View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label Walkies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Walkies. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

TGO Challenge 2017, Part 3 May 2017

Friday 19th May, Ruigh Aiteachain to beyond White Bridge

I was up and about at a reasonable hour, my trick of wearing a blindfold in my tent in the summer was working – I wasn’t waking up at 4am anymore.

Workmen arrived to start work on the bothy before 8am, they were a decent bunch but the noise they generated was enough to encourage an early-ish departure. So we left late-ish, just before 9am. It didn’t matter, we had a lovely day of Glen Feshie and Glen Geldie ahead of us.

Soon after leaving, and brimming with confidence, we made the first error of the day: we took the low road when we should have taken the high. Anyone who’s travelled that way will know what I mean.

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The Low Road-End

Rather than turn back, we opted for the stupidist option of clambering up the not-quite vertical precipitous and treacherous hillside. Mick went first. Obviously. Ten minutes of slipping, sliding, clambering and generally cursing saw us on the rightful pth. We’d have done better to turn back.

More fun lay ahead, the world-famous Glen Feshie Landslips.

Actually, the landslips weren’t as bad as I remebered, or maybe most of the land had now slipped and there was nowt more to slip. Whatever, it was still dodgy. Mick went first – he was more experienced after all.<koff>



Infant River Feshie

It was warm at first, we enjoyed good views (it says ‘great views’ in my diary….but I’ll settle for good) an we passed a good few mountain bikers going tother way. Mountain biking has gained popularity in recent years. Even as recently as 6-7 years ago a mountain biker in Glen Geldie was a rarity. Now they’re common. Not wishing to pi$$ on anyone’s chips, but they’re a bloody nuisance – soft ground often becomes quagmire because of all the passing traffic. Plenty are polite and allow you safe passage as you pass, I’m afraid others couldn’t give a stuff and just barge past. Bad form. I reckon that we passed 30 or more cyclists between he Eidart Bridge and the ruin north of Bynack Lodge.

I should point out that I’m a cyclist – a fairly keen one at that.

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Pretty flahs in Glen Feshie


17, that’s SEVENTEEN miles to Braemar!


The Eidart Bridge. And mountain bikers. They didn’t let on.


Glen Geldie flahs

Talking of passing people, we also passed Minna, a first-time lady Challenger from Finland. Poor Minna was struggling with wrecked feet. She announced that she was going to have to bale out at Braemar – we offered help but she’s a determined lady and wouldn’t hear of it.

The climb up the watershed is very gradual, there’s a bit of undulating up and downery but it’s generally easy going with just a few burns to cross – even they were easy because of the recent low levels of rainfall. In fact I didn’t need to take my boots off for any of this year’s river crossing over the entire Challenge.


Although the first part of the day had been warm, it chilled noticeably once over the watershed. Clouds soon gathered and we sensed it wouldn’t be long before the Great Wetness would begin. We’re quick like that.



Geldie Lodge

The area around ruin at the confluence of Bynack and Geldie Burns was playing host to a number of Challengers, perhaps 6 – 7 tents. We stopped to chat but we wanted to get a wiggle on to get to our intended camp spot before the rain arrived.

White Bridge was virtually devoid of tents, most unusual. I hoped that most had pitched earlier at the ruin and hadn’t carried on to our intended and rather small pitch.

It stayed dry until we got our tents up. Although we weren’t the first to arrive, it wasn’t a crowded spot. There were a few familiar faces around, notably the Backpackers Club Enforcement Team: L&L from Stockport and Frank from Northampton (I think). We must have passed muster – they didn’t give us too much of a hard time.

A warm but wet night followed. And there were slugs – one of which was a great big black dobber that managed to weedle it’s way into my tent. I’m afraid I knelt on it, the squashed remnants took ages to get off my groundsheet. My trousers will never be the same.

Cuckoo Count: 3

Saturday 20th May, to Braemar

Lynsey’s Birthday!

But she wasn’t on the Challenge this year – maybe next year Lynsey?

