to Aviemore. Unfortunately, it is a LONG TEDIOUS ROADY bit and the bit part is about 6 or 7 K although it feels like about 15 miles.
I have no pictures of this bit, because you do not want to be put off.
And thus it came to pass that we arrived in Aviemore, at the pub next to Aviemore Hostel. Bernie was off to the campsite, but was lured into the pub by me, and also by the siren like call of the amber nectar. It was here that we met Jane Egg, and Alan Hardy. Alan had injured his back, and had had to withdraw. 
He was off to the Chiropractor in Inverness the next day. 
Jane had yomped here at an insane speed, carrying a large pack, and wearing what looked for all the world like slippers. No wonder her feet and legs ached, but she's well 'ard is Jane, she wasn't going to let aches and pains stop her.
We had a beer, and I booked into my hostel bunk, and Bernie headed off to his campsite.
After sorting out my stuff, and putting my shoes and Wendy (if you remember she is nearly dry from earlier, but now damper than when she went into the rucksack) into the drying room. I then washed up some undies and stuff and then took them to the drier.
This needed tokens that you collect from the pub, or the hostel.
So in pops the token and ......................... Nothing!
Back to the pub to find the nice girl who had let me in, and given me the tokens. Fortunately she did manage to get it going after a bit of a struggle with the token tray, and washing in the drying machine, along with loads of other stuff dangling over hot water pipes, I headed into Aviemore for supplies, and to get to tent seam sealant, and a few other bits and bobs. 
Oh yes, a rucksack cover!
I had a mince round Tesco, as you do, got some rolls and cheese and sweets, and a half bottle of Whiskey.
Job done, back to the hostel to have a sort out, and pack stuff, and then down the pub for food and a pint.
The hostel is good, with good facilities, and near enough to town to get stuff, and just far enough out to make the next days start easy. 
Interestingly, the dormitories are mixed, which is a new twist, not that it makes any difference, and the one I was in had a full contingent of people on the night. 
A couple who had been climbing, and some others who were walking or cycling. 
I say nice although, admittedly, the shower door was hanging off, and also the hot tap had more water coming out the top than the spout, but it was still fine. 
Luckily I had arrived early enough to have the pick of the bunks, and also to spread my stuff out and get all the packing done.
As it happens, I packed my rucksack ready that night, apart from essential morning kit, so that it would make for an easy departure. 
After this I had a jolly fine shower, minus door, and then that was the time to go down and have a pint.
When I arrived, Alan, Rod, Steve and Bernie were already there and about to order food. I joined them at the next table, and also ordered some food and had a pint of cider. I just fancied a cider!
A few other challengers arrived and we spent a pleasant evening, in a pub that was absolutely heaving with folk. A popular place.

It was still heaving in there when I finally left to go and get some sleep, and that was at about 11.00. 
So I snuck back to the hostel, and on the way, realised that I had not rung into control (oops). 
I rang through and spoke to Avril. 
The forecast for the next day was not great, and people were being advised to do their FWA. My original plan was to go down to Loch Einich and then high over Coire Dhondail. But this seemed unlikely. 
However, my other alternative was via the Larig Ghru. 
Now officially, this is not a FWA since it goes over 800m, but I decided again, that I would make the final decision in the morning, once I had got up and had a good look at the weather.
Which I did!


TGOC 2011 Day 5

DAY 05 TUE 17TH MAY 2011
Ault na Goire to Coignafern Lodge (Findhorn)

Distance  26.6 Km   Ascent  847  m  - (The Wake for the Wild Protest Day)

Funeral For a Friend by Dream Theatre
Today was a bit of a lie in (luxury), because the Wake was not due to start at the Loch until 10.00, so having taken down tents and packed kit ready, a leisurely breakfast was had before heading up to Loch Mhor. This was a bit of road but fine. Al went up with the coffin in Alex's car, before coming back to collect his kit, and walk up to past Errogie to the shore of the loch.
I walked round to the other side near Farraline ready to meet them and take some pictures. I will not go into all the details here regarding the Wake for the Wild, because that is done much much better, and with greater detail in Alan's blog, so I will just concentrate on my take.
I am also including a photo of the Loch taken at night in 2007, because it shows the Loch in it's beauty as the sun sets. To be honest, the weather was similar to this year, and coincidentally, we had camped almost where the boat was to arrive on the shore.
Loch Mhor from the bank near Farraline - Taken May 2007 (too good not to include)
So, Alex and Alan and the Times photographer and a local lady, went across in the boat. I waited on the far shore along with the German film crew and a few others who were gradually arriving,
as the boat was rowed across the loch, with Alex playing the fiddle.

