TGO 2012 Morar to St Cyrus Complete


As you read this, if you read this, you will see that it not really a report of a crossing.

It is a STORY of the crossing.

Wed 9th and a bit of Thu 10th May 2012


And thus is came to pass, that it was time to go North (again).

I picked up my trusty HEAVY rucksack,

So much for 26lb.
By the time I packed the extra stuff (based on weather forecast )
and the extra bit of silNylon floor,
it was coming in at 31lbs (again)





said goodbye to Olly and Harriet,








and the lovely Lucy gave me a lift to the station.









Due to the ridiculous and insane 7 minutes they keep the crossing at Cherry Hinton closed, to allow a safety margin?  for the 2 carriage train that passes, we arrived a bit later than hoped.
I now had 4 minutes to get my ticket, and get on the train.
(OK, I could get a later train, but that is NOT the point ).

So of course there is an eeeennnoooorrrrmmmmoooouuuusss queue waiting to buy tickets, get advice and I have NOT got the time.

I decide I will go through the machine, and get my ticket.

2 minutes to go now, as I rush onto the platform, and run down to the train waiting on Platform 1.

Gasp, wheeze, "Is this the Kings Cross Train?"

"No, that goes from platform 7 now, over the foot bridge."

£UCK!

Cambridge has recently had a new platform built.
It is at the OTHER end of this platform, over the New footbridge.

I have about 30secs to get to it.
Expected time to get there 2 minutes

Bollocks!

I ran as fast as I could down and over the bridge.
If I can do this, then the pack is NOT too heavy, even if it is heavy.
At the top of the bridge a railway chappy with walkie talkie was speaking to the guard on the train.

"Hang on, one more coming".


What a lovely man.


I burst onto the train, sweating and breathing rather heavily.


And collapsed into a chair.


I was hoping that there would be no more incidents on the crossing.


I was hoping, but .......


I texted AL on route.
It was about 7.50, and Al had been in the Bree Louise Pub since about 5.00.
I was not sure what state he would be in when I arrived.
I was not sure when I would arrive.


The remainder of the journey was uneventful. and about 8.35, we pulled into KX.


I rushed down to the underground, a train had just arrived and I leaped on it to Euston.
To be honest you walk most of it on the way to the bloody train.


It is about a 3 minute journey.

However, IF you get on the train going in wrong bloody direction, you go to  
Highbury and Islington

SHIT!

Remember, I am walking across Scotland.

If I go the wrong way from Morar, it is going to get damned wet.

At Highbury  I got on the train back to Euston.


And so 12 minutes later I finally got out at Euston.


Walked completely round 3 sides of Euston Square (having come out the wrong side of the station ) This is not looking good for future navigation



And, finally, I arrived at the Bree Louise, where Al was sitting with a couple of folk, one of whom was William Burton from Barbados.

William and Al at the Bree Louise
A very nice chap was William, BUT I was not expecting that accent.

Well, we managed to Eeek out the time here until it was time to walk round to the Sleeper.
We were on the 23.50 to Glasgow.

After getting to the train, and getting stuff into our berths, it was a bit late to go to the bar.

BUT we did!

There we met Freddy, and a few others.
You may at this point have to cross reference with Al's Blog, to pick up on all the names that I have missed.
I should really have taken a photo or 3.
I have no idea, what time we eventually went to sleep.

I do remember trying Freddy's Pemmican.
It was interesting, but tasted like shit. (just my opinion ).
My Father in Law used to eat it in the Antarctic when he was there.

Best place for it if you ask me.

All in his bunk with his pill collection.


Eventually, it was time for sleep.
Well, as much as you can when trying to sleep in a rocking carriage travelling North at 80+ mph.


However, there was sleep. Well, a bit of sleep I think, apart from the incident with the toilet trip.
Al was on the bottom bunk, and I took the top.
I had moved the ladder to the door end, because it was easier to get up and down via the sink.
However, I had not allowed for the fact that the ladder now prevented the door from opening, so after abseiling down as quietly as possible some time close to 4.00am, I then crashed the door open into the ladder, and of course woke Al up.
He said nothing, but I am sure that is NOT what he was thinking.

Probably more like "Oh God, I've got another 2 whole weeks of this"


Then all too soon, we were woken at 6.30 for delivery of our luke warm tea.


Then it was time for part 2 of the journey, to breakfast, and the Queen Street station to get the train to Morar.


Crikey, all that, and we haven't even started yet.


Oooohhh, it's going to run and run is this!



Thu 10th May 2012

This is a short post, since the memories are vague, and the number of people far too many to remember.
Might be some photo's though, but not many.

So eventually, we got off the train, after multiple visited to toilet and kit packing, we had to walk the huge distance to Glasgow Queen street station.

On arrival at Queen street, there were not many people there.
In fact, it may have just been Alan and myself.
I needed more sleep, but we decided after a shuffle about, that we would go into the bar (because it was under cover), and have a breakfast served by the very nice and may I add pretty waitress.

Al had some sort of full English thingy, and I had scrambled Egg on toast and a huge cup of hot coffee. Cappuccino I believe. Much nicer than the flaccid lukewarm nonentity we got on the sleeper.

As time moved on, and we sat in the rather comfortable sofa chairs, people began to drift in.
Lovely chairs they were, most comfortable, and far too low to be able to eat off.

Whatever......

From time to time Al and I drifted out to see who was about.

The morning passed like this, and eventually Dave arrived from the airport with all his stuff.
Dave and stuff will feature on several occasions during this trip.

We had more coffee, and I contemplated the use of the toilet to no avail.
Must be the altitude, I was feeling quite tired.
Time to acclimatise was needed.
I think the air may have been too thin for a Fen boy.

It was getting later.
Our train was 11.30 something.
The big clue will be when everyone rushes to get on...

Must be time for some pictures




Much conversation ensued.
Indeed conversations continued from last year as if they had been yesterday.
Hands were shaken, and hugs and kisses.

The Challenge is as much about people and friendship, as it is about the hardship and fun of the walk itself.

It is a physical Challenge
But also a Social Challenge.

At some point before this, we had been for a wander around Glasgow, to buy some bread and cheese and stuff for lunches.
Al had got some money out, and Dave possibly ought to have bought some Whiskey, although on the other hand, maybe not.

Soon, it was time to board the train to the West Coast.

Many more conversations with people whose name I ought to bloody well remember later, we arrived at Morar.

This may NOT have been the case altogether, because Al, had wandered off on the train to chat and stuff.
By Crainlarich he was in one of the front four coaches.

The ones that were NOT going to Morar and Mallaig.

I went to make sure he knew, but I could not get on the train because they were separating the two parts.
That job done, still no sign of Al.

Consternation!

Al appears with moments to spare

Phew ...........

And then we were in Morar.

It is a wonderful scenic journey this train ride, but it does drag on a bit.

Just off the train, we met John Hesp.
He was going down to camp on the beach.

We turned left, and walked down the road a bit to the B&B.
We went a bit further
And a bit further still.

"We'll just look down here and see if that is it"  (See map in a moment)

I rang the B&B just to check.

"Just to the right of the railway station behind the Hotel, You cannot miss it!"

Want a bloody bet.



10 minutes (ish) later back at the railway station, you could just see the sign.

Oh to have eyes in the back of my head (like wot me Mum does init! )

At last we arrived at the B&B, and very very nice it was too.

BUT.... White Carpets?





I had to share a bed with Al.
Dave had the spare single.

It was a huge bed, and Al was gentle :)

So, after that we went up to the Hotel for a beer and a meal.
Here we met a few other Challengers, whose names I ought to have written down.

I will get the names from Al at some point, and fill in the blanks.

At the hotel we also met Andy, the Maitre D'.

First impressions, was a helpful chap, and friendly.

Later his overbearing smarminess (is that a word), began to really grate on the nerves.

Al wanted to hit him.

Mind you, Al does have anger management issues,
he should apply for grumpy old men on BBC.

I cannot fully describe Hotel Andy, a cross between Basil Fawlty and Hanibal Lecter, (although Lecter was quite intelligent).

We had a rather nice meal, and some bevvies, and Dave and Bob, rattled on and on about Volvo's, and Engines, and reliability, and fuel economy,
and modifications, and models and mileage
and sixteen year running costs per second and some such.

What can I say.

I could see Al's eyes glazing over, as he slowly lost the will to live.

I supped my ale.



Eventually it was time to sneak out past Andy Press play for effect => And we wandered back round to our room, for last minute pack checking faff and also to get some sleep. I made some late night tea It would soon be time to start for real ...................................................................
Kevin Ayres (Stop this train) Play it for the journey up Train effect
Fri 11th May 2012 - Day 1 (Morar to Dubh Loch -North Morar Ridge)
AND IT WAS TIME! We got up, got ready, and had a very nice breakfast. The weather was looking good, and the forecast even better. We needed 2 days ok weather for the ridge, and for the first time since 2008 (I wasn't on that year), it appeared as if we might get it. We paid for the B&B, and at about 8.15 (ish) headed round to the hotel to be greeted by a few folk and ANDY! Who was asking if we might add something to trip adviser for him. I think there is little doubt that Al will add something. We chatted with a few folk we met, and signed the book. I popped a parcel of the stuff I had worn up into the post box (I remembered last years fiasco, and had it already post paid ). No more waiting at a post office for me. Just as well, I am not sure that there is one in Morar. So I got the poles out ready to go. Pole Interlude ........................ Remember the pole lubrication issue from an earlier blog? I will expand. At a point in my innocent but stupid past, I had liberally lubricated my locked Pacer Poles with ..........WD 40............ DON'T I had since then had them apart, degreased them, cleaned them left them apart, used water  and,   left them apart some more, and they had been fine at last. Until NOW Would they lock? Would they £uck! More cleaning, more faffing more cleaning. Bollocks, Bollocks, Bollocks and Treble Bollocks. I can of course walk without poles I cannot hold my tent/tarp up without them. SHIT! Eventually Micropore on the inside mechanism works. They are up, and the bloody things are staying up. Back to the story. We head off to the beach to dip our toes in the water. As we passed the station I turned to the boys. "OK Chaps. Last chance to get the train away from here!" There were no takers and we turn down to the beach. I lose my footing one of the wet slippery steps down to the beach, and crash to the ground. Accident prone? MOI? We make it, we take photo's we head back up.
Al and Dave on the Beach (almost)
We turn right down the road, but the footpath is not were it ought to be so we go the Looooonnnngggg way back round to the main track to Loch Morar.
Intended route is in purple.
Actual route from beach is in green
On route back we met John Hesp by the small bridge. He had finally got his tent up a long long way along the beach. He was going to sign out, so we headed off. Soon we would be on our way. Honest.    There was a vague rumour of a coffee shop at Bracara, but when we got there it was now a holiday let cottage, so a small disappointment but there you go. We continued along the North side of the lock The weather was reasonable until we reached a small stop point near Brinacory island, where the rain came upon us, and water proofs were needed. We took shelter and had a snack in the ruin there.
Shelter near Brinacory
Wonderful views back along the loch looking West
The rain soon passed over and we were on our way to Tarbet. Just before Tarbet there is a rather splendid cottage with magnificent views across the loch and to the East.
Al and Dave on the way to Tarbet
Slightly enhanced view back along the loch looking West
View from the Cottage near Swordland Lodge looking East
Al and Dave at Tarbet.
Lovely weather, but bloody cold and blowing a gale
We stopped for a proper lunch at Tarbet. It was sunny, but cold and windy. The wind whistles along Loch Nevis and through the gap to Loch Morar, like a funnel. Warm clothing was needed. We watched a small sheep looking for it's mother. I was thinking lamb cutlets. Dave disappeared and then re-appeared saying he was just popping off for a cup of tea with a couple of chaps. We did not believe him, but when he did not appear for 5 minutes I went to look in the other end of the Chapel, which doubles as a hostel for £2 a night (yep, really). Dave was indeed there with two chaps, one being Frank who was 87 and lived there, and also looked after the hostel. Shortly after this, Al joined as well. Frank made us all a cup of tea and regaled us with tale after tale. Frank is an amazing chap, and spins a veritable and wondrous yarn or three, and swears like a trooper. All very believable, and all in the main complete lies. We stopped in for tea, and stayed the best part of 1½ hours. A bit of a long lunch stop to be honest, and a damned steep climb to come. There were stories of his life, and also ghosts and other things. You really ought to go there before the memories are no longer available. It was a pleasure and an honour to spend time with the man. Al has a nice picture of Frank in his Blog. Here is Frank in the Chapel playing the Organ. I have changed it to sepia, I think he would appreciate that little touch. I might send him a copy.
Frank playing the organ at Tarbet
As with all things, they must end, and we had a bloody great hill to get up, so off we set.
The Chapel Hostel at Tarbet.
Frank lives at the left end looking from here.
View from the Hostel
View from the start of the climb out of Tarbet, across Loch Nevis
The start was ok, but the climb up the fence line was pretty tough. Near the top of the not that steep bit was a metal ladder over a deer fence. I really wish I had taken a picture of it now, because it was not vertical. How it stayed up I am not sure, since it was at an angle of about 80 deg, jammed into the ground. There was a single piece of wire attached to the fence, attempting to stopp it toppling over. It was interesting, especially with a full pack. As I clambered over the top and down the other side, I was thinking. "How the Fuck I am going to persuade Al to climb over this". He did it, but I am still not sure how. I am sure he had his eyes closed on the descent. After this bit, we went over another hill and it just went UP. Dave was off on one of his charges, and Al's 50cc moped engine was working at the back.
Al on the way up.
It was hard going, and relentless
It is a very tough and rapid ascent (height, not time), but when you get to the top. Such joy Such views  Once we had arrived at the ridge, we met up with John Hesp, who had ascended from further round the bay. Not via the fence line. With hindsight, that may well have been an easier way up. As we walked along the ridge, I was beginning to get pain in the outside of my left foot. This is the one that I had hurt on the multiple injury day about 5 days before the challenge. My paranoid mind was saying stress fracture, but my positive self just said ligaments, put the superfeet in the shoes. I hobbled along to the night one camp, favouring my right foot. It was ok. It had to be, the descent was going to be far far more strain than the ascent. Eventually we arrived at what was to be an ideal camp spot high on the ridge in a small wind sheltered basin neat Loch Dubh. It looked like there might be a bit of rain overnight, so shelters were quickly put up, after I finished being a bit of a tart finding a suitable spot. This was to be Treeza's (the Trailstar's) first Scottish pitch. I was about to find out if I had made the correct decision on shelters.
Night one camp.
She's the little golden girl in the middle
I HAD
Camp ready, we popped up onto the higher ground above the basin to look at the views, and just stare at the wonder of it all. Bloody Marvellous With views of Egg, Rum and the Black Cullins all in the distance, as well as Loch's Morar and the other side Loch Nevis. In fact ALL the surrounding hills were clear. I could take a hundred pictures, but it would not do it justice. You just had to be up there
And we were!
Al at Camp 1 with back to Loch Nevis
View from the hill above the camp, looking to Dubh Loch
Looking down on the camp as the sun began to go down
At one point while we were up on the top looking, a huge cloud appeared and began to move towards us. You could see the rain coming, and looked like Sourlies was getting an almighty soaking. There were a few spots, but as fate would have it, it completely passed us by.
View of Dubh Loch from my tent.
View towards Loch Nevis and beyond.
Night 1 campsite
Clouds forming in the distance.
Night 1 campsite
North Morar Ridge
We went back down to our tents, and a dram or 2 was passed around. It was getting colder, and time for some hot food, and some sleep. It had been a pretty tough finish to the day, and tomorrow was going to be tougher than this for sure. Could it get much better than this? Maybe, but in a days time, it was going to get a darn sight worse first. You'll have to wait for that one .................................................................
Blackfield - Pain
Sat 12th May 2012 - Dubh Loch to A Chuil We were up reasonably early on day 2. The forecast was good until late in the day, and we planned to make sure we were off the ridge before then, because no matter which way you go down it was going to be S    T       e         e           p
Not a long day in distance, there were going to be much longer days than this later on. But a tiring day, with the descents. It had rained a bit in the night, and there was some water on the tents. But it was drying out ok, and the Trailstar had been superb. We headed off from camp along this rather fine ridge. I had forgotten to fit the damned Superfeet, and was still getting the odd twinge from my left foot. I decided that when we had our first rest stop, I would swap them over. We had a brief stop at Sgurr Mor, and I swapped the Innov8 inners for Superfeet Blue. This certainly helped, although I was still getting twinges, but they were a lot more stable. Later I should have swapped them back, because I almost ended up with a blister on my heel by about day 6.
John as we approach the small lochens near Sgurr Mor
Another view down by the lochens
View along the ridge looking West.
Oban bothy and Meoble are somewhere down there on the right
Same view with more of Loch Morar.
You can see the clouds beginning to form.
The weather was good, but there was definitely a chill in the air