My tent was wet through, it was going to need a good drying out – after I’d (tried to) remove the slug snot from the groundsheet.

Mar Lodge was the customary tea, coffee & biscuit stop en-route to Braemar. Challengers have always been made welcome here but this year there was a definite change in the air. We were routed around the back of the grounds to another entrance. Perhaps the sight of a few dozen Challengers was offensive to The Great and Good….although The Great and Good were nowhere to be seen.


Mar Lodge – note the appalling lack of biscuits.

A couple of mugs of tea plus one and a half biscuits later we left for Braemar. Anyone arriving after us would have to survive without biscuits. Shocking.

The tarmac trudge into Braemar is just that, a trudge. A dreary trudge at that. A study of the map shows a detour away from the road and up into Morrone Birkwood, a National Nature Reserve - think Rioja Grand Reserve but with footpaths and Land Rover Tracks. Nice.

There’s not much in it distance-wise, but it’s a lovely alternative. Before you know it, you’re in Braemar and searching out somewhere to eat, drink and do other stuff.

I’d booked into Kate’s bunkhouse – Rucksacks Braemar. The bunkhouse is wonderful - Kate is even wonderfuller. She’ll do your laundry, shout at you when you misbehave, will offer a wonderful shoulder to cry on and generally plays Mum to all us rufty-tufty Challengers who whinge about blisters, sunburn, trench foot and all the other things that draw us back to the Challenge every year. I always stay at Kate’s when in Braemar. Smile

A decent nosh at Gordon’s Tea Room saw me right for the rest of the day. Chips may have been involved. Quite a lot of chips actually. I passed on the pudding though.


In the evening I wandered down to the Invercauld Arms for a quiet pint. The place was heaving with Challengers. There may have been songs. Maybe a bit more than a (one) pint…..thanks Ian!

In previous years I’d have gone to the Fife Arms for a beer but it’s been closed for renovation for the last couple of Challenges.


The Fife Arms

The word on the street is that loads of lolly is being thrown at the place by someone who made ooooodles of dosh wheeling and dealing in the art world. The Fife will eventually be quite a posh place – they certainly won’t want Challengers in. Worryingly, the Invercauld Arms has been bought by the same man and will almost certainly suffer the same fate.

We got chucked out of the main bar sometime after midnight, I left everyone to it – my comfy bed beckoned. A good night’s kip followed.

Cuckoo Count: 2

Sunday 21st May, Braemar to Callater

A decent breakfast at Kate’s preceded a second breakfast in Gordon’s Tearoom.

All was well with the world today: My L knee was sort-of behaving itself, I’d slept well, my tent was dry (and therefore lighter in weight) and Kate had washed and dried my dirties.

I’d sent a food-parcel to Kate’s but I also felt the need to buy a few extra goodies from Braemar’s Qworp. Important stuff like Eccles Cakes. And Mars Bars.




Braemar’s Memorials to The Fallen


I wandered lonely as a cloud up the golf course road to Auchalater and then on the LRT to Callater Lodge where I received a hugely warm welcome – (nearly) EVERYONE gets a hugely warm welcome at Callater. Thanks Bill, Michael, Ali, Jeanette……..

Ali, Masseuse and Yoga expert extraordinaire, was offerning her massage services in return for a donation to help with the Lodge’s running costs. If she offers the same service next year I’ll definitely be taking advantage of it, the lady knows what she’s doing – even my knee improved.

An unwelcome visitor to the Lodge was the cause of much consternation, anger even. Said visitor came up under cover of darkness and caused some quite malicious damage.

But the word is out….

Whatever, a very sociable evening followed with a fine mixture entertainment provided by members of the attending congregation, in particular some bloke who’s Dad works for the corporation waste disposal department.


A lady with pink hair

I had a fairly early night, turning in before midnight. Others stayed up until daybreak.