Apart from needing to row an interesting line to stop being blown way off course, all went well, and amazingly, the boat arrived with music at the exact spot (more or less). Disembarking with the Coffin was also an interesting manoeuvre,  but all made it ashore in one piece, and the procession began (with a few pauses for photo's) up to Farraline, where local folk were assembled. An activity that 30 min ago looked like there were hardly any takers, suddenly had a huge support group.

At Farraline with only a few takers to haul the coffin, I started my stint up and over to Dunmaglass. With the additional handles (courtesy Alex) it was actually quite easy with 4 people, and we made great time. In fact it was almost easier with the coffin than without.
Unfortunately I have no photos of my stint with the coffin from Farraline up and over to Dunmaglass, so if anyone can send me a photo or two of this, that would be brilliant.
On the way over

Over the hill to Dunmaglass

Greeted By Police

You cannot see them hiding behind the windows

At Dunmaglass, we were rerouted round the Lodge, and on arriving on the road at the bottom, were met by 2 very nice Police Women (although they are apparently Police Officers not women, but not wanting to be sexist in any way, they looked like women to me)
There were also some heads hiding behind the windows in the Lodge. I guess they did not want to come out, because when we pointed our cameras at them to take photo's, they rapidly disappeared. The police were fine, and after a bit of a chat and a welcome rest we were all off again to take the coffin up high. Well, just across the river really for the lunch stop and first reading. It was here that the nice chap from The Times, who had also rowed across the loch (well a lot of it anyway) decided it would be nice to take some photo's of us going under the bridge. This he did, again, and again, and again, and again .... I lost count. It was a lot. In fact some people had finished their lunch by the time we finished. So it is thus doubly annoying that none of these pictures made themselves into any papers at all, and definitely not The Times. I was only there for the FAMEnot the cause! I told Al.
And that is why I am writing this you see.

At the end of lunch, words were spoken about the Wake, and the reason for it, and David Albon said some words and read a fantastic little poem. If you want to read it then you can find it on Al's Blog HERE. Very moving, and I have to say it brought a lump to my throat, and a tear to my eye.
Well done Daveand not bad for an invisible bloke!
Eventually it was time to go, and to go high.
We had been told (Al had been told), that the coffin must NOT be left on the estate, because it might harm the delicate ecology. Nor could it be burnt on the Estate.
Bloody priceless that, from an Estate that are going to Bulldoze bloody great tracks over the hills. Destroy enormous tracts of wild land. Pour in thousands of Tons of concrete, and make a lot of money from erecting 30+ 300' plus Wind Turbines, that will of course be in complete harmony and balance with nature. If you also go up to the top hut at the end of the LRT, and look at the amount of bags of half used and discarded builders crap, it makes it even more ironic.  I don't think that they will actually see the irony. Too blinkered by the ££££££ signs.
Rant over!
Where was I?
Oh yes we headed off up the track ( a long, long, long track ) towards Carn Odhar.
It was a long way, and I have no Photo's of this bit, but I can say, that everyone did their bit, and it was a fantastic group effort. Near the top a few left because they were heading in a different direction, and as AL says in his blog, the final stop and Wake Reading was made a little way from the top, before we carried on (with a long long way to go still), and the Coffin was taken back down again by those not on the Challenge to be used again.
I have to admit, confess that I did not walk off the track to the final reading place of the coffin. I did stay nearby, but assuming it was a short few words, and then off, had a chat with Norma, and adjusted shoes (as you do). John did go to have a look, but after about 10 minutes, with no sign of folk re-appearing, and a long way still to go, we decided to walk on slowly up to the hut at the end of the track, and stop for a rest. So John and Norma walked on, whilst I did something that probably entailed removing stones from my shoes, because I hadn't done this when I tightened them. I then set off, and caught them up, and we walked to the hut. It was actually surprisingly windy on the way over the top.
They're putting a bloody turbine up here to stand another 300' high. Perfect for killing Eagles!