We had another stop near Sgurr Breac. This is a truly magnificent ridge, with wondrous views in all directions, but quite up and down.
Al on route.
You can see how the ridge rises and drops as you go along.
But just look at those views
John at a brief rest stop
In all directions, there were fantastic views of the surrounding hills. You could still see as far back as Rum and Skye, but also way out towards the Glen Affric hills and Glen Pean. Looking towards Oban Bothy, was An Stac Tarmachain and Beinn Gharbh. To our left and North West in the far far distance you could just catch a glimpse of the Affric hills, and behind us still faint in haze, were Rum and the Cullins. What can I say. All the bigger Munro's had crisp coatings of Snow.
A small stone wall on route and another rise in the ridge heading towards the Sgurr Nam Meirleach
We carried on along this wondrous ridge to the Lochens at Sgurr Nam Meirleach, where we decided it was time for a longer rest stop. The weather was still good, but not going to stay that way. The Corbett's at the end looked imposing and dark More like the hills of Mordor.
The Corbett's at the end of the ridge.
Still a long way to go.
After a rest at the lochens, Al decided that rather then do the ridge, and then drop down off the end (the original plan)  we would descend down from the Lochens. He was suffering a bit from Fen Legs, and there was still a long way to go. John went on to do the ridge. Later as we were to find out, the descent was tough, and at times a scramble. He fell a couple of times, and hurt his leg along with tearing of trousers. Considering what happened to Dave's knee, we may well have made the right decision. Even so, this descent was steep, especially at the start. Thankfully the ground was reasonably dry, and so footing pretty good. I cannot imagine how hard this would be in the wet with poor visibility. If the ground had also been icy, it would have needed a lot more gear than we were carrying. I had meant to take some photo's of this, but a couple at the top did not come out, and I was concentrating quite hard on the descent.
The start of the descent. (picture courtesy Al)
It was even steeper than it looks
 After a bit of a sack and shoe faff, (you need your shoes on tight on descents like this), I eventually caught up with Al and Dave. When going down terrain like this, it is best not to follow in convoy. You just need to pick your own route down as you see it, trying to make sure you do not end up at a rocky crag and need to re-route. It took the best part of an hour to get all the way down. Al is pretty good on descents, and I am normally not so good, due to lack of cartilage in my knees, but today I was on fire and well ahead by the time I started to get to the lower ground. Had I bothered to take my camera out, there were some beautiful flowers on the way down hiding in the rocky crags. I stopped about 3/4 of the way down for a bit of a rest and a drink. It had been hot hard work, and very very tiring on lower limbs. Knees in particular. This was not the place to take a tumble and get an injury.
Wee yellow flowers on the way down.
Where is John Keohane when you need him?

OK, primroses (thanks Louise)
Eventually, we arrived at the bottom, crossing and then following the stream down to our right to the river at the bottom.
Two Geezers on an 'ill mate.
OK, Dave and I near the bottom (courtesy Al's Blog)
This is quite a deep ravine, and the path runs higher up the side. I tried a short cut over the top, but it ended on a steepish drop, so I went back round to catch up Al and Dave. We stopped for a rest and some food a bit short of the water falls. There was still a jolly long way to go to get to the bothy, along a windy and at times narrow track. The distance on the ground not really showing how much hard work this is. 11 miles is not a long way, on the flat. But when you add this terrain into it, it is a different ball game altogether. Especially with large rucksacks on your back.
The falls along the river Abhainn Ceann Loch Morair
The walk along the river is up and down and varied degrees of wet and width, finishing at Loch Eanaich, where there is a small beach. From here, there is no path on the map, but there is for the most part a clear path on the ground following the river all the way into the forest. At the end, the track becomes quite indistinct, and curves round to the right, following the stream. This is crossed easily, and there is a small broken down fence as well as a crossing ladder to get over into the forest. It is not obvious where this is, but crossing back to the left of the river and through a bit of undergrowth, and very wet ground shows an overgrown and wet track heading to the right. After a while, this opens out and keeping the river to thew right, eventually becomes a Landrover track, that winds through the forest. Forest Tracks are well. Forest Tracks We followed this for some time until after fording the river as it widened (we crossed on stones) we had a bit of a rest. Al had a lie down, and Dave I think had a sleep. The weather was still fine, and we stayed here for about 40 minutes. It was not far to A Chuil now anyway. We headed off on the last bit to A Chuil. The track was wider and much easier now, with some new bridges rather than needing to ford the river. Just as we left the forest to cross to the bothy, it poured with rain. To late now to muck about with waterproofs. (if we had not stopped, we would have made it in the dry). I was in a bit of a rush and hurried on getting wetter by the second. Undeterred ('Ard Me), I made my way across. As I got to the other side, the rain stopped, and the last bit of the descent down the slippery track to the bothy was completed. There were about 8 or 9 in the bothy. I need to get a list of names. One of the rooms was full, but luckily the other sleeping area just off the main room, was empty and we quickly unpacked our gear here before making a brew. As the night went on, and the weather began to change, we lit a fire as best we could. This was controlled after it was lit by Freddy, (he of the pemmican), who became fire monitor for the night. More arrivals as the evening wore on, and the weather outside worsened. It looked like tomorrows weather was well and truely on it's way. It was going to be the FWA along loch Arkaig rather than any tops. The trip to Glensulaig bothy was going to be a non starter.
Candlelight in A Chuil
More arrivals at the bothy as the fire gave out what heat it could. It was not much, but it was better than none. The rooms seemed to remain quite segregated apart from the newer arrivals. Some rather wet German lads arrived late aon, along with a chap who had walked there from Fort William, and was heading back there the following day. Apparantely, he had to walk at least 20 miles to make it worthwhile???? We had done about 11 and it had all been worthwhile. To each his own. There was a another chap also called I think FRED, who was doing Le Jog. A nice guy, he stayed an talked for a while although he was in the other room. He would annoy Al in about 36 hours time by attempting to get him soaked in Gairlochy. (we'll come to that in time ) That could well be a new verb   to annoyal I annoyal You annoyal He/She annoysal We annoyal They annoyal A few drams were drunk and near the end of the evening the fine chap in the picture below, who knew us, and whose name will come to me at some point came in with a box he had stashed up there a few weeks before. It contained cans of beer, and we had one each.
Bloody fantastic sir, Bloody fantastic

All good things must come to an end however. As the rain and wind increased outside, it was time for sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a slog It was going to be a cold and wet slog It was going to almost end in tears And for one or more reasons It was going to be quite memorable. Oh Yes! Sun 12th May 2012 - A Chuil Bothy to Invermallie Bothy A couple of the early pictures in this have been cribbed via Google. They show a bit of what the route was like, but they were not taken on the day. The bothy stuff at the end though. They are all horribly real. And so........................................................ We did not do the intended route today. Indeed, we did not do the FWA. We did the FFWA via the North shore of Loch Arkaig heading towards Spean Bridge.
What can I say, it was raining. It was still raining. Indeed, it never £ucking stopped raining. It was also blowing a bit OK, a lot! It was going to be a trudge, and it was going to be minus a lot of photo's, and it was going to be damned cold, and it was going to damned wet, and it was going to happen, and it was going to happen sometime soon. As soon as we got out of the door. It was tempting to stay, but we had to go. The first bit through the remainder of the forest was not bad. I am not saying it was good. We meandered our way to Strathan, where the LRT was blocked by a wire fence. I assume to keep the 4 x 4's out. You could climb over it, or go over the ladder to the side. Al did the climb over the wire bit. I did the gate. I can tell you here and now, that the 'Health and Safety boys' had not inspected that slippery ramshackle thing. EVER. The last plank and half the bits just fell off as I climbed down onto them. So we continued over the hill at Strathan with the wind blustering into us, towards the end of the track, and the long road trudge along the loch. There was a fantastic little post box at the start of the road. I meant to take a picture of that as well. If only I could get some feeling into my fingers. I didn't. We continued buffeted by wind and rain and Well, Wind and Rain. Did I mention the temperature. It was COLD!
Not my picture, but it was a lot like this.
Only, Colder and wetter and just plain NASTY!
The biggest problem with a day like today is that there is no shelter, and you cannot stop. You should stop, and you should rest, but if you do, you get colder and wetter and even more tired. I am guessing that it was this and the wet feet that did for most people. Being from the Fens, I am used to Flat and Wet. I had spent a long time out with the dog in the Fens, in driving rain, and minimal waterproofing, if any, making sure I was acclimatised. You don't need mountains to keep fit. Mind you, it helps. So we continued at a very pedestrian pace. Another danger on a day like today, is to charge along at break neck speed. But this just batters your feet to bits, and you end up with blisters. NOPE, in conditions like this, you need to go at a nice easy pace, with soft knees and be gentle on your feet, because they are not going to get as many rest stops as they need, and they are getting pounded in our case by relentless tarmac. As we went on, we noticed that Dave was starting to lag back a bit. We thought it might be his knee and maybe his new boots. We did not allow for the actual cause until we discovered it the following day. Or at least he revealed it. You will have to wait like we did. By half way along the loch, it may well have been less, we knew that we needed a rest. The wind and rain were relentless, and there was no shelter. Eventually I spotted a gap in the fence and said to Al. Let's go up into the woods. I can see a tree about 100m in that looks like it might make a seat for a short stop. So we hopped a stream and bashed our way up through undergrowth to a fallen tree. It was perfect, and we had a seat with a foot rest. We managed to consume some food, and get the weight of our legs and backs. It was NOT going to be a long stop. It was sheltered from the worst of the wind and rain, but it was still bloody cold, and today was not a day to get cold.
This is not mine either, but it was that dark
A bit like looking out of my window as I write this
 Where was I ? Oh yes, we were getting a tad cold. So after easing on the soaking wet gloves (I gave up on them quite soon after) we slithered back down through the woods via twigs and sticks and wetness and slippery stones and crap, and hopped across the widening ditch back to the road. I say road, but in places it was just a big puddle. That should have for warned us about later on in the day, but it was wet and miserable and we did NOT want to think about tent pitching. Soon the odd conversation began to get round to pints and warm food and beds, and this is a bad thing on a day like today. Because that AIN'T GOING TO HAPPEN MATE! We walked on. Dave thought he had seen a man in black passing as we sat up in the woods, but there was no sign as we looked along the road. Maybe it was just his imagination. We walked on for a while. A LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG while and then at some point about 2/3 of the way along, we met The Man in BLACK. It was Mr Green. Mr Green in Black. (Gordon Green to you and me) And now we were FOUR. Nobody expects ................................................................................................... There was still a long way to go. The rain had eased a bit A BIT, not a LOT OK. We walked on. Gordon was making for Invermallie Bothy. It would involve a 5k walk back along the other shore of the loch, BUT it had a roof and stuff and did not involve putting up a tent. It seemed like a plan, and it was a plan that appealed to all. Although the rain had eased off a bit, the wind as we approached the end of the loch to turn across to the other side, the COLD, BITING, BLUSTERY wind, had not. We huddled for a brief rest against the wall near Achnasaul. We could not linger long, and we had to head off to the other side of the loch.
Not mine either, the amount of water swirling around
this bridge when we went across was quite a lot.
A turgid brown and grey mass, where the two flows of water clashed.
The other side of the loch, we turned right and headed back West. It was still raining, but more sheltered here. You could hear the water rushing off the hills to meet the loch everywhere. It should have been an omen, but we were too intent on getting into the dry to even worry. As we approached nearer to the bothy the streams were running pretty fast Bloody fast
Luckily there was a bridge over this one.
And a bridge over this one.
We waited here to make sure everyone had caught up.
We could NOT get Al anywhere near the edge of this bridge.
Even for money.
Me on the bridge (courtesy Al's Blog)
We headed on up the LRT until we got to the small side track that went to the bothy. At the start it was very wet, but as we got nearer the bothy it looked like this.
That is NOT a river, it is the track.
The river is over by the trees.
It almost looks like it was part of the loch.
Well it was.
There was absolutely NO POINT in removing shoes, we just waded up the track, water half way up to our knees, higher in places where the stream rushed across. Too wet now to care we just carried on. The bothy was in site, assuming the water did not get any deeper. Eventually we hopped over a small wall and through some very very wet and boggy tufty grass to the bothy. We plunged inside and shut the door. Opening the door to empty our shoes, we proceeded to remove socks and waterproofs and hang them up and then think about drying other stuff out, and maybe lighting a fire. The fire was a pointless option, since there was no wood. We will come back top that later. It had been about 10 min and stuff was getting sorted when I looked about. "Anyone seen Dave?" Everyone looked about. I looked at Al who looked at Gordon who looked at me. I looked at Gordon, who looked at Al, who looked at me. "FUCK!" it was said in choral harmony. We looked outside the door and across the diminishing grass and over to the submerging track. NO DAVE! "He must be just coming." Al did not look worried. Gordon and I looked rather more concerned. We gave it another 5 minutes. We looked again NO DAVE! NO SIGN OF DAVE! "SHIT!" Gordon put his waterproofs back on. I stripped down to pants and waterproofs and crocs (no socks). The last thing I needed was wetter clothes. We headed out up the across the grass. It was under water now. We headed up the track crashing through the water that was now above our knees. "Where the Fuck was Wilkinson?" We expected a floating pack and body drifting to the loch. We hoped for nothing or maybe a walking Dave . We got back to the main track which at least was dry. NO DAVE! He was only a minute behind us when we left the footbridge. He must have missed the turning and gone on. Gordon headed back, and I headed off to the right on the LRT. It was not raining as hard, but it was damned cold, and my little leggies were turning an interesting crimson colour. At least it wasn't blue. I walked all the way over the hill. I could see the bothy across the fields, but NO DAVE. In the end, I had to go back. One missing is bad. Two missing would be worse. And I was getting cold. I ran back over the hill to keep warm and met AL. Still no Dave. We'll leave a sign at the start of the track with sticks and head back. Maybe he will turn up. We headed back up the path. PATH? Nope, it was no longer a path it was .... a pond, a river, a loch Water was to the waist, and in places above it. Worse than that it was now flowing towards us with some pressure. And it was rising even as we walked. Had to get back now, no choice. Water flowed at us. Eventually we got back to the small wall by the bothy. It was part submerged. I climbed over and waded across the next bit and finally to a small patch of grass and into the bothy, just as Dave soaked to the skin arrived from the other direction, without a word. Not a hello, not a thank you, not a peep. I put it down to stress. We all went inside and I took off wet stuff to hang up. Moved bedding upstairs where it was warmer. By now, everyone was upstairs. I went down to get some bits and looked out the back window. The water was about 1 foot up the bothy wall.
View from the back window
View from the side door
"Better get our stuff upstairs boys", I shouted. "Looks like the loch is coming in!" Everyone rushed down and took all there gear up. There would be no fire tonight. Anyway, where would you get dry wood. Now that brings me back to wood from earlier. There was a lovely note by the fire saying that the last person had collected scrub and wood all ready for a fire and left it round the corner. Outside! Under water! Nice thought, but bad execution :(.
View from the door about 10 minutes earlier
View down the stairs as the water started to rise.
It wasn't coming through the door.
It was coming through the walls.

