Posted in uk.rec.walking on 4th July 2008 (although I spelt Acharacle wrong if you were wondering why you can’t find it). It’s good to re-read this trip report; I’d forgotten what a sociable crossing I’d had!
Yes, I know this was over a month ago but I’ve been busy. Photos still not sorted or captioned but I’ll let you know when they’re ready. [Edit: The photos are here]
For each day I have given my planned route (off my route sheet) and distance/ascent. This is followed by notes I took at the end of each day. The text preceded by “–” is comment added after the event.
My 3rd TGO Challenge. I was on the standby list until the second week of May [Edit: This must have been March, not May] and had been planning the Cape Wrath trail as an alternative. I wore Inov8 Roclites again, so got wet feet but decided not to wear the Paramo trousers this year as they’re too warm for me. I used my Karrimor Jaguar 65 litre pack and my Hilleberg Akto as on my previous two crossings.
Fri 9th May. Travel to Acharacle
Left home at 0710. Arrived at Acharacle at 2000; earlier than planned (2130) but bus from Corran did not turn up. Hitched a lift with the Acharacle dentist. Checked into hotel and dropped off rucksack, then walked to Arivegaig and back (about 8km) to be sure I’d started from the West Coast (and it saved me having to do it in the morning.)
— What a drama getting to the West Coast of Scotland can be. The last sixty miles seemed to be more difficult than the previous 300. The Ferry Men persuaded the dentist to give me a lift; thanks to all involved as I was starting to think I’d have to start my trip by walking West for two days. I was quite determined to walk to Kentra Bay/Arivegaig on the Friday evening, rather than in the morning, but it was almost dark when I got there.
Sat 10th May. From Acharacle walk to Arivegaig/Kentra Bay then back to Acharacle to sign out. 22km distance / 960m ascent
6km road-walking to get into my stride. Plan was to stay south of Ben Resipol and head east. Very misty, so difficult to pick out a route. Pitched on a dryish part of a bog and had trouble finding a decent drinking water supply! Excellent FM Radio 4 signal.
— Isn’t it ironic that, when surrounded by bog, there is never any drinking water. I wouldn’t say my first night’s camp site was ideal but it didn’t flood and I could have slept on a washing line.
Sun 11th May. Scotstown – Track NE through forest – Glen Gour (Lots of river crossings?) – Corran/Inchree Ferry. 33/600
Long tough day but good weather helped. The Glen Gour river crossings were OK – but I often went up to my knees in bogs. Filthy by the time I reached Inchree. Chocolate fudge pudding.
— I stayed at the Inchree Bunkhouse on my first Challenge in 2006, but I had a private room this time. My shower looked like there’d been a mud-slide by the time I was clean.
Mon 12th May. Inchree – Lundavra – Kinlochleven via West Highland Way. 23/658
Pleasant easy-going day. Bit boggy going up to Lundavra but West Highland Way was easy. Walked, on and off, with Ken and Brian. Brian is a first-timer and is having a lot of trouble with his feet. Hopefully he can find a solution and persevere. Atlas Brewery 2 Sisters and pasta for dinner.
— I thought I may be able to get a bed in Kinlochleven but ended up camping. I was invited to the pub but preferred to sleep.
Tue 13th May. Follow R Leven to Blackwater Reservoir – NE up Allt an Inbhir – Allt an Ruadha Dheirg – Loch Chiarain Bothy – Allt Feith Chiarain – Skirt round An Diollaid to Corrour Station – Follow S shore of Loch Ossian 30/870
Overall a good day although some parts were very tough and I’ve camped a couple of km short of my ideal destination. Walked, on and off, with Waggy, Michael, Allen, Fran, Fiona and Ken. The energetic bunch went over the top of Beinn a Bhric / Tom an Eoin / An Diollaid but Ken and I were glad to skirt round following the contours. There was an unexpected green track which helped but it was still a 3-pairs-of-socks day. Brian is camped just half a mile back; it’s good to see he’s still going. Had a chip butty and cup of tea at Corrour Station; excellent!