At the hut we stopped and had a snack of something or other, that I can no longer remember, probably peanuts, a drink and a rest on chairs out of the wind. It is a nice hut, and has had wood burning stove put in it since I was last up that way. It provided good shelter for a while. A pity that they have left so much rubbish lying around outside. I expect it is special ecological rubbish though. Just as we were thinking about heading off again, Al arrived, along with other windswept folk. Rod Ross, Bernard Forrester, and Steve Miller. They should have been walking with Alan Hardy, but Alan was unfortunately injured and had to withdraw, and when a man with 23 crossings to his name has to withdraw, you know he was in trouble.

Al was going to have a brief rest, so I headed off slowly with John and Norma. I knew Al would soon catch us up, once he got up to heather bashing speed. There is no distinct path from the hut, other than vaguely East, but the terrain is fine. There is a track of sorts that meanders all over the place, but roughly in the right direction, made by a bulldozer. Not sure what this is for, but probably early preparation for pending wanton destruction and Wind Turbines.
John and Norma bashing Heather
It may be a wilderness, but it is a stunning (was) wilderness of assorted wildlife, and wonderful little valleys. It does not have the magnificence of the Western Hills, nor the vastness of the Cairngorms, but in its way, it is a special place. Such a pity, then that it is valued so little by Scottish parliament, and some (not all I might add - See Al's Blog)  of the estates.
Rod, Bernard and Steve after leaving the hut. (Go East young man Go east. It will become a theme)
It is just full of these wonderful little valleys
At the bottom I encountered this chap in a green Paramo, who I had last seen having a rest. He had not taken the scenic route, he had taken the direct route, and he had taken it at pace! He's a man who loves his heather!
Even with Sloman in the distance, it is still a beautiful place

It's a long way down to the bottom. There are a lot of new Land Rover tracks as you try and drop down to Coignafern New Lodge, from the top. It is also very easy to follow them and get dragged off to God knows where. Much better to stick with the stream, that definitely goes where you want to go, and also is much much prettier.
Grouse Nest by the edge of the track, discovered by John K. He has an uncanny nose for stuff like this. I would probably have walked straight past and not noticed.

Towards the bottom, Al and eye could feel the lure of the campsite, and with aching feet, we upped the pace. However, as we approached the Findhorn, from the track, we decided, it being a rather grand day, and also because we were knackered, to have a sit down and a rest and just admire the fantastic views in the valley.

It was about 6.30 by now, and after a rest and rubbing aching feet (our own, I mean why would you!), John and Norma caught us up, and together we descended the last bit down to the track, and followed the Findhorn up to the bridge at Coignascallen. You can camp here and I have done in the past, but this time our final destination was going to be the small patch of ground by the ruins the other side of the river.
As we approached the bridge, there were deer waiting to cross the river. There was also a small camper van just by the bridge. We wandered down to the bridge, and as the people were looking out of the window, a walked over to say hello. I assumed they were having a cup of tea. Indeed, that they might even be Challengers or related and offer us a cup, so being a hospitable chap that is what I did.
"Hello, lovely evening"
"SSSSHHHHHH!", says they looking at Al and I as if we are the spawn of the Devil.
"Hello, says I", in a whisper, "Lovely evening"
"SSSSHHHHHH!" says they even louder, and MUCH louder than my whisper
"The Deer are trying to Cross the River!", they said in an accusing way.
Anyone would have thought that we had turned up with bagpipes playing, and a Kalashnikov on our shoulder ready to shoot them. I have NO idea what they expected us to do. Maybe sit down and wait for 2 hours whilst the deer crossed, so that they could watch. Who knows? Anyway ......................................
"I know!" says I with a smile, "They're Deer, they cross it every night about this time, they do it every day"
And Al and I walked across the bridge, as they stared at us, went off to brew tea, and probably make effigies to stick pins in, because we had ruined their lives. They were still there the next morning. And do you know, the Deer crossed the river! Amazing.
So, off we headed to the ruins, arriving just after 7.20, where several others including Maria, and Bernie were already set up. Despite asking, no one made us a brew though. Mean lot.
The forecast for the night, and the next day was WINDY, so we pitched our tent in as sheltered a position as possible. John and Norma handed out some Red Wine, and we also shared Sloe Gin, and Whiskey, cooked up out meals, and relaxed. As the sun went down, the rain closed in, and the wind increased in its severity. Sadly no pictures of this, but if anyone has one or two, and would like to email them to me, then that would be great. Rod and Co had decided to camp a bit earlier up near the Lodge (in the windy corridor), and I would meet up with them tomorrow.
And, so at last after a rather long day, it was time to plug in the ears and drift off to a well earnt sleep. Apart from the blustery night. It was going to be another long, but hopefully magnificent day tomorrow, and I was rather looking forward to it.
I didn't even hear myself snoring! 


