View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label Backpackers Club. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Backpackers Club. Show all posts

Friday, 1 June 2018

TGO Challenge 2018, Going over the top. Day 5

In which I lighten my load…

Up at 7am to start packing, I had breakfast in thew hotel - £10 for a full English Welsh Irish Scottish, good value for what I had: all the usual stuff you get with a hotel breakfast, but rather having a fry-up I opted for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. It was probably the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. I’ll be using the MacDonald Hotel campsite again – it’s better than other commercial sites I’ve used in the town.

I joined Conn Hardingacklin for breakfast, he’d planned a similar route to mine – whatever that was!


The view up the loch from the campsite was quite stunning – the morning light was just right.

Up and away via the Post Office (to send some stuff home) and the Co-op to buy choccy and bread.


JJ, Mike and I left town at 10am for the long slog up to Devil’s Staircase.

Lots of kilt comments (mostly complimentary) and loads of requests for photographs….we should start charging! The vast majority of the walkers we saw were on the WHW, some hoping to get to Fort Bill that day whilst others seemed content to stop in Kinlochleven.


Miffed that the cafe at the top was shut

It got a gloomy as we climbed, then it got gloomier still as we climbed some more – then waterproofs were needed as the wind drove rain in. It got quite cold too. This was the second and final time that I walked in rain on TGOC2018 – quite a record.

As late as 4pm some WHW walkers were still heading north, it would be quite late before they got to KL.


The rebuilding of Kingshouse

Once past Kingshouse the kilt comments virtually dried up. We were now off the WHW and we didn’t come across any other walkers for what remained of the day.

The rain had now stopped but the cold wind remained, at least it dried the outer shell of my Velez quite nicely.



Black Corries Lodge

I’d intended to camp before Black Corries but it felt right to continue on beyond the lodge. And so we did.


A mile or so later, at NN322552, we came across a nice flat spot with an abundant supply of water – just what we needed. It was adjacent to a LRT but we really weren’t mithered about that.

Tents up and brew on – just in time for the Archers on BBC R4 LW.

I had an excellent meal of home made and home-dehydrated beef & ale plus Idaho mashed potatoes – these are now my favourite packet mashed potatoes, they’re delicious.


Pudding was a good sized (= big!) piece of chocolate, an Eccles Cake and a mug of tea. I was replete.

After a top-to-toe wash down in my tent I slid into my sleeping bag and wrte up the day’s diary….ie what you’re reading here.




Looking over the lochan in the fading light was really quite relaxing. The snow-covered tops added to the beauty of the scene. The sky was clearing so I expected a cold night ahead. Because I’d loaned Eden some of my lighter-weight stuff I was carrying my winter sleeping bag – cold was not on my list of worries that night.

Eden was doing his DofE Bronze expedition at the same time as my TGOC, I didn’t want the poor lad to be weighed down with a pile of heavy kit.

Whinge warning:

On the subject of DofE, which I’ve commented on previously (causing some knee-jerk reactions by those who couldn’t be arsed to read my words thoroughly – or just want to argue / disagree with my P.o.V.):

There are some absolutely brilliant and very experienced DofE expedition ‘intructors’ out there (you know who you are) but there are also some who clearly don’t have much idea at all. They probably don’t know who they are.

Expedition instructors can’t be held fully responsible for their teachings, the recommended expedition kit list can be viewed here – I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions….but we’ve all taken pity on overloaded DofE teenagers. I’m surprised that so many return to the outdoors.

Some fellow Backpackers Club members, including me, have offered some local DofE groups help and advice but as far as I know, and certainly in my experience, our offers haven’t been taken up.

End of whinge.

I slept badly, not because of the cold, I was actually VERY warm, it was just a load of crap going through my head that wouldn’t allow me to wind down. A mug of camomile tea, a listen to the BBC World Service and a bit of time spent taking photos helped take my mind of the rubbishy stuff and eventually my mind found neutral and I drifted off.


