View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label TGOC2014. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TGOC2014. Show all posts

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Friday 16th May, TGOC2014 Day 8

Derry Lodge to Braemar

This was planned as an easy-peasy day, and so it was.

P1010700Derry Lodge. And some trees. 

The weather was good – our tents were dry so there minimal faffing before setting off to our first destination of the day – Mar Lodge.

With leaving Glen Derry behind came the realisation that we were also bidding farewell to the real rufty-tufty wilderness. Apart from the Fife of course!


No biscuits!

Image c/o McVitie’s

In recent years Mar Lodge has been a very welcome port of call for passing Challengers, offering refreshments and even accommodation to those in the know. I’d told Alan all about the legendary welcome offered here and he was looking forward to his visit as much as I was. Imagine our horror, sadness, disappointment even, to find that this year Mar Lodge wasn’t providing biscuits.

Other Challengers were clearly equally shocked by this revelation. The usual banter was noticeably absent – we were dumbstruck. It can only have been down to the recession. It’s the cutbacks y’see.

We had a quick explore before heading off to Braemar:

P1010705Spectacularly horrific. There must be 700-800 trophies hanging here.

Alan hadn’t yet experienced the excruciatingly boring road walk into Braemar, and well, I didn’t want him to miss out on what has become a Challenge rite-of-passage. So that’s the way we went.

P1010709  Alan on Victoria Bridge


Looking back over the River Dee

P1010716 Braemar wildlife

We stayed at Kate’s very excellent Rucksacks Braemar bunkhouse. We were beginning to feel almost human after cleansing showers, washing our kit through and excellent grub at The Old Bakery (purveyors of very fine meals to Challengers). This eatery has become something of a focal point for Challengers in recent years, deservedly so.

Braemar has become popular with motorcyclists and there were some fine examples of British stuff:

P1010717 Two Norton Commandos


Triumph Bonneville 750

Both the Triumph and the Nortons represent the death-throes of the British motorcycle industry. Both engines are OLD and developed well beyond their capabilities. The Triumph’s 55bhp engine, for example, is a development of a 27bhp engine designed by Edward Turner in 1937.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around in a decadent and rather lazy manner (nice!): eating, drinking, socialising…..the things a couple of chaps need to do. It was great to catch up with other Challengers. It was quite busy in the Fife even though we were a day ahead of the main wave of Challengers.

We had an early night. It hadn’t been a long day but relaxing is a tiring business.

Wot we did: 14km with 200m ascent…but 290m DESCENT!

imageIf you study the map you may notice that this wasn’t actually the route we took – Alan needed to do that tarmac into Braemar. Just so he’d know how boring it is.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Thursday 15th May, TGOC2014 Day 7

Aviemore to Derry Lodge via Cafe Akto (Cairngorm Club Footbridge branch). Not.

We did a bit of shopping in down-town Aviemore: lunch for Viv’s long train journey home, odds and sods for Alan and I. Leaving Viv to find her way to the railway station, Alan and I set off in an Easterly direction (East is good…..etc) to meet up with Cafe Akto (Cairngorm Club Footbridge branch) for bacon butties and coffee.

We missed the turn-off from the road and ended up taking the Loch Morlich / Rothiemurchus Lodge footpath to the Lairig Ghru instead. This meant we missed Cafe Akto. A bit of a faff but I suppose our waistlines were safer for the lack of bacon butties.

P1010682 The start of the climb up through the Lairig Ghru – and Alan in the distance

The Lairig Ghru isn’t a hard climb in decent weather, it’s just a slog. It got quite breezy on the top and there was a goodly amount of hard, frozen snow around – much of it covering the horrible rock-fall bits on the top. As long a care was taken, it made for a much easier traverse than without the snow.

P1010683Dedicated to the memory of Col. Angus Sinclair, died 1954 on the slopes of Cairn Gorm. And that’s Alan disappearing into the distance.

P1010684 Un-snow covered rocks. Horrible to cross

P1010687Looking back at Aviemore. Honest. 

P1010693 Snow sculpture


The wonderfully crystal-clear Pools of Dee

Soon after the Pools of Dee we began to descend. Up until this point the streamlets were shrinking in size the higher we got. Less water flowing y’see.

