About the Loon

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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Friday, 30 May 2014

THE TGO CHALLENGE 2014.....DAY 4 (Right Planet, Wrong Grid)

Day 4 Spean Bridge to Loch Treig (a couple of miles beyond actually) 13 miles

This was the day that before i left home i thought might just be a right ball buster, not through what lay ahead on the day, but more the mental attitude after a porcelain toilet, a good night in a hotel and being 4 days on the road. I need not have worried, it turned out the only problem i had that morning, was full Scottish or healthy? aye that was a major decision right enough, so, both it was then with heaps of coffee and fresh orange to boot. 

Ian also appeared at breakfast and wasn't in great spirits having decided he was going to pull out with his knackered shoulder. A great shame after all the prep and planning that go into taking part. I must be a jinx as I'd also spoken to a lad on day 2 who had also decided to walk out to Fort William and withdraw with a goosed hip. Dont speak to me if you value your health it seems.

 After checking out and parting with 50 of my hard earned sheckles, (happy with that tbh) it was back on the road with a jaunty spring in my step, a wee bitty too eager perhaps as i had forgotten to go to the shop, a quick about turn and back to the Spar shop then. Arrgghh No steak, so only Richmond sassages and wholemeal wraps were purchased and packed away for tomorrows breakfast, there were another three or four other challengers darting up and down the aisles or getting a breakfast from the hot counter. 
Finally with less spring this time I headed off again, sound, the routes even signed, a piece of cake this navigation lark.  A few hundred yards later I came to the train station,  in fact the train station car park, pretty decent as station car parks go but the distinct lack of exit rung some "this doesn't look right" bells. I got the 1.50 map out, it wasnt much kop, even less so without my specs, a couple of dog walkers pointed me in the right direction,  "back the way you came" oh the shame, map reading instructor lost in a one horse town car park, even worse, I passed a couple of young ladies in hiking gear for the 3rd time, best I stride out a bit and exude confidence like I'm some sort of seasoned adventurer.

 Someone knew I was heading this way then, seriously, there's sign posts appearing everywhere these days. It was also about here I realised I hadn't bought my sweet ration in the spar, i do like my snickers each day, I sure as hell wasnt going back though.

 Still a decent skelp of snow about up high

 The wee meenister, wishing luck and safe travels to all, even tourists (but not including caravanners)

 Some pics of Lairig Leacach, another of Scotlands stunning mountain passes, i had noticed this morning how fit I felt, it was almost like I had walked myself into shape, it was remarkably easy going up through the glen this morning.

Just before I got to the bothy a major mountain rescue incident occurred, as I followed the winding track I was vaguely aware of the only ewe and lamb for miles around wandering in between some low humps, when i rounded a corner a few hundred meters away there was another wee lamb standing by a burn bleating away like a maddie and shaking like a leaf, I think it had been in the burn and it was now cold, wet and split from its mither (or it had had a great night out), being a softie at heart I spent the next 10 minutes doing the one man and his Lekki pole thing, shepherding it through between the wee hillocks, finally both parties spotted each other and were reunited, as I left both lambs were getting a spot of brunch from mother. I expect this gallant act will go well with my MBE application. 

 I decided to stop in the bothy and have an early lunch, I hadn't seen any challengers since Spean Bridge, although I did walk for a short distance with a lad who was aiming to do a couple of corbets, just as I was getting some water everything went all European, first Nicole appeared, then 5 minutes later Markus and Philipp also turned up, an Austria/German invasion by stealth (spooky eh), having lived in germany for 12 years im pretty decent at the old deutsch, but I didnt let on, from what I made out they thought I was very intelligent and rather cute, Fact........ this revelation caused me to spill the whole cup of coffee id just made, all over the bunk and me, I wasn't thirsty anyway, much. 

I wandered off on my way up to loch Treig on what was going to turn into a bit of a man made bog fest.

 The naturally boggy path had been ripped to shreds by a motorcycle trials competition the week previously,  the ground was saturated anyway and it was hard enough going, but some sections were a nightmare to get past, it was like this from the bothy right up to the loch.

 I loved this narrow wee ravine,  in one side from the glen, out the other side to the loch. I slipped on my arse in the middle of it though, its becoming a habit. 

 New bridge, biker friendly too

 Christ, they really are everywhere.

 A nice evening over a full loch, I had planned on pitching at the old lodge, but it was still early so I pushed on to the track and railway crossover a mile or so further on.

 I was rather surprised to find this large spot empty, I had a wander around and picked what I thought was the best patch and settled down to camp routine, I was later joined by another challenger and a few passed by on there way to corrour.

Finally, the one and only attempt at shit food, ainslies cous cous (I love it at home) and matesons smoked sausage, if its any consolation it did taste as bad as it looks, thankfully I had a tomato soup and salami stick in reserve. I think the rain came on and it was a case of sleeping bag and kindle for half an hour before unconsciousness took over.