The view from my tent at 4.10am

Cuckoo count: 3 (poor)

Other wildlife encountered: Not much at all really, a just few birds lurking around the lochan. Not even any Challengers.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

TGO Challenge 2017, Part 3 May 2017

Friday 19th May, Ruigh Aiteachain to beyond White Bridge

I was up and about at a reasonable hour, my trick of wearing a blindfold in my tent in the summer was working – I wasn’t waking up at 4am anymore.

Workmen arrived to start work on the bothy before 8am, they were a decent bunch but the noise they generated was enough to encourage an early-ish departure. So we left late-ish, just before 9am. It didn’t matter, we had a lovely day of Glen Feshie and Glen Geldie ahead of us.

Soon after leaving, and brimming with confidence, we made the first error of the day: we took the low road when we should have taken the high. Anyone who’s travelled that way will know what I mean.

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The Low Road-End

Rather than turn back, we opted for the stupidist option of clambering up the not-quite vertical precipitous and treacherous hillside. Mick went first. Obviously. Ten minutes of slipping, sliding, clambering and generally cursing saw us on the rightful pth. We’d have done better to turn back.

More fun lay ahead, the world-famous Glen Feshie Landslips.

Actually, the landslips weren’t as bad as I remebered, or maybe most of the land had now slipped and there was nowt more to slip. Whatever, it was still dodgy. Mick went first – he was more experienced after all.<koff>



Infant River Feshie

It was warm at first, we enjoyed good views (it says ‘great views’ in my diary….but I’ll settle for good) an we passed a good few mountain bikers going tother way. Mountain biking has gained popularity in recent years. Even as recently as 6-7 years ago a mountain biker in Glen Geldie was a rarity. Now they’re common. Not wishing to pi$$ on anyone’s chips, but they’re a bloody nuisance – soft ground often becomes quagmire because of all the passing traffic. Plenty are polite and allow you safe passage as you pass, I’m afraid others couldn’t give a stuff and just barge past. Bad form. I reckon that we passed 30 or more cyclists between he Eidart Bridge and the ruin north of Bynack Lodge.

I should point out that I’m a cyclist – a fairly keen one at that.

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Pretty flahs in Glen Feshie


17, that’s SEVENTEEN miles to Braemar!


The Eidart Bridge. And mountain bikers. They didn’t let on.


Glen Geldie flahs

Talking of passing people, we also passed Minna, a first-time lady Challenger from Finland. Poor Minna was struggling with wrecked feet. She announced that she was going to have to bale out at Braemar – we offered help but she’s a determined lady and wouldn’t hear of it.

The climb up the watershed is very gradual, there’s a bit of undulating up and downery but it’s generally easy going with just a few burns to cross – even they were easy because of the recent low levels of rainfall. In fact I didn’t need to take my boots off for any of this year’s river crossing over the entire Challenge.


Although the first part of the day had been warm, it chilled noticeably once over the watershed. Clouds soon gathered and we sensed it wouldn’t be long before the Great Wetness would begin. We’re quick like that.



Geldie Lodge

The area around ruin at the confluence of Bynack and Geldie Burns was playing host to a number of Challengers, perhaps 6 – 7 tents. We stopped to chat but we wanted to get a wiggle on to get to our intended camp spot before the rain arrived.

White Bridge was virtually devoid of tents, most unusual. I hoped that most had pitched earlier at the ruin and hadn’t carried on to our intended and rather small pitch.

It stayed dry until we got our tents up. Although we weren’t the first to arrive, it wasn’t a crowded spot. There were a few familiar faces around, notably the Backpackers Club Enforcement Team: L&L from Stockport and Frank from Northampton (I think). We must have passed muster – they didn’t give us too much of a hard time.

A warm but wet night followed. And there were slugs – one of which was a great big black dobber that managed to weedle it’s way into my tent. I’m afraid I knelt on it, the squashed remnants took ages to get off my groundsheet. My trousers will never be the same.