Over the watershed and water flowing t’other way, the watercourses gradually grew in size. It was still a long way to our destination – and I was quite knackered.

P1010696 Walking south, descending the Lairig Ghru 

I caught Alan up close to Corrour, he was chatting to Ian (can’t remember his surname I’m afraid) who had a really nice pitch close to the path whilst far enough away from the bothy. We really didn’t want to stop at Corrour Bothy, it’s not the nicest place to spend the night and we were quite determined to push on to Derry Lodge.

At around 8 – 8.15pm we rolled up at Derry Lodge, more than a bit tired. A few tents were pitched around 100 yards away, not Challengers though.


Breezy pitch at Derry Lodge

P1010699The clear waters of the Dee 

Once our tents were up and we’d eaten, other than using the en-suite, I don’t think either of us left our tents that night.

I slept well.

This is where we went: 19 miles / 2600’ of ascent



Wednesday 14th May, TGOC2014 Day 6

Cafe Akto to Aviemore

A clear (=cold) night had the Saunders Spacepacker Plus tent a little bit icy in the morning – it took a bit for the sun to make it’s presence felt so I thought it would be rude not to take advantage of Cafe Akto.

P1010658 Cafe Akto Proprietor, Chef, Barman and all round good egg….Mr Pie, preparing brekky

A splendid bacon butty and a mug of rather nice coffee later and the tent was defrosted – and so was I.

Orf we jolly-well went, trying very hard to follow the recommended route past Glenmazeran Lodge but before we knew it we were on exactly the wrong path. Oh well, I don’t think anyone was at home.


Glenmazeran Lodge’s wood store

P1010660 Glenmazeran Lodge


Crossing the River Findhorn

Our route took us across the River Findhorn at Dalmigavie Lodge and then a steep LRT climb up the side of An Socach. I’ve followed this route a couple of times before and I’ve really enjoyed it. Today’s walk was equally enjoyable: great company, a great route – and the sun was shining. What’s not to like?

The route passes a couple of lunch huts used by the (wealthy) hunting fraternity and (probably) not quite as wealthy TGO Challengers. Our first hut was the venue for our first lunch stop of the day.

P1010665L-R, Croydon & Alan

P1010663 Fed and watered, Viv, Alan and Croydon ready to leave the Wendy hut

P1010668Looking back at the Wendy Hut 

As you can see from the photographs, the weather was dry and bright – warm even. Sometimes. When the wind wasn’t blowing anyway.

P1010672 Croydon, Viv & Alan

A couple of minor navigational faffs delayed our arrival at Red Bothy, venue of our second lunch of the day. On my Challenge two years ago, the last time I was here, the weather was somewhat different – sleet and snow, which made progress difficult and unpleasant.

Appetites satisfied we followed the Burma Road to our end point of the day, Aviemore. It’s a boring but very simple route to follow, even in bad weather – but it’s a bit of a slog.


Burma Road towards Aviemore

I’m curious to know the history behind the name of the Burma Road – can anybody out there in the blogosphere enlighten me? The most common story I’ve heard is that the road was built by WW2 prisoners of war but I’m not at all convinced.

Tired and hungry, we arrived at the bunkhouse which was our accommodation for the night. We’ve stayed here before and it’s good. And it’s next door to a pub, the Old Bridge Inn. The pub provided superb but expensive food, it appears to be morphing into more of a restaurant these days. The beer was okay but should have been better, it wasn’t particularly well-kept.

We’d had a long day and were ready for our beds. It was Viv’s last day of walking with us, she had far more important things to do. Like going home to sleep in a proper bed.

Anyway, this is where we went: around 17 miles with 3000’ of up.


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tuesday 13th May, TGOC2014 Day 5

Ault-na-Goire to Cafe Akto

After a cold and clear night we woke to a frosty tent. We’d unfortunately pitched badly, it was going to be a while before the warm sun would hit the tent. Just as well we’d booked breakfast with the Sutherlands – plenty of time for the tent to defrost and dry out. Alex and Janet, well Janet really, put on a magnificent breakfast that really set us up for the day.

