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Sunday, 20 April 2014

TGO Challenge 2014: Kit List

Ahem! This is what you have all been waiting for: My (now) annual TGO Challenge Kit List!

Willem's Picture

WILLEM FOX’S PICTURE OF PHIL, ME & ANDY LIFTING HEAVY THINGS UP A HILL - CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

I still blame Louise for this spreadsheet madness.

Years ago, a few moments before the taxi arrived to take me to the Railway Station, I would weigh myself on the bathroom scales with, and without, the rucksack on. Subtracting one from the other gave me the awful truth.

When I started all this Challenge nonsense, some twenty years ago, it used to come in at between 41 and 42 lbs. But then I was young and fit and the weight was not too burdensome. However, it did feel like my spine was bleeding every time I picked it up.

Over the years good quality kit has gradually got lighter and, more importantly, I have got used to taking less stuff. As I’ve aged (I’m now 58) this has become a necessity so that I can enjoy my two weeks walking across some of the finest backpacking landscapes in the world.

I don’t do ultralight; I doubt if I even fit into the lightweight category either. I take enough stuff so that I am comfortable, whilst keeping an eye on the overall bulk and weight. I don’t like being cold as I’m not a big flabby bloke; I don’t have much natural fatty insulation. You’ll see that there’s a (quite hefty) fleece, a Primaloft gilet, a waterproof jacket and a down jacket. I use the lot on most Challenges.

My boots are pretty heavy, (I’m on my second pair of them) but I like them and have never had a blister in over three thousand miles of backpacking in them. My rucksack is getting on a bit, but I like Tilly Talon, as she’s a commodious girl at a notional 44 litres and we get along just fine.

You’ll see that I’ve joined the shelter brigade this year - I borrowed Martin Rye’s Solomid last year and was quite taken with it – but in effect I have turned Trinnie Trailstar into a tent by adding an inner tent from Oookworks. Configured like this, Trailstars have a massive porch, and I’ve made my own porch ground sheet to avoid muddy knees getting in and out. However, this combined package is still quite a bit lighter than my old Akto and comparable to Wanda Warmlite in her later years. I’m taking substantial pegs, as I see no point in taking a storm-proof shelter if it blows away in the night!

I take an Ultra Bivi to protect my sleeping bag in dirty bothies and occasionally I use it for extra warmth on cold nights. I take an astonishingly heavy (to many light-weighters) wonderfully squidgy pillow, because I want to and I’m happy carrying it.

But there it is. Take a look, if you are into this sort of thing. If not, move along and I promise I won’t be upset.

CLICK TO ENLARGE, TO BE DROOLINGLY READABLE, RATHER THAN BLURRED & IRRITATING!

TGO CHALLENGE 2014 KIT LIST

All up starting weight for this year’s Challenge, with food for four days and a full flask of whisky is 12.527 kg. (Those 27 grams are important, really!) Then you have to  multiply that number by 2.2046 and do some fiddling again to get to the ounces, to get the proper weight of 27 lb.10 oz..

I think I can cope with that, and I know it will get lighter after every meal and glug of whisky.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

TGO Challenge 2014: PreWalkDaunder: Days 2 and 3

DAY TWO:

I woke to a scene of devastation: Empty fag packets, cigar stubs, half-drunk bottles of wine, beer tins dancing in the porch’s wind-eddies. Stale cheese encrusted plates all over the shop, a cracked Lexan wine glass. The grass littered with spilled peanuts and half eaten sausages on sticks. A pair of boots, attached to an unfortunate’s legs were being dragged back to a tent for half an hour’s desperately needed sleep.

The Scotch Eggs looked okay and tasted fine, washed down with a tumbler of Jura. I was now ready to face the new day.