TGOC 2011 Day 4

DAY 04 MON 16TH MAY 2011

Cannich to Ault na Goire

Distance  23.9 Km    Ascent  412 m  - (Now where was that path meant to go?)

Well after yesterday, I just had to get up early and be ready on time, and I was. Spritely me!
A look at the fine weather and also the pending wet weather, showed that a rapid decamp would allow for a nice dry tent pack, and this was definitely the correct decision, because by the time we were ready for breakfast, there was rain. Not a lot, just another shower, followed by a dry bit and another shower. I HATE packing my tent in the rain, so this was a no brainer.

All up and tent packed and down to the breakfast stop for scrambled eggs on toast with a bit of bacon. Just the think to start the day. None of the muesli stuff.
In fact so spritely was I , that I was ahead of Al, and that is a tough challenge.

So suited and booted, and fortified for the day ahead, Al and I set off after a breakfast in fine company. My original original plan was to go through forest and stuff, but since we wanted to get to Drum early, it was decided to add a bit of road and go down and see what had happened to the Bearnock Tea rooms. So off we set!

It is not a great walk down the road, but one thing is for sure, it is rapid, and at this time in the morning there is very little traffic, so less chance of a lunatic sweeping round one of those bends and wiping you out, well apart from the prat in the bus later in the day, but we will come to that in good time.

I will need to postpone my Balmacaan route for another challenge, and just hope that I can manage it before they build that ridiculous bloody great wind farm on it. (Lunatics and Vandals!).
Also I think that the route into the Balmacaans is better done from Cougie and across.
Also you get to stay at Cougie, which is an absolute MUST DO, if you have never been there.
Unfortunately, no pictures of this first bit, but it was an adventure all the same.
So, we walked along the road for a while.
As excess breakfast fluids dictated, it was probably time for a stop, we did and apart from a pee, I also did a shoe faf.
Now a map of where we pee'd is probably too much information, but there is a story attached so bear with me on this.

Brief stop over, we yomped off down the hill. It is not a steep hill, but it is down, and so for about 3/4 of a km we headed down at a goodly pace, at which point I realised I had left my TGO Hat on the fence post. This is my only TGO hat, and they are no longer available so I had to go back. Al said he would go on slowly (Al's slowly is NOT that slow, but never mind), so I headed back up, Al carrying my poles.

Now, an intelligent person would have stashed the rucksack by the side of the road, and gone back UP with no pack, but I did not. No sir, I lugged that pack all the way back up (AT PACE).
In the distance I spied another rucksack descending the hill, and as luck would have it, stopping in said same spot and going in to look, at I hoped said same hat.
They came out, and I increased pace as I could see Al vanishing in the distance.
Eventually, about 400m from the hat place I met Morven (excuse me if I get the name wrong), who was descending with an enormous pack.
"High I said", puff puff. "I left my hat just back there" (hoping it would be in her hand or bag).
"Oh, yes, I saw that" she says, "I wondered who it belonged to!"

