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Wednesday, 8 July 2015

TGO Challenge 2015: Part III: Cheese & Wine Party.

Some say the Cheese and Wine Party was first thought up in Mrs Miggins' Pie shop, under the influence of London Gin. All we know is that it's a celebration of everything Challenge. 

The Cheese and Wine Party is a combination of the wonderful social side of the walk with the solitude of wild and empty places; places where deranged peat-stained loners can be found digging trial graves in cold, wet boggy places.

This year's party is held in such a spot - at a wide tussock-rid bend on the Water of Caiplich in the north eastern Cairngorms. Challengers, as a rule, come out of the west and head east. And indeed, for this party some did indeed come from the west. Others came from the north west and some from the far-flung northern reaches of Challenge Territory. That latter group would be Louise, who first headed south, then east, then north, then west and then south once again...


LOCATION: THE MIDDLE OF SOD-ALL

Phil and I found ourselves unintentionally entangled with an anarchic bunch of Very Experienced Challengers, and the capitals are important here. First to catch us was His Holiness the Irreverend David, a victim of some seven Challenges. This was no surprise to Lord E and me, as this gent has his god on his side (having saved his neck after a fearful fall down a mountainside on last year's walk) and legs up to his armpits. The man floats over the hills like a gazelle. 

JOHN & NORMA, CLAMBERING UP BILE BUIDHE

We are next overhauled by the magnificent John and Norma, with Thirty (yes thirty!) Challenges beneath their belts. Norma has that rare ability to emerge immaculately presented after a rough night camping in stormy weather in the middle of sod-all. Eleven Challenges.

IMMACULATE, NORMA IN BILE BUIDHE SHELTER

John has been Challenging since before time began. Calm, quiet and unperturbed by whatever the weather slings at him he is rumoured to carry Norma's dressing table deep in the bowels of his rucksack. Nineteen Challenges.

JOHN: BILE BUIDHE SHELTER

As we are tucking in to Phil's whisky in the surprise shelter - when I say shelter, do not rely on this refuge being here after another few storms, as quite a few planks are missing from walls and roof - we are caught by the cosmopolitan pairing of Peter and Jayme, with twelve Challenges between them.

HIS HOLINESS THE IRREVEREND DAVE, LORD ELPUS & A HANDSOME BASTARD

Jayme tells a story of turning up at a B&B with Peter and being offered a room with a double bed. "I have nothing against Peter" he says "but I was affronted at the suggestion that I was Peter's lover - I mean; Look at him. I can do so much better than him!"

PETER, JOHN, NORMA, THE REVEREND, & JAYME

It's a wonderful yomp over the top of Bile Buidhe and down to the Water of Caiplich, first picking our way through rough ground, then threading our way through the groughs, picking up a bubbling caochan and bouncing from bank to bank on nibbled turf, down and down and down for ever. It is glorious!

THE USUAL OFF-PISTE BOGGINESS IN GLORIOUS COUNTRY [c/o PHIL]


PETER, JAYME, PHIL, NORMA, JOHN & THE REVEREND

We paddle across a quiet Caiplich to find that most of the party-goers are already there, Wendy Houses pitched,and I have to say, all quite well. We are roundly abused by all and sundry for being late to our own party.

CHEESE & WINE ENCAMPMENT

This encampment is a backpacking tent-nerd's wet dream. We have the original Hardboys - the Aktos, the Young Pretenders, now with greying temples - Laser Comps, a quirky Rainbow, a couple of Rufty-Tufty Trailstars, a sexy Solomid, Scarps and a Moment, and an ageing Grandpa - a Saunders.     

THE ENCAMPMENT, WITH THREE LATE-COMERS PITCHING

CARL'S PICTURE: SOME OF THE CHEESE & WINERS

Okay, I'll do my best now. Above: From bottom left, clockwise: Lord Elpus, Jayme, Margaret, Mike, The Rev, Robin, Sandy, JJ, John, Norma, Jim, A Handsome Beardy Bastard, Peter, Kirsten, Mad'n'Bad, Lindsey. (Missing is photographer Carl)


CHEESE & WINERS

And in the picture above: (From the bottom, clockwise) Phil, Jayme, Margaret, Mike, The Rev, Sandy, Robin, JJ, John, Norma Jim, Louise (missing from the preceding picture) Peter, Kirsten. Andy and Carl (missing from the previous picture as well)

Also missing in action - pitching their tents, are Jean, Ken and please forgive me, but I cannot remember his name, a friend of Jean. All in all, twenty one of us made it to this fabulous location. Twenty one glorious people!