Callater’s stereo convenience

Cuckoo Count: 0

Monday 22nd May, Callater to Spittal of Glen Muick


Loch Callater in the (very) early morning

I awoke, always a good thing, feeling a bit grotty and lacking energy. Situation normal? There was no obvious reason for this mallaise, I’d had 2 small beers the previous evening and I’d eaten very well, thanks to Michael’s culinary skills.

I pulled my boots on, the right boot felt a little damp – perhaps it had sprung a leak, and wandered downstairs to join the throng and grab a bite to eat.

After a couple of Michael’s bacon butties and far too much caffeine than is good for a chap, I set off. I had a couple of choices: over Jock’s Road to Clova or to climb the lofty peak of Lochnagar. Whichever route I would chose my lack of energy meant that this would be a slow walk.


Lochnagar was pulled out of the hat and off I jolly well went. The weather started out dry but as the morning progressed Lochnagar became shrouded in cloud. The wind soon got up and then it started to rain. Nice.


Lochnagar in the murk

As the visibility and wetness became horribler I changed my route, opting to take in a few slightly lower tops that weren’t as badly affected by the clag. My new route over Carn an t-Sagairt Mor > Fafernie > Carn Bannoch > Cairn of Gowal > Broad Cairn lengthened my day somewhat but it was worth it. Only Broad Cairn suffered the clag but even that cleared as I got close.

Sod’s Law dictated that the weather would improve once I’d gone the point of no return, and so it did. Having said that, Lochnagar’s top was still hidden in the murk.



Blue sky!



Broad Cairn

The tops on my new route were quite easily attained – I’d already done the bulk of the climbing, it was just a matter of bimbling along, going from top-to-top. Broad Cairn is always a bit of a bugger, the rocky slopes around the top make the descent far more difficult that the ascent. The views are worth it though.


Loch Muick

I took a break on my descent and was caught up by fellow LDWA member Janet, on her first Challenge. Everybody catches up with me.


Janet, looking far too happy

I dropped down to the pony hut, the rocky descent was playing merry hell with my L knee. I planned on having a cuppa and getting some food down me but water was scarce – I ended up using the contents of my platy to brew my tea.

The wet and windy weather returned as I descended further, it became really quite grotty. I met a lone backpacker walking the other way. He was hoping to pitch soon but the ground there wasn’t very suitable. I hope he managed okay, that weather was not very nice at all.

By the time I got to the Spittal of Glen Muick I was totally knackered. I’d contemplated pitching low down but camping around there is a bit frowned on – although I camped there 2 years ago without a problem. Plenty of running water now so I made a cuppa and guzzled a Mars Bar….and maybe an Eccles Cake too.

Revitalised, I began climbing up Allt Darrarie. After 20 minutes or so I came upon a cluster of tents pitched on some nice flat ground – adjacent to a nice fast-flowing river.  It was late, well past 8pm and I’d had enough. My tent was up in no time – just in time as it happened, the rain returned with avengeance.

I was glad to get out of my wet weather gear. My right sock was thankfully quite dry – my boot probably hadn’t sprung a leak after all. I made a decent meal of home-dehydrated chicken curry & spicy rice, followed by dried fruit and custard. It’s important to keep a record of these things.

I sat back on my new toy, a Thermarest camping seat, and enjoyed a pint of tea, when a newsflash on BBC R4 (LW) announced the terrible terrorist bomb attack in Manchester.

I felt helpless – my home town had been attacked and there was nothing I could do to help, I couldn’t even phone home.

Cuckoo Count: 0


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A Curry Walk…..sans curry, Monday 13th Feb 2017

Blame Ursula, it was her idea….nowt to do with me, I just wanted to go for a walk.

At 10.15am we gathered at Timperley Met station, the Plan being to march into Manchester in order to enjoy a good lunch in fine company. The Plan worked well, helped along the way by beautiful weather.

The route was one of our standards, head north along the Duke’s Cut into the heart of Manchester.

20170213_102008I couldn’t resist this one, moored in Timperley


L>R: Andy, Ursula (it was her fault), Rob, Pam, Martin, and Long Suffering Rick

Martin had a prior engagement but he was able to stay with us up until Stretford before returning to Timperley. We’ll arrange another walk soon so that he (and Sue) can once again endure enjoy the full thing.