So, everyone was now upstairs sorting stuff out. The level was still rising, and there was nothing we could do. One would hope that the rain would abate and then the water level would drop as it all ran to the loch. You'd hope wouldn't you. We wondered how long we might be there. Who was the weakest link. Who had the most useful meat on them. I mean, we taste of Pork, don't we. Have to be raw though. Not sure how you cook a human over a pocket rocket. In small strips I guess. Dave sat on his chair shivering and looking miserable as he painstakingly pulled apart the bedraggled and ruined paper mache model of his passport. Dave had flown up. He wasn't flying back! And NOW, was not the time to say. "So you didn't get the waterproof document case we suggested then?"
In the bothy at last  (picture courtesy Al's blog as well)
We finally managed to get Dave into his sleeping bag to get warm. He was still staring vacantly at his passports remnants. Eventually he came round. We started to cook up some food, and pass round a dram or three. I started up the music with the little speaker I had brought. The part speaker, and gradually a semblance of normality returned. Outside, the rain had stopped and it looked like the water level was falling. The bothy and the residents all had a faint smell of wet labrador about them. Below is a video taken a bit later showing how much. It also shows the speed of the river rushing past just a short distance behind the bothy.
video
A shortened video after the main flood had gone
View to the river as the level starts to drop
We stayed inside. We lit candles and stuff. We put on as much warm gear as we had And we had a little party, until it was time to get some sleep. The next morning we saw this notice that no one had spotted the night before, in the mad panic to find the missing Wilkinson
It's a bit hazy, but apparently, the bothy is prone to flooding. Now you tell me! So, hopefully tomorrow we would be able to get away. Probably across the field rather than the track. Assuming the field was back. A direction away from the loch towards higher ground seemed the sensible option. Spean bridge and a B&B beckoned. So near, and yet so far. Mon 14th May 2012 (Invermallie to Spean Bridge)
So it was morning, and all was well with the world (we hoped). The forecast was for showers, but not RAIN, RAIN, RAIN. It had however rained in the night, quite a bit, so it was with trepidation that we poked heads out to see what the level was like. Downstairs was no longer under water although the floors were wet. It was good enough to cook in though. It was also safe to go outside for a Pee. It needed to be done, it had been waiting a while.
View on the way back from a Pee.
More info than you needed really.
Hardly any water at all now.
Kit outside the bothy ready for the off
All gone.
You can see the river in the distance.
Now look at the picture below taken yesterday before the bothy was completely surrounded
Alan and Gordon just before we left.
Note that the floor is almost dry, even though last night it
had been under water.
Amazing really.
It was time for the off. A short day to Spean Bridge, and the luxury of a B&B and maybe, just maybe a pint. Dave was having a bit of a kit faff, which meant that Al was of course having an impatient moment. Eventually Dave arrived, and we headed off in the suggested direction from the bothy, which in the event of high water, was right. We looked back, and Dave had vanished again. Ok, not appeared yet. Not sure what he was doing. Looking for any missing tattered remnants of his passport? Possibly, applying leg ointment (see later) We followed the stream, but stayed on the left rather than try and cross, and just walked up to the main LRT via the tussock filled fields. The path in was still very very wet, and where the streams crossed it, still quite deep. Eventually we got to the track, and with completely dry feet too. I did not even need to use the Seal Skins Trekking socks. As it happens, I never used them, so really I guess that was another bit of extra weight I carried all the way across for no reason yet again. Never learn me!
Al and Gordon at the LRT, the tussock filled field we cam up, and the loch in the background.
The bothy would be just off to the left in the distance.
I told you I was ther!
Dave finally caught up, and we headed back East along the track
The Falls from the metal bridge.
Yesterday it was just a foaming mass.
Now you could see the rocks and the trees.
Still wouldn't want to fall in though.
We said goodbye to Gordon at the bridge at the end of the loch, and we headed off towards the museum.
The weather was better today. Still a bit showery, but did not require full waterproofs or a wet suit as yesterday.
By the Cameron Museum
Should have taken more pictures today. A lot of commando training took place round here in the war. There was a camp at Achnacarry by the museum. Also landing craft practise in Loch Lochy.
Achnacarry Castle
Commando Training
View of tomorrow from the road to Gairlochy.
Hopefully with better weather
  We followed the road much of the way, although we could have used the Great Glen Way. Just outside of Gairlochy as it started to rain, we bumped into Fred (I think it was Fred), who had been at A Chuil. He had put his wet gear on, and we were thinking about it. We said hello, and then he started to ask Al about Le Jog and routes. Opening comment   "I don't want to hold you up or get you wet but ......" It is always the BUT word isn't it. The rain was getting heavier, and Al was getting wetter, and he went on. I think after a short time, Al wanted to hit him. Not sure but probably. We still have NO idea, why he left A Chuil 2 days earlier and was still here when he was doing Le Jog. Eventually we got round the corner and put on wet stuff by the Telephone Box. I say BY, Al was inside, Dave and I outside. The Rain got heavier. We looked for the reputed Tea and Cake room that Al had promised us Couldn't find it though, NOPE !
It was with MUCH disappointment that we headed on to Spean Bridge Luckily within about ½ a mile, the sun began to break through again, and the rain stopped. Back out of the wet gear as Al strode off up the hill. Al can smell beer and cake at 5 to 6 miles. We thought about taking the winding track to the right of the road. It goes much of the way. But after yesterday, it was very wet and boggy, and we had a lot of wet and boggy on our route plan anyway. A bit before the Commando memorial, we stopped at a little hotel, that had a
COFFEE SHOP  Packs off, and inside in a flash for Coffee and maybe for some CAKE.
Al looking through photo's
Dave was Mother
 All too soon, it was time to head on, after a short toilet trip (as you do) We walked on to the Commando Memorial at the top of the hill
And then it was time to do the final trudge into Spean Bridge. Find the B&B, and get stuff sorted out. A nice shower maybe, and a sit down toilet stop. OOOHHH YES! Which we did. NO PICTURES! Lucky Eh! After getting settled, putting stuff in the drying room, doing washing, showering and much general ablution, it was time to pop out to the shop to pick up bread and stuff. Did I mention the Supply Parcel? NO! Well it was there, and it had 5 days food (way too much as it would transpire), and other things like chocolate and whiskey and Sloe Gin. So, back to the shop where we bought bread and stuff for lunches. Hopefully for about 4 days. It was going to be a long haul to Braemar. We also had to buy Cheese & Wine for the 'Cheese and Wine' party the next night. Luckily, this would only need to be carried for 1 day. Al got Red, I got White, and Dave got something. Now, at this point we could have gone back to the B&B and sorted stuff out. BUT.. The Commando Bar at the hotel was a lot closer, so guess which way we went. YEP. Pints were bought, and Bar Billiards (aka Pool) was played. I much prefer real bar billiards, but it is quite rare nowadays. I played Dave to start with and after a slow start hit a luck potting frenzy and WON! Then I played Al, and amazingly Won Again! Finally Al played Dave for the LOSERS trophy . That is pronounced 'Looooossseeeers' And Al Won Now, Dave is a very competitive guy. Just a LOT. And he had LOST 3 in a row. Add this to yesterday and what will be revealed shorty (no photo), and we should have seen the writing on the wall. We stayed for a while longer. Extra beer I think. Very important to rehydrate properly Planned meals, checked times, and then headed back to the B&B to sort out shopping and stuff. At the B&B we Al and I decanted our wine into platypus's, platypi? (whatever, I gave up Latin an at 13). Dave did not have a plastic container, just a wine bottle, but I had 1 Litre for carrying in the day, and also a 2L for camp. I said to Dave "You can use my 2L to carry the wine for tomorrow". And it was at this point, that Dave came out with the prophetic words .... "I don't think I will be joining you chaps tomorrow!" Err...  "But Dave, the Wine and Cheese mate"           "You'll feel better tomorrow after the meal, think about it" But Dave said he had a bad swollen knee and also rather chapped inner thighs. "I have some cream and stuff" says I, "that will probably sort it out if you rest it." And, it was at that point that Dave dropped his trousers and showed us. There is NO image of this, and there never should be. But Al and I WINCED. Oh yes Dave's knee was a bit swollen, BUT his thighs were NOT A HAPPY PLACE, NO SIR As it also transpires, Dave's trousers where a bit too canvas like and held the water too much, and when you have big muscled legs like Dave, it cannot help, when they get wet and rub. But, Dave also had cotton brief shreddies (it is in the name), and they had worked a treat. Dave was shredded. Big Time Nuff said about that! No wonder he was walking a bit gingerly. Apart from rest and ointment, there was not much else we could do, and we went back to the Commando Bar, at the same table, to have a meal, and continuing the all important re hydration. I may try and steal some pictures of this from Al if he has any. I completely forgot to take any at all. We spent the rest of the evening there, and as far as I can remember, at some point returned to the B&B. I collected stuff from the drying room, and got as much of my stuff as possible together. We made some tea (I think Dave did the tea), we turned the TV on briefly. I think there was a TV. No idea why we wanted to see the TV, even if there was one. Dave was still non committal about the next day, and I felt that he probably would not go. He had been texting home, so the writing looked like it was on the wall. We would see in the morning And then it was sleep Because tomorrow was going to be PARTY DAY , regardless of Dave's decision. Tue 15th May 2012 - Spean Bridge to Corrour Railway Bridge (Party Night)
Thank the Lord, Thank the Lord! The weather was looking OK, and we could get back onto the planned route. Well, for today anyway. Tomorrow? On the down side, Dave had decided to withdraw. Big swollen knee and shredded undercarriage meant that each landing was painful. He was going to spend the day resting and then depending upon how he felt, he would get the train from Spean Bridge to Corrour, and walk up the line to the party. We had breakfast at the B&B, said see you later today, and set off down past the shop, to the open road (Oh please God, No more bloody roads), and to the Larrig Leacach, and hence Corrour. As we rounded the corner past the shop and headed up the short hill, a man came out of a B&B carrying a rather large rucksack. It had to be a challenger, and it was. Sandy Millar, the man I had sold my old Red Laser Competition Tent to. I waved, hoping that the old tent had done him proud. He waved back (all was good), and we walked together up the hill. We were three again. Not the same three, but three. Memo to self ... Must not break another one ok. Sandy is made of sterner stuff, and has done a bit in the hills. He was not going to let a little weather worry him, that was for sure.
Al and Sandy in the distance.
Walking up the start of the track proper after Corriechoile
Snow capped mountains beckon
Just before this, I had needed to stop for an underwear faff, (as you do). OK, as I do! It was a comfort adjustment. What can I say. Fundamentally a bloke thing. I had seen Dave's undercarriage and lived to tell the tale (even though mentally scarred), and I was taking absolutely no chances. At this point, I should maybe mention Cocoa Butter Vaseline. One of the key ingredients in smooth running on cold and wet, or hot and sweaty days, you cannot beat a liberal application of the old Vaseline. If, and I say IF, you get to the point where you have to break out the Sudacreme, then the damage is done. Now, back before the day, I had gone to Tesco, or the equivalent to pick up a small tin of the old nether precautions. Normally, my preference is for standard blue. But woe alas, they had sold out. Not wanting an enormous Antarctic Expedition size pot, I had a choice Aloa Vera (Green), Strawberry (Red) or Cocoa Butter (Brown) So, what's a bloke to do eh? Aloa Vera?   Don't want things too soft and fragrant Strawberry?   I mean, come on! So, Cocoa Butter it was to be! There, I've said it. (Before Slowman remembers and puts his own twist on the story) And thus, all sorted, dressed correctly and comfortable I rapidly followed on the same track. As we strode along, we generally chatted, about stuff. Make it up, I have no idea what it was about. A few photo's may have been taken, and from time to time we stopped rested the old feet, and just admired the view. The weather was quite good, although cold.
I should have taken a picture of the plate as well.
The statue is a copy of an original stone statue of the 'Wee Minister', said to bring good luck to travellers
This is near the car park at the start of the main track out to the bothy. This is a more recent wooden version of a much older statue that existed  in the same area many years ago. Local folklore has it that the original was destroyed by the estate  manager at the time when he was annoyed by a tourist  enquiry to his office as to the exact location of the statue. Infuriated he instructed its demolition.No idea whether that is true or not. From a distance it looks like a person. We had met several hill walkers on route on their way out to do a round of the Grey Corries. All rather resplendent in snow, and this had been the first day and possibly the only day for a while that they might be without snow or cloud. We had little intention of going quite that high with great big packs.
View of the Grey Corries on route
The track carries on all the way to the bothy, where we stopped for lunch. As we got here, there were several flurries of snow, and it looked like the weather might turn. It certainly got bloody cold, and we sat in side for lunch. Outside a couple of German Walker's were busy filtering water through some large pump mechanism into there bottles. So I scooped mine out of the water and drank it. Seemed ok to me, not sure what the fuss was all about. We had a good lunch stop for about 40 minutes
Al and Sandy at the Bothy
Inside the bothy (courtesy Sandy Millar)
As we left the bothy we met and Ken and Norma Proudler. We mentioned the party, and then had to leave. It was getting a bit colder, so we now had warm stuff and gloves on. The track just after the bothy is rather wet and a bit indistinct in places. Once it becomes the LRT, it then becomes large and rocky and boggy. Many years ago, this was quite a nice meandering track. Now with the advent of never ending  4x4 tracks across Scotland, it has been become far less scenic. Luckily, the surrounding landscape is still the same. We carried on this track for quite some time. Not a lot to be said, you are NOT going to get lost on it. Somewhere around the second set of waterfalls I think (Al will correct me, he normally does :)  ), we stopped for a brief water refill. Al at the moment does need frequent short stops. Anyway, frequent short stops are good for you, and we needed to make up for the lack of stops on Day 3. We sat by the stream and had a short break. I scooped another few mugs of water out of the nearby stream. Now, this brings me to PROTEIN! As I got to the last little mouthful, I noticed something small and black swimming around in the bottom of the cup. I am not sure exactly what it was. I flung the water out, and when I looked it was still there clinging to the bottom. I flushed it out properly this time before refilling the cup. This time it was clean and I finished up my re hydration. So, what was it? Not sure, I guess I should have taken a picture. Then again, do I really want to know? There are 2 schools of thought on this 1. It was a small black water shrimp 2. It was a small black leech. Personally I think it may well have been a leech. AND.... The Hundred Dollar questions?               Was that the only one?               If NOT, where are the others now? Whose seen ALIEN? So, if at some point you see me having some form of convulsions, stand well back And.....back to the story......... Twas a long, long way to the other end and Loch Trieg. But it was a very nice walk. We went from Cold, to Hot, to no need for waterproofs, to rain, to warm again.
(courtesy Sandy Millar)
Towards the end, before the ruined building and the bridge (one of Al's favourites), you must decide which side of the river to walk on. The details of all of this will be explained correctly at some point in Al's Blog Near Easan Dubh, there is a lovely little rocky gully that we descended.
All at the bottom as sandy and I came down.
This picture does not really do this justice.
It quite an enchanting little fairy grotto.
Ok no fairies (or are there?)
As we approached the bridge, and the buildings before crossing to go round the end of the loch, it began to rain, and get quite cold. We quickly chucked on wet weather gear(trousers included), and then headed down. The path here, is quite wet and slippery, or at least it can be. I suddenly found myself doing a rather fine and extended glissade down the slope, followed by a 540 pirouette. If it had not been for the landing, which involved one side, the bottom of the rucksack, and my arse, I would have expected at least 9/10. But I had a full 1 litre platypus bladder of a fine Australian Chardonnay to save, and so falling fully on the back of the rucksack would have been indefensible. So I took the hit for the sake of the many. Luckily, all was good, with both me and the wine, and we quickly, but cautiously made our way down to the shelter of an old half collapsed tin roofed outbuilding, where the two Germans were waiting. (Not an ambush ok) The rain quickly passed, and Al decided to stop for a chocolate and drink snack. He may have been hungry, or it may have been bridge phobia. We will never know. The sun began to come out (briefly), and we headed on over the bridge.
Al survives another rail free bridge.
If I had had a descent zoom lens I could have shown you the fear on the other side
As we rounded the corner the other side, you could see the rain and sleet coming at you like a cloud. It was a matter of about 3 minutes, when we were bombarded by driving sleet balls. It looked like small polystyrene filling, but a lot more painful.
The view just before the storm hit us.
You can see the other set of storm clouds just in the distance.
Then, just as soon as it had arrived, it had passed us, and we were getting warm again. Indeed, the climb from the Loch to Corrour is quite steep, and a bit relentless at the end of the day. Last time I had been round here was back in 2005, when I had walked from Fort William to Loch Ossian in a day. (DON'T ). I had forgotten what a sting this was at the end of the day. This was an up hill bit, and Sandy and I started to pull away from Al. His 50cc moped engine (49cc to be correct) does not do steep hills well at present. He will of course be back to normal when he eventually gets the new Kawasaki 900 replacement. Here's hoping :) So we matched on, and on, and on, and on until at last we approached the railway arch and the first signs of life. Party Balloons! The wonderful Val and her husband, had arrived earlier, and set up party camp. A balloon on the corner of the bridge, and also round the corner. As we went under the railway bridge, they were just walking back. We stopped for a chat, explained Al was on his way, and then headed on round to set up camp. Al arrived shortly after
Tents were quickly set up, and sleeping stuff stashed ready.
Treeza had her best party frock on and was ready to boogie
Val broke out a bottle of Pink Champagne that they had brought with them, along with the special party glasses
It was PARTY TIME! The weather provided a nice sprinkling of ice and snow, that fell into our glasses as we drank. It was not a lot of snow (yet), but it helped chill the Champagne rather well
Treeza surrounded by ice balls.
Most had melted away by the time I took this.
She has a great arse doesn't she!
Shortly after this, a large group descended off the hill past the party point. At first we thought it may be an enormous entourage of Challengers, but it was a group of students, possibly DofE on their way to Loch Ossian YHA. There were some nice young ladies in that group! Can I say that? Nay, should I say that? Probably NOT! Too Late! Then Ken and Norma Proudler arrived. "Are you going to stay for the party?" we all asked. Ken said "NO", they were going to push on a couple of miles. The look on Norma's face implied she was not in full agreement with this. "Come on", we said "It's a party, you have to stay" And of course they did. I mean, why wouldn't you. So Food and wine was broken out, I dug out my little X Mini portable speaker (worth every penny of the weight, and the cost), Ken attached his I Phone Val broke out the food, to which we added cheese and bread, and several litres of wine. AND.... Dave turned up from Corrour and put up his tent The party was on and all was good with the world.
Val prepares the party spread
Loverly Jubbly (As Del boy would say)
Party Folk getting in the groove
Picture Courtesy Sandy Millar
It was another great party night. In fact, it was probably the best party night yet. This one is going to be hard to beat, if it can be beaten. Next time we will need to get Val to do the outside catering again. Just brilliant. COLD, but BRILLIANT! Here are a couple of scenic views taken during the evening from the party site.
Moody distant clouds
Just a wonderous view as dusk descended on us
The party ran for quite some time it has to be said. There was NOT a lot left at the end. Indeed, all the wine had gone, and there was at least 4 litres of that, plus the Champagne, plus the ½ bottle of Glayava that Al had. Eventually however, all things must come to an end, and it was time for bed. It was to say the least damned cold. This was a night for sleeping in your down gear. Especially my down booties (bliss) By 3.00 am when I woke, there was a thick film of ice on the tent. All the ground was crisp. In an ideal world, I would not have to go out for a pee. But I was and may never be willing to pee into a bottle, so I wandered out into the crisp moonlit night. It may well have frozen as it hit the ground. I did not stay to watch. I was back in my tent in a flash (see the double innuendo in that). It was cold, not much of a flash. And I slept well! Day 6  Wed 16th May 2012 - Corrour to Loch Rannoch (South ALL Day) Today's music is back to the Blues (cos I can) :)
Curses, I have just been overtaken by JJ. He just posted 6 and 7 and now 8, and Mr Sloman has beaten me to 6 as well. Back to the story.......................... It was NOT an early start, but neither was it late. I cannot remember if I was on time or not, but that is unlikely although not unheard of. Lateness of departure is an issue, and costs me a lot of beer and tea bribes to Al. Actually, there is quite a lot in my life I cannot remember nowadays. I can remember my early childhood though. Is this a bad sign? And there is the mindless rambling as well. Where was I? We got up. Packed up. Said goodbye to Dave (he may have been going to Braemar, you'll have to wait). Said goodbye to Ken and Norma (briefly) Said Goodbye to Sandy Said goodbye especially to Val and Dave Attached enormous balloons to our rucksacks (ok not that enormous) (But Val said we had to, and we were not going to argue)
Me at some point, with Balloons attached.
They did make it back, but not in that condition.
In fact they were quite deflated at the end
A bit like me.
(Picture courtesy Al)
And we headed of East (briefly). I like Loch Ossian, it is very pretty. We could see Ken and Norma in the distance. They took the newer LRT across towards the YHA. Al and I took the older boggier track. It was shorter, but really next time I will stick with the nice new dry track.
View as we approached the Loch
Another Loch view
Ken and Norma just before they left to go along the loch
 We caught up with Ken and Norma just before the loch, and walked down with them. They were off along the south shore and over to Culra Bothy. Al and I were going to follow the 'Road to the Isles' track South for a day. Photos taken we headed off. They on their nice flat walk, and we headed up.
Almost immediately, we had to circumnavigate a large boggy area. As we watched there were also clouds of rain moving in on us. Meandering round bog, and intermittent rain was going to be a recurring theme for the day. But we will come back to that. This is a day, on which I should have taken a lot more photo's I am hoping that I can crib some from Al.
Rocky pools on the way up
The walk up to Peter's Rock was very boggy and slippery. At some point going up, I twisted my knee a bit, which was hurting. It was the left knee, which was the dodgy one. The one with the most shock absorber removed. I was also in need of a toilet stop. Not a short toilet stop. We could see the rain and sleet moving towards us across the loch as we climbed. It did not last long, and we were lucky, as you can see from the photo's. We stopped for a rest near Peter's Rock. This bit has been added courtesy Martin Banfield "In Memory of Peter J Trowell Born Sept 1949 -- Died March 1979 At Loch Ossian I have a friend a song and a glass Gaily along life's road I pass Joyous and free out of doors for me Over the hills in the morning"   And Al and I both clambered up the hill into nothingness in opposite directions for a 'rest break'. What a relief? 'Nuff said. Now we could at last carry on our journey lighter and happier. Shame that the rucksacks still weighed the same though. This should have been a lovely path all the way down to Loch Rannoch. Until recently, I am guessing that it had been. RANT........................................................................................................ But, at some point in the last 2 weeks, some lunatic, had decided that it would be a fantastic idea to vandalise it by allowing a dozen or probably more scrambling motor bikes up it. Now, I do not know if these people came to appreciate the wondrous countryside. But I am going to assume that they didn't. I am going to assume that these idiots just road en mass, and carved the shit out of this path. Where it got a bit difficult for them to ride, then they carved up into a boggy mulch huge swathes of the ground either side. I do not care what their take is on it either. I do not even care if they did it for charity (which I doubt). The path in places was totally buggered. The estate owners should be ashamed if they gave permission. If they didn't, then the bastards should be prosecuted, or maybe executed. Freedom to roam is one thing. Freedom to vandalise is something else. But then look at the Turbines in the Monadhliath ('Nuff said then...) So maybe vanadalism of nature is a government mandate Below are a few photo's (not the worst bits either)
Al at the other end of a particular fine re-engineered bit,
which extends way oputside of frame as well.
BA******DS!
RANT OVER ............................................................................................... The off shoot of this lot was that it took Al and I a bloody long time to walk all the way to our lunch stop at the ruins of Corrour Old Lodge. This was of course due to the extra distance needed to circumnavigate the recently  manufactured mire. Here is some info I googled about the lodge The first Corrour Lodge, some 3 miles to the south of Loch Ossian on Carn Dearg, was 'the highest shooting lodge in Scotland, being 1,723 ft above the sea level'. Used as a sanatorium (isolation hospital) in the early 20th century, it was de-roofed in the 1930s and is now a ruin. It was a rather fine place for a lunch stop though. We climbed in through an open window,   =>>> and it provided excellent shelter. Luckily, despite the state of the track, the views were still stunning to look at. But sadly we did have to spend a lot of the time on the way looking at where we put our feet, rather than fully appreciating the wondrous vistas about us.
Views from the Track
This is a short video, badly done of the view along the track.
A rather scary finish to that one eh?
After lunch, we carried on. The track was still quite tough going until we got over the top, where suddenly, it became a rather fine path all the way down. Maybe it was a different estate. Certainly, a lot of money had been spent on repairing the track, and adding a lot of drainage. Further down, the LRT had been completely resurfaced. It actually looked better to walk on from a distance than it was when you got to it. It was still a lot better than the diabolical quagmire we had suffered from Loch Ossian. I was hoping to find bits of ruined bike and the odd set of mangled leathers, but no such luck. As we dropped down, there were splendid views of Rannoch Moor, and Blackwater Reservoir. For some reason, I did not take anywhere near enough pictures of this, and the one that I had came out rather poorly. If anyone came this way, and has a nice photo, I would love to have a copy.
At the bottom, just after we crossed the bridge by Allt Gormag, where we stopped for a rest and had a chat with a chap who had just come down from bagging a couple of Corbet's. The weather was still good, although darker clouds were amassing and it looked like the predicted showers were on their way (again). It was also nice to have wee foot rest and wiggle the toes. Foot rests are essential on the Challenge. Many a potential problem can be prevented by just resting the feet on a regular basis. Also, taking them out of the shoes or boots for 3 to 5 minutes, gives them a chance to air and cool down. Plus a good toe wiggle. If they are a little damp, then even an application of cream such as Gehwol or even some foot talc. In my subjective opinion, some folk do not give their feet enough pampering on the Challenge. Happy feet, Happy Challenge. And so, with happy feet (well happy ish), we set of down to get to the road. The original plan was to have gone over the trackless and boggy ground via Lochan Meoigeach, and camp near the sluice at the bottom of Loch Ericht, but Al had decided that with the forecast for more rain tomorrow, and maybe the next day, that a slightly more southerly route might be easier. And thus, we had walked SOUTH all day. By the time we reached the road at the end of the track, it was time for another brief foot rest. I needed to have a quick heel check as well. The Superfeet in the Roclites, help the stability and also are better for the pounding on the feet, having better shock absorption than the originals, but for me, they slightly rubbed my right heel. I was using the blues, and to try and make sure I did not have a blister, or at least to stop it developing further, I was using micropore. Not bad enough for a proper blister plaster, it just needed to stop the rubbing of the damp sock against damp skin. For me micropore works really well. So we sat at the end of the track by the road, and planned where we might camp for the night. Somewhere along Loch Rannoch seemed like a plan. Rested and less foot weary, we headed off at a gentle pace along the road. The road was obviously frequented by a lot of cyclists. Cyclists who like to drop their gel bar wrappers on the ground rather than take them away. I am not saying it was always cyclists, and I am not saying that ALL cyclists do this, but there did seem to be an abundance. A theme that would continue to the next day. The road is not busy busy, even though it is a B road. Indeed, most of the traffic appeared to be builders vans. There was also an abundance of Skoda Yeti's. I quite fancy one actually, so this may be the place to come to pick one up second hand in a couple of years :)
The river Gaur on the way to Loch Rannoch
Even tough it is a road walk, there are still some nice views. The road is pretty quiet. There is also the interesting Hydro stations and such. We had originally planned to walk the South side of the Loch, but Al had been there before, and so we decided that maybe the North side may offer more shelter. I was resigned to a tent, and a possible wet start when .................................. We came across The Bridge of Gaur Guesthouse with the fabulous web address http://www.middleofnowhere.co.uk/ We looked at each other, and read the sign. Al mentioned something about them being on the message board, and this being Mrs Roberts old B&B. Al said "Go on, give them a ring" "There's a bloke down there cutting the Lawn ", says I "Why don't we just go and ask". So we did. A tall chap dressed like a gardener came round the corner. "Do you know if there are any spare rooms" we said, or some such sentence. "Of course, there are, come in, I'll just go and get Heather and we'll sort you out." We had met Eddie the owner. It was like we were old friends. What can I say FABULOUS, and a welcome from heaven. Heather and Eddie are just fantastic hosts. Heather arrived and we dumped our boots in the porch area, and our sacks just inside. "We'll just get your rooms sorted, take us a few minutes." "Come through and sit down in the sitting room." "Would you like a cup of tea and cake or a beer while you are waiting?" "YES", we said in 2 part choral harmony. "All of that please" We sat down, Heather made us tea, and bought us beer. Not horrid beer. This was wonderful bottled top stuff We also had biscuits, and more tea. Eddie made up the wood burning stove, and we sat and chatted away. Martin and Sue had stayed here the night before and knew them well. What can I say, this is the way to do it. No wonder Martin and Sue did B&B's Not sure about this Tent thing anymore :) After a long rest, and meeting the dog, and Tom? their very young toddler, we were shown to our palatial room. It had individual bathrobes and white slippers. I should have taken a picture of Al.
Our room.
It was a lot bigger than the picture implies.
And warm, and soft and fluffy.
HEAVEN!
"Help yourself to a bath. Use as much hot water as you like, we have loads.  Easy on the Radox bubble bath though, the water is very soft" Does it get any better than this? From cold and knackered, to warm and happy in an hour. It's tough is the Challenge But then again................... We had also booked in a meal. Al had venison curry, and I had the vegetable curry. I am NOT a vegetarian. I just fancied the curry. Not made with dehydrated stuff. And. we also had another beer. I mean, it would have been rude not to wouldn't it.
It was delicious! After dinner, we had coffee, and then we just sort of lounged around for the rest of the evening, bathed in a warm luxury that we had not expected, and so it was all the better. Eventually, we had to go to sleep though. I mean, you do don't you. Tomorrow was going to be another biggish day. Maybe not all the way to Blair Atholl, although that was a long term ambition. So, I can thoroughly and do thoroughly recommend the Bridge of Gaur Guest House Eddie and Heather have made a fantastic job of it, and are superb hosts. We learnt also that Mrs Robertson still lives in the cottage just down the lane.
Eddie, Heather and Tom
picture courtesy Martin Banfield
 