The others’ shelters were bobbing and dancing in a stiffening breeze, while Trinnie behaved impeccably. Today’s forecast was breezier than even yesterday, and so after a brief conflab, a foul weather route was chosen as we really didn’t fancy being blown to death on the higher tops. We decided, this time, to skip the Victorian Gentlemen’s Club in Keswick for a leisurely stroll over to the Sun Inn at Bassenthwaite. Lynsey’s painstaking research had shown it had a “dedicated drinking area” and, as she was a dedicated drinker, she thought this sounded a perfect fit.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself again. We actually set off on time, for the second time in a row. Andy’s transformation from lardy, tardy bastard to lean, keen racing machine is quite something to behold! He has lost over a backpack of flab in weight and is now never, ever late! Next year he’s going to fix Broken Britain.

And here is the gentleman himself, beautifully colour co-ordinated with Croydon. Is there no end to this man’s talents?

CROYDON & ANDY: A PERFECT MATCH

CROYDON & ANDY: A PERFECT MATCH

And here are the Daunderers, looking surprisingly chipper after a rough night:

DAY TWO DAUNDERERS

DAY TWO DAUNDERERS – CLICK TO ENLARGE

You can see that it’s a nippy old morning as everyone is wearing their titfers & mittens.

It was easy walking, albeit with some jolly unpleasant up-hill stuff, on a Landrover track all the way to the minor roads that would carry us gently to the warming embrace of the pub. But, there was still the rather unpleasant matter of lugging rucksacks and bodies all the way by one’s own leg power. That’s the drawback with this backpacking lark; It does take considerable effort, mostly when all you really want to do is have a nice lie-down on the settee under a blanket in front of the fire and have a restorative snooze.

Just occasionally though, it is worth the effort. The view back to Skiddaw House was gorgeous:

SKIDDAW HOUSE

SKIDDAW HOUSE – CLICK TO ENLARGE

We passed Whitewater Dash, a fine waterfall. Phil reminisced about the time he came here as a small boy with his father, who had dangled him upside down above the falls, until he had agreed to be sent away to school. Sadly, they don’t do parenting like that, these days.

PHIL'S PICTURE OF HIS REICHENBACH FALLS

PHIL'S PICTURE OF HIS REICHENBACH FALLS

It was then but an amble along the track, mercifully downhill all the way, passing beneath Dead Crags and Cockup.

DEAD CRAGS

DEAD CRAGS

We had an early lunch, sheltering unsuccessfully behind a wall, in the cold. I continued to munch my way through my second hundredweight of cheese and tomato sandwiches. You can’t beat a good strong cheddar, some sweet tomatoes and lashings of fine-ground black pepper and salt, all stuck between stiff wholemeal slathered in waves of salted butter. Admit it; You’re drooling as you read this.

***

After Croydon had been persuaded to settle with the dog’s owner, we left the pub, three pints of Cumberland and a Grouse to the better with life. In the intervening period, the sun had made a welcome appearance. Hats and gloves were duly removed and it was an altogether jollier band of Daunderers that set off back uphill, on our way to our overnight camp. Perhaps it was a jovial shove from a fellow Daunderer, or perhaps he had just lost his footing, but he went down onto the gritty road surface like a sack of spuds. We all helped Phil up; he was shaken but not stirred. Phil offered to take the next shot, as he thought Miss Whiplash would not be too impressed to see her husband with a nasty head wound. Lynsey patched up the old lag – he’s not too steady on his pins these days – and used a whole tin of concealer to good effect. The blusher and eye-shadow were not strictly necessary.

POST-PUB DAUNDERERS, CONCERNED FOR PHIL

POST- PUB DAUNDERERS, CONCERNED FOR PHIL: CLICK TO ENLARGE

The next three pictures were on the rest of the afternoon’s uneventful stroll:

ORTHWAITE HALL

ORTHWAITE HALL

 

LOCAL SPORT

LOCAL SPORT: CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

A SIGN! WE'RE NOT LOST!

A SIGN! WE'RE NOT LOST!

As it was still quite windy we decided to tuck our shelters in the lee of Longlands Fell rather than on the saddle, where we might have found ourselves blown to Caldbeck half a day early. With a bit of cunning, we managed to get all six up in reasonable order:

CROYDON, DAVID & PHIL - LONGLANDS FELL

CROYDON, DAVID & PHIL - LONGLANDS FELL – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

TRINNIE TRAILSTAR & HELGA HEXPEAK

TRINNIE TRAILSTAR & HELGA HEXPEAK – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The sun was just dipping over the horizon when I took these pictures, which might explain the purple colour-cast. Andy’s Helga and Croydon’s Competition are actually green.