So off I went back to get my hat!

Of course it was still there, so retrieved I headed off back down the hill AGAIN at even greater pace. Indeed, as Al had now vanished completely from view I ran (not a good idea as we shall see).

I quickly caught up with Morven.
Now ideally I would have rushed on, but this is the Challenge, and you cannot just overtake Challengers, without a good old natter, even if they have left your bloody hat on a post!
So we walked down for a while at a brisk pace (she doesn't hang about does Morven), discussing this and that, and the weight and size of her pack, that has been leaking and is wet and stuff. Morven lives in Aviemore, so she is going to change kit there and get a replacement sack.
Anyway, we carry on, and Al slows and eventually we catch up with him for more chat.
Chatting is great when road walking, because it makes it go much quicker.

As we get to the turn off for the Corrimony track or it may have been the Shenval one, Morven heads off, and we continue our quest to the Bearnock tea rooms.

Well, we get there and it says Open, but they are shut.
Indeed, they are NOT a tea room anymore, but a hostel.

But, at that moment, the chap who looks after them appears, and we tell him we though they might be open, what with the sign in the window saying open and all that, and wonderful man that he is, says.
"We don't do coffee, but, I'll let you in, and if you want to make yourself a cup that is fine".
So he let's us in, shows us where everything is, and we make a brew, and rest our tarmac tires legs and feet.
What a great bloke.
We stick some money in the charity box, and pick up our packs to complete the journey.

Just up the road a small bit, the track heads off south, where the old path into the forest is/was! (See map above)

So, up the track we went to the house that is having a massive amount of work done on it.
There are a few tracks now that depart from said house, and we took the one that may or may not have been the right one.
Following this along and through a gate and along a bit further to encounter a herd of cows, with young'uns.

Al is not good with herds of cows, (have I mentioned that).

"They'll be fine", says I, "Just go slowly past them, no worries".

Well Al goes through the gate to the left of the track to circumvent the cows, and go via the barbed wire fence at the end.
I am not sure about this strategy, what with Al's track record with barbed wire fences and all that, but that's what we did anyway, as the herd thundered off back up the track.
Cows are not the most intelligent of animals you know!

Luckily, the barbed wire negotiation is uneventful, and indeed unnecessary, because the cows have legged it, or should that be hoofed it away, and we can go back through said same gate and carry on through the other gate, it being the one that we wanted to go through all along.

And so we carry on to the end of this track.
There appears at this point to be no known direction, and no obvious track.
We attempt a soirée via the woods, but decide that is probably not the way, and then go round via the field (what has more cows and heffers and things in it).
But this is NOT looking hopeful, so we decide that we need to get over the wall, and go along where for all intensive purposes, it looks like it may have been a track once.
Now however, it is muddy, and overgrown, and full of fallen trees and such, and to be honest bloody hard work.

So looking at map, and for the first time, checking location on GPS gadget, we decide the the best way is just up through the forest (about half a Km), and there we will find the track.

Now, this is not any old forest.
This bit is old, and un-tended, and of Amazonian density, so with pack and poles catching everything above, and assorted branches, debris, and God alone knows what forms of insect and other Indiana Jones like life forms dropping into our hair, and down our shirts, we bludgeon our way the short, but knackering distance to the track, from which we finally emerge.


Time to get all the bits out.
That's all the unknown horrors, that have managed in such a short distance to stick to us, and also work there evil way into the deepest crevasses of our nether regions.

We didn't take any pictures of this bit, on the grounds of decency, but trust me, it was not nice.

Refreshed and itching we carried on along the track to the end, where the car park is, and where several other Challengers, inc Bernie, and David Albon (who is not invisible) were having a break.

A brief chat, and then Al and I headed off out of the forest to do a bit more tarmac.
The others were going via the forest, but having done that before, and feeling the lure of the fleshpots of Drumnadrochit, we went for the fast and furious route, and the road.
Now, on my map, I have marked two possible place, that we may have hit the road, but in the excitement of the moment, I cannot remember which one we used, although I believe it was the first based on how much my feet ached when we got to Drum.