If you are going this way, then pop in. You will not be disappointed. We weren't. Day 7 Thu 17th May 2012 - Bridge of Gaur to a wet boggy forest near Loch Bhac I suppose I better get this written up. Sloman has overtaken me again, and JJ has finished his completely and gone out for a walk.
We woke at a time that may have been around 7.00 but could have been later. My world was soft and fluffy and comfortable and dry, and there was a nice shower and bath and a cooked breakfast waiting. After that there was to be a lot of road (at least this was going to be East), so motivation was low. At least it was not raining much, but there was a bit of drizzle going on outside. It did not look excessively inviting, but on a plus note we would not be trudging through bog and grunge (yet). We went downstairs having sorted out much of our stuff to a fine breakfast. Eddie stayed for a chat, whilst little Tom toddled in and out adjusting the very important knob at the side of the wood burning stove (which I hasten to add was not on, lest any health and safety or social services nutters read this). Al had a lot of English breakfasty stuff, and I had a scrambled egg with some extras. Much coffee as well, it was eventually time to get our kit together. Al went off whilst I was sorting my stuff out for a visit to the toilet. I would need this visit also, but needed to leave a suitable time interval before I ventured that way. Sadly it was time to go. All kit packed. I am not sure why rucksack's get heavier overnight, but they do. I now had 3 extra meals. I had packed one extra in case of emergency or being marooned somewhere. But I now also had the one from Tue night (not needed at Cheese and Wine), and the one for last night, because we had a hearty meal. We paid up, and sadly had to wave au revoir to Eddie,  Heather and Tom. Definitely going to visit there again. Up to the road, and then the long hall. Today was going to be road, and then probably road, followed by road. I had meant to put the softer inners in my shoes, but had forgotten. I did get round to it at some point. I cannot remember for the life of me where and when. Assume it happened. We decided on the North shore of the loch, which as it turns out had very few vehicles on it, and also was actually quite scenic, with a lot of interesting buildings. The previous day, we had not been sure about camping by the loch, but as it happens there were loads of spots, and signs saying that wild camping was welcomed as long as you were responsible. Compare that to some other places, and England, where wild camping is so hard to do. Too much 'Not on moi land zir'
The rather splendid Hydro building at the bottom of the hill.
There is another equally splendid one at the top.
Eilean nam Faoilleag
Destination one now 8 ¼ miles.
What a lovely sign
Destination one was Kinnloch Rannoch, where I was promised a rather fine Coffee shop. I had been disappointed before, but I remember stuff on the board about this, so I was very hopeful. There were lots of interesting houses to look at along here. No wonder there were so many builders vans travelling up and down the road. There were some lovely new ones as well. There was obviously a pretty good local architect, because they all looked rather fine. Weather was a bit intermittent, and also quite overcast, but at least it was not hosing it down all day.
View up the loch.
Still a long way to go
There are very few photo's today. It was dull and overcast much of the time, and also nothing stunning to take a photo of. We walked on, with conversations of an intermittent nature, and the occasional rest for the old feet. You can really trash feet on a long road walk. Stopping every now and again even if just for a few minutes can prevent long term damage. The pictures above where taken at just such a spot, just past the bridge at Aulich. Then it was on into Kinnloch Rannoch to the Coffee shop for a good rest, and a spot of lunch. Here there were already a few Challengers. Geoff, Frank & Bert were there when we arrived. We sat down with them and Al had soup, while I had Coffee and a scone, some of which I later discovered smeared all over my rucksack and trousers. And they didn't normally do take away. Shortly after we sat down, Bert & Suus arrived. We had a nice long break and a rest. Just as we were leaving, William from Barbados arrived as well. Eventually, it was time to go. Water was a bit more spartan by the Loch, so we popped round to the shop. Al wanted some tape (which they did not have), and I bought a couple of bottles of Irn Bru and a chocolate bar, because I did not have enough to carry still. As we started up the road, it started to rain more heavily, so for a while it was on with the waterproofs again. A story of the rest of the day really. Al was having blister issues today. He had a rather fine developing blister, right under the joint of his middle toe. I cannot remember which foot, but he will tell you. Al does not do blisters. Al has not had a blister for x years (that may have been 15). Al no longer remembers blisters (UNTIL NOW). So Al may at some point discuss this blister with you. Just nod and smile and look concerned. I reckon this developed through silt in socks after the great Invermallie non rescue mission. Silt in wet socks is not the best. It is like wearing abrasive socks. It is not meant to be. So Al was favouring the other leg whilst walking at time a bit gingerly, and that is not good either. Anyway, foot, blister, tarmac, miles and miles is not a good combination. I will leave the rest to Al to expand on. It is going to get worse, before it gets better. Trust me. A long road trudge ensued, with a couple of rest stops to ease the aching tarmac battered feet. Eventually it was time to turn left up the road about 1km past Dalraich to then head off into the forest. A bit of a sting in the tale this hill. Al had warned me, but it still hurt. Finally, we were off into the woods. Our goal was Loch Bhac, which wee would fail to reach today. It was tempting to stop near the first pretty little cottage, but we needed to get on a bit. There were two streams crossing the track, and water was important. The first one about 2 km in and the next after about 4km. There was nothing at the first stream, and so we carried on. It was uphill and the new forestry track was like walking through 3" deep potters slip. Just a nasty gungy gloop that stuck to your shoes.  Hard work. There was a lot of forestry clearance down the hill towards Tummel Bridge.
View down to the power station.
Lot's of clearance
View to the Loch
from Bohally Wood a few km before we stopped.
We trudged on. The path became a bit better. As we got to the next stream we looked about for a spot to camp. It was all rather tufty and wet. I had a look on a flattish bit where they had taken out at some point, some rock and gravel for the road. It was now overgrown with tufty wet stuff, and a bit twiggy. Al declared that this was it. He was going NO FURTHER. IT WOULD DO!. I was not overly enamoured of the spot, but Al looked done in, and after kicking a few hundred slugs off my spot, I found a flattish enough bit for the Oooknest to sit on. The rest was not important. Al, was halfway up with Wanda by now, so this was it. This was the spot. Tents up, and stuff unpacked. Roger Boston turned up about 10 minutes later. He joined us on our site. Roger could probably gone on a bit more I reckon, but there is always the social side to the Challenge. Just after he got his tent up, it began to rain again. It proceeded to rain all night from then on in, and it also turned quite cold. Not as cold as the Monadhliath where they had snow, but it was chilly. I cooked up something that may have been Mountain House Salmon Potato and Dill, but overfilled it, and ended up with a big bag of fishy soup. It did the job, but I am not overly impressed this year with Mountain House. We will come back to that when I do the kit and gear thing at the end. I gave Al a big slug of the Sloe Gin, (not a real slug) and then we all crashed out. There was not a lot of socialising that night. It was cold and wet and inhospitable. I plugged in the music and drifted off to sleep. Sometime about 3.30, I had a battle with my bladder. I really did NOT want to venture outside, but the bladder won, and since I do not and probably never will, carry a bottle to pee into, into was a rush job outside, kicking slugs off the outer groundsheet and a pee in the drizzle. At least this time I did not drag my silk sleeping bag liner out with me like I had at Ingleborough. Back to sleep. Tomorrow we had another long day. Intended finish was Waters Of Tarf. Al had already decided that Blair Atholl for lunch and then crack on up the Tilt. Fri 18th May 2012 - Bohally Wood ~ Glen Tilt In which we do another long day, and find more friends along the way. A few more pictures today. The weather after a fashion was a bit better.
I woke a bit late (not an unusual occurrence that). There was frantic packing and cooking and stuff noises coming from Al's tent direction. Al had probably been awake since 6.30, had had a complete breakfast, and was within minutes of being ready to go. I had grabbed an extra 10 minutes beauty sleep (it wasn't working), and eaten a handful of uncooked muesli or something similar. It may have just been a bit of cardboard. I managed to get a lot of stuff packed underneath Treeza. She has a big footprint, and you can pack your bag, and take the inner down and fold it, and wipe it down without going outside. This is a great relief. Sadly I also needed a pee, so I had to go outside. Soon it was also time to drop the tent, before Al got out the stop watch (again). It was wet, and it was raining. By the time I had got my tent packed away, all the many bits of plaster I had on my fingers were wet and falling off. I had not had a good episode with fingers this Challenge. It had started with the dreaded cold wet and cracked finger tips. These had been further damaged by the dreaded rucksack stuffer's fingers. You know the ones, when the little bit of skin, or sore bit gets further mangled whilst trying to stuff something (usually damp) into the rucksack, and catching it on a sharp or pointy bit. Well, my fingers were not in a good state, and I had further compounded the crime last night in the tent, by trying to slice my thumb open with the incredibly sharp blade of me leatherman thingy. It was just a slip as I was cutting something. But, it was one of those moments that you look down and think. Ooops, ahh, that looks quite deep. And it was. Not enough to warrant steri strips, although I had some of these after the Peebles Moffat incident. It did however need a good size plaster on it, and this filled quite rapidly with blood. My blood. All in all, my fingers were not happy. Had they been my feet, I would have been air lifted out. As it was I just stumbled with bandaged stumps whenever I needed to tie anything. This morning, the thumb bandage was wet and as such was now bleeding again. I thought about gloves, but they would have just ended up full of discarded plasters and blood, so I went off with cold hands. Rucksack packed, and tent poured into it's bag like a stodgy soup mixture. We headed on up the track. Alan and Roger ahead, and me having a bit of an everything faff. Not a lot to report here, it was track, it was cold and it was drizzling on and off, and we had a bloody long way to go today. We made our way along the track until we got to Loch Bhac. It had stopped raining, but was still cold and so we made our way into the fisherman's hut for a rest stop, and I rebuilt the plasters on my hands, and also stuck some extra, extra micropore onto my feet, because the old preventative layer had disintegrated in the dampness of my shoes.
Al at Loch Bhac
Roger at Loch Bhac
All refreshed and now held together again by sticky tape it was time to head off towards Blair Atholl, over the wet and boggy track. As we went off, Roger and I tended to pull away. Al was going a bit slower, and also had intermittent blister issues. As we went, a small group of sheep scurried along in front of us, looking over their shoulders. Too stupid, just to move out of the way. And that is why we eat them, and not the other way round.
View as we descended the track
It was a bit of a slippery journey over the track, that in places was completely under water. Once we got to the other side, Al decided that rather than go through the farm, we would drop down to the A9 and then do a bit more along here. The logic being that the next bit of track was a quagmire. We will never know if this was the case, because we walked along the A9 for a few km instead. Well, if you are going to die on the Challenge, this is as likely a spot as any. It wasn't the traffic coming towards you, it was the idiots overtaking from behind that on several occasions nearly wiped us out. However, we eventually found the small footpath down into Blair Atholl, that crosses over the bridge.
You cannot see that bloody road from here
Alan and Roger at the gate at the end of the track.
Al having a hat hair moment
The bridge into Blair Atholl
View from the bridge
Roger on the bridge
At this point, Al has gone. He had sensed beer, and that is like a nitro-methane injection to his little 49cc engine Whhhhhhoooooossssssshhhhhhhhhhh =======================> So we made our way to the hotel, and after a while, managed to find someone to make us a cup of coffee. Al ordered and I collected together 4 Mountain house meals that were now surplus to requirements, and walked down to the post office to mail them home. I got myself a nice big envelope, and borrowed a pen and posted them home. Al though this was daft, but it cost me 10 minutes and £3 and I saved carrying, or chucking away £28 of meals. Whilst I was in the Post Office, I bumped into Nik. She had stayed in Blair last night, and was also posting home food. I told her that we were all in the hotel, and she came and joined us for lunch. Now we were 4.
Al Nik and Roger in the hotel
It was grand lunch, and after lunch, and a necessary toilet stop on a sit down toilet, it was time to head off. Roger went to get some maps, because he had accidentally mislaid or sent his back, and Al, Nik and I headed on to start up the Tilt. In all my crossings, I had never actually been up Glen Tilt before. At least, not from this end all the way, so I was rather looking forward to it. Ridges are nice, but so are rivers, and there was a darn sight less snow down here. Ideally, we were aiming for the Falls, but it was a long way, and it was damned cold, and looking like the odd shower, so the intention was to get as far as possible to make tomorrow's slog into Braemar ok.
Crossing the Tilt
Nik and I on the first bridge (picture courtesy Al)
Shortly after this Al started to disappear into the distance. Probably a combination of food and anaesthetics for his blister. I walked and chatted to Nik. A couple of km's further on, Roger caught up with us (he'd got his maps)  and we headed off after Al.
Now somehow at this point, Roger and I managed to leave poor Nik miles behind us. We decided to catch Al, and stop him and have a rest, and wait for Nik. We finally caught Al near a small hut before Marble Lodge. We waited a while, but no sign of Nik. In the end, feeling a tad guilty for rushing ahead, I decided I needed to head off back down the track and find her, in case she had stopped. Al and Roger waited and I strode off South again. As I got round the bend I saw Nik on the higher track. She had stopped, and so I waited while she came down to where we were waiting. It would have been wrong to then head off, so we all waited a bit longer in the shelter of the hut. Although not raining, it was bloody cold in the wind, that we would soon be walking into again. After a while we headed off up the track.
The rather fine bridge that crosses back to the left side of the Tilt
  Al and Roger were soon a long way ahead, and I had again pulled away from Nik. We were all heading in the same direction though, so as long as we had intermittent stops it was ok.
Al, Roger and Nik heading off after crossing the bridge
I passed several people, and eventually caught up with Al and Roger, at about the same time that the rain got harder.
I decided that it was time for full waterproofs. Al carried on without, and Roger already had his on. By the time I was sorted out, they had gone, and I could just make out Nik in the distance doing her straight line route regardless of the path.
I carried on slowly until I got to a scenic little copse by the river, where I took a few photo's and then waited until Nik caught up.
We carried on together and eventually, caught up with Al and Roger who had stopped by the rather posh lodge for a break under the shelter of some trees.
After our stop, I walked with Roger, and Al walked with Nik. It was still raining, and quite cold and windy. We decided we would walk as far as we could until we found a nice flattish bit near to the Waters of Tarf As it happens, we stopped a few kms short of that. Roger and I spotted a rather fine flat piece of ground just the other side of a bridge across the river, and it also had the benefit of shelter, great views and water. We waited for Al and Nik, but we all decided, that this was the spot for us tonight, and so we headed over the bridge chose our spots and set up camp. And mighty fine it was too.
Looking across the bridge to the camp spot
Nik and Roger survey a suitable spot
Excellent view from inside Treeza
The Camp
The rather fine view from the camp spot.
This was the view from my tent
After tents were pitched, and the food thing done, I opened up Treeza as the only night club in town. I dug out the trusty party speaker, and everyone somehow managed to get into the tent. Trailstar, big foot print, Yes Wonderful shelter, Yes Great Tent, Yes Party Tent, Yes And so with Al's bag of peanuts,, that he had carried I think from the start. A big bag of sweeties that I had carried from Spean Bridge, Some assorted whiskey's and some Sloe Gin, we had another rather fine and impromptu party right here. Another good night. It was cold, but the weather held off, and despite a shower in the night, it was a good morning for a change as well. Another fine day in fine company, in beautiful surroundings, in the middle of nothing. And that is really what it is all about, isn't it? Sat 19th May 2012 - Glen Tilt to Braemar Up late again me. No bloody breakfast, but slept well, apart from the fact it was a bit cold, and I woke to find that my bootied feet were toastie, but my arse had fallen off the sleeping mat and was cold. Still attached though so that is good. Beauty sleep still not working though :(
Roger talking to Nik just before we left
 Roger Al and I broke camp at some time that was probably between 8.00 and 8.30. Nik was still in her tent, so we shouted goodbye and headed up the Tilt. It was still cold, but a nice day, and only distant clouds that may contain rain, but appeared to be a long way off. Fingers crossed, we set off to the Falls of Tarf bridge
A last view back
Heading off over the bridge
 A bit before the Falls of Tarf (I think), we met a German lad, who was about to head up into the mountains. Unfortunately for him he had no matches or lighter. This is not ideal when you are likely to need warm or hot food. Al had a rummage about in his bag for his spare lighter. He was the only one I think who knew where the spare was. Always, have a spare lighter and maybe even one of the lighting sticks that you can create a spark with. Anyway, Al gave the chap his spare lighter, and dismissed the gifts of money and chocolate. That is not what you do, and anyway, he did not want any more weight to carry.
Roger heading down to the Bridge by the Falls of Tarf
Falls of Tarf from the bridge
It is a good bouncy bridge.
Just the sort of thing that makes Al's day
Just after the bridge we had a little sit down. It was still cold, but the day was good, and I had a bit of a micropore fiddle. No blisters as such, but a couple of likely hot spots that needed monitoring. We carried on, along the Tilt. A long way to go, and we needed to get to Braemar today. Because ......  OK !
Looking back South, down Glen Tilt
Track and view on the way to Geldie Burn
Heading towards Bynack Lodge.
Quite a way from the lodge at this point
What can I say, we did a lot of walking along the Tilt. It is a long way. There was an excellent 2 wire bridge with green supports across at some point. I am not sure where it was, but it was just one of Al's most favourite bridges (NOT). Luckily, we did not have to cross it, although it was tempting just for the hell of it. With a few stops for Al to catch up, and also just to get water and rest our feet, we gradually made our way to near Bynack Stables. We did not cross there however, but headed on down the track a bit further, until we came to a point near a LRT ford. We set off slightly left at this point, and crossing a small ditch, followed round until we found a place that there were a lot of rocks. Two days earlier, maybe one day, and this would have been under water and a wade. But by cunningly walking on the rocks up the centre of the stream, we managed to get across with completely dry feet. We carried on through heathery ground near to the left hand side of the stream until we found a suitable place to get across the Geldie, just a short way down from the bothy hut. This was NOT for Roger and I. A wade through the stream in shoes. No. For us it was boots/shoes and socks off. Then wade across. It was not deep, but my shoes were dry (ish), and I did not need them to be full of water again. Al just strode across as he does, and then after meeting a lady whose name I think was Diana, squelched rapidly off into the distance suddenly at a goodly pace, while Roger and I dried our feet and then put our boots back on. I guess at this point, I should have spent a few minutes sticking some remedial plasters (micropore) onto the odd toe, because I didn't, and by the time I arrived eventually in Braemar, I had managed (shock horror), to have acquired a small blister on the top of my little toe. Let that be a lesson to you. Stop it NOW, and then you will not have to repair it later. And thus with dry socks and shoes, we headed off at a goodly pace in an attempt to catch Al up. But, Al was in big time yomping mode, and we made very small inroad into his lead. Consider that this was Roger and I no longer taking it easy, and you will see how fast Al was going. You will now also understand, why his blister, increased in size by the time he needed to repair it at the bunkhouse in Braemar later on that day. And there boys and girls is lesson two! So we hurried after Al, finally catching up with him as he rested leaning against a tree, somewhere near the ruins, and small wood about 2km past White Bridge. We had a snack, and then headed off at a reasonable pace towards Braemar. Next stop was to be Mar Lodge. We walked on through the Linn of Dee, and down towards the lodge. As we approached the car park we said farewell to Roger, who was going back up towards Derry Lodge to bag a few big hills. He could not be persuaded top come to the lodge. Al and I carried on. I had in all honesty, forgotten just how bloody far it is along that top road, from the Linn of Dee to Mar Lodge. It just goes on and an, and on, or at least it seems to. After literally hours and hours (maybe 30 min, maybe less), we arrived at the entrance to Mar Lodge. A short walk down the track, and then round the back, we made our way into the Gun Room, where tea and cofee and biscuits and chairs, and a fire were available. Several folk were in there, including Andy Williams, who had done something nasty to his ankle, but was determined to carry on. Which as we shall see later, he did. Good Man! Also Tony (he of Gelder Shiel bothy conflagration fame from last year), and a few others. We bagged suitable sustenance from the wonderful Jane, and with shoes off, sat in the large and soft chairs. Chairs................................... Now this is probably one of man's greatest inventions. Probably greater than the wheel. I mean, man had to sit in a nice chair to be able to ponder on and thin k up the wheel. Sitting in a nice chair, in front of a fire. Much over rated this hunter gatherer stuff. Sitter and thinker, that's the one, and that is exactly what we did, for quite a while, until Al decided that there was something very important that he needed to do in Braemar. "We know a song about that don't we boys and girls?" "We will sing it later won't we?" And so we set off down the path from Mar Lodge to the road. I had planned to go via the Wood, and Al had planned to go via the road. Just a gentle stroll into Braemar, that is what we needed. By some route or other. At which point Al spots, Diana? in the distance. "We can catch her, come on" "Nope, I am having a gentle stroll into town, and anyway, I have to have a serious underwear faff, I am having loose elastic issues" And with that, Al catapulted off into the distance in pursuit, like it was an Olympic event, and I stopped by the side of the road, with rucksack off, and loosened trousers, in a state of contemplation and adjustment, as several rather posh cars drove past on their way to the wedding reception at the lodge, looking somewhat bemused, at the man fiddling around with whatever, by the side of the road. Had a police car been coming past, I might well have beaten Al to Braemar. Luckily, a few minutes and adjustments later, I was on my way. I thought about going via the woods. I always normally go via the woods. So I stuck some earphones in my ears. Stick on some heavy blues courtesy Eric Gales and boogied down the road. I finally caught up with Al just before the 30 mph sign into Braemar. We walked the last bit together, well as far as the Fife, where we somehow got lured in for rehydration purposes. We spent quite a while here, before heading round to see Ronnie at Braemar Lodge Bunkhouse. It was pretty full. We got a bunk each, and them dumped all our kit other than packs onto Dave's bunk. It seemed very unlikely that Dave was going to be here, but we did not want to let it go just in case, and anyway, we had paid for it. So we sorted out stuff, had a damned good shower, in the only working shower (not together), had a chat with the many other inmates (mostly Irish), bunged a load of washing into the machine, and used Shampoo, because we had no washing powder, sorted out kit again. Al had his foot fixed up by Diana?, or was that tomorrow?, I cannot remember, and then we headed back into town. We may have intended coming back between the Fife and the Moorfield, but whatever the case, that did NOT happen. In fact I think we went straight up to the Moorfield, where sadly, Bingo Wings were not playing this year. On a plus note, we did manage to get a seat, and it was not pissing down with rain like last year. So a jolly evening was had by all. Eventually at some time around 11.00 Al said he was tired, and headed back. I stayed on chatting to folk, and then left about 11.20, suddenly realising, that Al had the only key to the bunkhouse. I ended up running down the hill from the Moorfield into town, and then as I passed the Fife I had a thought. Al, would never in a million years manage to bypass the Fife. And he hadn't. So we sat in the Fife for a while longer, with whiskey and stuff, until eventually, long after last orders, and with everyone there being called terry, because Terry was staying there, and we were not allowed in the residence bar, we had to leave. So we said goodbye until later today, to Mick, and terry and John, and everyone else, and headed back to the Bunkhouse, where we had to get in quietly, and also get our stuff out of the washing machine, where it had finished hours ago, and into the drying room. How we managed that without making a heck of a din, I do not know know, but we did. And we had survived yet another evening in Braemar. Sun 20th May 2012 - Braemar To Callater There was no blinding rush to get going today. It was a gentle day, shopping and the Fife and long breakfasts and stuff.