TRINNIE IN THE SETTING SUNTRINNIE IN THE SETTING SUN – CLICK TO ENLARGE 

After dinner, we did our very best to finish off the remnants of our whisky. But, Lordy, Lordy, Lynsey came up trumps again, replenishing the stocks by producing a fine flask of Arran. She and her husband, Alastair, are single-handedly fortifying our parties!

LYNSEY & PHIL

LYNSEY & PHIL

The eagle eyed Trailstar Spotters amongst the congregation will notice that Trinnie’s centre pole is set at 120cm, which of course,means she is at 115cm, as 5 cm - the pole tip – is buried in the ground.

 

DAY THREE:

CAMP 2: BINDER MISSED THE CHAMPAGNE

CAMP 2: BINDER MISSED THE CHAMPAGNE AGAIN– CLICK TO ENLARGE

That’s Croydon & David in the picture. Again, quite remarkably, we were away by the appointed hour; it must be that we are almost ready for the Challenge in a couple of weeks’ time.

We strolled along the Cumbria Way’s foul weather route, which gives splendid elevated views of the numerous radio masts hereabouts. We took breaks regularly on thoughtfully positioned benches and it was a happy, relaxed clutch of Daunderers who ambled their way towards the final destination – the Oddfellows Arms in Caldbeck.

As we had been amongst thousands of lambs throughout the weekend, here is a gratuitous picture of what will soon be gracing your plate on a Sunday lunchtime:

RESTAURANT ORDER 316

RESTAURANT ORDER 316

Caldbeck is a lovely little village and I’m pleased to pass on that a few years back it had a very lucky escape; David didn’t move in.

Here it is in its British loveliness:

CALDBECK

CALDBECK, STILL PROUD TO BE BRITISH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The last photo is inside the Oddfellows – aptly named for the Daunderers:

DAUNDERERS - GLAD IT'S ALL OVER

DAUNDERERS - GLAD IT'S ALL OVER, FOR ANOTHER YEAR.

Note: The beer’s good in the Oddfellows, but don’t go there for the food. Do the extra mile and go to the Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket, which sadly was not open on Monday lunchtime. On the plus side, they do have a pool table and the staff are very friendly.

Then it was back to Throstle Hall to collect the cars and the TGO2014 PreWalkDaunder was over. Thanks, Phil for doling all the driving.

***

Now, where did I put the rucksack; it’s almost time to pack for the TGO Challenge!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

TGO Challenge 2014: PreWalkDaunder: Day 1

The night before and the team pose for a record photograph, albeit not a very walkery one, of this year’s crop of Daunderers, enjoying a quiet night at the Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket. They are, from right to left (and why not?) Morpeth, Croydon, Phil, Lynsey, Andy (with a face on), David and me.

A FULL SET OF DAUNDERERS

A FULL SET OF DAUNDERERS, HESKET NEWMARKET

I’m not sure why Croydon is fondling Phil’s leg but Phil seems to be enjoying it. But it could be because Lynsey is holding his hand? Croydon, a versatile chap, is also giving Morpeth a foot massage. Curiously, you’ll note that Phil’s, Andy’s and my glasses are almost empty. A well matched team for the forthcoming TGO Challenge.

Surprisingly, after a blustery night, with sheep giving birth all about us, bang on time the Daunderers transformed themselves into the shabby bunch shown below. At least they now look all walkery.

SEVEN DAUNDERERS @ THROSTLE HALL

SEVEN DAUNDERERS @ THROSTLE HALL

For those interested in such things, you can see the route that we set ourselves below:

We set off up some godforsaken boggy hillside or other for the old explosives hut at 440m (you can zoom in to the map to find it; this is an interactive postmodern blog, you know) where the weather took a turn for the decidedly horrid. It was very cold, extremely windy – with heavier gusts – and with some light rain thrown in for good measure. We had a brief second breakfast and set off once more, with the weather getting even horrider!

