TGOC 2023 - Shiel Bridge to Kinabber Links (Part 1 - Days 0 to 2) - An Intro of sorts

DAY 0 and earlier, we will get to the start! 

Ahhhhh.... Was it only a year ago that I did 2022?

Anyway, here we are again.

Now, for the uninitiated, this is not a travelblog or a blow by blow description of a crossing of Scotlandshire. 😴🥱.
No sir, as many will know, there is an element of fiction in these 'ere posts init.

OH! I should mention there will be swearing and rudeness!

IF you suffer from the 2023 easily offended VIRUS, best to STOP reading now, as this is how it is, and I do not give a flying ***K about your sensibilities or needs!

Well, it all began last year when I told Sue that I was stopping and that was my last, and that the insanity of 15 was enough.
As we know, she raised an eyebrow in an admonishing and bullshit sort of way, and assumed I may have to come back AGAIN!
Ahhh she knows me so well.

So, by the time for submission, I already had a route.
OK, 3 routes TBH.

I put my application in, and also booked the sleeper train.
Yes, yes, arrogant belief, but also, I had a contingency plan if I was dissed and left out.

As it happens, I was IN again (Bugger!)

I have in the past done several solo, and several accompanied trips.
This was to be solo, although, day 1, was to be with a friend (Martin Rye).
I had unfinished business from 2015 when the Munro Beinn Fhada was off limits due to ice and snow.
That was NOT to be the case this year as it happens.
It was hot.
People apparently complained it was too hot.
"Are you fucking kidding me?"
It was a bloody belter of a day!
You should have been here last year when it utterly pissed it down and rivers were NOT crossable without a lucky prayer and GOD on your side.

But I digress...
This is a theme that will recur!

Anyway, route submitted!
I'll forgive Roger for asking for a FWA where I would never consider a FWA, and also a FWA to my FWA. He's a great bloke and knows my adjusted route was just to placate the H&S needs.
NO WAY on God's Earth I was doing any of that unless it was truly the apocalypse!

Christ, I still haven't started.

Moving rapidly on, with everything in place, and my NEW Atom+ 40 L pack in outrageous colours ready to go, I headed to Euston to meet up with martin and the sleeper train!

Oh yes, about the teeth FFS!

4 days before the OFF, I had a really painful tooth.
Luckily, my friend is a Dentist (although, he still makes me pay for treatment, which seems out of order, just sayin' Myles!).
But anyway I was at the Dentist twice with raging agonies that are similar to Man flu in their severity.
The worst bit was the antibiotics that cause vomiting if mixed with alcohol.
It meant, I couldn't realistically drink any alcohol until the 1st evening in Shiel Bridge, so the journey up was to be a DRY EVENT 😟😨😭😭

We met a few chaps at the Euston Tap sinking many bevvies, as a mourned into my diet coke.

The train was boarded.
The buffet car full already of fucking people NOT on the TGOC hogging all the bloody seats with their great fat arses.
Fuck it, I bought some more coke and went to my lie down bunk.
I couldn't drink anyway so **********

Special mention to having en-suite toilet and shower in your personal cabin. OH YEEEESSS!

And then all of a sudden it was the next morning.
Went down to breakfast (cos I was in posh section) and had a chat with Andy Pinkard for a while.
Then it was back to the room, grab bag, do a paranoia check of literally everywhere, and hop off the train to meet Martin, who had travelled up in seated cattle class. (NEVER AGAIN! he said).

A couple of breakfast window train views.
The weather forecast was looking great!

Not having his own personal toilet, he used one in the station, and then outside to meet Lindsay.
I haven't mentioned Lindsay. However, we were intending to catch a bus about 13.50 to Shiel Bridge.
Then Lindsay mentioned that she had driven up, and so the day before we had arranged to cadge a lift.
Thus we met up, stashed our stuff in her car, and all went off for a breakfast wander around
Fort William, and then later a slow sightseeing drive to Shiel Bridge.

NOW, we will come back to the loss of photos story at a later, far more ranting state (not in this episode), but I took a zillion images, MOST of which were lost in a later incident, so sadly only a minority of the 1st 10 days, that I had managed to upload are still available 😭😭😭.

Back to the car for the road trip, and Lindsay's Beaver fell out.

Time to introduce DAVE, later to be knighted, but that's for this evening!

Oh, and Lindsay's Sat Nav!