I had woken at about 4.00am in desperate need of a pee. This was not alcohol abuse, I had been drinking shandy. I know, I know, but that is what it was. So carefully grabbing my head torch, and attempting to get out of the bunk without knocking myself unconscious (they are quite low), I carefully crept down the bunkhouse to the toilet.  Taking extra precautions, I went very slowly, and stepped round all the various kit explosions. Stepped up the step to the toilet area, (I had remembered that step), and then promptly tripped up the second step that I had not remembered and crashed headlong into the wall, waking most of the lads in the end 4 bunks. My intentions had been good though. Back to bed, and more lovely sleep. We did not for a change have to get up too early the next morning, there was not much to do. Diane was up a lot earlier than Al or I and had been out and about dressed before I even opened an eye to the daylight. Unfortunately, kit was not completely dry, so I hung it over the radiator near the window. Today would be a day for the spare Katmandu shreddies. The longer merino ones would dry out and start afresh tomorrow. Al made some breakfast, and I made a cup of something or other. Had a good bash in the bathroom (eventually), and then a longer sit down just for good measure. By the time we were almost ready to go, Al was bemoaning his gigantic blister. I had on many occasions volunteered to burst it with my trusty knife, but for some reason, maybe the state of my fingers, Al had declined this offer. I gave him a blister plaster though, and Diane, who apparently had some expertise in matters medical, cleaned and then put a smart tailored blister dressing on Al's foot. Adding a bit of micropore for food measure to try and stop the Compeed from fusing with the sock.  That is a nasty habit that Compedes have. I had a go at the blister that had developed on my little toe since yesterday, with some second skin and some tape (No knife). It would get me to Callater anyway. By now, it was getting close to 10, and we packed up our gear, went and said farewell to Ronnie, and headed down to the bakery for a proper breakfast. On the way, I popped over to the gear shop, to get a replacement for my spork, which had self destructed the day before. It now consisted of a spoon and a fork, neither of which had handles, and thus it made stirring boiling soup, a difficult and dangerous job. Especially bearing in mind how many fingers I had left without plasters on. We then also went across to the Coop, to buy some bread rolls for the next few days, and some cheese, cos you need cheese, and something to take to Callater. I actually ummed and ahed about Ginger Wine, just to be different, and this would have been a good idea, but instead I bought a half bottle of the Coop's best 1 star Brandy. Later we would discover that this is pretty close to being undrinkable. It can be disguised with coke, but it is basically a cross between Surgical spirit and Diesel. Eventually however, we did get to the Old Bakery where breakfast was ordered off the special menu. They are really lovely here, and very supportive of the Challenge. Now I cannot for the life of me remember all the people who were there. Certainly over a considerable period of time, there was Di and Charles, and Keith, and Freddie, and John, and Al, and Nik, and Louise and JJ, and Ian, and Ian and a host of others, whose names elude me.  It was an extended breakfast, with the extended Challenge family. I had many coffees, and then even after Al had gone of to somewhere else, that may well have resembled the Fife, I had stayed on, chatting, and enjoying the cheer luxury of  NOT WALKING ANYWHERE.  After breakfast, I took my kit up to the Fife, and then went for a nose round town, to see who was about, but not in the pub. But of course, at some point I knew I would end up back there, which I did.
Me and Ian, and Ian, pilfered from Al's blog
Whilst here, I had another bit of a faff with my static Pacer Poles. They had been jammed since the start, but over time had gotten gradually shorter, which did not help much with the tent height, so I took out my trusty Leatherman tool, avoiding the sharp bit, and used the pliers to prise them apart, and see if I could get them to work any better. The long answer and the short answer were both NO. So I re secured them at the optimal height for the Trailstar with a bit more of the incredibly versatile micropore, and then got another Shandy. We had been asked by Martin, to try and get some 1% HC Cream for Sue. Unfortunately, none was available on a Sunday. But I had about 1/3 of a tube in my covers all emergencies first aid kit, so we waited for Martin. We were going to leave it behind the bar, and then with Louise and Laura, but just as we were about to leave, Martin and Sue turned up. It was about 3.30 by now, and we decided it was time for  the bloke with the blister and I to walk down to Callater, yet again, via the golf course road, and then over the little bridge. The weather was fine, although not hot yet, and we slowly wandered along the road.   Al was having blister problems again. The bandage was making it better than it had been, but it was still sore. My little toe twinged a bit, but Al's blister was by this time, about 12 feet across, and 3 inches high.  Or so you would have thought.
The church just at the start of the road to the golf club.
I had not noticed this before.
How many times have I been to Braemar?
View to the hills beyond Callater,
It was a slow walk down to Callater lodge, with Al hobbling along. But, the weather was fine, and we were in no hurry. As we came over the bridge to the start of the track at Auchallater , Alistair was there with Isabel. We had a chat, and then started the walk up to Callater. On the way down, we met a couple of sprightly young ladies with a dog, who we chatted to. Also another couple of chaps who had been up on some tops for the day. There was I seem to remember some other chap, who did not speak, but much to Al's annoyance (he gets a bit grumpy at times you know), just barrelled past taking up most of the track, as we had to move to the edge. Not a big issue, unless you have a blister the size of Al's. Al mumbled some stuff about mountain courtesy, bastard and violent acts, and we continued on our way.
On the way up
Eventually we arrived at Callater. It was awash with tents of all shapes, sizes and colours, right down to the Loch side. We pondered about putting tents up, but just dumped our bags outside, and went in for a cup of tea and a chat with whoever was inside. It was of course full, with all the usual suspects, and Bill, Jeanette, Ross and Mike, where busy serving many teas. Somehow after greetings, we managed to get a seat. The Callater party was beginning, (well apart from the tent thing). Al had some stovies (is it spelt like that?), and I assisted, plus we had extra tea. Oh yes, and tea. Al, managed to blag us a couple of beds inside, and that meant that the tent faff thing did not need to take place. Although powder blue and gold would have added nicely to the colour kaleidoscope outside. And thus, we took our stuff inside, and settled in for the long haul. Of course, it was going to be another excellent evening. It was Lynsey's birthday, and after much effort, primarily from Alistair, (earlier in the week, Lynsey was not sure if she would go)  she had been persuaded to go to Callater. This was a good thing, because much effort had been made by JJ, to get her card filled in, by many, and also transport the cake to Callater, with the aid of Jeanette. The evening progressed in the usual manner, with many friends, entertainment (Mick had come), and a seemingly never ending supply of food, beer, and whiskey. I even managed a glass (mainly coke) of the diabolical 1 star brandy. Lynsey's cake was presented to her with a suitable rendition of Happy Birthday, and JJ was fully wound up with songs.
Carl, Jeanette, JJ and Lynsey
Jim mid recitation
of  Dangerous Dan McGrew
Lynsey's cake arrives
During the evening I met up with Carl again. Carl lives just near me, in fact very close to our old house. We had communicated via the Internet, but never actually met before Braemar, although maybe on the train. My recollection of stuff is getting vague. At some point in the evening, I snuck out to take a couple of photo's of the loch as the sun went down. One of my favourite lochs this one. OK, they were done with a tiny camera, and Ian will have taken some absolutely stunning ones, but here they are anyway
Loch Callater from the edge of the loch
Another Loch view, with tomorrow's hills (Maybe)
Sometimes Black and White is better
Sun sets behind Callater lodge on another excellent day
The evening continued, and of course there was a never ending version of I am the Music Man, a Callater favourite. So, the day became evening, the evening became night, and eventually, it was time to sleep. Al had snuck off a bit earlier, but I had stayed up a bit later. There were people in all states by now, some in a worse state than most well, one anyway, a lesson learnt hopefully. (and it wasn't me by the way). They'll not thank me for these photos but ..........................
You can add your own caption to this little lot
See JJ, you do always look like that :)
Overall another fabulous night. And that is of course why I go back year after year.
Friends ! Mon 21st May 2012 - Callater to Shielin of Mark
We rose at a reasonable time. JJ was up and gone back to Braemar by the time we rose from our beds. Al was up next door, but Bill was still fast asleep as I crept out. Not a surprise, I think he finally got to bed at about 4.00am I limped downstairs to get a cup of tea and a bacon butty, and also because I needed to go for a short walk for a pee. Later I discovered that Al had been allowed the honour of a pee in the inside toilet. After breakfast and more tea, and more conversation, I went upstairs to add suitable plasters to my fingers, and also put a blister plaster on the little toe. It was still twinging, but a small Compeed from Al ,and some physio tape that I cut very carefully using scissors, and I was ready to go. We dragged our packs down after saying goodbye to Ross who was still in bed, and had another cup of tea and a chat.
David, Tanya, Al and Bill
David Lintern & Tanya Morgan.
They had a rather fine 2 Oookstar.
More of that tomorrow
Lynsey about to Leave, and the Loch, just before we departed
By now of course you know about Al's blister. You will probably also know that he was not 100% on this Challenge, and so our original high level plan was cancelled in favour of a slightly easier route via Dubh Loch and down to Glas Allt Shiel. There was also quite a lot of snow at the top, and we didn't know what the melt water was like. I think a fully fit Al would have done the original route, but this was fine by me. There are other years, and in the pending heat of today, this was going to do just fine. We started out from the loch and headed up the track to An Sagairt Mor. Lynsey was just ahead of us. I started up the track with Al and Pete.
Looking down to the few remaining tents.
We believe one of them was Freddie's, because Pete had somehow
managed to get him back to his tent last night,
but no one had seen him since.
Al and Pete on the early bit of the way up
As it happens today, I had my hill feet on, and was soon crashing up the hill, leaving Al and Pete a long way behind. Indeed this would be a theme for today. At some point, I caught up with Lynsey, and we carried on until there was a suitable stopping point on a nice rock. It was already getting pretty warm work. Lynsey broke out a slab of Kendal Mint Cake, and kindly gave me a bit. Memo for next time (Kendal Mint Cake) We waited for a while and eventually Al and Pete arrived. There were others in the distant catching fast. Ian C arrived, and so did Carl. Carl then headed off, and Lynsey was going too. Al was fine walking with Pete, and I cannot do up hill unless I am going at my uphill pace, so I set off. After a while I caught up with Carl, and we continued after a short photo pause
Last view of distant snow capped hills
Or in Black and White (I prefer the B&W image)
After a while, we could see Lynsey in the distance, and we also caught up with Di, Charles and Keith. We walked with them on and off until the drop off point to head across to the plateau with Broad Cairn. I was very tempted to go that way, because it is a lovely plateau walk, but then I was not sure Al was going to make of it if I completely disappeared, so I decided to wait as the others headed off. Carl also pondered on this route, but eventually headed off to the gate. I waited about 12 minutes, but still no sign, so I followed after Carl. I could just about make him out in the distance, but he is young and fit and was off at a gallop. There was increasing snow on the ground, and it was wet and slushy, so I just broke off the track, and headed down towards the fence line that takes you to Dubh Loch.
Looking up before dropping down to Dubh Loch
The view down to the Loch
As I started down, through the slightly tufted ground, I came upon a couple of bits of aircraft debris.
Carl was a long way off by n ow, and absolutely no sign of Al or Pete. I carried on towards the falls. As I got here, I could see Carl basking in the sun. It looked like a damned fine idea, so I dropped my pack, and joined him. Flat rock, water, sun, and wondrous views. Bloody marvellous. I pondered on the fact that I had never actually come down this way before. I had been nearly every other route from Callater to Clova or Glas Allt Shiel, but not this way, nor the route we were going to take.
Carl on the rock.
He still had his pack on, using it like a built in backrest
View down to Dubh Loch.
From here, it looks like the loch is no distance at all. Trust me, it is a lot harder work than it looks.
Water cascading down the flat rocks.
Carl left first, and I stayed for a while to see if I could see Al or Pete in the distance. No sign, and in the end I decided that I would head on down and wait at the bothy rather than up here. Anyway, I was suitably rested by now.
Water Falls on the way down to the loch
The track down to the loch is not completely obvious, but the way down is. It is a case of follow the river to your right. As you get nearer the loch, the track gets a lot boggier, and the path you have to take starts to weave about. In places it is quite steep, and sometimes a bit slippery. Eventually I arrived at the loch. No sign of Carl, who had long gone, on legs 20+years younger than mine.
View from the start of Dubh Loch
The path runs along the left side of the loch, and rises up above the loch for most of the way, dropping down finally near the far end.
Looking back to Dubh loch before stating the descent to Loch Muick
Once past the smaller loch, the path becomes much clearer on the ground, but it is also nasty and rocky. Hard work with steepish bits that wear on old knees. It was a pretty hot day, and the descent was not pleasant walking. I could make out Carl in the distance. You had to keep your eyes peeled though to avoid stumbling on loose rocks. It must have been designed by someone that hated walkers. The path goes on for quite some time, and the loch never seems to get any closer
Looking down to Loch Muick
On the way down and also tomorrow, there was the occasional adder basking in the sun.
There will be more tomorrow on the way to Tarfside
Finally after quite some while I arrived at the bothy. Carl was having dome lunch here, with another couple of Challengers and I joined them in the shade. After a while though, I was getting cold, and we moved across into the sun. I showed Carl where the entrance to the bothy was (not easy to find), and also where the secret toilet was as well. He went away just after that for a while, while I went to get some water from the stream. I was hoping that the bothy toilet was not plumbed into the stream. Carl returned, we had a brief chat and then he headed off up the loch. I decided to wait for Al and Pete. I lay in the sun, watched the odd tourist, and a lot of wild life. I was visited by a very pretty little Chaffinch, but every time I went to get my camera he did a runner, despite the fact that he walked right up to my feet. Eventually, after a good hour, maybe more, Al and Pete turned up and slumped onto the grass. Being a GEEZER, I set up the stove, got some water, and made them a cup of tea.
Pete and I by the edge of the loch
Al and Pete as the tea brews
We stayed for probably another hour, maybe more, just relaxing by the loch. There was only a short way to go (short?) to get across to the Shielin of mark bothy, and we were in no hurry, although had we known how many would be there, we would maybe have gone earlier. No we wouldn't, it was lovely here. I also took the relaxing time, to take a couple of pictures of the loch. The colours in the sun were fantastic. A far cry from the grey was had endured at the start of the week
View back up the loch
View down the loch looking towards the Spittal of Glen Muick.
Magnificent blue reflected off the sky
Eventually it was time to head on down the loch. Al and Pete set off at a renewed pace, and I faffed about with stuff, and decided that I fancied a bit of music on this bit, until we got to the Spittal. I boogied along a bit behind, having the odd shoe faff, and also took a few photo's.
Looking to the loch from the North shore path
View back up the loch, from the far end
Al and Pete heading across the end of the loch towards the Spittal.
Al was now on fire, and way into the distance.
He may have needed the toilet.
We eventually arrived at the visitors centre at the Spittal. Mike?, Lynsey (that's the other Lynsey) were here and shortly to head of to the Shielin of Mark. We went inside and had a cup of coffee at the machine (take your cup with you), and also a look round the centre. Then Al went off to the toilet for a bit of a sit down. Pete and I decided that we would slowly head off over to the bothy, and since big Ian had just arrived, we told him to tell Al. I set off at my going somewhere pace this time, and had soon caught up and passed Pete. I reckoned that if I got over to the bothy, I could bag us all a few places. In no time flat, I had also caught up with Lynsey and Mike?, who were filling the water bottles. They could not remember if there was water at the bothy. I told them there was loads all the way. And then I just crashed on to the end of the track, and up and over to the bothy. I took the path to the end of the river and where it forks, took a bearing of 105 deg. OK, I had told Carl 101 deg, which is why he may have arrived a few hundred meters up stream. I was also slightly out, because my mini compass and thermometer were not quite reading east as East. THE THERMOMETER STORY...................... At this point, I must sidetrack to the story of the mini thermometer and compass that I had clipped to the outside of my rucksack. Priced at £ 2.99. A fine precision instrument. On may occasions throughout the entire crossing Al had checked the temperature with me. The thermometer had diligently always reported back as 10 deg, regardless of the actual temperature. This included the time at the party when it was snowing, and also at Invermallie bothy, and the walk to it along a windswept loch. It was adamant, 10 deg. This continued until we were on our way to Glen Tilt. At some point along here, the thermometer must have dropped out. The compass remained. BUT... and here is the odd thing.              From that point on, the weather improved dramatically. Now, I am not saying there was any correlation between the two events BUT........................... Of course, the other issue was the fact that the compass, may not have been completely accurate, as I discovered when I compared it to my proper Silva Compass. And back to the story ........................................... Eventually, I arrived at the bothy. My concept of bagging some spots was woefully off. It was more like a pop festival, with tents of every shape size and colour (except for powder blue), and it was getting hard to find a spot. I thought about crossing to the other side of the river, but though that was a pain if I wanted to come back to the bothy, which I did. So after a lot of walking up and down, and surveying suitable spots, and measuring and pacing and chatting, and generally wasting a shed load of time, I eventually put of Treeza, in the first spot I had thought about (it's often like that isn't it), just by the side of the river, facing where the sun would come up. It was a great little spot, and soon I had everything sorted and inside, and an army of crawling and flying beasties had descended onto my tent, as it was the best insect disco, nightclub and entomological (might not be a word that) shagging pad in town. I do not know what a bulk of these little beasties were, but they soon paired up and where at it hammer and tongs, just as they had been at Langdale. Anyway, I damp cloth soon quelled their ardour, and pretty much terminated an entire generation, by which time it was necessary to think about popping over to the bothy to cook up some nosh. And so I did.
Looking down to the camp.
Picture courtesy Al, since none of mine came out.
You can just see Treeza standing out like a yellow beacon.