Quite wisely, Morpeth was having none of this, and while Croydon was leaping over the Caldbeck Fells chasing after his orange rucksack cover, he decided he really had not recovered from his very nasty chest infection. The lad was struggling and so he very sensibly plodded back down the hill to a warm cafe in Caldbeck before ringing home to give Diane time to kick out her toyboys before his arrival. Happily, he was reunited with his packed lunch that he had left in the fridge.

HIGH PIKE DAUNDERERS

PHIL’S PICTURE: HIGH PIKE DAUNDERERS

Ordinarily it’s not an onerous walk up to the top of High Pike, but today’s was a bit of an epic. I practiced my Titanic pose, arms akimbo, with rucksack, leaning into the wind at a good thirty degrees to the vertical, before regaining my marbles and diving into the little shelter. It was now much more than horrider; I would venture to suggest it was now bordering on horridest.

We had to kick out (in the nicest possible way) a very friendly group of Cumbria Way walkers, who had passed us on the way up. (I think it was Lynsey’s fiercest stare that did it) to gain sole possession and being as we were, on top of the world, thought it best to celebrate the occasion with lunch. The truth of it was that no-one could really face leaving the shelter and besides it was a good way of reducing pack weight.

HIGH PIKE WIND SHELTER DAUNDERERS

PHIL’S PICTURE: HIGH PIKE WIND SHELTER DAUNDERERS – CLICK TO ENLARGE

We put it off and put it off but eventually we headed out into the possibly horridest weather for the mile to the Lingy Hut, whereupon we set about evicting those really lovely Cumbria Way walkers again.

LINGY HUT DAUNDERERS

LINGY HUT DAUNDERERS

It was nice in there, with the place finally all to ourselves. But there were Daunderers who were keen to get on (I won’t name them, to save their blushes) and they insisted that we get up from our comfy armchairs and get back ‘out there.’ Croydon, the Chair of the Daunder Discipline Committee, will be having a discreet word with them later.

It was whilst I was outside having a pee that I noticed a faint path heading straight down to the bottom. This meant that we would have the wind behind us, rather than being battered from the side until finally turning left down Grainsgill Beck on the Cumbria Way.

DOWN TO GRAINSGILL BECK

PHIL’S PICTURE: DOWN TO GRAINSGILL BECK – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Of course, this slight shortcut, and with gravity and our heavy packs assisting our descent, meant we were soon evicting the Really Splendid Cumbria Way walkers once again from the information board about the history of the mine. We had puddings here, rounded off with Jelly Babies. The smiles in the photo below can be attributed to the sugar rush.

RIVER CALDEW

RIVER CALDEW – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Every Daunder has a schism. This Daunder was to prove no exception. Phil & I decided we would aim for the intended camp spot slightly earlier than planned, to take in a delightful yomp across thigh deep heather, a crossing of the infant Caldew, and then more thigh deep heather to Salehow Beck. This led to utter confusion in the remaining ranks of Daunderers. With Phil and I dumping our packs and filling water bottles for a very deep drink (it was now decidedly humid, and all that heather bashing was thirsty work) we noticed that they were all now heather bashing, and seemingly not enjoying the experience, towards us. It was Phil, I believe who mentioned that they must have believed we were about to put up our shelters. In fact the opposite was true; the intended camp spot was indeed a fiction of tussock and bog and Not Very Good At All for sleeping upon.

CAMP @ SALEHOW BECK

CAMP @ SALEHOW BECK – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Eventually, David came to the rescue, redeeming his earlier faux pas, and found a spot that he knew about all along and was absolutely sure he had told everyone about earlier. By the time the shelters were pitched and the first flasks passed around and everyone was friends again, it was again very gusty, as you can see from the shape of the shelters in the above picture.

TRINNIE TRAILSTAR

TRINNIE TRAILSTAR, SOLID – CLICK TO ENLARGE

It was 7:55 for 8:00 for cheese & wine at Trinnie’s so I had a little while to take some snaps, before returning to Trinnie for a bit of dusting and hoovering.