We left Denis in the capable hands of Janet and Alex, the general idea was that Denis would catch up with us later in the day. Hmmm, he’d not even dropped his tent yet! I was rather hoping Denis WOULD catch us up – he’s great company over the Monadhliath and in the last few years we’ve always tried to cross to Glen Mazeran together.

Croydon, Alan, Viv and I set out for our long day to Cafe Akto, that well-known peripatetic raiser of dosh for worthy causes.

P1010635  Ault-na-Goire, the morning after the night before

There was to be much tarmac today but the weather was so lovely it really wasn’t too much of a trial….although I’m not sure Viv’s delicate tootsies agreed.

P1010638 Progress, greed or opportunism?

Our trial by tarmac ended just beyond Aberader House where we headed up a pleasant LRT that sort of followed the course of the Allt Mor. We kept an eye on the road as long as it was visible but there was no sign of Denis. He was probable still drinking, er, tea with Alex & Janet.

P1010640Ugh! (Sorry about the knees)

We found a suitable lunch spot and had a leisurely stop – I was still hopeful that Denis might catch us up. Then there was the climbing. Ah well, you can’t walk across Scotland without going uphill a teensy-weensy bit. Can’t you?

P1010642 Looking back – still no Denis.

Once over the watershed the walk changed from good to brilliant. Not only was it (nominally) downhill it was just wonderful. The Monadhliaths are spectacularly wild and it’s a real pleasure to walk this way. I cannot imagine why these wild and wonderful areas are being ruined by windfarm development. Why on earth does a country that relies so heavily on tourism for it's income trash it's main asset? To say that this new windfarm won’t be visible from the Loch Ness and the usual tourist routes is just feeble.

These damned windfarms don’t even pay their way – they’re not efficient and they’re seriously environmentally unfriendly. The only attraction that I can see is that there are enormous cash subsidies available that make them financially attractive to landowners and energy companies. It’s us, the tax payer, that gets the short straw: we pay the subsidies AND we have to suffer the angst and the eyesores. Approving the Stronelairg windfarm is an unbelievably short sighted decision that will have repercussions for a long time to come.

I shall now get off my soapbox.

Anyroadup, to Glen Mazeran:


Viv trying to catch Alan 

P1010651 The Cairngorms on the horizon


Alan & Croydon descending into Glen Mazeran

The walk over to Glen Mazeran was a real pleasure. We trotted down lovely grassy river-bed runnels to the LRT. The ground was dry and soft – wonderful to walk on, if I hadn’t been so knackered I’d be happy for the day to just go on and on.

The LRT surface came as quite a shock, hard and stony – much harder on the feet than the soft ground we’d just been enjoying. Ah well.

Alan and Croydon, well ahead of us, were met by Cafe Akto’s proprietor. He was clearly very keen to ensure these potential customers didn’t wander off to a competitor’s establishment. That would never do.

The ground around Cafe Akto was a bit lumpy but it was quite dry and we all managed to find half-decent pitches. There were other Challengers camping nearby and a pleasant evening ensued as they all gathered around Mike’s beer supply:

P1010656 Cafe Akto and customers

I can’t imagine how Mike managed to transport all that food, beer and camping equipment up the glen, but he did. I gather the beer was good (there wasn’t much left by the time we left anyway!) although I didn’t partake, for me it was getting a wee bit too cold to enjoy a cold drink.

And this is where we went

15(ish) miles with around 2300’ ascent

Route Ault na Goire to Glen Mazeran

Friday, 6 June 2014

Monday 12th May, TGOC2014 Day 4

Cannich to Ault-na-Goire

We were up early (well I was up early) to get our damp washing into the campsite’s tumble drier….and to make Viv her first cup of tea. She doesn’t say much until she has that cup of tea. The day could be quite ‘difficult’ if that cup of tea wasn’t forthcoming. So she got her cup of tea.

It had been a still night and the tent’s flysheet was wet with condensation. A quick wipe down helped but it was soaked. The wonderful Sheila had opened the campsite cafe early and she was providing and excellent breakfast for norralot of dosh….all served up with a cheery smile. A nice start to the day. A bit like a cup of tea in bed I suppose.

I’d dangled the flysheet over the outside veranda of the cafe to dry as we tucked into our breakfasts. It dried nicely in the warm sunshine.

