About the Loon

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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Thursday, 20 August 2015


We woke up fine and refreshed in Dalwhinnie bunkhouse on day 6 and it wasnt even raining, thats just wrong.

 Yesterday had been a bit of a ball buster and that combined with a big tasty meal, a couple of drinks and a toasty room had knocked us out about 3 seconds after finishing doing our dhobi and hanging stuff up.

First thing to fix this morning was Susans blisters, which seemed to have feet growing out of them, needles, tape and compeed soon patched her up as good as it was going to be, next on the agenda was a full Scottish, food of the Gods and hikers, it didn't disappoint, I really can't recommend the bunkhouse any more, fantastic hospitality and probably saved Susans (and mine) challenge.

Day 6 Dalwhinnie to Inveruglass 17 miles

Agh, the old squad average technique, "I think we're here ish" fellow challengers preparing for battle, while leaving a bacon softie unattended,  sacrilege...

Bit of an unusual route for us compaired to most passing through Dalwhinnie I suspect,  we were now about to head north again instead of the more traditional east. We were bound for Aviemore to meet our daughter who was driving up from Aberdeen, bearing gifts hopefully (haribo cola bottles and compeed).

The initial plan had been to wander up to Loch Cuaich and then cross country it to Glen Tromie, but being a compassionate kind of guy I reset the satnav for the easier option, via the falls of Truim, then across the A9 to follow Wades (spits loudly) road to Ruthven, hopefully getting a bivi spot somewhere about Loch na Failean.

We left Dalwhinnie and dawdled along on the back (wades) road to the falls,  it was very quiet and easy going, although a bit strange not being clad in goretex. No rush and no real milage requirements today, just wander along until we get hungry or tired.

 It didn't seem too long until we came to the A9 crossing point, even that frightning prospect was fairly uneventful and previous visions of finishing the challenge as a HGV bumper ornament were thankfully unfulfilled

Wades road was a bit of a revelation,  it started with a few miles through birch, grassland and heather, very pleasant walking and an abundance of wildlife, and then you burst out onto the vast grouse moors to the east of Kingussie.

A Roe sleeping just off the path didn't notice our approach,  until I got a bit cocky

Just about to break out onto the grouse moor

 Monument in remembrance for one of the estate head keepers.

Look no jacket, as an added bonus the day just continued to get warmer.

Huge sky, angry hair

Nearing the end, you have to keep your navigation wits about you, as there's a multitude of tracks crisscrossing here abouts.

A novel idea, I think its known as a bridge, it'll never catch on. Thon Wade fella must have been adverse to wet feet to...

After coming off Wades road, we had another A9 dash and then another 500 meters later, the second crossing was via a handy underpass and came out near Ruthven Bks.

We took a 20 minute break at the barracks, sitting on a handy bench in the sun, allowing the feet some fresh air, so far it had been a cracking day and we only had about two miles to go to the spot i hoped to call home for the night.

We started walking again and soon came across the Badenoch way,  I hadn't planned to use it (but then I hadn't planned to come this way at all tbh), but it seemed like a good idea, and so we started to follow it. Soon enough I told Suz that we were at our rough area of exploitation for the day, but she insisted she was feeling good and we were plodding along just fine so lets keep on going.

The Badenoch Way came back to the road at Tromie bridge, I remember being here years ago, sitting on the bridge and watching salmon after salmon louping around in the river below, sadly today there was no sign of the fish

We kept to the "way", soon passing through Drumguish, after the village we decided to call it a day and bivi up, a wee bit of a chill in the air now and hunger decreed it was time to put up the hoose for the evening.

Unfortunately there were no suitable spots at all and very little running water anywhere. It wasn't until we passed Inveruglass that a decent patch appeared just off the track in the middle of nowhere. Tent up, water collected and scoff scoffed we settled down to the nightly blister fixing sesh, just as an irate farmer appeared to let us know we "were on private land", I was nice, we stayed...

Day 7 Inveruglass to Aviemore 10 miles

Up, packed and away before 0700, a wee bit of a chilly breeze to ensure we were awake.

Walking down the Badenoch way towards the back of Inch

Another early riser

We crossed the Spey at Kincraig,  it was still earlyish and we weren't having the best of mornings tbh, we were both pretty tired and we had only walked four odd miles at a painfully slow pace.

Our lethargy disapeared when we spotted the coffee sign outside the post office,  mind you every tradesman within the highlands seemed to be going in and out for their morning snack.