The Return Journey!

On route, a stop off at Spean Bridge Command monument.

We stopped a few more times on the way to the Hotel at Shiel Bridge.
Martin & I were actually in the YHA 4 km away, but thanks to our fine Chauffeur, we got a lift there, and back in the evening, and then WOW, to the Hotel start point the next morning.

As the hotel was not ready when we got there, we also popped up the road to the café for afternoon tea.

PM Tea in the sun!

Then back to the YHA.
As YHA's goes, this was OK.
Good staff, and spectacular views across to the hotel side of the loch.

A clean up, and then Lindsay picked us up to go back to the pub for a beer or 2, and a meal.
Also, Pierre (bloody miracle man) was going to be there.
Pierre and I had discussed this adventure for a while.
He would see where he could get to, and we would meet at key points.

Fort Augustus
The Feshie Bothy?

If you are unaware of Pierre's last 12+ months (and you are on Facebook)

This is just one of his posts, but the one that explains OH...SO... MUCH.... 

Pierre's Journey

So, Pub it was.
Sadly all the pictures of this evening (well, most of them) are gone 😭😭

Oh and Saskia did ask me if I was the LEGEND Andrew Walker 
Obviously, she is now my favourite person on the TGOC bar none!

I reckon more infamous than Legend, but I'll take that.

It was a great evening.
An evening during which Dave the beaver was Knighted as Sir Dave by the reverend David Albon.

Got a lift back to the YHA with Lindsay, whilst attempting to drop Pierre off at the campsite.
Not that he was 100% sure where it was by then, so our route involved a track, turning round and then going the right way.
Then back to hostel.
Lindsay was going to pick us up in the morning to go to the start point.

It was destiny.

And so we went to sleep land.

Shiel Bridge to Alltbiethe YHA via Beinn Fhada {Munro 1} (23.6km, 1335m)

OH... And the MUSIC... It's COMPULSORY

It was signed out and ready to go.
Sadly many of these early pictures were lost in the great phone ***K UP on day 10.

But Pierre headed off south (hero) and Martin, Lindsay and myself headed NE (ish).
It was early and already the day was getting hot.
We were going HIGH, it was going to be a tough day.
We passed the shop and where Lindsay had pondered getting a fleece she wouldn't want the previous day. As luck would have it, it was shut. God forbid, her pack was big enough anyway.
Dave was perched on the outside. I think he was navigating.
Actually, was he even there? Had he gone with Pierre?
We parted company with Lindsay a bit past Morvich as she was heading up Gleann Lichd and we were bound for Abhainn Chonaig, Gleann Choinnechain and then the climb up to Beinn Fhada.

All I can say is, this was a lot further than I remembered.
OK, last time was on my 10th  and we never made the top due to snow and ice.
It was going to GO this time.
We stopped a few times on route to rest feet and to get water.
IT WAS A ****ING HOT day already, and we would hit the top at the hottest part.. 🤦

Not many pics here sadly but I still have a few from the summit.
The pictures won't do it justice, as they were stunning.
Probably some of the best 360° views I have seen.

Here they are in a random order, as some are mine that had been uploaded to FB and some are Martin's.
As I say, enjoy what there is, and next time I am not doing this route.

I mention this having been to Bill's 79th Birthday and fallen and broken 2 ribs along the edge of LochCallater 🙈🤦🤦

Despite the heat, it was quite windy on the summit, so we started to head along the ridge.
Weirdly at times because of the shape, you can catch glimpses of Alltbeithe Hostel, but for about 2½ hrs it never actually gets any bloody nearer.

What I will say is that this is an absolute beaut of a route (in good weather).
Well worth putting on day 1 of your TGOC.

Somewhere past Sgurr a Dubh Doire we bumped into Jotaro and Chris. ( I hope his name is Chris as I walked all of day 3 with him... )

For much of this there is a reasonably visible track, although not always distinct.
The final descent down to the end of the Gleann Lichd track and to the footbridge is totally off piste.
It would be a lot less fun in clag.

As we got to the bridge before the hostel, we bumped into Tony and Lee. Lee was not having a good day.
After a chat and a check, we headed to the hostel.
I was booked in, but Martin was heading further up the Glen, as we had different plans for tomorrow.