Eggs & bacon (with all the trimmings) later we set off to Drumnadrochit. The cafe at Bearnock was our next planned stop (for a cuppa) and were a bit disappointed to find the place closed. Well it was SORT of closed. The owner let us in and allowed us to brew up and have a sit-down. Nice eh?

P1010626Denis, Viv, Martin and Alan outside the ‘closed’ cafe at Bearnock 

The shortest route into Drum is on tarmac….but it’s a bit boring. Martin had come up with A Plan to avoid the boredom: he suggested we headed south, away from the road, towards Shewglie to pick up a LRT through the woods. The LRT would take around the south side of Loch Meikle and then back to the road. It wasn’t much of a detour but it would avoid around 2.5 miles of quite busy road.

That was the theory anyway.


A navigational error <koff> led us onto a horribly overgrown footpath, adorned with fence wire, mud, overgrown and overhanging treelets, fetid mud. Apart from that it was lovely.

We missed the LRT entirely and somehow managed to extricate ourselves from the jungle. Before we’d had the chance to check our location properly, Viv, Martin and Alan went off due south to try to pick up the LRT….into the jungle again.

Denis and I had had enough of the rough stuff so we had a nosey at the map and worked out where we were and plotted a different route. We shouted for the others but they couldn’t hear us. 5 minutes later we gained the LRT and went off in search of the others. Half an hour of walking up and down the LRT and shouting resulted in a DNF (Did Not Find).

My mobile rang, it was Alan. They’d given up and doubled back, finding their way to Loch Meikle. We arranged to meet up en-route into Drum – no point in trying to locate each other now.

P1010628 Flahs, on the Drumnadrochit road

Denis wanted a gentle walk into drum so I shot off, arranging to meet him later. Residents of Drum are well used to seeing Challengers and I was greeted by cheery waves as I entered the town. Nice to feel welcome!


I entered the town and spotted Viv & Alan. Next up was a grim-faced Croydon. He’d been to the Post Office to collect a Poste Restante food parcel he’d sent the previous week. The Post Office staff denied all knowledge of the parcel – or the Poste Restante service, unbelievable! Worse still, the staff were quite obnoxious to him. No excuse for that at all.

We both suspected that the Post Office staff had taken one look at the parcel, didn’t have a clue what to do with it, and just sent it back. Croydon had done everything by the book – he’d even asked his local Post Office to talk him through the process – in fact I think they addressed it for him.

This could have been a disaster but the Post Office also sold food and the local OS map so it wasn’t the end of the world – but it was expensive for Mick.

We’d booked ourselves onto the 5pm ferry crossing of Loch Ness. It’s a surprisingly long 2.5km from Drum to Temple Pier and we didn’t want to risk missing the boat so we set off in the blazing sunshine (honest!) in good time.

Gordon arrived to meet his fares – and Denis arrived just in time. It’s a pleasant crossing in good weather and the passengers were (mainly) very chatty, enjoying the crossing. A storm was visibly brewing at the south end of the loch, we all hoped it would stay where it was. It did.

P1010630 L-R: Alan, Gordon Menzies, Laura (worshipping at Gordon’s feet) and Andy Howell


L-R: ?, Martin Angell, Croydon, and Kate


? and Denis

Disembarking at Inverfarigaig, Andy Howell seemed to have lost one of his PacerPoles – probably over the side of the boat. A bit of a bugger, that.


Gordon leaving to go back to Temple Pier for his next boat-load of Challengers

It’s a bit of an uphill tug to Ault-na-Goire, the home of Janet & Alex Sutherland. We’d arranged to camp in their back garden and for them to provide our evening meal and breakfast the next day.

Janet was waiting for us – she’d baked an enormous Bran Loaf and brewed what seemed to be the biggest pot of tea in the world. Just the job! It really hit the spot.


Janet and her Challenge guests

A pleasant evening followed. with good food and good company. Alex had been out for a run and didn’t arrive until mid-evening. It was good to catch up with the Sutherlands again, they’re good people.

Around 10pm we drifted off to our tents for a well-earned kip. We’d had a good day, apart from PacerPole-less Andy. And food parcel-less Croydon.

No day is absolutely perfect. It just wouldn’t be right.