Cuckoo Count: 3

Saturday 20th May, to Braemar

Lynsey’s Birthday!

But she wasn’t on the Challenge this year – maybe next year Lynsey?

My tent was wet through, it was going to need a good drying out – after I’d (tried to) remove the slug snot from the groundsheet.

Mar Lodge was the customary tea, coffee & biscuit stop en-route to Braemar. Challengers have always been made welcome here but this year there was a definite change in the air. We were routed around the back of the grounds to another entrance. Perhaps the sight of a few dozen Challengers was offensive to The Great and Good….although The Great and Good were nowhere to be seen.


Mar Lodge – note the appalling lack of biscuits.

A couple of mugs of tea plus one and a half biscuits later we left for Braemar. Anyone arriving after us would have to survive without biscuits. Shocking.

The tarmac trudge into Braemar is just that, a trudge. A dreary trudge at that. A study of the map shows a detour away from the road and up into Morrone Birkwood, a National Nature Reserve - think Rioja Grand Reserve but with footpaths and Land Rover Tracks. Nice.

There’s not much in it distance-wise, but it’s a lovely alternative. Before you know it, you’re in Braemar and searching out somewhere to eat, drink and do other stuff.

I’d booked into Kate’s bunkhouse – Rucksacks Braemar. The bunkhouse is wonderful - Kate is even wonderfuller. She’ll do your laundry, shout at you when you misbehave, will offer a wonderful shoulder to cry on and generally plays Mum to all us rufty-tufty Challengers who whinge about blisters, sunburn, trench foot and all the other things that draw us back to the Challenge every year. I always stay at Kate’s when in Braemar. Smile

A decent nosh at Gordon’s Tea Room saw me right for the rest of the day. Chips may have been involved. Quite a lot of chips actually. I passed on the pudding though.


In the evening I wandered down to the Invercauld Arms for a quiet pint. The place was heaving with Challengers. There may have been songs. Maybe a bit more than a (one) pint…..thanks Ian!

In previous years I’d have gone to the Fife Arms for a beer but it’s been closed for renovation for the last couple of Challenges.


The Fife Arms

The word on the street is that loads of lolly is being thrown at the place by someone who made ooooodles of dosh wheeling and dealing in the art world. The Fife will eventually be quite a posh place – they certainly won’t want Challengers in. Worryingly, the Invercauld Arms has been bought by the same man and will almost certainly suffer the same fate.

We got chucked out of the main bar sometime after midnight, I left everyone to it – my comfy bed beckoned. A good night’s kip followed.

Cuckoo Count: 2

Sunday 21st May, Braemar to Callater

A decent breakfast at Kate’s preceded a second breakfast in Gordon’s Tearoom.

All was well with the world today: My L knee was sort-of behaving itself, I’d slept well, my tent was dry (and therefore lighter in weight) and Kate had washed and dried my dirties.

I’d sent a food-parcel to Kate’s but I also felt the need to buy a few extra goodies from Braemar’s Qworp. Important stuff like Eccles Cakes. And Mars Bars.




Braemar’s Memorials to The Fallen


I wandered lonely as a cloud up the golf course road to Auchalater and then on the LRT to Callater Lodge where I received a hugely warm welcome – (nearly) EVERYONE gets a hugely warm welcome at Callater. Thanks Bill, Michael, Ali, Jeanette……..

Ali, Masseuse and Yoga expert extraordinaire, was offerning her massage services in return for a donation to help with the Lodge’s running costs. If she offers the same service next year I’ll definitely be taking advantage of it, the lady knows what she’s doing – even my knee improved.

An unwelcome visitor to the Lodge was the cause of much consternation, anger even. Said visitor came up under cover of darkness and caused some quite malicious damage.

But the word is out….