And attracting every insect known to man.
Al and Pete arrived a while after, and set up on the opposite of the river. It was another good night, although it did get a bit cold as the evening wore on. I did not see much of Al and Pete (Morpeth) that night. I did spend quite a while sitting in the bothy with Peter (from Holland ) and Lynsey. I also took a picture but it did not come out, which is a shame. A few drams and a lot of laughs later, it was time to crawl off to my tent. By the time I got there, the insect army had vanished, and I walked across to a symphony of snoring. In fact so much snoring, that it really required a conductor. I could write more, and maybe I will add some, but for now that will do. Tomorrow we were all off to Tarfside, and another party at the Mason's. But that story will have to wait....... Tue 22nd May 2012 - Shielin of Mark to Tarfside
It was a bit colder than I had expected in the night, and because I was facing towards the wind direction in order to see the sunrise, I found that a breeze was blowing into the tent through the door, which on a Trailstar is a porch. So I put up the rather nifty Cuben Fibre door from Sean at Oookworks, and all was good, except of course that I could not see the sunrise. Since I was actually giving it big time ZZZZzzz when this happened, (possibly with nasal accompaniement, I do not know), then it mattered not. So, by the time I stuck my head out of the tent at something like 8.15, Al was almost packed, and so was Pete. "So, we never agreed a leaving time did we?" says I. "8.30 says Al" I was of course not surprised at 8.30, since it was invariably 8.30. Well, it was invariably 8.30 when Al left. As we know, and will see again before the end of this little saga, it will be 8.30 again that Al leaves. So Al and Pete headed off into the distance, and I faffed around in my tent packing and stuff, and generally being. LATE And I believe that I left something like 8.50 (ish)
As I crossed the stream, I met Pete (not Pete Shepherd, but this Pete. ========>) And together we walked up the hill via a route that may or may not have been the perfect line, but was pretty damned close I can tell you now. Over the other side, we started down the track that leads to Glen Lee. But, this is a rather bouldery steep LRT, and so since much of the heather had been burnt off, and also since the new heather was not too high, I decided to make a rather more direct line straight down to where the track finished. And this is what I did, bashing my way through the heather in a rather softer and much nicer straight line. It was most enjoyable, but with hindsight, may have been not so sensible in light of the fact that just after we arrived back on the track, we encountered another one of these.
And those are big rocks, not little pebbles
And that is what he looks like hidden the heather.
The heather that I had been bashing down through.
 Now, since this was the second one in two days, and another shortly, I am assuming there may well have been more. Maybe bigger. Maybe in the heather The heather I had just bashed through. Oh well. As it happens, I went back through the heather after this. I mean, I am not going to be intimidated by a little snake. Now, if we had Brown Snakes and Black Mamba's over here, that would be another thing altogether. So, we carried on down the track, and at the bottom where the river crosses, finally caught up with Al and Pete, who were just setting off. It was a HOT day, and getting hotter, and I stopped for water briefly, before following on after. It was now on the flat, which of course meant that Al would pick up speed, which he did. We carried on straight past the Sables of Lee, although I did stop here and a bit of a shoe faff, finally caught up a bit further on before the track bends to the right. Well, not quite everyone, but quite a few, who were having a rather nice sit down close to the old bothy type building that is set back from the track. Whilst we were here, it was time for a nice sit down, and get the shoes off the feet. I also needed to add a bit of tape over the plaster on my little toe, and also micropore up a couple of fingers. One of which I had managed to cut again the previous night. I know, I know, I should really not be allowed sharp things, as you can see from the picture of the knife below, which still had the dried blood from last nights finger incident.
By the way, all is well, and since I got home they have healed up nicely. Mind you I have not used that knife since.
Alan, Jim, Ian and Val
Val and Jim
 Whilst here, we were privileged to see a couple of Eagles. Carl will tell me shortly which Eagles they were. Maybe in Latin.
There were 2, but I only just managed to snap this one.
They were pretty damned impressive though
 Ok, so NOT that impressive, but I tried OK.
We carried on a bit further, Al striding out in front. And came upon this bad boy as well
OK, not quite as big as Al's but big
  As we approached Inchgrundel I spotted a figure that looked remarkably like Lynsey heading across. She had been to the Waters of Unich where the 2010 Cheese and wine party was held, in rather colder conditions. We caught up with Al just after the bridge, and everyone stopped again for another sit down and a chat and stuff. It was hot, and there was not really far to go, and it seemed like a sensible thing to do.
Not 100% sure what Al had been up to here, but too polite to enquire!
Then we were all off again, briefly, to the other end of the loch, where there is a nice little church with a rather fine wall to lean against.
The old chapel building at Kirkton
We stopped here for a lunch stop, and I aired my socks on my walking poles. Not the most popular act. Just before we arrived here, the other Lynsey, had managed to somehow blag a glass of white wine, from a couple who had probably just wandered down to have a gentle stroll and a peaceful afternoon by the loch, not realising that a rather motley, dishevelled and possibly smelly crew where going to turn up. I am not sure if Lynsey got the wine because they were very polite, or just plain terrified. It did not seem polite for us all to ask, although I had just said to them as I passed, not realising that Lynsey had blagged the wine. "I reckon you are going to need another bottle and a few more glasses". They smiled back, but interestingly, left in a bit of a hurry shortly after. Hey, at least I didn't go over and lick them! So, another stop over we headed off up the road, towards the turn off point at Westbank.
The Keep at Kirkton.
It is a bit unsafe now, but still impressive
Peter stopped near the car park, briefly for a chat, and I headed off to catch up Peter and Lynsey Pooler. No one was going to catch Al. Firstly, he could smell bacon and beer. He can do this at over 5 miles. Secondly, he had spotted several people in front, and his brain had gone into race mode. The switch had flipped. His suspension was lowered, and the gearbox ratios shortened, and he was off, knocking off the opposition one by one. Feet hardly leaving a mark on the ground, he was going so fast. We just carried on, at a reasonably goodly pace. In no time at all, we were at St Drostans, and eating bacon butties, and beer and tea.
St Drostan's Church (not the hostel building)
Now, had we known that a greedy bunch would arrive and drink several beers before dinner, in fact so many that we would not get beer with our meal, and that some of these people would take not one, but two, or even three, or more, then we may well have stayed and over indulged. But we didn't, we booked in for the early meal, and went to put our tents up. Fortified, and a bit less thirsty. But first, and as important, if not at this moment in time a heck of a lot more important, was going to the toilet (properly), and also having a jolly good shower, and washing some clothes. This was all done at the same time. I say at the same time, but that would be wrong, especially in the shower. I mean of course sequentially. The clothes would dry out at the tent, and in this weather, be good to go before the meal. Yes, it was that hot. So, I blagged a shower, and spent a bit of time prior to that washing some stuff (in particular, shreddies and socks), and having a long sitting contemplation. And thus, lighter, fortified, cleansed, and having pondered on the meaning of life, it was time to head off briefly, and put up tents and sort out my $hit.. But, in all honesty, we needed to get to the Camp site, and put up tents, and get organised before the meal. There were a lot of people there, and I would have got the tent up quicker without all the interruptions, but it was a lovely day, and there was no rush, and it was a party. More like a pop festival than a Challenge (minus the music). Of course some people had less success getting their tents up than others. Here is a fine example of how not to pitch an Akto, and I had seem some pretty dire attempts the night before at the Shielin of Mark
Also in the picture are the back bit of Dave in his tent,
Lynsey (Not Pooler) and Sandy as well as Treeza
who was keeping the insects from everyone else's tent
Let's look at that Akto in more close up detail
I wandered round generally socialising, and Al I think may have had a short nap. There were so many people that it is pointless naming names. You were all there, and you know who you are. I did for some foolish reason however take a picture of Jim's Toe repairs.
Best to see it with the bandage on I think!
Why?  We did go back for dinner, and sadly had to drink just wine, because all the beer had gone. And I had agreed to pay for the 2 can, yes, 2 cans that Jim had taken. He did pay it back. But had I known they were the last two mind!!!! It can be bloody tough on the Challenge.
I should know all the names, but I don't.
The ones I do know are
Val, Russ, Herman, Lynsey, Carl, Al, and the back of Pete's head.