We went in and got some bits and pieces of morale (mars, coke, coffee), as we got to the counter we noticed the "hot snack" thing, only 2 sausage rolls and a scabby dried out pasty thing left though. An 8 foot highland joiner had just snaffled one, his two 9 foot mates were just about to fight over the last one when an unamed hungry female hiker used her feminine guile to have it bagged and payed for before they realised they were now left arguing over a minging pasty.

15 minutes sitting on the bench outside with a brew and half a sausage roll each soon brought life back into our weary bodies.

Back on the Badenoch way, from Kincraig,  the first few miles were on a very new looking path, lots of little short sharp hills, but the day was really nice now and the scenery was fantastic.

Around about wester Speybank the path, signed route and map all went to pot, signs pointed one way, obvious path went another and the map wasnt sure, we were on one side of the railway, on a good track while a new path ran on the other side, a bit confused but not overly concerned tbh. We eventually came out in the middle of a holiday park, we did the "pretend we belong here" routine and walked straight through and out the front entrance, nice looking site mind, but bloody huge.

A sharp right took us over the railway and back onto the way again, it seemed to be under construction,  turns out it was, and it wasn't even open yet, can we claim a first?

Whoo hoo, suns out and its Aviemore for lunch, straight to the Roos leap for a monster burger and guinness,  then across the road to book into the Cairngorm,  a good choice, good room, good food and great service.

We'd made it to the middle ish bit,  a lot of hard work but that just made the satisfaction meter rise considerably, 3 days back we were nearly a day behind schedule and flagging badly. Now we were half a day ahead and it was boots off, bergan off and recharge for a few hours (after fixing suz's blisters and doing a washing).

We had a right fine meal in the Cairngorm which was very busy with tourists, locals and challengers all enjoying the evening. We were really bad and stayed up to 2230.

CLICK TO RETURN TO DAY 3, 4 & 5                                             CLICK FOR DAYS 8, 9 & 10

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


After two nice days the weather had changed big style, it had rained all night and was teaming down as we set off, some of the showers were pure monsoonesq.

Day 3s plan was simple in principle, a wander along to Kinlochleven, have a late breakfast, climb up to the Blackwater Dam and head around to loch Treig for the night,  simple...

Day 3 Caolasnacon to Loch Treig,  15/16 odd miles Blackwater dam about 10 miles eventually...

Walking along the road to Kinlochleven the aforementioned monsoonesq rain was hammering down, its a fairly easy if not ideal wander along the road, which was a lot busier than I expected for an early Sunday morning

Obviously rain doesn't stop play on the Kinlochleven bowling green, natty white waterproofs were de rigueur mind, nutters.

A Cracking bench just as you enter the village

A quick stop in the spar replenished the essential supplies, then it was onto more pressing matters with Breakfast being next on the agenda, the Ice Factory duly provided, coffee, bacon rolls and 45 minutes out of the rain which boosted the morale o meter,  Susan even managed to get a new pair of socks in the well stocked shop.

All good things must end though and off we went. On the 500 meters or so that we had to walk on the WHW, we must have passed 15/20 hikers going the other way, it confirmed my desire to never set foot on the full WHW route, it was like being on the M25.

 There is a roe deers erse in there somewhere?

One of those nasty, nasty stoney paths that double as highland burns

We should have realised about now, what was to come later, this normal "step across" burn was a raging torrent, we used the trees to clamber across, which was handy,  you might be able to make out the Red deer hind thats jammed under the logs, it was absolutely reekin.

And now a highland burn that sometimes doubles as a path, I think

What? Me? Where? When? "Oh the top, thank @#$#"

We stopped at the dam for a snack, big mistake in hindsight. 500 meters further on from the dam we hit a wee snag, we had seen a couple ahead of us crossing the dam and could see them disappearing into the distance in front of us,  if we had kept going we might have crossed the burn as well, maybe not, the pictures don't do it justice, it was pretty mental.
  Suz really wasnt happy about attempting it and I was pretty wary, I gave it a go, got halfway and utterly soaked, after walking up and down for 30 odd minutes we made the decision to go back to the dam, believing in my heart that it was all over, we were scunnered.

Its a lot wider than the picture suggests, unfortunately. 

We tramped back to the dam, found the only bit of tent sized dry ground and pitched for the night, I thought we would probably be heading back down to Kinlochleven in the morning, so i wasn't really a bundle of joy.


Day 4 Blackwater Dam to as far as possible

We woke early (probably due to being in bed before the 6 o'clock news) and the rain was now an intermittent drizzle, the inflow to the dam had just about dried up, where as last night it was like the river Dee. Highland burns can go up and down quicker than a W#$#@e knickers, so a wee bit of faint hope appeared as we got a brew on and put the dhobi out to dry...

The same burn the day after, happy days, didn't even get wet feet crossing,  what a difference 12 odd hours make.