Day 4 impressions

Pay attention to your route, stick to steak, sausages and boil in the bags, next time find out about the 6 day trials routes and go somewhere else. Furry boots has the cuckoo gone.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

THE TGO CHALLENGE 2014.....DAY 3 (Going Commando)

Day 3 Loch Arkaig to Spean Bridge 16 miles

 Long road walk today, but its a very quiet road (and its a sunday, I think) so no worries about traffic, being an avid fly fisher I love lochs, rivers and water in general (except when its in my boots, or going up my nose, that really pisses me off). Im a bit of a dreamer, my mind is more often than not some place else, so I'm quite happy to wander down the road with the loch to gaze at while day dreaming . 

 A really good sleep was had, it rained, I sort of noticed between rolling over and stripping off bits, I went heavy (Rab 700) on the sleeping bag, it was a good decision in hindsight, butt naked every night was far more comfortable (and dare I say hygienic) than the hundreds of times ive slept fully clothed.
I unzipped the scarp to be met by a couple of red deer hinds grazing about 20/30m away, they soon scarpered when they noticed me (natural reaction to a smiling chubby bloke with no pants on I suppose).
It was a fine morning with the loch looking like a mirror (a couple weeks and it will be a midge fest), so brew on and a BBQ beans and sausage boil in the bag and I was ready to roll, rather bloody efficient this morning and on the road for 0800. I quickly passed a couple of lads who were happily dawdling along chatting,  then another three that were just emerging from their tents (lazy bar stewards......). The first cuckoo of the day anounced it presence with its sweet call.

 Boat and paddles ummmmm, I would be lying if I said the thought never crossed my mind, looks like a ferry to me. Just as well I didn't though, 20 minutes later a van passed me heading up the glen, 45 minutes later it passed me going down the glen with my ferry on the roof

 Nearing the end of the loch after a couple of pleasant hours walking, my bivi had been way up beyond the second plantation, on the far right (that the north bank of the loch by the way, not a national front/torry/lib dim alliance). Nae dramas with the walk down the road, nothing unpleasant about it at all, if anything I think it allowed my blisters a bit of respite from the uneven, rocky stuff.

 The end of the loch, the local council had kindly put good bins out too and I managed to lighten my load a wee bit.

 It was good to reach the Cameron family seat, its my clan (although I pay homage to the McDonald's of Union Street too), I was going to ask for a family discount on an ice lolly, but sadly it was only about 1130 and the place didn't open until 1300 or 1400 I think, bloody Camerons.

 Just as I hit the road in the great glen I noticed this sign on the other side so i wandered over to check it out, the things you see and learn about while bimbling around in the back of beyond is quite amazing. 

 Loch Lochy, there was a big rain shower coming down the loch towards me, I headed off hoping to keep in front of it and stave off the waterproofs and rain cover requirements.

The canal,  it felt like a big moment reaching it, some sort of milestone in the walk, phase 1 complete.

As soon as I stepped onto the bridge the rain caught up with me and it really started to belt down, I stood under a tree like a kidnapped garden gnome for 15 minutes,  gambling/hoping on a short summer shower scenario, it got heavier so I donned the rubber gear (sorry thats from the other blog) waterproofs and headed back onto the road for the climb up to Spean Bridge,  200yds later the rain stopped and I started to sweat like a glaswegian in the subsidy que as I headed up the hill.

I hadn't planned on going up to the commando monument, having been there a few times throughout the years, the path I had planned on taking into spean bridge seemed to have had a caravan park plonked on it. I wasnt sure so just kept to the road, while muttering anti caravan obscenities under my breath, further up the road the path actually came alongside and I debated jumping the fence and getting on it, but one look at the mud fest that it was and the easy decision to stay on the road was made. It was a very easy walk, even on a now lovely warm day while clad in a dozen layers of goretex and merino.
Shit, Tomorrow looks lumpy

The wee sweaty overdressed ball of gortex slithered into the village at 1355 and waltzed straight into the Spean Bridge hotel full of trepidation after reading the reviews (4 months after booking it), two very friendly wifies on the desk immediately handed me my resupply parcel and then fought over who was going to show me to my room, a perfectly natural quandary for women the world over to find themselves in be fair. I suggested, that for a joke they should put any other challengers in the really shitty condemned chalets out the back...........

My room was sound, I rattled the radiator right up to full, did a washing, had a shower, hung the tent and inner up in the bathroom and plugged in everything that needed plugging in.

A quick look out the window confirmed the sun was over the yard arm (I dont actually know what that means), but it felt like time for a deserved guinness, copious amounts of guinness in fact. The quick look out of the window also confirmed my room view was on to the car park with a fair few folk wandering to and fro, maybe I should stick some clothes on or at least close the curtains before someone called the RSPCA.

I dressed in my dinner outfit and went through to the commando bar just as it opened, two afy nice wifies that were walking the great glen way also came in and we chatted for a while, fellow challenger Ian (hope that's right) who I'd chatted with the previous day at the top of Arkaig also came in and we enjoyed a few swift lemonades and a fine bar meal, I had steak and chips, it was ace and I managed to aquire a couple more sachets of mustard. Ian was having a bit of a drana with his shoulder and was hoping a good nights sleep would sort it out, it turned into a really really late one and I eventually retired to bed about 2200 (yes it is bloody really really late), in a happy and contented mood for a night between crisp sheets. The room was a tadge warm but everything was dry.