This is what we did:

16 and a bit miles, 2100’ of ascent.


I’ve not posted the route from Inverfarigaig to Ault-na-Goire, it’s pretty easy to guess though!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sunday 11th May, TGOC2014 Day 3

Loch Monar to Cannich

We woke to a still morning – still enough for a goodly amount of condensation on our tents.

I wasn’t too sorry to be leaving our lumpy pitch that morning. The reflections on the surface of Loch Monar began to blur as a breeze built up and cloud appeared in the distance.

The ‘path’ on the NE shore of Loch Monar varied between the usual boggy morass that often passes for a Scottish path, and a half-decent path – certainly from beyond Monar Lodge.

P1010621 Looking west over Loch Monar

 imageAlan posing by Loch Monar, heading towards Monar Lodge

P1010624 Warm sunshine – and the rear end of a stag as it scooted off by Monar Dam 

Leaving Loch Monar behind, we had a very pleasant 3-4 miles - albeit on tarmac. We were following the course of the River Farrar to our next waypoint where we were to turn south by Allt Innis an Larach….and lunch – in sunshine.

‘We’, at this point, consisted of Croydon, Martin Angell, Alan R, Viv and me. Well I think I was there. 

A suitable lunch spot was decided on, just before our big climb of the day. We ate and drank in warm sunshine – it was lovely. The nice weather lasted until we decided to pack up and continue on our way. Ho hum.

The next bit of the day’s walk was horrible. I’ve been this way before, Day 3 of TGOC2012, and it was just as horrible then. The route up the East side of the burn was initially okay but it quickly deteriorated and it became quite a battle to make headway. A landslip blocked our way at one point so Croydon, Viv and I decided to descend to use the grassy river bank whilst Alan and Martin opted for a much higher route. Our route entailed crossing and re-crossing the burn which wasn’t brilliant but it seemed easier that more ascent. At the end of the day I don’t think there was much difference in the level of horribleness.

I might have said that I wasn’t EVER going to go that way again. I also said it in 2012. I lied.

Eventually we got to the top and then it was just (Ho-ho!) a matter of descending to the road by Liatre Burn….more mud and much rough going. Admittedly we did manage to find a half decent path / track part of the way down and that made it a far less unpleasant experience than my 2012 descent. Still not nice though.

By the time we’d got to the road both Viv and I were cold, hungry and thirsty. Oh, and it was raining. A quick brew, a butty and a cereal bar fortified us for the long tarmac trudge into Cannich.

We spotted two of the three Dutch Challengers we’d met earlier on our crossing, they were waiting for their mate to catch up. They’d used a different route down from the top but I don’t think it was any better than ours. Probably worse.

It was 6-7 miles of tarmac into Cannich – hard on the feet – and a little worrying for Viv. She was in training for the LDWA100 in South Wales and hard tarmac doesn’t do much for her very delicate feet.

The Cannich campsite is really excellent. It has a very good cafe, run by the ever helpful Sheila….no, not THAT Sheila, another one. Anyway, Sheila stayed open later than normal being as what it was the Challenge. Tea, coffee and other stuff passed our lips – just what we needed. This was whilst sat on REAL chairs whilst sat a REAL table. Quite luxurious.

Tents up, washing done, we all headed off to the pub to eat – and perhaps a beer. Or more. I’ve used the Glen Affric bar in recent years – an excellent place that offered wonderful beers, tremendous food and a very warm welcome from the friendly owners. Sadly the bar has recently closed – some grief with HMRC I understand. A damned shame.

We ended up going to the Slaters – I’ve been there a couple of times in the past (before the Glen Affric opened) and I have to say I wasn’t looking forward to it. The owner was unpleasantly abrasive – not what you expect when you go into a pub to spend your money.

This visit was much better. The owner still had a bit of an edge to him but he was far easier to deal with this time – perhaps he realised that being rude to customers wasn’t helping his business. Whatever…the food was very good indeed and the beer quite acceptable.

We ate in the company of Denis and other Challengers including the 3 Dutch, Andy Howell and Kate Foley. A very pleasant evening.

Not many photos today, for most of the day the weather was just too wet and miserable to have the camera out.

And this is what we did:

18.25 miles (ish) with 2900’ of up.




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