TGOC2012 – Day 9 – Nethy Bridge to Cock Bridge

If you’ve followed my story all the way from Glenelg: Thank You for sticking with me – but don’t worry, this is when things start to pick up.

There was something strange going on when I woke up.  Something felt odd.  Different.  I unzipped the tent.  Flippin’ ‘eck!  What was that bright thing in the deep blue sky?  Where had the grey murk gone?  It was sunny and there was only the occasional fluffy white cloud in a beautiful clear, blue sky.  Yes! Day 9 would be going ahead as planned!

The 2nd Sunday was always going to be the tricky day in this year’s route.  It should be fine in good weather but if I had to backtrack then it would take me more than a day to get back on schedule and it would have involved some morale-sapping plodding in the wrong direction.  To wake up to such glorious weather was a wonderful feeling.  Even though my stopover in Nethy Bridge would add on a couple of miles to an already long day (about 20 miles as originally planned), I felt positive about the walk that lay ahead.

The day would be in three parts.  First of all, the road and track walk to Dorback Lodge and then on to Geal Charn Beag.  Then The Castle and fording the Water of Caiplich.  Then, finally, a long walk along Glen Loin, Glen Avon and the River Don to Cock Bridge.

I was nervous about the Water of Caiplich and The Castle.  My Vetter had suggested going this way, rather than Ca-du Ford, but I was worried that there would be too much water for me to cross a steep, rocky, treacherous ravine and I would have to turn back.  Also, this was a “phone-in” day and I was concerned that I’d get trapped somewhere with no phone signal and that people would be out looking for me.

I presume this is Dorback Lodge. There was a newer, inhabited dwelling nearby.

The walk to Dorback Lodge seemed to go on forever.  The occasional car passed me on the road and I wondered why the children in the gardens weren’t at school, but then I remembered it was Sunday.

At Dorback Lodge, I had a choice of tracks – so, of course, chose the wrong one.  This was another occasion when things just didn’t feel right so I got my GPS out and realised that the grassy track to my right, which looked like it was just a local shortcut to feed the cattle, was really the track I wanted.  Thankfully I’d not walked too far in the wrong direction before I noticed.

At the end of the track, near Carn Ruadh-bhreac, there was a basic shooting hut where I stopped for a breather.  This would be a perfectly adequate shelter if I needed to turn back later on, but there was no phone signal so I’d need to phone Control from the top of the hill, if possible.

On the walk to the shooting hut, I’d clearly seen which way the path continued up Geal Charn Beag but – sitting outside the hut – I’d lost sight of it and had to tramp my way through the mini-heather until I found it again.  The map shows a path, but it’s actually a pretty good track until a bit further than shown on the map.  There are some boggy patches but I was counting my blessings at how easy the going was, compared with how bad it could have been.

Just past the end of the drivable part of the track there was a stone memorial:

The views from Geal Charn Beag were magnificent.  I felt like I was on top the world, even though I was only at around 750 metres, and there were other hills in the distance in all directions; some with snow on them and some a mixture of browns and greens.

The descent to the Water of Caiplich, at The Castle, was always going to be steep – whichever way I chose to go – and I wasn’t sure how close I needed to get to my Vetter’s suggested crossing point.

Around The Castle and the Water of Caiplich

I could see that the fording would be relatively easy; I just had to choose an easy place to climb back up the other side of the ravine.  The Water of Caiplich was full of slippery rocks and I picked my way across very carefully.  From above, I’d been able to see an obvious way to contour around Carn na Ruabraich and find the track along Glen Loin.  Now that I was standing in the water, I lost my bearings and I spent an incredibly hard half an hour  climbing up a waterfall up a sheer cliff.  Believe me, it was easier to grip the rock sticking out of the grass and heather, and to scramble up, than to stay upright on what turned out to be a very slippy and crumbly hillside.  (I would love to know if other people do odd things like this!)

Eventually, the hill flattened out a bit and I re-checked my GPS.  Bother!  If I’d stayed a little South and West, I could have avoided most of that climb.  The annoying thing was when I had to walk DOWNHILL to join the track – but at least I had a good vantage point and it really was beautiful up there.

I’d now completed the first two sections of today’s walk and all I had left was about 19km along good tracks.  It had been a brilliant day in excellent weather and I was really enjoying myself.  However, the physical aspects of the ascent and the scrambling were taking their toll, and next few hours were quite hard work.

When I first planned my route, I had intended to stay at Jenny’s Bothy on the Old Military Road just past Cock Bridge.  Unfortunately, the hostel had closed down so I’d had to change my plans.  I’d been given a few suggestions for good camping spots near the Allargue Arms at Cock Bridge, but I was now thinking that I’d try to get a room at the hotel if I made it that far.  There were lots of excellent places to camp alongside the Loin, the Avon or the Don – but I had to phone Control and I couldn’t get a signal on my phone.  I was safe; the weather was good; I had plenty of food, but if I didn’t phone in tonight, Control might think I was in trouble.  I turned on my phone several times and – at last – got a signal.  Phew!

I phoned Control and spoke to John (whose database didn’t seem to know where Cock Bridge was.  Maybe it’s censored?)  I told that him that everything was fine and I’d be spending the night somewhere in the region of Cock Bridge or Corgarff that night.  It was such a relief to have made that phonecall; I could now relax knowing that nobody would be worrying about me.

Physically, I was now running on empty and wanted to stop for the day.  It had gone 8pm and I was tired and, although I didn’t feel hungry, I knew I needed my dinner.  I didn’t have the phone number of the Allargue Arms and I didn’t want to walk all the way there, past some excellent camping spots, only to find that there was no room at the inn. Then I had a brain-wave: look up the phone number on the internet on my mobile phone.  Within 5 minutes I’d found the number and booked a room.

I arrived at the hotel just after 9pm.  The facilities were simple but there was Real Ale and the landlord made me some dinner, even though they normally stop serving at 9.  This had been a cracking day but I was now exhausted and, after dinner and a couple of pints of beer, I had an early night.

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4 Responses to TGOC2012 – Day 9 – Nethy Bridge to Cock Bridge

  1. alan.sloman says:

    I don’t think Challenge Control would have been *too* bothered if you hadn’t telephoned that night and made the call the following day – they get more nervous when Challengers are overdue by a day or so.
    That was a cracking day by the look of it. 🙂

    Like

  2. Laura says:

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one!
    I’m referring to me on all fours going up the last bit of Mount Keen – I was worried that quite a strong gusty wind would knock me over! The guy I met on the way coming down towards me with his hands in his pockets obviously wasn’t worried by the wind – only by the strange crawling woman! He did take quite a detour to avoid me!

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    • Judith says:

      Hi Laura. The worst bit is when you realise that the ground is now completely flat and the wind has dropped but you’re still crawling and there’s now a crowd of people watching you (but at least I now know it’s not just me!)

      Like

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