On a plus note, it meant we could get to the Mason's early, and get revenge. Which we did, and a jolly fine and rather long evening was had, with many a fine person. I love you all. It was a pretty good night, but I only took a couple of pictures.
Carl, Lynsey and Peter
Louise and John
As you can see, Louise is taking medication for her feet.
And I am not sure what is going on with John

I do feel a caption competition coming on though :)
Not the most flattering photo of me, but thanks anyway JJ.
Especially after the photo I did of you :)
 
I spoke with many, Ale and whiskey were drunk in reasonable measure, and at some point during the course of the evening, I managed to get back to my tent, snuggle into my sleeping bag, and get to sleep. Indeed I did not get up for a pee either. Too bloody far to walk. It had been another great day, with great country and great people And it was time for sleep............................. Wed 23rd May 2012 - Tarfside to Northwater Bridge
Amazingly, I was up earlier than Al today (It wouldn't last). In fact I was packed away before Al was even completely out of his tent. Then again, I had been up for a panic toilet stop after my all night vigil. So, all packed away and ahead of the game, I left Al sorting stuff out, and walked up to St Drostan's for breakfast, and also to use their toilet (again). AND...... You won't believe this but ..... When we got there, ALL THE BACON HAD GONE!  Probably eaten by the same greedy bastards that drank all the beer. I have it on good authority CARL that some people had 2 Bacon Sandwiches. Gutted, Disappointed, I had to make do with and Egg Sandwich. It was good, it was very good, BUT, when you have set your heart on a BACON sandwich. You know what I am saying. So, anyway we had extra tea, and Al turned up, and I told him the terrible news. Have you seen a grown man weep? Lucky you were not there. Shocking! After breakfast, we loitered quite a bit an talked to folk, and generally did not much for a while. I paid up my bill as did others.
Nik and Alva
You can never have too many gadgets on your sack.
We know a song about that don't we everyone.
Shall we sing it.

Ten smart gadgets hanging on your sack .... etc etc
And after much saying goodbye to the wonderful people at St Drostan's, and using the toilet facilities, we set off. Al did not want to go the river route, and he did not want to do the Hills of Wirren, so in compromise, I went down the river, over the falling downy bridge, and Al went down the road. The agreement was that we would meet on the South side of the river after the first BIG bridge once he had been down to look at the Sand Martins. And I would wander down the rather longer side away from bloody tarmac. So we did. What I did discover after walking down the other side, is that there are one heck of a lot of new Landrover Tracks, going off in all directions. It makes the walking a lot easier, but not as interesting. Anyway, I set off across the bridge which had 2 brand new gates on it, one at either end obviously. And this sign
Unsafe bridge with nice new gates
So I am now thinking, what is the point of NEW GATES if the bridge is in such a shabby state? So again the bridge is very very shabby, with loose boards, and gaps, and dodgy looking wood, and a big drop, but still ok to get across. Maybe one at a time. Just as well Al went down the road. I headed up the field to the top track, rather than go along the bottom by the river and then up. Then just followed the track, that much of the way now is very very smart and new and wide and not full of big puddles. On route I saw hardly anyone at all at this end. But lots of wildlife, and some lovely views of the river.
The river on the way to Keanie
The river again on the way to Keanie
I did not follow the track all the way. I tried at times to use the edge of the fields. It made it a bit further, but you do get to walk on some grass. A bit past Keanie, on the rather dull LRT, I caught up with the 5 Fingers Man (Rob Hausam from Utah), who also had the mega light Cuben Rucksack, and we walked for a while having a chat. Rob had done the whole think in 5 Fingers Trekking feet thingies. Pretty impressive. Note.... Anyone remember his name, please tell me. (Thanks to Eddie and Al for that) After a while I left, to catch Al. On route I went past the rather splendid bridge near Milden Lodge
I had come across this by accident back in 2005.
In fact, the whole river is rather nice. As I approached the river before Haugard,I looked out for Al. This is where we said we would meet up, probably. He had not stopped, but had gone on. I of course did not know this, but assumed that was the case. I carried on, and met several folk by the side of the track. I had gone passed Roger Hoyle, and as I got past the bridge track, I caught up with Andy Williams. He had hurt his ankle and was struggling quite badly, but getting on with it. I suspect that some dropped out in a far better state, but Andy is well 'ard and maybe of stubborn stuff. He was going to get there no matter what. All power to him, good bloke. I offered medical stuff, and said if he wanted it at any time, I had a complete roll of Physio Tape, and he could use as much as he needed. I have always carried it just in case. And just in case happened for me in 2004, when I broke my leg. I used nearly a whole roll of the stuff (this is better), to support my leg. Worst bit was when the nurse had to take it off at Fort William for the X Ray. OUCH! Anyway, I carried on to try and find Al, leaving Andy. There were a lot of others following on by now, so I knew he would get a lot of support. I found Al a bit further on, and he had stopped for lunch and a rest. I had been going quite fast, and was also in need of a rest, because I can tell you. It was £ucking Hot So we had a goodly rest. David and Margaret Brocklehurst came by just as we were setting off. They were walking effortlessly, in the most amazing synchronised style. Arms legs, feet and poles all in perfect harmony and synchronisation with each other. I wish I had had a proper video. It was quite amazing. They would have won Gold. We stopped for some other reason, and Roger Hoyle caught us up. We walked along together, and then by a large pile of earth and rock by the left of the track, I spotted what I though was a bridge. I went to have a look, and low and behold there was a New Bridge across the river. This was brilliant, because it meant we would be able to go across to the Rocks Of Solitude walk. So I persuaded Al and Roger to go across, and we did. However, there was a sign on the new gate across the bridge as you can see below.
Now, I was expecting Ticks, and Midges and Snakes & maybe even Bulls. But, at no time, did I think I would be in danger from SNIPERS!
View from the new bridge
Another view from the new bridge
 There was a track to the left after the bridge. This is the way up, but we thought we spotted a narrow path up to the right. This is NOT the path. Take the track. The little track goes nowhere, and you end up in undergrowth and nastiness. And, you end up on the same track. The track ended at a junction of tracks. There are lots of choices, and nothing specific unless you head for the road. We decided to stay off the tarmac and  run parallel to the road as far as we could. But eventually, before you get to the path down to the Rocks of Solitude, there is a bit of a ravine and you have to climb over the fence to the road. It is a fence with barbed wire. The bit we went over had already been cut by someone, but I suspect it will be repaired. And since this is all new, it could well change. So, we popped onto the road and walked just up to the point where the pylons cross and the path goes down to the river. A nice chap did stop and ask us if we knew about this. Very kind. We will meet him again shortly. Take the track that goes down rather than staying high, and you get down to the rather wonderful track that goes along the river. In parts this has been hewn out of solid rock. Al might add to this, but I believe it was done by Napoleonic prisoners of war. Whatever the case, this is a wonderful route, and we walked along it to the bit with the seat. This year, the weather was excellent. Roger was I think Well Chuffed at coming with us. In fact I am not sure I should blog this to the rest of the world. Anyway here are a couple of pictures from the path looking down to the water
These in all honesty do not do it justice. We met the chap with his very old dog as he came past the seat, and he stopped for a chat. He had come here on his travels when he retired, to find places to walk. He loved it so much, he had stayed and never left the area. A really charming chap. After a while he left, and we also eventually headed off along the track, to find a place with some water, so that we could make a cup of tea, and also rehydrate, because there was very little water other than the river, and it was bloody hot, and I had run out of fluid. Eventually, we found a spot. Settled and brewed up I also filtered some water. I do not usually bother, but here, this close to civilisation, it seemed like a good precaution, and I got out the Delios Filter. Damned shame they are no longer available. I wish I had bought a couple now.
The river
Al with Tea
Roger with Roll up.
He normally looks a lot happier, honest
A bit before we left, Andy Williams with the iffy ankle arrived. He was struggling on, but we persuaded him to stop and get some fluids on board, and also rest his feet. Have brew. We offered tea, but he was just going to have water. Sometimes, a 5 minute break can make you a lot faster overall. It is a matter of psychology. After a descent rest, and a lot of fluids, and filling our hats with cold water from the river and sticking them on our heads, more than once (that was bloody fantastic), we set off. Andy was just finishing his rest. We followed the track down through the marvellous parkland, and eventually to the BLUE DOOR.
After the blue door, you come out onto the road to cross the bridge, and then follow the track on the opposite of the river into Edzell. It really is the most magnificent walk.
View from the bridge
A rather splendid view along the other side.
Looking down at the reflections in the water of the river.
It has a rather fine Impressionist feel to it.