BLENCATHRA

BLENCATHRA

 

SKIDDAW HOUSE

SKIDDAW HOUSE – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Again, it was a Pooler who saved the cheese and wine party. Andy & I had drunk all the wine, scoffed all the quiche, eaten the Amoretti, licked clean the lamb skewers, leaving just Humphrey’s wonderful, if now slightly ripe cheeses and oatcakes. Lynsey supplied the wine, bless her, and everyone else piled in with flasks of whisky. Humph, (The Lord bless him and keep him!) had met us for a few fleeting seconds at Berwick upon Tweed railway station with Magnificent Mary, to hand over a wonderfully cerise pink carrier bag full of the wonderful comestibles listed above, only days earlier, on our trip home from the Monadh Liath Leg-Stretch. In return, I covered Mary with kisses.

LORD ELPUS, CAUGHT IN FLAGRANTE

LORD ELPUS, CAUGHT IN FLAGRANTE, THROWING AWAY THE FLASK

 

TRINNIE'S DAUNDERERS

TRINNIE'S DAUNDERERS

As I drifted off into the bosom of Audrey Hepburn, I recall the outside world getting really very windy indeed with a few handfuls of gravel chucked in for good measure. I slept very well that night, with the Daunder now wonderfully into it’s customary swing.

All was well in my little world.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Freaky Dean & the Dulnain; a Monadhliath leg-stretch: 3

There were sudden freaky-rainy-gravel-chucking-squally things in the night, but Trinnie and Oook shrugged them off with aplomb; hardly breaking step as they snored & snuffled gently together through the long night. These girls are perfect partners for a chap out in the wilds.

I soon had a warming fire going in the bothy and then, and only then, would Mr Walker surface and be polite company. He had been singing along to an interminable Cliff Richard medley, tucked up in his HexPeak. I lit the fire out of desperation when he started on Abba.

If the midges are out for the Challenge, they will eat Andy alive, as midges really hate Cliff Richard.

Miserably, all good things come to an end, so we trudged out of the lovely warm bothy in reasonable shape, out into the Scottish weather, heading for Aviemore’s pleasure-domes.

There was no bloody sign of this Man-Made-Global-Warming: It was still decidedly chilly, with low cloud and sheets of drizzle wrapped in a batter of stiff breeze that’d shrink your head to the skull-bone as soon as lifting your cap. We abandoned our high stravaig along the watershed. It would have been a miserable affair and this was a trip of warm fluffy kittens and happiness. We’d have no misery here! So we set off once again, down the broadening bottom of the Dulnain.

JENNIFER, JUNIPER, SITTING VERY STILL

JENNIFER JUNIPER, SITTING VERY STILL ALONG THE BROADENING DULNAIN

The Dulnain changes around these parts from a vigorous tomboy to quite a leggy girl with a glint in her eye. I would imagine her to be quite a handful in a storm but fortunately there’s a sturdy bridge a short hop below the next bothy downstream, Bothy number (you’ve guessed it already, haven’t you; we only have intelligent readers in this congregation) Four, sometimes known as the ‘Red Bothy.’

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First we have to sample the delights of this magnificent oasis.

BOTHY NUMBER FOUR, THE DULNAIN

BOTHY NUMBER FOUR, THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Supplies were low and so rations were shared and a short break to read of past passers-by in the bothy book, was enjoyed. This place is the Grand Central Station of the Monadh Liath; There cannot be many who have enjoyed these fabulous hills who did not stop here for a last quiet break before the noisome clash of Aviemore.

I’ve heard walkers complain of the dreadful trudge up the Burma Road, but, given time to savour the views it can be a wonderful stroll. Please don’t rush to the top in a lather; Look out and back for the views – they fill your head with loveliness.

CAGGAN, FROM BURMA ROAD

CAGGAN, FROM BURMA ROAD – CLICK TO ENLARGE

On the stroll up, we witnessed the heartless destruction of a fen trap; three gigantic burly men heaved rocks at it until the trap was sprung and bent way out of shape. Good for them! Some furry little blighter with jolly big teeth will live to fight another day. We were not going to argue the legalities of the occasion with them, such was their colossal size and aggressive demeanour.