It's always perishingly cold at a Cheese and Wine (partly because they are usually roughly two thousand feet up) and this year the mizzle held off until about a quarter to ten, when some turned in, and a few rufty-tufties made it to the After Party Drinks chez Trinnie Trailstar.

AFTER PARTY DRINKS [c/o PHIL]

AFTER PARTY DRINKS [c/o CARL]
This was planned to be my last Cheese & Wine 'do' and I have to say it was the best. Ever. Thank you, everyone.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

TGO Challenge 2015: Part II: Days like this


When it's not always raining there'll be days like this
When there's no one complaining there'll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there'll be days like this 

***

Today, the second day of our Challenge, is one of the most perfect days in twenty years of TGO Challenges. This is described in pictures, a couple of video clips, and a few words chucked in for good measure. You don't need me prattling on about it.

We start the day a mile short of our intended destination as the previous evening we had spotted a horde of the Great Unwashed camping at our intended stopping point. Lord Elpus and I are antisocial bastards and didn't fancy a rare sunshiney evening of R&R spoilt by all the hobbledehoys and ne'er do wells camped further down Glen Affric.

Here, then, is today's route, laid out for you, care of those Most Magnificent Men at RouteBuddy. Don't be frightened, but do hold on to your seats, as there are elevation profiles.involved as well. [You can click on the maps and pictures on all these posts and they will blow up to a larger, more blog-reading friendly size.]



As I'm sure you already know, Lord Elpus and I have lived most of our lives on the edge of Fenland. This is a place where the highest points in the landscapes are the bridges over the dykes, a place where you can walk almost all day below sea level. This day, then, is a big one for us Southern Softies, with two whopping great climbs. 


BROTHERS JOHN AND PETER

PHIL LOOKING BACK. TAKING PICTURES ALLOWS US A WELL-EARNED REST. WE HAD ALREADY WALKED A MILE!


VIEW FROM STRAWBERRY COTTAGE

LOCH AFFRIC FROM THE STALKERS' PATH [c/o PHIL]

GLEN AFFRIC

PHIL'S MAGNIFICENT PICTURE - STRAWBERRY COTTAGE AND ALL THINGS WEST

A SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED PIECE OF ALL THINGS WEST

It is as we are coaxing our heavily burdened carcases halfway up the first brutal climb that we hear the beat of a helicopter coming our way. Surely Phil hasn't called out Mountain Rescue already? He does have form in this respect, having organised a big yellow taxi for Darren in 2007. Do I really look that bad? I think I've done well stifling the sound of my wheezing lungs!

PHIL'S CHOPPER PICTURE - NO, REALLY!


YES! A (BAD) VIDEO OF THE HELICOPTER. IT TRANSPIRED IT WAS CARRYING PAT DOWNIE, A FIRST TIME CHALLENGER, OUT FROM AFFRIC YOUTH HOSTEL WITH A DISLOCATED SHOULDER

PHIL, GOING WELL

PHIL, ALMOST AT THE CREST OF THE FIRST RIDGE

A TRIUMPHANT LORD ELPUS ON THE CREST OF THE 1ST RIDGE 

THE STOPPING IS ALL. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. THE 1st LUNCH [c/o PHIL]

HORRIFICALLY, DROPPING INTO GLEN GARBH, WE WERE CONFRONTED BY THE CORRIMONY WIND FARM
This really is a deeply unpleasant shock. We are in the heart of wild land, just a day's walk from the west coast! Some money-grubbing bastards in the tiny community of Corrimony have taken the developer's bribe, and in doing so have trashed one of the most beautiful places in Britain, if not the world. They disgust me.



Fording the burn we come across this extraordinary folded rock. I could spend quite a while mooching about here; it has a wild, remote feel to the place.