It is at this point, or just after this, that I should mention the bus again.
There are a few corners on the road, and on some of them, there is little choice but to stay on the road, there being no real verge and all that.
So that is what we did on the corner with the bus coming.
OK, I may have leaned a lot further out of the way than Al, but he is not a man to be bullied by public transport and held his ground with fervour, and widespread poles.
The bus did eventually slow down, with the driver shaking his fist, on the grounds that we should have leapt over walls to allow him to do his journey quicker. (Prat!).

Well, the rest of the journey was uneventful, and with conversations of many things to put right the problems of the World, and Al running his phone battery down to zero, by talking endlessly to BBC, and German TV and many other people about the forthcoming (Tomorrow), 
Wake for the Wild
 coffin protest, we wended our way to Drum and the lovely little coffee shop.
I had also stocked up on Jelly babies from the local shop.

JJ (John Jocys) arrived and we chatted.

I also posted some excess food back home.
I was getting another delivery tonight at Ault na Goire, so did not want to carry it.
OK, it did cost £2.00 to send it, but it was £12.00 worth of meals so it's quite acceptable.
Then we went to the Pub for Lunch (as you do), and a wait for the Ferry.

I should also mention running along roads with a great big pack on.
BAD idea.
By the time we reached drum, I had really achy shins, and was actually a bit concerned that I might be developing shin splints. Luckily, once we got off tarmac, the pain went away, and with a bit of stretching caused no more real problem, but be warned!

After lunch we sat on the green, and did other stuff, like checking kit, and leaving boots off, and generally doing nothing, because, there was nothing to do until about 4.30.

Al me and Denis on the Green, just before heading off to the Ferry.
The invisible chap leaning on the seat is David Albon

So off we went to the Ferry, having rung and booked it the day before (actually Jack did that, good chap).

For those who have not been on the ferry, always ring and book, don't just turn up.
You will get across, because Gordon is a top bloke and will take you across, but without booking, you might have to wait a bit.
It does not take long to walk to the ferry, but always best to get there early.
So, I grabbed some money from the cash machine, and we all trundled off.

I will not bother with yet another set of photo's of the ferry journey but we all got on ok and headed off to the rickety pier at Inverfarigaig and the walk along the road to Ault-na-Goire (Alex and Janet Sutherlands home), where my food parcel was waiting.

Well, just one

Or two

It is a pleasant little walk. There was a possibility that we might get turned back, because the forestry people had closed the road, but fortunately, it had been opened for the Challenge and all was well.

The weather was ok, and we set up tents along with the other Challengers, and about 4.5 million midges. It's at moments like this, that you regret not putting in your midge net hat.
On arrival, we had been given tea and scones, and this is a fabulous place, rather like Cougie, Alex and Janet being fantastic hosts.

Tea and Scones, and Alex's weird and amazing sculptures

Despite the attempts of the midges to spoil the party, we had a great night and an excellent meal, of gargantuan proportions, as well as a few beers and things that had been delivered.

Al, Jack, Alex, David and Rob at the meal

Later, Denis would blag himself a meal.

Wonderful view from the house towards where the Wind farm abomination is intended to be

What a great place.

Fortified, we eventually drifted to our tents.
It was time to tension up Wendy, so a bit of a bugger, when her strap came loose, and I had to refasten it using a head torch. In normal circumstances this is NOT an issue, but a head torch at night in Scotland, surrounded by 1,000,000 midges, it ain't good.

So, after climbing in my tent, I spent the next 20 min killing the little £u$%&^s.
Let me tell you, that going for a pee at 2.00 am was also an adventure.

But all was good, and tomorrow I would be able to carry the coffin up a hill!