Whatever, a very sociable evening followed with a fine mixture entertainment provided by members of the attending congregation, in particular some bloke who’s Dad works for the corporation waste disposal department.


A lady with pink hair

I had a fairly early night, turning in before midnight. Others stayed up until daybreak.


Callater’s stereo convenience

Cuckoo Count: 0

Monday 22nd May, Callater to Spittal of Glen Muick


Loch Callater in the (very) early morning

I awoke, always a good thing, feeling a bit grotty and lacking energy. Situation normal? There was no obvious reason for this mallaise, I’d had 2 small beers the previous evening and I’d eaten very well, thanks to Michael’s culinary skills.

I pulled my boots on, the right boot felt a little damp – perhaps it had sprung a leak, and wandered downstairs to join the throng and grab a bite to eat.

After a couple of Michael’s bacon butties and far too much caffeine than is good for a chap, I set off. I had a couple of choices: over Jock’s Road to Clova or to climb the lofty peak of Lochnagar. Whichever route I would chose my lack of energy meant that this would be a slow walk.


Lochnagar was pulled out of the hat and off I jolly well went. The weather started out dry but as the morning progressed Lochnagar became shrouded in cloud. The wind soon got up and then it started to rain. Nice.


Lochnagar in the murk

As the visibility and wetness became horribler I changed my route, opting to take in a few slightly lower tops that weren’t as badly affected by the clag. My new route over Carn an t-Sagairt Mor > Fafernie > Carn Bannoch > Cairn of Gowal > Broad Cairn lengthened my day somewhat but it was worth it. Only Broad Cairn suffered the clag but even that cleared as I got close.

Sod’s Law dictated that the weather would improve once I’d gone the point of no return, and so it did. Having said that, Lochnagar’s top was still hidden in the murk.



Blue sky!



Broad Cairn

The tops on my new route were quite easily attained – I’d already done the bulk of the climbing, it was just a matter of bimbling along, going from top-to-top. Broad Cairn is always a bit of a bugger, the rocky slopes around the top make the descent far more difficult that the ascent. The views are worth it though.


Loch Muick

I took a break on my descent and was caught up by fellow LDWA member Janet, on her first Challenge. Everybody catches up with me.


Janet, looking far too happy

I dropped down to the pony hut, the rocky descent was playing merry hell with my L knee. I planned on having a cuppa and getting some food down me but water was scarce – I ended up using the contents of my platy to brew my tea.

The wet and windy weather returned as I descended further, it became really quite grotty. I met a lone backpacker walking the other way. He was hoping to pitch soon but the ground there wasn’t very suitable. I hope he managed okay, that weather was not very nice at all.

By the time I got to the Spittal of Glen Muick I was totally knackered. I’d contemplated pitching low down but camping around there is a bit frowned on – although I camped there 2 years ago without a problem. Plenty of running water now so I made a cuppa and guzzled a Mars Bar….and maybe an Eccles Cake too.

Revitalised, I began climbing up Allt Darrarie. After 20 minutes or so I came upon a cluster of tents pitched on some nice flat ground – adjacent to a nice fast-flowing river.  It was late, well past 8pm and I’d had enough. My tent was up in no time – just in time as it happened, the rain returned with avengeance.

I was glad to get out of my wet weather gear. My right sock was thankfully quite dry – my boot probably hadn’t sprung a leak after all. I made a decent meal of home-dehydrated chicken curry & spicy rice, followed by dried fruit and custard. It’s important to keep a record of these things.

I sat back on my new toy, a Thermarest camping seat, and enjoyed a pint of tea, when a newsflash on BBC R4 (LW) announced the terrible terrorist bomb attack in Manchester.

I felt helpless – my home town had been attacked and there was nothing I could do to help, I couldn’t even phone home.

Cuckoo Count: 0


Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday 1st September 2014, Legalise Wild Camping


There’s an e-petition on the go at the moment – the idea is that it MAY just persuade our government to allow wild camping in the UK.