Day 3 impressions

A very straight forward easy day, Arkaig was fine enough, no problems road walking, and the decent weather probably helped, I dont like caravans and are those cuckoos following me.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

THE TGO CHALLENGE 2014.....DAY 2 (Bangers and Burns)

Day 2 Sourlies to Loch Arkaig 12.5 miles

Very very nearly (but not quite) stuck to the planned route above

Up quite early on a pretty driech second day, that probably had a lot to do with being bedded at a ridiculous ungodly early hour the previous night, a habit that was to continue for the next couple of weeks. Mind you what I regard as ungodly seems to be normal for many, It seems heaps were already up and away as quite a few tents had disappeared, maniacs.....

First proper morning in the cudds and it was a case of start as you mean to go on, so super strong cofee and sausage wraps ala broon sauce (sachets painstakingly collected from local bars during research missions), for breakfast, with another half dozen or so cooked off and stashed away for a lunch wrap or two later. 

I'm just nae a fan of any of that healthy, green or dehydrated shite tbh, I know they can be quite a bit lighter, but I actually like food, aye really really like food if the truth be told.... I did have one vague attempt (see day 4, I think) at fitting in, but it was minging and proved to me that steak and sausages are for real men. 

Anyway as i was polishing off the full Scottish a steady stream of challengers wandered past to start their first climb of the day, up the finiskaig burn. Although I had started subscribing to this bloody early rise thing, I still faffed around so much in the mornings that more often or not it would be a couple of hours later before I was actually ready to walk, over the course of the challenge if I was walking by 0900 I was happy, the gentlemans hour,  I believe.

Looking back down the rather damp path to Sourlies, I think this is from the start of the zig zags, quite slow plodding this morning, sausage wraps were still weighing me down at this stage, along with stopping to take a photo, have a drink or even catch my breath, thankfully I wasnt in a hurry to get anywhere. 

Further up the afore mentioned zigs, a few nutters with bergans zigging and zagging below.

Not a great photo,  but please note the stream that doubles as a path, at this stage I'd given up on the dry feet thing and was still kicking myself on the choice of footwear Knoydart is wet, very very wet.

A wee burn that turned into the first proper river crossing for many, I just ploughed through as quick as possible, it seemed to work for me, I certainly didnt get any wetter......

Nearly on the bealach,  flat for a while anyway

The first of the two wee lochans on the bealach

I jumped down from a rock and just about $#! t myself, this old girl was lying there, not quite what I was expecting.

Thats pretty much the end of the knoydart phase, for all my whinging about the wet I loved the place and will be back very soon.

Now there was a drastic landscape change as I entered Glen Dessarry. I followed the higher path for a while, if anything it was wetter than the knoydart side, at least back the're're the paths were mostly solid under the water, over here it was very soft, marshy and boggy going, halfway along the first plantation there was another cheeky wee burn crossing, I decided to cut down through the woods and join the LR/logging track which went past A Chuil bothy, I loosely planned to stop there for lunch.

The start of dry feet for the next two days, boost. I soon passed the A Chuil bothy, no way was I going down to it, id need bloody ropes and an ice axe to get back up to the track, id like to suggest a cable car is installed to get weary travellers up and down to it

For pigs, read wild boar, loads of reports of wild boar having "escaped" (steve mcqueen has a lot to answer for) around Desserry/Arkaig,  ach well I'm sure someone will just have to hunt them down, it probably helps that there is no close season on "escapees"......

Wow, civilisation, what a stunning place for a house.

Three ancient looking planes (RAF then) came out of one glen and headed off up glen dessarry, they didnt look British (apart from looking clapped out) and had some red markings, maybe we've been invaded, I'll worry about that next week, as long as wicked tuna has recorded on sky+ it shouldn't effect me to much.    

Love these sign posts in random locations, what I did notice though, was there's never any follow up ones.

Cracking view, Loch Arkaig and the suns finally coming out, that means, boots aff and feet in the loch, tbh they were fairly dirling after two days tabbing, some Gehwol and fresh air and it was off on a road walk down the loch to find my planned bivi site, I passed three or four lads who had pitched up on a very decent spot that was capable of holding a good few tents.

I eventually got to my chosen spot a mile or so further down, you might just fit two tents on it, but other than the little patch I had the rest looked pretty sketchy,  very stoney ground.

Really nice evening, no midgies either, nae steak left so it was a nepalese chicken curry boil in the bag and a mushroom soup, very fine it was to.

Socks washed and hung out for a couple of hours, the rain came back on about 2000hrs and I think stayed on most of the night. I was pretty goosed and was again out of the game for 2100.

Day 2 (like day 1) had started with a constant stream of challengers, to be expected I suppose as Mallaig was a popular start point and although its nice to chat to folks, I found it a bit too busy, until I took a detour there was always a few in front and a few behind.

Knoydart as previously mentioned is wet, yes, but its also absolutely stunning, i started the challenge here because it was the one part of Scotland I had never walked in before. No regrets