TGOC 2011 Day 3

DAY 03 SUN 15TH MAY 2011

Loch Mullardoch to Cannich

Distance   19.4 Km    Ascent   271 m  (It's a bit Roady)

So anyway, the plan was to be away by 8.00 (that's am).
We had agreed to this, which means I had agreed to this, so Al has a fair point!
It has been a wet windy night.
I am awake at 7 and lying in my bag desperate for a pee.
It is still a bit wet and rainy outside and I am holding out as long as possible.
I can hear movement, and breakfast stuff going on outside, and Al has rattled my tent to tell me to get up.
I have acknowledged this, and I have the best of intentions, once I can get my body to get out of the sleeping bag.
Well eventually I did crawl out and I get MOST of my stuff sorted out inside the tent.
At last I pop my head out.
All I need to do now, is pack the last few bits away, and get them into the rucksack, and put the tent down, and the most important thing of all that I have just discovered must be done and really NOW!
Is have a jolly good $&1T.

So I crawls out of my tent, and there are Al and Robert, all packed and tents away and standing in under the trees, in the cold ready for the off.
"Just need a $41*", says I "and I'll be right back."
Al is NOT a happy man.
There are reasons for this.

It is now 8.05
He is ready
He is getting Cold
AND... I am not ready, not packed, tent is still up and .... 

OK, he has a point here (sorry).

A meaner nastier person would have said ("see you later"), but Al is fundamentally a jolly nice bloke, and so stood getting colder and colder while I dug holes and filled them and came back and took down my tent and packed my tent, and packed my stuff and put on my gaiters and got ready and  .................

Al you see does NOT run Hot. Indeed quite the opposite. If I have 2 layers on Al has 4 or 5.
If I have just a shirt on top, Al has a base layer and a fleece and maybe something else.
What I am saying is that he froze his nuts off waiting for me and I should have been ready on time.

So there you have it Al.  SORRY,

It's 8.20 or maybe 8.25 and we are away.
Just one more river crossing (we hope not) and then the end of the loch, and then it's going to get a bit roady!

Time to introduce Robs tension straps. These had actually introduced themselves the previous day, but I decided not to mention them until now, lest Rob consider it a complaint, which it ain't (poetry already).
Rob has a case on the front were he carries stuff that he needs to be accessible.
Actually, a casual glance round Robs rucksack where all the other things he needs to be accessible are attached, or dangling, or stuffed in pockets, would make you wonder if he needed to pack anything inside it at all.
Don't get me wrong here I am not having a dig. Rob is a good bloke. I walked with him quite a bit this year, and also funnily enough quite a bit last year with Roger and Nigel, and we had a good time.
But this year he brought these tension straps that hold on this pouch thing that always lose their tension.
On a bad day, this is approximately 4 minutes after they have been tensioned up.
On a good day, about 5 minutes after.
We'd have got to Cannich about 2 hours earlier without Robs tension straps.
I exaggerate. Quite a lot really, but that is poetic licence.

As luck would have it, we did cure them at Cannich with some micropore tape.
Well I think we did, because I did not bump into Rob again until the Larig Ghru, and I should point out that the straps were not the reason.
So where was I? Oh yes we are on our way on day 3.

A look back to the Dam from near Mullardoch House

It was not going to be one of the most fantastic days walking, there being quite a lot of road in it, although there were some nice little bits, and to be honest the weather was not half bad.
We stopped on route a couple of times just to take the tarmac ache from our feet and also to re-hydrate (water ok) and of course there were Robs $%^&^ tension straps.

I had been walking in gortex socks for much of the shore line (it was quite wet under foot) but now that we were on tarmac they actually made your feet worse and sore, and a switched back to my old faithful X Socks (brilliant they are).
More about kit later. Much later actually. In fact right at the end. You'll have to wait a bit!

The river on the way to Cannich
Pretty little pond, just off the road.

We carried in with many a conversation (too many to remember or recount here, but it took the mind off the walking).
Quite a long way up, near Craskie (a bit after the sock and coat change), we caught up with Ed(whose name cannot be spelt). He had been with Jack, but had gone off to do some higher stuff, and they were meeting up again in Cannich.

We also bumped into a herd of cows being led down the road.
Mainly mums and young ones.
Last time I was here back in 2006, I met the same herd (well not the same herd to be honest, but a similar one none the less), although some of them may have been babies at the time.