 ANOTHER MISTY-MOISTY VIEW OVER THE DULNAIN

ANOTHER MISTY-MOISTY VIEW OVER THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

I’ve often heard the hills of the Monadh Liath described in disparaging tones, but I always find them wonderfully approachable; they are curvy long-limbed beauties that afford fabulous views from their shoulders. The walking along the tops can be tough at times, but for the most part, if you pick a good line, you are treading short alpine mosses and shattered stones. Perfect for backpacking in fine weather. Unfortunately, today was cold and grim with strong gusty winds, so we admired Geal-charn Mor from below.

GEAL-CHARN MOR

GEAL-CHARN MOR

Here are two gigantic burly men I happened to bump into on the way down from the Burma Road. That’s the Cairngorms behind them, all wrapped in clag and mystery.

TWO GIGANTIC BURLY MEN

TWO GIGANTIC BURLY MEN

After a bit of a road-bash, we made Pleasurama Central, otherwise known as the Aviemore Youth Hostel. This is a fascinating emporium: On its plus side, it has a wonderful drying room, lovely staff and it serves beer. It is warm and the common areas are spacious and comfortable. The showers are okay, with just a bit of mouldy ceiling to give the shabby-chic hostel effect.

On the downside, the rooms are tiny, there is no-where near enough hanging space, storage space for gear, no place to keep your specs when you’re sleeping and just the one feeble central light. Why are there no individual bunk lights? This is a fairly modern hostel; it really needs to be looked at from their customers’ perspective and sorted out. It’s no surprise to me that hostels are struggling if they are getting the basics so wrong. The room felt cramped and poorly designed.

Later on that evening, I was force-fed a Scottish delicacy – the deep-fried Mars bar, with ice cream. I now understand why the Scots are such a healthy nation. Full of vitamins, nutrition and fibre. They’ll need all of that to keep their winters at bay.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Freaky Dean & the Dulnain; a Monadhliath leg-stretch: 2

It’s the little things in life that fascinate.

For example, a small child picks up his tommee tippee mug full of warm milk and shoves it in the general area of his face, and his teeth remain intact! I believe that muscle memory plays a part in this; The more they perform this act the easier it becomes. The muscles link with the brain and learn the incredibly complicated route and actions required to guide the cup to the mouth from the highchair table to the destination. And the child does not drown in milk. It is a bloody miracle – I mean – have you ever tried to spoon baby-food into a baby’s mouth? Whenever my wife put me in charge of this act with our two boys, within five minutes the kitchen resembled the Somme,

What has tommee tippee to do with the Freaky Dean & the Dulnain trip? Well, it’s been almost a year since I had been backpacking and so all the simple things that just come automatically when backpacking had to be re-learned on this trip.

Exhibit A: In the bothy on the first night, I realised with absolute horror that I had brought nowhere near enough whisky. This was very distressing. In a nice warm bothy, whisky makes the evening run along perfectly. Fortunately, Mr Walker had bought generous supplies. I am indebted to the gentleman.

Exhibit B: The body can function perfectly well without little pleasures, but the inclusion of jelly babies, cuppa-soups and hot chocolate make life go with a swing. And of course, more whisky.

***

It had absolutely pissed down with rain in the night and it was still pretty horrid in the morning, and to add to the misery, I left a warm bothy with a weedy lightweight spade without a handle, when the required implement was a sharpened heavyweight Spear & Jackson job. Such is the fun of living in the outdoors.

The route up and over to the second lunchtime hut was abandoned (well, if truth be told, I unilaterally abandoned it on behalf of the team – I’m all heart – but there was not a murmur of dissent in the ranks) in favour of a fine daunder down the Dulnain. The Upper Dulnain is a wondrous beast. And speaking of beasts, now would be a good time to remind everyone that it was in these confines (Humphrey reliably informs me) that the last wolf in Scotland was killed.