And another burn, turns out there's a fair few of them on this route

And another, the rain had been back on for a couple of hours and they were all rising pretty rapidly again, nothing so far to compare to last night though.

two years on the trot, these bastards have ripped up the path I've been following,  it's hard enough going as it was, without the added churned up ground

A wee break in the weather after Loch Chiarain, nearly even a hood down moment,  maybe tomorrow.

A few more rivers, one rather challenging and we finally arrived at Loch Treig,  just as the rain came back on with a vengeance, just as well really, dry is weak....

The (very loose) plan was to try and go as far as possible today and hopefully make up a bit of time that we had lost yesterday,  Loch Treig was meant to be last nights bivi spot, at this stage we were 3/4s of a day behind, in the long run no big deal, but we had accommodation booked in Dalwhinnie tomorrow night. The perils of pre booking i suppose.

Time was wasted discussing the strange looking blue thing

It was a bit of a tired slog from Treig to Ossian and we decided to just find a decent pitch somewhere along side the loch and call it a day, we checked a few out as we walked, but a lot of the decent ones were saturated,  eventually we found a cracking one, further on than hoped, but such is life, we had probably regained a few miles, although tomorrow would still be a decent length.

The decent pitch at the NE end of Ossian, during the last two days we had seen loads of dead red deer, there was another two here, either side of the burn mouth. Another one further up beside the track behind us, three outside the bothy at Loch Chiarain and a couple on the track up to blackwater dam, starvation? Pneumonia?  Boredom?

It had been a long hard day, only 14 odd miles, but the ground conditions and constant river crossings had ensured a day of slow progress. We should have been 10 miles further on at Culra lodge, tomorrow would be fun. Especially now that Susan had huge blisters under both big toe nails, ouch.


Day 4 Loch Ossian to Dalwhinnie 19/20 miles

It was raining again. We passed the lodge and headed up into the Glen. The first mile or two today was on a new track put in specially for the new hydro scheme, handy for us, but ugly as sin. Again the rivers were running very high and I didn't have the heart to tell Suz that we would eventually need to cross the one we were following.

 The path after the new dam was pretty random, sometimes there, sometimes washed away, sometimes flooded, sometimes dry, thats a lie actually,  it was never dry.

Not long in and the first crossing of the day, a fine feet dry one to kick us off, the new hydro dam in the background.

Looking back down to loch Ossian, the path is still fairly well defined here

But soon enough the soggy stuff kicks in, its the first time ive been up through here, and I can imagine in the dry it must be a fantastic walk

After getting across the Uisge Labhair, a fun experience and climbing up through the peat hags we joined with the good path that goes around Ben Alder.

A wee blockage that required a 50 yard detour to get around

Playing it safe and going around rather than over.

Here, what happened to "slow and steady", Suz powering ahead,  I think we had just been passed by a challenger on speed, the first person we had seen in nearly three days.

Jesus, where did the hill go, We came over the Belach Dubh and straight into the cloud, a crazy wind and a huge snow field all combined to give a very surreal effect. With no path we tried to keep high and follow some other footsteps,  hoping our anonymous pathfinder had walked over the hill and not straight off it.

It worked out fine and we soon recovered the path, and came out below the cloud,

Just below the snow field we bumped into about 8 lads carrying bikes, its good to know that there are other manics out and about in the back of beyond.

A lot of snow and water over here to

Looking back to Ben Alder and the way we've just come. The path on this side is in a great condition, it seemed very well maintained, the rain going off and the very gradual decent made for an enjoyable few miles

A hood down and blue sky rest stop, thats progress.  Unfortunately we had covered about 10 miles so far and were sitting beside Culra lodge, we should have been here last night, still 10 miles to go then.

After stuffing a few bags of haribo cola bottles in we were off again on the second half of the days travels. Easy going on good ground, but we were tiring by the mile, the views were 360 stunning

Arriving at Ben Alder lodge on loch Ericht felt like another milestone ticked off,  just follow the loch and we would be in Dalwhinnie before you know it,

If only, in reality its a long long drag down the loch side, Suz was completely puggled and I wasnt to far behind, the lack of training,  helish blisters and ground covered had taken a big toll, if I'd been suffering like that I would have phoned a taxi.  Thankfully shes tougher than me and kept the slow and steady mantra going until we eventually collapsed in the door of the Dalwhinnie bunkhouse.

My what a saviour that place is, instantly getting us sorted for food (that would revive the dead), drink and our room, honestly they couldn't do enough to get us revived and squared away.

CLICK TO RETURN TO DAY 1 & 2                                                   CLICK FOR DAYS 6 & 7