None of them recognised me though

We waited for them to pass, and had a chat with the farmer, whilst several cars waited for us to stop talking and the herd to move off, and then we then carried on to Cannich.
Here Ed headed off to the campsite, and Al, Rob and myself sought out hydration materials.
The first and later better pub was closed so went on up the road to the Slater's Arms.
I sorted out a few things on my rucksack whilst Al and Rob went in.
I followed a bit later and brought a pint at the bar, and had a chat with the barman. He seemed ok, but apparently they had not been so welcoming to Rob and Al.
Later we were to hear that this was a bit of a theme with Challengers. Considering the amount of custom in Cannich, you'd think they'd bend over backwards to make you welcome. Oh well.
So we had a pint or it may have been 2, I think I only had the one actually, and a bowl of soup, which was quite good.

As we sat there, familiar faces came by with bags of litter.
This happened to be Bill Howden and David Albon. They also came in for sustenance, and I believe a similar welcome.
But it was good to catch and and we had a bit of a chin wag and stuff, and then headed off to the shop next door for a few supplies before going to set up at the camp site.

I bought some jelly babies or something similar.
Bill Howden helped the nice shop people to take out a Slow Worm that had somehow found its way in (shame I had no camera with me),
and Al bought heaps of stuff (cos it was on offer), which included 3 Nan breads, and assorted pies. It would help him get to the camp site.

Then feeling much lighter of foot, but not of rucksack we headed off to the campsite to book in and set up.

They are really nice at Cannich Campsite and are extra helpful if they can be.
They also have a lot of great facilities, and electricity for charging stuff, and a cafe and coffee room, and drying room, and washing machines and showers and ..... It was great.

Wanda and Wendy all set up

Now I like my tent, and although I did not choose the colour (Mick and Gail did), I can find nothing wrong with it. But despite this Ed insisted it was a dreadful colour.
Like do you mean it isn't Akto Green? He'd probably consider my old Competition dreadful too, because that was Red.
Just joking Ed. You are of course entitled to your opinion, regardless of how dreadfully wrong it is!
Well, we set up, charged up, cleaned up, abluted up, dried up, dried out, sat up, sat down, lay down, and in every way were fresher and cleaner than we had been on arrival.

I should also at this point like to thank Bernie Roberts, for letting me dry my towel and pants in his washing, (cos I had forgotten to do them when I did mine earlier).
What a Gent!

Rob also managed to partially fix his tension strap problem, by using some micropore I had, to stop the strap running through the clip (Al's idea that!)

A lot of Challengers arrived over the next few hours (including Pete who we had left earlier the previous day). There are too many to name. but you know who you were.
And thus it was eventually time to go down to the Pub for a meal and hydrating fluid.
This time we went to the other Pub, the closest one to the campsite, whose name I have forgotten, but it is the first one that looks a bit shabby, but once inside it is great, and welcoming, and good food, and a warm atmosphere and a fire and well worth a visit!

Here we bumped into Brian Shepherd again, who had at last arrived.
He said he was going to withdraw the next day.
We tried to tell him it was fine, and he should sleep on it, before making a decision.
We had a chat, and he did sleep on it, although we later heard that he did withdraw.
There is No shame in that. Just starting it is good. There's always another time.

Al, Brian, Bernie, Carl, Pete and some others whose names I am afraid I have forgotten.

Al and I (I must do something about my hair next time!)

Anyway, suffice it to say, we had a jolly good night, and eventually all returned to the camp site, for a midnight Whiskey and Sloe Gin.

I had forgotten about the Sloe Gin. Al had brought some of Phil's and I had a bottle that my Mum had made. We had started in on it on the first night at the bothy, and bloody good stuff it was.
Smooth with a light kick. Not the Wumph of Al's rocket fuel.
And then it was time for sleep.
We would be up early the next day to get to Drum for the early ferry.
The wonderful people at the camp site, agreeing to open up at 6.30 so we could have breakfast.
It had been a road walk, but it had still been a great day, in great company as always with the Challenge.

Three days in now, the initial shock of lugging that pack had subsided, and fitness was settling in.

The Challenge was On!