— Ken and I were not absolutely sure if there would be food at Corrour Station but there’s a B&B which also does meals and drinks for non-residents. I don’t think she was expecting so many customers, and her trade is obviously usually governed by the train timetable. That chip butty was great. The peak baggers arrived just after we’d finished eating; they looked exhausted.
Wed 14th May. Uisge Labhair – Bealach Dubh – Culra Lodge – Ben Alder Lodge – N shore of Loch Ericht. 30/600
These 20-mile days are hard going and I reckon it was actually a couple of miles longer given the winding course along the river and the extra couple of km at the end to find the hotel. The hotel was struggling to cope with so many Challengers – rooms were not ready at 7pm; there was no hot water and staff were working many hours after they should have finished for the day.
— This was the toughest day for me. It just seemed to go on for ever and ever and ever. It was good to be walking with people (although we did not constantly walk in a group) as I needed a bit of moral support to keep going. I could see Dalwhinnie before we got there and I had a feeling the hotel would be at the far end of town; it was. I could happily have killed someone at the hotel. We arrived at about 6:55pm and were fed some cock-and-bull story about why the rooms weren’t ready. I eventually got into my room at about 20 past 8 and had a luke warm shower and washed all my clothes. I had been told they served food until 9:15pm, so there was no rush to get back to the bar/restaurant. However, when I ordered food at 9pm I was told that they had stopped serving; I pointed out that they had NOT stopped serving and, lo and behold, some food arrived. Grr! I was cross! (I got a free packed lunch and some beer out of it but, at the time, all I wanted was to get a shower after a long day and have something warm to eat.)
Thur 15th May. Allt Cuaich – Allt Coire Chuaich – Follow contours round the N of Bogha-cloiche – Maol an t-Seilich – Cross R Tromie at dam at NN763881- E shore of Loch an t-Seilich. 18.5/450
Had a late start (9:30ish) due to visiting Post Office to send back maps and a post card. Morning was easy enough – long climb up a track – but the afternoon was hard work – hacking through heather up steep hills. 3/4-length trousers a BAD idea. Nice camping spot by Allt Bhran.
— Ow, my legs! I think I must have lost the path – or maybe there is no path – but this was hard work. My legs, already sun-burnt, were ripped to shreds by the heather. I did do some proper map and compass work to plan the best way to go across hills without having to go any higher than I had to.
Fri 16th May. LRT to Glen Feshie – Cross glen at Carnachuin – Follow R Feshie S & E – Geldie Burn. 27/680
(Written next morning). Managed to cross the Feshie at the ruin, so saved 4km over going up to the bridge. Unfortunately the track takes a different route to that shown on the map so I had to cross two fords which were worse than the Feshie. It started raining in the afternoon and poured down all night. I made it to White Bridge where there are several tents, and not all Challengers.
Sat 17th May. White Bridge – LRTs and roads to Braemar. May go on to Loch Callater Lodge . 22(30)/680(+)
(Written next morning). It stopped raining in time to take down the tent, but I set off in waterproofs as it was still cold and overcast. Tony soon caught me up and we walked together all day. Braemar was only 9 miles away and was reached before 11am. First stop: Café.
After a visit to the grocery store I went to another café and ate as much as I could. Then a quick visit to the Fife Arms. The walk up to Loch Callater Lodge was easy, apart from almost getting lost, and there were still beds available when I arrived – so I took one. A fun evening!
— I only spent a couple of hours in Braemar but I managed to have 2 meals and a pint and do some food shopping. I now realised that, despite starting a day after most people, I was now a day ahead of the crowd as most people were planning to spend Saturday night and Sunday in Braemar before a leisurely walk up to the Lodge. Stan and Bill were excellent hosts at Loch Callater lodge and I learned a lot about whisky and whiskey. I can also vaguely remember joining in some raucous singing, but hopefully nobody else can remember this!