I cannot remember the name of the guy running the hostel, but he was a good chap, and at the time of running, rushed off his feet.
So I bought 2 bottles of coke to drink and then waited to book in.
Martin headed off, and eventually I booked in and moved my stuff into the bunkhouse at the rear.
It was going to be heaving tonight.
Luckily I had a meal to cook on my stove as there was no food for sale.

OHHHHH for the wonderful Hannah and her scones and soup and tea and coffee.

I seem to remember it was quite a good night.
NOT that good but good.

Gave a chap from the US some rehydration tabs as he was looking well peaky. IMHO, he had mild heat stroke. He seemed better by the next morning, and made it to Cougie OK.
When it's hot, get a hat on, and most importantly, sunscreen and LOTS OF WATER.

There was some concern about Jackie Clark, who finally turned up around 22.00 after a very slow day up Gleann Lichd.

Not much snoring, unless I did.
So it was to be a reasonably early start tomorrow as I had a plan to go high.

DAY 2 - Alltbiethe YHA to Cougie via NOT the intended route (25.3km, 580m)

And so with NO bloody pictures to talk of today, here I was heading down the track to Athnamuloch.

It's a bit of a fag of a walk but I walked much of it to the bridge with a fine chap from the USA.
I think it was Tyler... ???? 🤷

I had written down a list of all the names as notes on my phone so I would remember them when the time came to do the blog.

Phone.... The one in a sodding mystery location near Dubh Loch... 🙈🤦

He stopped at the bridge and I bumbled over, stopping for a chat with a young lad (about 20min) who was waiting to go up to Camban Bothy as part of the work party.

Eventually off I toddled, looking for a path, but then giving up and just heading across the rufty tufty to find the track at the far side. It was my intended route to eventually go up to Carn a Choire Ghairbh and then follow the river down to the track and thus to Cougie.

A nice track out, despite the heat, and the section of collapsed road that involved a bit of bog.
However, when I eventually got out to the cut off point there were 2 things blatantly obvious.

  1. The route over to the start of the climb was tufty grass and a total bog all the way, so this was going to be bloody hard work and wet foot to get to.
  2. More importantly though it was also obvious from looking, that what had appeared as a steep climb up, was in fact a really overgrown wet green coloured gorge.
    The sort of thing that totally knackers you until the point that you slip and die.
As you can see from the map, I did ponder it, and even ventured into the wet land of misery twice.
Eventually however I had stern words with myself.
It was going to be a pain in the arse, maybe worse, and I wanted to get to Cougie, as I had a bed and a meal waiting there.

With common sense prevailing (a rare thing), I returned up the track to where I had come across.
That was going to be 6km and 1¾ hrs of my life that I would NEVER get back... 🤷

And so I trudged in heat, stopping for water where possible, all the way back and along the track to the Cougie cut off.

Also, somehow wandering up the track, I say track, it's a narrow somewhat overgrown track, I totally missed the small bridge across, and ended up going up what seemed like a never ending track.
It was going in roughly the right direction, and I could have cut off right, but I thought...
Bugger it, let's see where it goes. Hoping it wouldn't end up at some horrid barbed wire fence and a a wade through a river.

Well, as luck would have it, all was well, and I arrived at the main track to Cougie.

It was still ****ing hot, and when I eventually got to Loch nan Gillean, I stopped for water.
Not in the loch, but in the little feeder stream.
This must be the place where all the sodding midges were waiting, because by the time I had the water and was back to my rucksack, the annoying little bastards were out nibbling away.

I chucked the water down my neck, pack on and went up the track at pace to find some breeze.
About 50m did it than God, and they all ****ed off to annoy someone else.
Why someone can't make a midge bomb and send it to Russia I don't know.

And then as if by magic, I was at the wonderful oasis of utter loveliness that is Cougie.
I hadn't been here since 2017 when Mel's dad Brian was still alive.
They have had a tough few years over covid, but it was great to be back and see smiling faces.
And as ever, they did us proud.

Sadly no pictures of the evening here which is a shame.
If anyone has any, please send them too me to add.

It was a lovely evening, great company as ever, good food, and they had beer.
Plus my mini parcel.

And that is all I am going to write.
Mainly because I have forgotten anything else, and I am still sad at the loss of all those pictures.

But hehho...
Tomorrow is another day, and I was headed to Fort Augustus.

YEP... You are correct.
By the end of day 3, I would still have NOT used a tent! 😀😀

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