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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The TGO CHALLANGE 2014.....DAY 11 (Muckle cairns and Muckle Guinness)

Day 11
Shielin of Mark to Tarfside 11 miles

 I was up, sausages on, broon sauce and hovis wraps laid out in a smart and soldier like manner, boots polished, hair combed and the tent packed away at a very reasonable hour (for me), it looked like it was going to be another decent enough day, I cant believe how lucky ive been with the weather on the crossing so far, long may it continue. There was quite a bit of movement down at the bothy where I suspect they were all gathered naked around a tesco food bag (cut in half and inside out after the previous evenings custard) of crushed corn flakes (corn removed for weight savings) and red top nido powder, culinary murder.

  The first task after getting squared away was to get across the burn, preferably with dry feet and then head up muckle cairn, it was pretty much the only climb of the day, a nice change getting the climb done first thing in the morning.  From the top it would be downhill all the way to the village of Tarfside where I had planned tonights bivi with hopefully the possibility of a drink or two if the bar was open. 

I debated following the Burn down past the bothy for half a mile (ish) on easy ground before crossing and following one of the green streaks/wee burns directly up the hill, as it was I didn’t really think there was much point in going down to climb back up so i selected the grassy strip that looked like it went closest to the top and just headed directly towards it through the heather and peat hags, some of the hags were easy going but some of it was pretty damp going, if the weather hadn’t been so good recently it would probably have been a big mistake going this way, as it was I made decent time to the base of the hill, with only one or two bad words used (very good for me). My navigation was spot on, probably because I could see my target the whole way across the flats, I arrived at the point I was aiming for and headed straight up the burn line.

A couple of snaps from the "green streak/burn" route that I had scientifically selected earlier. The view is back down from the slopes of muckle cairn towards the Shielin of mark bothy, in the bottom picture its in the green scar (the burn) in the middle ground.  Away in the distance you can see Lochnagar, Conachcraig and Meikle Pap as well as a fair skelp of the white mounth plateau

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was with my choice of route to follow up the hill, it was like walking in a park, the grassy bits were fine and even halfway up the peat hags that had to be negotiated had dried out a lot making for really good underfoot conditions the whole climb up, the only danger seemed to be from the kamikaze white hares that were bounding about all over the place. The rough animal track I was following through the burn line led me straight to the cairn atop muckle, a few yards from the cairn was the beginnings of a LR track and a few yards further on was David making his way off the summit.

On top of muckle cairn, dont quote me but I think thats the general direction of Broad Cairn, another of the White Mounth munros. 

Just about to start the decent off the top, there was a bit of snow lying across the way, it also looked like the weather might change for the worse (it didn't). I caught up with David on the steep decent into Glen Lee and we chatted away as we wandered along, just before the stables of Lee, David stopped for a break, I had earlier planned on making the stables my first stop of the day but for some reason when I got there I just kept going down the glen, a couple of land rovers full of Invermark keepers passed me heading up the glen, probably away to set up punji stick traps for those following on behind.  

Fairly easy walking heading down to the Lee plantation

A swift look back up towards the plantation, a sneaky photo but really a covert swatch back to ensure i wasnt about to be mugged for my powdered milk bag

Glen Lee is a stunning glen with scenery on a par with anywhere and a thoroughly enjoyable walk in its own right.

Especially when you get round to Hunt Hill and Craig Maskeldie.

  The Brides Bed on Craig Maskeldie, after this Glen Lee opens up again with the water of Lee flowing sedately through to the Loch. It wasn't long before I reached the head of the loch, I looked behind and noticed a couple of other folk catching up with me pretty rapidly. 
I decided it was about time for a break as i must have clocked up a few miles by now, the wind also seemed to have gained a chilly edge that i hadn’t noticed earlier, I wandered along the loch side looking for a decent boulder to get in behind out of the breeze, there's some monstrous boulders lying in this area, but none of them were the perfect match to my strict comfort criteria, by the time I was happy with my choice I was nearly halfway down the loch. I sat and had a snack and 30 minutes with the bergan off, bergan and boots off stops are worth their weight in gold, surprisingly no one passed by so I presume they had had the same idea and also stopped for a break

 At the bottom end of loch Lee with a couple of familiar looking challengers hard on my heels.

Speaking of pagan ceremonies, I shot my first Stag on the middle hump of Craig Dullet across the other side of the Loch, tradition decrees that after such an event you are bled with the beasts blood. I know now, being much much older and dare i say it maybe slightly wiser that the majority of the time its usually just a couple of fingers streaked across the cheeks, back then though I was the young dafty (probably why they bled me when i saw my first stag shot as well, bastards) who knew nothing and was always available for kicking the arse right out of it.

Hence the reason I arrived back at the stables and larder encrusted from top to tail in congealed and dried blood (along with a black eye and cut eyebrow, I didn’t bloody know what a rifle recoil was like, I ve learnt). Unfortunately I had hair then too which ensured the gunk knotted and stuck to everything just fine.

 Looking back probably the biggest mistake I made was trying to take the head keeper with me as I was pounced upon, auld Fred was the epitome of an old highland keeper, an utter gentleman to all, he also happened to be kinda big, stronger than an ox and forever up for having a caper, unless of course a 7 stone wet through pony man thought he could bleed him too.