A swan. I know these things.


At Waters Meeting canal junction, Trafford Park.

This junction affords connection to the Rochdale, Trent & Mersey, Leeds & Liverpool, and Manchester Ship canals.


 Looking towards Manchester from Waters Meeting


Manchester from Throstles Nest Bridge




Redeveloping Manchester



Manchester YHA


Lockkeepers Cottage


Old & new, the Beetham Tower in the background


Home for someone


Manchester has more than it’s fair share of homeless, this was just one of the shelters we spotted on today’s walk.


We walked a shade under 9 flat and easy miles. Lunch was taken in Katsouris on Deansgate – they don’t serve curry but the food is very good and is good value.

I hope Ursula enjoyed it, everyone else certainly did. Smile

Sunday, 22 January 2017

A Berwyn Bimble, 15 - 18th August 2016


A bit out of order….

Lucky, Mike and Dawn invited me along for wander in the Berwyns – my first trip to this area. There can be no excuse for this lack of attention, it’s remarkably close to JJ Towers…and what a wonderful area it turned out to be.

A train whisked me from Timperley to Chester where I met up with my three fellow defendants. Another train journey to Ruabon and a short bus ride took us to Llangollen – and the start of the expedition….although a visit to The Llangollen Pie Shop delayed our departure ever so slightly.


The River Dee (no, not THAT River Dee)

It was tricky navigating through the back streets of Llangollen, my 1:25k OS map of the Cairngorm Plateau proved to be useless. My rule of thumb ‘if in doubt choose uphill’ proved itself once again – the stiff climb out of the town was so steep that it just HAD to be the right choice. It was. It was also very hot. Seriously very hot. It was so seriously very hot that it took ages to get to where we wanted to be, although I’m not sure where that was.


  Beer is Good.

Vivod Mountain loomed, a blue squiggle on the map suggested water was available, a potentially good pitch then. It was actually better than that, water was piped into a make-shift settlement tank so we had an abundant supply of clear water. I still filtered it though. 


Our clear water supply

A nice flat spot was located and our three tents were erected. This was the first outing for my Luxe HexPeak V4, up until now it had only adorned my back garden.


First night’s pitch on Vivod Mountain, my HexPeak in the foreground

Dawn is very au-fait with the HexPeak. Her advice, and that from Andy, proved invaluable – I’m not saying I would have struggled without their input but life would certainly have been harder without it.


Vivod dusk

The evening was hot and completely still. There was water close-by and loads of vegetation & trees: midge heaven, and we were on their menu. Dawn had come prepared. No DEET for her,oh no. Something far better: citronella burny stick things. These things burned for a good few hours, stuck in the ground by the tent door they kept the midges at bay. These things are The Way Forward for camping in midge-infested areas.

It was a peaceful and thankfully highly midge-free evening – thanks Dawn!


To Llyn Lluncaws

It was a leisurely start the next morning, we were on our jollies, no rushing about thank you very much.





The order of the day was to be Moel Fferna (630m) > Cerrig Coediog (593m) > an un-named hill (621m) at SJ090369 > a few other un-named lumps en-route to Cadair Bronwen (784m) > Cadair Berwyn (827m). This made for a very nice day’s walking – great views, decent ground underfoot and nothing terribly steep. But it was still hot.




Lunch, or some other excuse for a sit-down



A Very Hungry Caterpillar

The three stages of doggy-stile (as opposed to doggy-style) negotiation:




NOTE: No stiles were harmed in this process.

A bit of not very tricky navigation got us to an interesting memorial:



We’d just missed Martin here, he’d been up Cadair Bronwen that very same day. Motorcycle trail-bikes were chugging around, the memorial was located on a very pleasant green lane.

Another lunch ensued, we couldn’t risk malnutrition, that would never do. Basking in the sunshine it was tempting to just sit and chill. Lucky had other ideas, we moved on.