MAGNIFICENT SERPENTINE FOLDING

SO GOOD, YOU GET ANOTHER LOOK AT IT!

TREES FROM A MUCH WARMER PERIOD IN SCOTLAND'S (COMPARATIVELY) RECENT HISTORY 

PHIL'S PICTURE


We'll draw a veil over our struggle up to Bealach an Amais. Suffice it to say it is a running bog at a fortyfive degree angle. Rests are taken. Every thirty steps. Then every twenty steps...



BEN NEVIS GLIMPSED FROM BEALACH AN AMAIS

BEALACH AN AMAIS, AND LUNCH No. 2 [c/o PHIL]

The climb up the western ridge of Aonach Shasuinn is dry and easy going, if a bit grunty-steep, but is it worth it! The views opening up just get better and better!

CLAMBERING UP THE WESTERN RIDGE OF AONACH SHASUINN: BEN NEVIS ON THE RIGHT

MAGNIFICENT SGURR NAN CONBHAIREAN FROM THE WESTERN SHOULDER OF AONACH SHASUINN

LOOKING DOWN GLEN GARBH TO AFFRIC FROM WESTERN SHOULDER OF AONACH SHASUINN [c/o PHIL]

PHIL, WITH AN ELRIC BEHIND

LOOKING SURPRISINGLY CHIPPER NEAR THE WESTERN END OF AONACH SHASUINN [c/o PHIL]

WESTERN TOP, AONACH SHASUINN. GLEN AFFRIC IN DISTANCE [c/o PHIL]

LOCH BEINN A MHEADHOIN, GLEN AFFRIC [c/o PHIL]

PHIL & THE AFFRIC HILLS FROM AONACH SHASUINN

LOOKING WEST FROM AONACH SHASUINN

BEN NEVIS FROM AONACH SHASUINN

DISGUSTINGLY, THE MILLENNIUM WIND FARM, SEEMINGLY WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE

HEAVILY CORNICED COIRE, AONACH SHASUINN, WITH AFFRIC HILLS BACKDROP

CLAIMING AONACH SHASUINN [RIDGE OF THE ENGLISHMAN] FOR THE ENGLISH!
And now, for your edification and complete delight I give you a video clip of an unknown Englishman claiming Aonach Shasuinn back for the English!


YOU CAN VIEW THIS ON YOUTUBE AT A RESOLUTION & SIZE OF YOUR HEART'S DESIRE!

To me, the next three images are completely heartbreaking. They demonstrate the SNP Scottish Government's complete disregard for wild land. This government is single-handedly responsible for steam-rollering ugly, useless and incredibly expensive wind power stations in the heart of some of the most achingly beautiful landscapes in Scotland - if not the world. They have destroyed a wonderful environment for the foolishly mistaken belief that by building wind farms they will earn a fortune from the hated English (often described by the trolling internet ScotsNats as "Westminster Tory Scum," by the way) to replace the income from North Sea fossil fuel revenues after winning the Independence Referendum.

Well, they lost the referendum (badly, even after lying about future income from the North Sea by a factor of eight) and have fucked up Scotland's wild land. Well done Alec Salmond. Well done Fergus Ewing. Well done Nicola Sturgeon. May you each rot in hell.

CORRIMONY WIND FARM: TO GAUGE THE SIZE OF THE TURBINES, THE GREEN AREA IN MID-DISTANCE IS A MATURE FOREST. CORRIMONY IS A TINY WIND FARM COMPARED TO THOSE IN THE MONADH LIATH

MILLENNIUM WIND FARM & MONADH LIATH, FROM AONACH SHASUINN

MILLENNIUM WIND FARM & MONADH LIATH FROM AONACH SHASUINN

The walk along Aonach Shasuinn is quite wonderful and we drop down into a snow filled Choire Bhuidhe for a longish plod down to our campsite. This is actually quite hard work, as neither of us is 'hill-fit.' 


DROPPING INTO CHOIRE BHUIDHE

PHIL & CHOIRE BHUIDHE

All in all, a magnificent day. 

However, the SNP Scottish Government should be held to account for the criminal damage they have inflicted, quite needlessly, on this fabulous wild place.