 Eventually I left the loch behind and started passing the Invermark estate buildings, the low building with dog kennels attached was my home (not the kennels the two bothies at either end) while i was employed as a pony man through the stalking season, half a dozen of us shared the two bothies for four months.

 It was a very basic set up, heated by the wee fire, which we also did the majority of our cooking on, i cant even remember if there was water, we probably borrowed from the dogs. It was a great time in my young life, working hard out on the hills every day, fishing the Esk and ferreting rabbits for supper, plus the odd hunk of fresh venison and liver that somehow found its way onto our open fire (ha you didn’t know that Fred). I enjoyed walking through here alone with my memories, a short period in my life but full of big influences on how my future panned out, I was kinda hoping to bump into some of the old keepers but I found out later they have all gone now (in more ways than one).

A bitty further on and with dry eyes, I wandered around a corner just before the ruins of Invermark castle and straight into two wifies that hadn’t done the “make sure nae one is coming, im bursting” check, schoolboy error. I suitably adopted the “im actually looking at the wonderful views” pose, before bending to tie that pesky bootlace. Needless to say rosy cheeks abounded as we did the obligatory walkers nod on passing.

 Just after this encounter David and Ian came flying around the corner behind me, puffing away and out of breath, but they were just to late for the strippers, more effort boys. We all wandered along to the bridge where they decided they were having another lunch break (in a huff then).

 I kept going and took the shortcut to Tarfside between Cairn Robbie and the Hill of Rowan, walking along this pleasant track It seemed like every peeweet in the country was nesting in the vicinity and every bloody one of them saw me as some sort of master egg thief, bring back the cuckoos, these things make mair racket than women at the NEXT January sales.

 As I got to the high point between the two hills I could see down towards Tarfside, the Milden estate spread away out before me, its been many a year since ive been up here and I just couldn’t believe the devastation that has been wrecked upon the estate, huge scars all across the hills with basically two lane roads everywhere. Not just one track either, they were criss crossing each other everywhere, none of them were on my map either, which might make tomorrow fun.

Milden estate was my first proper job, I understand how much the locals across the Scottish rural community rely on sporting estates, im all for them but these “super moors” are as much of a disgrace to this country as the wind farms that are being bulldozed into every spare hill and moor. The most beautiful country in the world and its wildlife being systematically destroyed for ever to satisfy the greed of the precious few, who will no doubt move on when they get bored of their hobby, leaving devastation in their wake.

A couple of local wifies had been up on the hill of Rowan walking their dogs, our paths crossed and we started chatting as we walked down to Tarfside, as we gossiped away they mentioned that the roads had been rushed through as there was a worry that the government were going to pass a law requiring planning permission to be sought before these hill motorways could be built, id seen a very similar situation over between the river Bulig and Corgarff a few months earlier where a huge 360 digger was actually sitting on top of a mountain gouging out tracks on another drug induced grouse moor

 There was also mention of a bridge mysteriously becoming unsafe, which of course sadly discourages folk from crossing the Esk to the other bank, im not sure where it is but I presumed it was near to Tarfside. At least the local raptor population is safe around here (PS, I ve heard cuckoos eat five grouse at a sitting…actually maybe that’s true and the real reason I haven’t heard one for a day or two).

Some people are on the park, they think its all over (i hate where that wee statement comes from, the biggest injustice to mankind ever, booooo) two of the afore mentioned bloggers chilling out by their tee pees, using the tried and trusted method of keeping the midgies at bay with the feet and arse bared to the wind system.

I wandered over to the toilet block for water, just as the two women who had been caught short earlier pulled up in the car park, we came face to face again at the block, im still not afy sure if my "sorry, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on" comment was taken in the light hearted manner it was meant to be, ach well, im sure they will eventually have a chuckle about the day they met the fat lad as they walked to Loch Lee.

The 3rd member of the coven (the evil Delia Smith as i heard him referred to later) had by this time been shunted away by himself into a wee corner of the park, every now and then a harsh cackle could be heard from that direction as i suspect another bonus lump was found in the custard. 

 I think there was one other tent before we arrived, later on a lot more would appear on the scene and it got pretty busy, most folks had had a lot longer day than us, I was glad of the short day as it had turned into a right decent afternoon and stretching out in the sun for a few hours was an unexpected bonus. 

 Eventually though all good things have to come to an end and the barman turned up to open the bar, i felt obliged to put the North Face baffies on and head over to partake in a drink or two. The barman was localish and we knew the same folk and each others family, he gave me the locals run down on what’s been happening, who was doing what and who had moved on from the Glen over the years id been away.

 The bar filled up as the night went on, every now and then someone would nip out for half an hour to knock up a souffle or some such sustenance, returning later to carry on soiree, there must have eventually been 20/30 challengers in there enjoying themselves, I was told that the next night would be a lot busier... If i had any sort of memory i would be able to name all of the really fine folk i chatted to that night, unfortunately i don’t, but to all that were in the Masons that night i thank you for a grand evening and great company, If i borrowed money you’ve been scammed, sorry.   

Day 11 Thoughts and Impressions

Short days are good, break track for toilet breaks, peeweets are the new cuckoos.


1 comment:

  1. Cheek! I'll have you know that there are NEVER lumps in my custard.