THE UPPER DULNAIN

THE UPPER DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

This is all trackless stuff, but as with all trackless stuff in the Highlands, there are plenty of deer tracks to help unlock the puzzle of finding a good route though boggy bits. It felt wonderful to be out again in the cold wet air with just the elemental sounds of water and wind as your backing track.

DOWN THE UPPER DULNAINDOWN THE UPPER DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE 

I’m always entranced by the constant shifting of the rivers in these parts. They’re like wayward women bed partners; hogging the entire valley floor, rushing from one side to the other, forcing you up on top or trying your luck teetering over her boulders alongside the maelstrom.

This next chap had had a bad winter. The birds and foxes might have pulled though with his help.

DEATH ON THE DULNAIN

DEATH ON THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

We had a seated lunch in what remains of Dulnain Bothy No 2. See if you can spot the clue to its name from the picture. Prizes for the correct answer will be dished out by Mr Walker.

BOTHY No. 2, THE DULNAIN

BOTHY No. 2, THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Quite why Robin & Andy decided to dress as Smurfs today escapes me.

Inevitably, having started at Bothy No 1 in the morning and lunching in No 2, we came across Bothy No.3 a little later on, where we decided enough was enough and it was time to put the shelters up and be proper backpackers, and not bothy bums.

DULNAIN BOTHY 3 CAMP

DULNAIN BOTHY 3 CAMP – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Shelter Nerds may want to enlarge the above picture, to examine if we pitched the things correctly. From left to right we have Robin’s grey silnylon Trailstar with a solid Oookstar inner. Andy & Robin are standing next to Andy’s new baby from Bob Cartwright – a silnylon HexPeak & mostly mesh inner, and on the right is Trinnie Trailstar in olive brown, with a 50/50 Oookstar inner. They went up with very little trouble at all. They were first outings in the field for each of us.

Oh, alright then; Here’s another shot of the shelters, looking down the Dulnain:

HEXPEAK & 2xTRAILSTARS, BOTHY 3, DULNAIN

HEXPEAK & 2xTRAILSTARS, BOTHY 3, DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Any day now, the Reporter will be publishing her decision on whether or not a disgustingly huge wind farm will be built, bang opposite this wonderful bothy – the Allt Duine wind farm. There is one reason, and one reason only, why this wind farm is being proposed: Money. The three Estates who own the land will benefit to the tune of many millions of Scottish or English Pounds each, each year for a bare minimum of twenty five years. The company that owns the wind farm will pocket over a hundred million in subsidies over the life of the thing, paid for by you and me (who can least afford it) from the “green” levies on our electricity bills. How anyone with even half a brain cell can call this ‘green energy’ when it is totally fucking up this beautiful landscape is beyond me. They are the lunatic eco-warriors, the Eco-Nazis, who have forgotten all about ecology and environmentalism in their quest to ruin capitalism at any cost.

And this next picture shows what is to be lost. This is looking straight up Allt Duine, up to the high ridgeline that borders Strath Spey and the Cairngorm National Park:

ALLT DUINE, MONADH LIATH

ALLT DUINE, MONADH LIATH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Monadh Liath are a wonderfully remote, lonely place; A place to escape from the humdrum, a place to have space and time to think – commodities that are given very little value in modern life. It is a disgrace that the Scottish Government is even thinking about industrialising fabulous places like this.

Of course, not all hill walkers agree with this point of view, as seen in the bothy book, by a Challenger, no less: David Smithers.

DAVID SMITHERS' ENTRY IN THE BOTHY BOOK

DAVID SMITHERS' ENTRY IN THE BOTHY BOOK – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Happily, the very next entry from the excellent Colin Crawford put the man straight.

After flipping up the shelters it was getting cold again, so Robin disappeared into his as yet un-named Trailstar to prepare dinner whilst Andy & I got a roaring warming fire going in the bothy and cooked in the warm, with a few snifters to help things along.

DULNAIN 3 HEARTHDULNAIN 3 HEARTH 

Not many miles, but a glorious trundle down the Upper Dulnain. All was well in my world.