|Morvern from Mona Gowan|
|Ben Avon from Carnagour Hill|
Later - I pressed on to the main road to Ballater and on up over Scraulac and Cairnagour on short, springy heather. The views of snow-clad Lochnagar and Ben Avon were quite spectacular. Despite being breathless from the view, I eventually heaved my sorry carcase up to the top of Mona Gowan and decided that my plan to bag Morven, a huge snow-topped cone next door was maybe a bit ambitious. So I didn't.
Instead, I descended South and found a long and straightish track over moorland along the Southern edge of Morven, thereby avoiding any embarrassing heart-attacks, strokes, hyperthermia (it was hot), or over-pronated toenails.
I did notice an hotel offerring free beer and massage and made my way towards it, but just as I got to the front door, it disappeared. Damned mirages...
|Lochnagar from Mona Gowan|
Breakfast was good too and, refreshed and with dry socks and butties from the shop, I marched hopefully out of Tarland in completely the wrong direction, turned round, consulted the village information board and marched out again in a different direction, almost definately towards the North Sea.
During the afternoon, another hotel appeared and this one was advertising happy hour during the whole of May when all drinks would be half price and a free sauna would be included with every third pint.
As it happened, just as I made for the reception area, the whole buiding dissolved into the heat of the burning sun.
|I can see the sea! Yippee!|
I got it right eventually, and, after a while, I turned up in Lumphanan. The bad news was that the pub was shut (they always are nowadays), but the Mace store was open. The sun blazed down from a cloudless sky.
I shopped briefly and ate my spoils on a bench near the Lumphanan International Communications Centre (bus stop with a phone box and a post box) and dozed in the heat of the mid-day sun. In a Blur, A caravan of camels sailed slowly by towards the Oasis. But which was best? Blur or Oasis?
I headed East, roughly in the general direction of Lithuania. My route now coasted around the north side of Torphins. Many dog walkers were met. In fact there were dozens of them....
As I plodded on, I came across a white-painted hotel, gleaming in the fierce shimmering heat. The sign outside advertised buy-on-get-one-free drinks and meals and a discount for Englishmen over the age of fifty five with white bears and huge rucksacks. I knew it was a mirage.
But as I passed, two men dressed in white tuxedos were leaning over the palm-shaded verandah. I distinctly heard one say to the other "I tld you this wa sa bad place to open a hotel, Hamish..."
|Hill of Fare camping spot|
I started climbing the Hill of Fare and soon noticed a beautiful green shoulder where camping discretion was assured by patches of strategically scatterred whin and a good water supply gushed from what appeared to be the supply for a building that was no longer there. I put up the akto and luxuraited in the hot sun and the gorgeous view of Lochnagar.
Earlier in the day, I'd got my first view of the North Sea - a long, blue horizon beyond the hill I was now sitting on. The End is Nigh (I got that quote off a bloke at King's Cross station by the way.)
A fine, blue morning followed and it was time to battle with the Hill of fare's deep and tangled heather.
Basically, I just got stuck into it and, after a while of uphill swearing and falling about, I noticed an old grouse but about 300 metres away and, a thin but rough and soggy path running towards it. Based on the theory that grouse shooters never actually walk very far, I deduced that there could be a track there. I was right. A thin uphill track soon became a double track and then a proper landrover track and this lead to within a few metres of the summit. Clever bugger eh?
After that, I went down over the moor and along a bit of highly dangerous main road to the fleshpotss of Banchory where I shopped again and feasted on ice lollies before embarking on the Deeside Way. This is based on the old railway line from Aberdeen to Ballater and is waymarked, surfaced and popular with all kinds of joggers, cyclists and dog walkers, a large proportion of whom had really lovely bums. So, it was a happy Pieman who slogged the Deeside Way, eventually turning up at Peterculter and, by a riverside path to the campsite and hotel at Maryculter. I visited the hotel, obviously.
In the morning - the final morning, I went back to Peterculter for breakfast but only found a coffee and cake shop. A spar shop provided butties and pop and so, armed with these I returned to the Lovely Bum Way and marched the seven or so miles into Aberdeen. I liked this path. It doesn't have contours, for one thing, and the countryside is green and beautiful and, the natives and their dogs are friendly.
The walk ended near Aberdeen docks and I made my way back to Duthie Park in search of the route to the bus/train station, I came to the Shanghai Restaurant where, all of a sudden the door flew open and a yoof with a bag rushed out, followed by a diminutive Chinese lass. The lad tried to hide behind an eighteen-inch high wall and then noticed that both me and the lass were almost standing over him. So, he threw the bag at the lass and legged it. Apparently, the bag was empty and nobody wanted to call the police. As a thief, he was a failure, in fact, if there is such a status he'd be legally incompetent, probably a smackhead and, certainly, an idiot.
I got the bus to Montrose, signed in, got me T-shirt, certificate and badge and got rat-arsed a couple of times in between sunbathing, swimming in the sea (fab beach at Montrose by the way) and scoffing hot smoked salmon and crusty bread.
That was number eleven.
I'd do it again. I had a blast.
Stats: 202 Miles and 29000 feet of up. Eleven tickable hills ticked (according to http://www.hill-bagging.co.uk/)
Gear that did well:
Merino wool baselayer that I got from Mountainwhareous for fifteen quid as it was the last one due to the fact that it was now summer (!) and being sold across the street for £62.
RAB fleece with a TGO challenge logo on it - exclusive to TGO challengers with the logo!
Primus Express stove which I got in April.
Sealskin socks - performed well in all the soggyness.
Berghaus Akka down jacket. Warm and toasty and a good pillow, and squashable in the pack. I wore it for walking on one very cold day underneath a Paramo windproof.
Me old akto. The old girl did it again - recently reproofed and with a few repaired holes.
Gear that performed with mixed results:
TNF Dhaulgiri II boots - warm and comfy and with no blisters, but in the mire of week one, wetted out badly and didn't dry out till Cock Bridge. Luckily I had waterproof socks and kept a pair of woolly socks to wear at night.
Pre-mixed porridge oats with powdered milk, sugar and sultanas. Easy and quick to cook, loadsa slow release calories, lightweight and nice to eat - and very cheap.
Gear that failed:
Cheapo walking poles - One bent and couldn't be collapsed so I banged it hard on a road and it died.
Garmin GPS. Keeps turning itself off and forgetting the bliddy waypoints. This is a faff. Luckily, I have a map and compass and a vague idea how to use these.