Wild camping is currently allowed in Scotland, subject to sensible guidelines and limitations, but the only place where it’s possible to wild camp in other parts of the UK (as far as I know) is on Dartmoor.

Not being able to wild camp is a bit of a bugger. We have loads of really nice long distance paths in the UK, many of them are just crying out to be backpacked – yet there a few place to camp legally. Just check out the Dales Way.

Presently there is only one way to backpack many of these routes, and that is to stealth camp – and that’s illegal and quite a faff. Trying to pitch your tent as it’s going dark and then packing up before anyone is about subtracts considerably from the journey.

The Backpackers Club provides lists of camps spots to members but it’s very subject to change and is difficult to keep up to date, in spite of that it’s an incredibly valuable resource for UK backpackers…..and membership is VERY cheap.

The petition is aimed at the responsible department, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and states that:

The law should be made similar to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 covering open land & national parks in England & Wales. Wild camping enthusiasts are not a threat to our national parks & open spaces.
Current legislation is ineffective & prevents teachers & leaders educating the young / interested on how to preserve & treat the environment with respect. As a result, when people do ignore the current law & wild camp, they have no concept of what to do & often leave large amounts of mess / litter. Genuine outdoor enthusiasts are put off by fear of 'getting into trouble' leaving our green places the domain of those who don't care about the law. This is unjust.
Current legislation prevents the people who could & would have a positive, voluntary impact on the environment from enjoying it. It is unpoliced and is ignored by louts, teenagers & drunks. It keeps the good out while the bad ignore it. Current legislation needs to be changed.

So if you feel you can support this e-petition and want to sign it just click here to take you to the website.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

20th – 22nd September 2013, A Lakes Backpack

Orienteering (sort of) in the Lake District

Not much in the way of photos this time I’m afraid, all will be revealed later - read on……
September sees the Backpackers Club Treasure Hunt, a sort of orienteering event but with knobs on. And a cherry on top.
The idea of the event is to get round as many ‘check points’ as possible within a defined time limit. In addition to that, at each check you must answer a question that is relevant to that location, ie you can’t answer the question without actually visiting the checkpoint. Each check has a points value – although Colin, who sets the course and the questions, has some interesting ideas of what some of the answers should be….and don’t get me going on the (in)accuracy some of the map references!
The cut-off time for returning to base was 2pm on the Sunday, you are deducted 10 points for every minute you’re late.
Participants (rather than competitors – it’s more of a fun event than a competition) gathered at the rather nice Castlerigg campsite on the Friday evening. The pub next to the campsite offered the only chance of knobbling Colin, the event coordinator. This could be achieved by buying him huge amounts of beer. I didn’t, obviously…..’cos I am tight.
I was accompanied by Beryl the Peril AKA Margaret, who’d been gullible enough to join me once again – we had formed a team for last year’s event too. Walking with Beryl always worries me, she’s rather supremely fit although she denies it. I’m as gullible as Beryl, I actually believed her when she told me she was unfit. I never learn…

Cool dude Beryl on last year’s Treasure Hunt
We left the campsite at around 9.30am on a pleasant Saturday morning and headed of to our first planned check, High Nest at NY291228, just NE of the start. The question: ‘What is the Shropshire connection?’ had us well puzzled – but after wandering around for 10 minutes we spotted a drain cover, manufactured by ‘Wrekin’. We had our first answer!
Our next couple of checks involved trotting down some tarmac, but after that we were on the rough (and wet!) stuff for the rest of the day.
The map below shows our order of service, below that is the list of questions & answers – just to give a flavour of what’s involved. I find it prudent to plan an optimistic route with a couple of escape options. Although the distances aren’t great, the time spent in trying to answer questions significantly adds to what a normal day’s backpacking would take. Our furthest south check was No 24, just to the south of Blea Tarn. I would like to have got to Ullscarf but it just wasn’t to be.
Treasure Hunt 2013