Sun 18th May. Callater Burn – Jocks Road – Glen Doll – Clova. 30(22)/760(-)
Having a bed meant that there was no tent to take down in the morning, so I was walking at 7:15am; I was a bit nervous about Jock’s Road so was keen to get going. I soon lost the path and, with snow falling and bog underfoot, I relied on my pre-programmed GPS route. The final 3 miles road walk was boring and hurt my feet but I arrived at the Clova Hotel bunkhouse at 3pm. Washing nearly dry now (8:15pm); Dry, clean socks!
— Blimey, it was a hard climb up to Jock’s Road. This was the only part of my route that I had been advised to prepare a Foul Weather Alternative for and I can see how it could have been necessary, as it was quite exposed in places. Still wearing my shorts, I didn’t hang around in the snow and I would have welcomed having my bothy bag with me for a lunch break. The Clova Hotel bunkhouse was good and I soon had all my washing dry; laundry was becoming an obsession!
Mon 19th May. Green Hill – Muckle Cairn – Burnt Hill – Cairn Caidloch
– Road to Tarfside. 22/725
Breakfast wasn’t served until 8am, so I had a late start to the steep ascent up to Loch Brandy. I changed my route a couple of times – mainly due to losing the path – and was accompanied by Caburn for the last couple of miles into Tarfside. Tea and cake at St Drostans was very welcome. There must be about 20 tents on the field; 100 expected tomorrow!
— Tarfside was great. I’ve deliberately not gone there before as it sounded a bit cliquey to me, but the atmosphere on the field was good. I met up with old friends and joined in the perennial Akto or Laserlight discussions.
Tue 20th May. Paths S of Tarfside – LRT S of Craig of Dalhastnie – Holmhead – LRT S as far as B966 – Road to North Water Bridge. 25/340
Fried breakfast, courtesy of Mike. Walked with Ron all day. Edzell was as friendly as I’d been told. North Water Bridge campsite is very noisy due to the A90. Still planning to finish at Inverbervie.
— Mike had heard of my search for a Tarfside Veggie breakfast and kindly offered to share the supplies his daughter was bringing in for him. Eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes and potato bread. Delicious. Thanks, Mike.
Edzell was a friendly place and it was clear that they’ve had 30 years worth of Challengers passing through; everyone seemed to know who we were and where we were going. After lunch, I bought a scone with jam and a pot of greek yoghurt to have with it for my tea; I certainly had a hearty appetite by this time.
Wed 21st May. Roads via Marykirk to Inverbervie. 25/340.
The road walk to Inverbervie was tedious but the radio helped a lot. Had lunch at Laurencekirk. Met Bob Tucker at Inverbervie and decided the campsite didn’t look welcoming, so we had chips then headed to Montrose.
— Looking at the map, it was obvious that I was daft aiming to finish in Inverbervie when I was as south as North Water Bridge but I stuck to my original decision as the weather was good. I could see people heading to St Cyrus, but that is such a popular finishing point I’ve decided not to go there!
I had first met Bob at Feughside last year and it’s funny how Challengers just carry on the conversation they last had 12 months ago. Inverbervie campsite did not look nice, so we headed for the safety of the Challenge community at Montrose. I’d planned to finish on the Wednesday, but with Thursday as contingency if required, so I’d made good time to start on the Saturday and finish on the Wednesday ie 12 days walking.
Thurs 22nd May. I finally got a chance to look round Montrose and I took a walk up to Scurdie Ness where I bumped into Waggy, Michael, Fran, Fiona, Allen who were just finishing their walk – with Allen and Waggy having completed their tenth crossing. As I’d been late getting a place on the Challenge I could not find any (reasonably priced) accommodation so had to camp, but the campsite was good and it was nice to chat with people I’d walked with or maybe hadn’t seen since last year.
PS. Brian finished!