Al had decided by now, that he was not going into Edzell. In all honesty, I think he was getting tired. It had been a pleasant, but LONG hot day, and he really needed to get his tent up and a lie down, so Roger and I said goodbye just before the bridge, and we went off to Edzell, while Al carried on to Northwater Bridge campsite. We went into Edzell, and first stop was the shop just past the garage, having resisted the Panamure Arms and beer. At the shop, we got a rather nice Ice Cream. I also bought a bottle of white wine for the evening, two bottles of Irn Bru, and also a can of beer, which I was going to hide (in my Croc) until we came up from the beach at St Cyrus tomorrow, so we could share it on the seat 2/3 of the way back up. So having got our stuff we then set off via as much off road as we could to the campsite. Starting out just behind the garage, and over the springy bridge, where quite a few people were swimming in the river.
We went via Chapleton, where we bumped into this fine fellow.
We thought about going further across, but the path was a bit lacking, and so eventually we went up the main track, through the nasty muddy bit, and over the wire that had been hung across for no proper reason as far as I can see. We set off down the road as far as Northgate, where I suggested to Roger, that we turn left and then take the track down to the camp site. In the past, I have always done the road, but this is no longer, and really much nicer than dicing with the cars, especially on the last bend.
A rather fine house
And then we were at the campsite, all booked in with keys and stuff. I put up Treeza in the wonderful sunny weather (unlike last time when it rained all eveing). Had a shower, cooked up some food. Dug out wine and whiskey, and went over to one of the tables for a rather excellent sociable evening, that went on and on and on. Again, many folk were there, and much fun and jolity was had. However, I cannot actually remember at what time I wandered off to my tent. I do remember that the last 2 standing were myself and Nik, and we were there for quite some time, generally chatting. I have NO PHOTO's of any of this, so if anyone can send me some pictures of the evening, or the campsite, that would be rather fine. I do know trhat the following morning Jim did commented on the lateness of our finish, and something about hearing every word, and 'What goes on the Challenge Stays on the Challenge' Anyway, I did at some point go to bed, and a hearty sleep was had. I believe at some point, Al had mentioned 8.30. I may have dreamt it. I was NOT going to achieve it anyway. And soon it would be the coast. And it would be finished. And it had gone so fast. And it had been Good! Thu 24th May 2012 Day 14 - Northwater Bridge to St Cyrus And so, all good things eventually come to an end, and this was to be the last walking day of this years Challenge. As normal, it had been a CHALLENGE, but it had still been good. So, where shall we go today then?
Obviously, I did not make 8.30. I was in all honesty, pretty close. But Al and Lynsey had gone. Al waved from the road and said he would see me later. At this point he did not know about the hidden beer, or he may have waited. I was going to catch him anyway at some point I hoped. So after finally getting everything ready, by about 8.45, and dropping the key off, I started out with Roger Hoyle for the final piece of the journey. Up the road, and we crossed the nasty main road, with its many hurtling cars and even scarier hurtling juggernauts. Survived that crossing, and went over the bridge by the river to pick up the road to Pert
Crossing the North Esk
At Pert, just after the little hut that sells fruit and veg, I left Roger, to turn left to Gallery. He was heading straight on. As I started to walk up this road, I realised three major things. 1. It was already getting bloody hot 2. I had forgotten to fill my water bottle 3. I had forgotten my water bottle Point 3 was not a major factor, because I had a platypus Points 1 and 2 were, because it was also empty. Bollocks! I decided to carry on, and see how things went. There are a few odd houses on route, I reckoned I could bang on a door, and there would be one of three outcomes 1. No answer 2. I could get water 3. I could get arrested The latter two points both provided water. However, as it happens there was a fourth option Shortly after this I was caught up by Sandy, and he had a big 1 litre+ water bottle and offered to let me share it. So together, we carried on up the long hot road past Gallery, where there is that enormous house
So, about the window tax
We carried on together, talking and sometimes just walking, all the way to Maykirk. Under the railway bridge and then turning right again. I snaffled some more water from Sandy, and then we headed up that very very long road to Canterland where that nasty little up and down hill is before Morphie
Perfect furrows on route
Finally, as we turned up towards Morphie, we caught up with Al and Lynsey, and I think Ian was also there. We sat on the wall, for a bit of a rest, and we were soon caught up by Carl and Dave, or was that the other way round? Anyway, we sat on the wall, and had a rest, and I aired my feet, and nabbed some more water.
Wood and flowerpot man model on the wall near Morphie
Morphie
Everyone but Sandy and I had rushed off, with Carl miles ahead by now. Sandy had stopped for photo's, and I was buggering about with my shoes and laces, and just generally having a bit of a faff. Oh, and taking a photo or two. And then it was over the hill of Morphie to St Cyrus. I caught Lynsey and Ian up on the way up the hill, and also Al, who was waiting near the top.
View from the hill
View from the hill a couple of years ago, when the rape was in full bloom
We had another brief rest, and then it really really was time to wander on down to St Cyrus.
Colourful
Finally at the top of the cliff, we made our way down that long long set of steps to the beach. The bloody tide was miles out, and we could see even more Challengers there. I cannot remember how many, but there were a lot. Well, a few anyway. Below are a few pictures of some of them On the way down, I started the circle for signing
Starting the circle
Early signings.
If you have a picture at the end please forward it.
Just before the tide washed it away.
Picture courtesy Andy Williams
Dave, Rob, Ian, Sandy and Freddie taking the photo
Carl and Lynsey

Me
Me again (pinched off Al's blog)
Al
Al and I (courtesy Ian Cotterill)
I love this picture.
Lynsey and Isabel
Looking up the beach
Sea view at St Cyrus
And then it was time to head up to the top again and get the bus. It was a hot long slog to the top. At the bench about 2/3 of the way up, Al,Sandy, Ian and I had a brief stop. I brought out the can of beer, that I had secreted in my Croc. It was most welcome.
Courtesy Ian Cotterill
 We drank the beer, and then headed up the final push, getting back to the bus with about 3 minutes to spare. Then it was back to Montrose and to Park. For some reason, none of the pictures I took of the campsite came out, which is a bit of a bugger. So we had several teas and chats at the park, and collected assorted stuff, like T shorts and Fleeces and Certificates. And chatted with Mr manning, and anyone else who would talk to us. Had more biscuits. Went and had a shandy. Paid for the meal, and then walked down to the Montrose Campsite to put up tents. There was a huge array of tents at the campsite, and more arriving by the minute. There was also one big family tent and a car at the far end. Completely enclosed by small tents. There was no way in a million years they were leaving before tomorrow. More people arrived. Much conversation. I went and had a well deserved, and definitely needed shower. I say I went. I started to go, but every time I arrived at a new tent I ended up in conversation. It took me 45 minutes to go from my tent to the showers. I also needed a descent sit down toilet. Unfortunately, the first one I went into had no paper. And nor did I, so it was bloody lucky I noticed at the start. I also washed underwear and shirt and trousers. Coming back, I hung clothes over the tent to dry, and then eventually, just put them on damp. They were dry in about 30 minutes. Then it was time to head back to the Park for more Shandy, and meal. I had to go and get some cash out as well, because I had given my last £40 to Al on arrival at the site, as he had managed to leave his only (take 2 ok) card next to his phone, and it had erased his chip. This happened to me about 2 months ago, and it is a complete pain. Even more so when it is your only card Sloman! So re-financed, I went to the Park for a final sociable evening amongst many friends old an new. The speeches were short, and the meal was good. And I only drank shandy all night. OK and maybe a whiskey or three. It was a splendid night, although Al went back early, because he was shattered. I arrived back at the camp site about 12.45 I think. Whatever the case, I was not the last one there. Faffed around for a while in the tent. Listened to music (it was better than the uncoordinated snoring), and went to sleep. Tomorrow it was home. So, our journey was over. We had gone from Trench foot to Sunburn,  And Hypothermia to Heatstroke. We had seen glorious views And felt a small bit of nature We had battled through Sun and Rain And Wind, and Snow We had seen isolation And a wondrous social life We had been High We had been Low We had been on the Challenge It had been fantastic


  Fri 25th May 2012 - Going Home

Leaving after the Challenge, is never a good day. And today was not a good day in several aspects. I had woken in the night with a bit of an upset stomach, and I had only been on Shandy last night, so it was not alcohol poisoning.
But something was not right with my stomach, in a big way. It was feeling a bit volatile in a way that did not bode well.
Not like in Turkey or Tunisia (that will be in a blog one day called romance is dead) but in a potential dangerous way none the less.
It could have been something eaten, or it could have been the bug thingy that had hit one or two Challengers, or it could have been Heatstroke, or it could have been a combination of any of these.
Whatever the case I woke feeling like SHIT.
And feeling like a shit.
And indeed shit did feature quite highly in the early morning program.
I jammed a couple of Imodium in fast, and later jammed another one in before we set off.

Now when I say jammed, I swallowed them. I did not attempt to use them like some bizarre suppository.

Nuff said, but I had a headache. Really upset stomach And, felt pretty damned nauseous.
All the wrong things for going home on a train a long way. I packed my stuff away very early considering the train was not until 10.32. In fact, under instruction from Lynsey, I had to make sure I had all my stuff packed before Al.

Which I did.

Rucksack all done, and ready to go, before he got his tent down. I should have taken a picture All was feeling ok (ish), but soon after we left the campsite, he was looking a bit white faced and not feeling great either. We said goodbye to those that had not already left to get the earlier trains. Then took our keys back And trundled over towards the general direction of the station. Then Al decided that we had loads of time, which we did, and we went to the Park to say goodbye to Mr Manning, and anyone else who was there. We did not even feel like a drink, so we just chatted with Louise and JJ, and then John, and Chris, and I also chatted to Dennis.

There were a few folk there, who were a bit concerned over Al's general condition. He had toughed it out this year, but he was not his normal self, and I am sure he will admit it. I promised to keep them informed as much as I knew.

Eventually, it was time to leave and we set off on our way to the station. On route, I popped into the Coop, to buy a load of fluid. We said many a goodbye from the station, and then eventually our train came in, and we got on to head to London. We had at a ridiculously low price (I say we, AL), procured 1st Class tickets all the way to Kings Cross.

So putting our sacks into a nice empty luggage rack, we settled into our fine adjustable seats, and awaited the continuous service as befitted our status.
We were not feeling great though, because we turned down everything more or less other than fluids.
In fact, for the best part of the first 4 hours I think intermittently, we both slept. I had drunk loads and loads of water, to try and re-hydrate. And not just from the heat of the last few days.

Nuff said again.

Later on after a good sleep, and a heck of a lot of fluid, I was feeling a bit better. We decided, that maybe a biot of food would not go amiss. Sadly, the service trollies had run out of hot food. In fact they ran out of most stuff. We did eventually get teas, but it was company policy to always start at a certain point, so on most occassions, since we were almost at the front of the train, The next carriage, was the bloke driving it, they had run out of food by the time they got to us. Add to that the forever coughing fraulein opposite, and the fact that the air conditioning was buggered, and I will mention the lack of food again.

So AL was not a happy bunny, what with feeling grotty and tired, he was now pissed off as well. And thus that is how we spent our day. Lounging, and sleeping, and making visits to the toilet. I had a wander up and down the train after Newcastle, but there were very few folk left on it. I did stop for a chat with Richard and his wife for a while. And after a long long hot journey, we arrived at Kings Cross.
I got my stuff off, and waited for Al.
He eventually appeared after grumping about some idiot standing in the way chatting. We bumped into Mick on the platform, and I talked to him as we headed off.  

AND THEN, I LOST AL

I looked round, and he was nowhere to be seen. I walked round to the ticket office to get my ticket for Cambridge. I assumed he may turn up there. I got the ticket, and then went back round to see if I could find him.  

NOTHING, NO SIGN.

After a few minutes they were doing last boarding for the Cambridge train. I hoped Al had enough cash for the ticket. But I still could not find him, and needed to get the train.  
So I did.
 I tried to call him.
Left 2 messages.
Left 2 text messages
Sent an email.
But, that was the last I heard from Al for about 3 days, when he eventually resurfaced in the blogsphere.

For a short while there, I was a bit worried. I had not said goodbye.
Ok, he wasn't going to get a kiss, but maybe a MAN HUG!  
Never mind, next time mate.
And I was home..................................................  

OR WAS I?

I texted Lucy on route, and told her that my train would be in at 6.05 (ish).
No sign of her when I left the station.
I rang, assuming she was ion the Car Park.  

"You said 6.45" she said "I haven't left home yet"   
(It was 6.05, I have the text message to prove it!)

Now I was well chilled out, and still on a Challenge Cloud.  
"I think you will find that was 6.05" says I  
"But no worries, I will walk round to your parents house and meet you there". "That will be a lot easier than coming to the station"

And I stuck my pack back on my back and did the 20 min walk to there house.
Had a nice chat, and a cup of coffee.
Lucy arrived about 15 min after I got there.
We stayed for more chat. And then we went home.  

IT WAS OVER!

BUT, Lucy, Olly and Harriet were there, and that was a good thing.

And the dog was pretty pleased to see me as well.  

SO, UNTIL NEXT TIME!  

Just the kit report to come, sometime in the next week. I
 need to remember what I took and how it did. Seemples :) ........................................................................................................................................................

In memory of all those Challengers we lost this year.  

Gone but not forgotten. J
ust walking somewhere else!  

John Towers  
Ann Maden  
Kate Wood  
Alec Cunningham  
Jack Addison  
Peter Hay

........................................................................................................................................................



This was Windwood and Clapton Live at madison Square Garden (Voodoo Chile)  
NOW since this Video was pulled from You Tube it is  
Windwood and Clapton Live at Crossroads Guitar Festival  (Voodoo Chile)  
The music is the tune that got me through the tedious road bits.  
And for My Hoyle :)









6 comments:

  1. Eric and Stevie are now a little bit richer! Thanks Andrew for turning an old hippy on to this version. If only I'd know of it a week earlier, it would have drowned out the storms (pardon the pun). That "Mr Hoyle".

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    Replies
    1. Always good to convert the already converted.

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  2. Nice report, in retrospect you probably think that you enjoyed it! Not the route I vetted but maybe you are saving that for next year, or did a bit of drizzle put you off the hills?
    Grumpy

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    Replies
    1. Ah ... Pete

      Al was not quite the man he has been, and some of the proposed days were long and boggy and just plain 'ard. By the end, just smiling took all of his energy.
      And of course I had to stay with my leader.
      Even then we broke Dave after just 4 days.

      But, once Al has his engine rebuild, and nice shiny new parts, I am sure things will revert to how they were.
      Day 3 had to be different, and even that was touch and go at times.

      Next time, weather permitting.....or even not permitting :)

      Delete
  3. Excellent account and great photo's

    ReplyDelete