We enjoyed endured an interesting afternoon, plodging over sodden ground, climbing up to High Seat and then going south by High Tove and Blea Tarn, ticking off the checks as our feet got wetter and wetter.
Although we got to most of the checks we wanted to, our answers didn’t always agree with what the course setter had settled on. Oh well. Our last check of the first day was at Blea Tarn, the map reference for the check was WELL out….so that’s one we didn’t get. Rather irritatingly, these clear errors on the the part of the course setter were brushed aside. Mind you, the extra points wouldn’t have made THAT much difference to our final score anyway!
We camped in the company of Lawrence & Lesley from Stockport, and Frank, who is from Darn Sahf – Northamptonshire I think. Frank is half of the editorial team of the Backpackers Club journal, ‘Backpack’, and a fine job he does. These three made up a very successful team. Lawrence & Lesley enjoyed a glug of my Magic Medicine – guaranteed to warm your wotsits up nicely. Frank abstained – he’s a beer man. I really must try dehydrating TT Landlord.
Saturday night was dry, the moon rose around 9.15pm, completely illuminating Blea Tarn and the fetid, boggy ground around it. I took photographs of the moonrise. In fact I’d been taking photographs all day, I was really looking forward to going through them when I got home.
Next morning I legged over to successfully to collect another check before we headed off to Watendlath and our next check. This stretch was the last of the wet & boggy routes, the rest of our day was on good, dry ground.
Beryl had A Plan: Watendlath has a rather good tea shop….need I say more? We made full use of the tea shop, drying my smelly socks, drinking tea, followed by soup & a roll,..and a scone. Yum!
The next couple of checks were easy enough, although disaster struck at Check No5, close to Falcon Crag to the west of Castlerigg Fell. We were nicely on schedule to arrive back at base for around 1.50pm. The sun was shining, my feet didn’t smell (quite) as much as before.
I left Beryl to keep an eye on the packs whilst I ran up the hill to collect the check, I didn’t have time to waste so I set myself a limit of 10 minutes to locate the check and answer the question, if I were to spend more time than that it would risk us returning to base too late. At the 10th minute I succeeded: ‘What colour is granny?’ The answer is blue*. Obviously.
Pleased with my little self, I ran (well it WAS downhill) back to Beryl and our packs. It was then that I realised that my little Lumix camera was missing. I checked and rechecked, but it was gone. I’d photographed the check location so I knew the approximate location of where it should be. I ran back to have a good look but it was no use, the camera was lost – probably in the thick undergrowth, never to be seen again.
By now I had eaten into our reserve time, it was unlikely that we’d get back by 2pm….and we didn’t. We lost around 100 points due to our lateness.
In spite of losing my camera – and losing points because of that, the very strange question & answer policy, the wet feet….I’ll be back next year. Unless the answers are screamingly obvious I won’t waste much time on answering questions though.
Margaret Beryl was good company (don’t tell her though, it might go to her head) and I think we made a reasonably well-matched team: she had the fitness and the superior intellect, whilst I had a car to get us to the start.
Colin had worked damned hard to put the event on, without him it just wouldn’t happen. He quite justifiably got an appreciative round of applause at the end.
It was good.

This is what we actually did (ish):

Day 1: 15km, 700m of up, 400m of down, Day 2: 14.5km, 450m of up, 750m of down
These figures exclude the faffs involved in locating the checks – some weren’t where the map references suggested!Treasure Hunt 2013 A
Treasure hunt 2013 B
Treasure hunt 2013 C
Profile Day 1
Profile Day 2
*Q: ‘What colour is granny?’ A: Blue. There’s a metal sign at the location, on the rear of it was stuck a tiny (blue) Granny Smith label.

Fireworks Avoidance, Bonfire Night 2019

…or Five go Adventuring Again Lucky The Dog really doesn’t like fireworks, not one little bit. It didn’t take a huge amount of badgering t...