Cadair Bronwen (I think): Lucky with some bloke in a hat



Late afternoon view from Cadair Berwyn

It was on Cadair Berwyn that we came across one man and his dog. They were sat, facing west, waiting for sunrise. I imagine he was going to face the other way at the appropriate time.

Onwards and downwards.

A very attractive ridge walk presented itself – it would take us gently and prettily down to that night’s intended pitch by Llyn Lluncaws. It looked lovely, Lucky thought so too.

Not so Dare-Devil Dawn. She spotted a rather more direct route…one that involved rather a lot of damned-near vertical steepness. I felt secure in the knowledge that I’d packed a spare pair of undies,

My descent was by derriere – the skidmarks on (the outside of) my shorts bore testament to that. There was no way I could get down otherwise. Mike’s shorts suffered similarly – although not quite as badly as mine. Dawn and Lucky, on the other hand, skipped down. Hrmph.


Llyn Lluncaws

A nice flat-ish, midge infested spot was located and our overnight camp established. This time we had lots of vegetation, lots of warmth and stillness – and a large body of completely still water. The midges must have thought all their birthdays and Christmases had all come at once when we arrived. Their dinner had arrived – but they hadn’t reckoned with Dawn’s midge counter-measures. Once again we avoided the worst of the biting blighters thanks to the citronella smoke of the smelly, smoky, burny sticks. A restful night followed. Apart from someone who snored. Loudly.



To Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog…and a bit further

Next morning dawned a bit mistily but that soon cleared and a cloudless sky promised another hot day.


We trotted off upwards – only because there was no downwards alternative. Up on the tops, we had some dramatic views:


Looking south-ish, down the Afon Iwrch valley



A brief trespass was called for in order to avoid a few miles of not particularly interesting ground. We thought we’d get away with it but as we crested a small hill we spotted a couple fencing contractors doing what fencing contractors apparently do: drinking tea.

The put us right – although their view was that there was no way we could get to Vivod Mountain that day. Well, they were right – but we could have done if we’d wanted. Honest. Anyroadup, we were ‘given permission’ to cross the farmland by the fencing contractors – and that was good enough for us, so we left them to their tea drinking fencing. and wandered off in a sort of determined way.

Our determination paid off – before too long we found a pub. Two pubs actually, but The Hand was the one we settled on, and what a fine choice it was. The process of rehydration began in earnest. All was well until Mike realised he’d lost a walking pole. A short retrace of steps failed to locate the errant stick, it could have been anywhere. Oh well.




We wandered off, keeping an eye open for suitable camping spots. Eventually we found one – a patch of thistly, scrubby land with a trickle of water nearby. There was plenty of cover, a casual passer-by wouldn’t spot us.

Mike and Dawn were in quite low profile, small footprint tents. My Luxe HexPeak V4 is a much taller affair and has quite a large footprint, secreting it presented a bit more of a problem – even so, we weren’t spotted. Thinking about it, I’m not sure if anyone walked by anyway.

I didn’t photograph our pitch so I’ve had to nick this one from Mike’s blog:

berwyns 035


To Llangollen

A short and easy day.

We woke to a warm morning, it was humid – the sort of humidity that might suggest the coming of stormy weather. We packed and set off, Llangollen bound, as the humidity abated.

The moorland colours were really quite lovely:





Our route took us past our first night’s pitch from where we retraced our steps back to Llangollen. Apart from the Pie Shop bit, we didn’t re-visit that. Instead we headed for Llangollen Railway Station where we watched steam locos, ate sausage, egg & chips and drank loads of tea.


A lovely few days away – my grateful thanks to Dawn, Lucky and Lucky’s dad for inviting me along.

Where we went(ish):


According to Lucky’s dad we covered around 30 miles – in a most relaxing and agreeable manner.

More incriminating photographs are here.

You can find out what really happened by looking here and here.

I’m going to go back to the Berwyns, you should too. It’s a brilliant area.