Eventually, there comes a time when the blogger, refreshed and suntanned and with only slight liver damage has to write up his (or her) experiences on the TGO Challenge and, for me, the time has now come.
This, however, will be no day-to-day account. Oh no… One of the reasons for this is that my home PC has been having wobblers whilst I have been away and has completely lost all it’s passwords, links, shortcuts, disc space, car keys and TV remote and (this may or may not be linked) when I downloaded the 122 photos and 1 video of Kylie arriving in Glen Avon on a white charger, it lost 48 pics and the video. This caused me to make several very rude exclamations at the time but, bearing in mind that the fat nurse will be checking my blood pressure in the next few days, I’ve decided to calm down and do some DCC reccies up Teesdale to cheer meself up and also sort out the dawg’s cabin fever.
So.. Day 1. ………
was followed, in numerical order by another 12 and then another two sitting around in the Montrose sunshine eating hot smoked salmon and getting a tan.In between it was, the proverbial Game Of Two Halves.
Half One started with the crowing of the Strathcarron Hotel’s magnificent cock, sometime before dawn. The hotel let me camp with a good view of the cock and the drizzle sizzling on the tent overnight was, perhaps, an omen. I left at the same time as Tony (Pennine Ranger) Bennett but walked with him only as far as the first path junction where I turned left and he went forward. I never saw him again. In fact I didn’t see anybody up close all day.
The weather was, frankly, duff. My route took me to Bearnais bothy where it should have gone up Sgurr na Feartaig but I was feart of Feartaig due to the low clod and driving drizzle and , instead plodged over a bealach designed by Tolkein and down to the River Splodge or some other gaelic name nobody has heard of.
Its an area called Pollan Buidhe and there, on a flat and slightly soggy bit of grass was the second omen – a desert spoon stuck in the grass. (Actually there’s been a desert spoon stuck in the grass at Strathcarron too, now I think about it and I’d presented this to Carl Mynott, or , at least somebody who claimed to be Carl Mynott – but the point is, the spoon-based omens had started to build up.)
Another TGO-type arrived and put his tent up but was unable or unwilling to chat. I discovered later that he was from That London, so that probably explains why, in all the vast space, he put his tent up next to mine, but still pretended I wasn’t there. Funny buggers are those from That London.
In the morning I joined up briefly with Andy Howell and his pal and we sauntered down the Dale in sunshine. A nice discovery was the garden shed at Glenuaig which is open to hillwalkers and has light and heat. Its very small, though – only big enough for two or three, so not ideal for a party.
I crossed the beck in the wrong place due to a small time/space continuum discrepancy and plundered over another bealach to the Loch Monar Reservoir where I found Andy again. The night settled in for wet and windy. And so it remained for the whole of the next day. This was the Notorious Sunday. I wandered along the fine path alongside the Loch and down the long road along Strahfarrar dale to Struy where I followed Les and Issy into the Cnoc Hotel to get drunk. This was successful.
During the evening we got a call from control asking if we’d got room for Roy and ? who where having difficulties somewhere close. The bar staff sent out relatives in landrovers to find them, which they did. Several bedraggled Challengers arrived and were squeezed into the technically full hotel. There was a distinct smell of socks. I did notice, however, that at breakfast, may sausage was pointing East. I took this as a positive omen and ate it quickly before it could alter it’s orientation and then left for the notorious Eskadale Triangle where the shortest heather is up to yer nips and the bogs are full of horses and carts from olden days – indeed, I believe I did stand on the peat-stained hat of a coal merchant from Drumnadrochit who went missing in 1926 and was presumed to have run off with a bus driver’s daughter.
The trial starts at Maud, where a deer fence’s wire is interrupted for a few feet by a fence of wood. This is assaulted using a bold approach and leads the hiker into a jungle of wet birch and dripping sitka. A brief rush through a back garden, keeping an eye out for huge, slavering dogs, leads the now hypertensive potential stroke victim up a very steep track where, in summer, the black flies will be an additional torment. This eventually leads to a small lochan where the real trouble begins.
A couple of miles of soggy bog and vicious tussocks follows to a second small lochan or tarn, where a good road leads off in entirely the wrong direction. The beck (burn) is crossed sans boots and the most jungly and tick-infested part of the crossing now ensues. I heard distant drums…… prolly from Drumnadrochit (arf) – and more lochans follow in short order. it wa shere that I met John Enoch who had been walking on a similar course and knew where there was a road. We headed for the grid reference containing the road and there it was. It lead to the road a few miles West of Drumnadrochit where we joined the popular route from Tomdoun and eventually staggered into Drum, scratched, wet, bruised, twisted and with a raging thirst for fine liquours of the type only served up in the very best public bars. I had a B&B and scoffed a huge steak pie and chips in a nearby hotel, along with one or two hearty libations which my cardiac nurse better not hear about if you know what’s good for you.
I’ve had enough of this excitement for now. I’ll continue later. But just to say that this was the first Monday – 58 miles and 8600 feet of up. The weather so far was fairly typical for early TGO – cold and showery with new wet snow on the hills – but also some sunshine too. More adventures up the Monadhliath and Cairngorms will follow inabit. Food-based omens were positive, but I was just a little worried about the cutlery. What was it trying to say, I wondered?