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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

TGO Challenge 2013: Day 5: To Luib Chonnal

Today was going to be a big day in our TGO calendar; the evening stop was to be the first of our cheese & wine parties. There was just one problem – we had drunk nearly all the wine at Meanach bothy in the blizzard. We were also a little light in the cheese department – we had scoffed the lot.

Fortunately we had had the foresight to arrange to meet up with the excellent Veteran ‘Cheese & Winer’ Alistair Pooler. Alistair had been unlucky in the draw for places for the Challenge – missing out by a hair’s breadth – but he was still determined to join the party and was having a week up in the Highlands bagging Munros. His plan was to knock off a couple in the morning, head off down to the shops for supplies and then join us for the party.

So he generously agreed to do the shopping for us. Then there was the decision on the venue. As you will have seen from yesterday’s pictures the mountains were slathered in snow and our fine weather location for the party was to be the tiny lochan below the top of Creag Meagaidh. We had decided that this would be way above the snow line and so decided on our Foul Weather Alternative of Luib Chonnal bothy.This also had the advantage of scooping up unexpected Challengers who might be staying at the bothy. You can see both routes on the map below. (You can click on the map to make it slightly bigger in a new window.)

TGO2013 DAY 5

We set off from the bunkhouse with a rare luxury – a packed lunch – with cartons of juice, real fruit, beautiful soft filled rolls, crisps and chocolate. Of course,the novelty of real food during the day meant this didn’t last long and it was gone by elevenses. A boy needs to keep his strength up! And it was as well we did, as the walk up the burn to Tom Mor was one hell of a boggy trudge. There are no views to speak of, apart from those behind, and the ground is very hard work.

If you look at the map, you’ll notice that we missed crossing the burn and so missed the track on the other side… Oh well, it was character forming.

HEADING UP TO TOM MOR

[HEADING UP TO TOM MOR, HAVING REGAINED THE TRACK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

However, after a rough morning, the afternoon was bloody wonderful! Tom Mor, the top of the pass, is a wonderfully boggy spot set amongst magnificent scenery and a place to linger and revel in the colossal size of Scotland’s empty places. I really adore bogs like this – unpicking the way through is marvellous fun and it’s relatively easy going as you are no longer struggling uphill. Unfortunately there was a really sharp cold wind, which meant that we decided on continuing over the top for a bit of shelter before stopping for a proper lunch.

TOM MOR BOG

[MAGNIFICENT TOM MOR BOG – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

The next picture is the view from our lunch stop, looking up at where he had planned to camp had there been a lot less snow. We are obviously enjoying ourselves, as the boys are smiling. Either that or it’s wind.

LOOKING TO CREAG MEAGAIDH & THE WINDOW

[LOOKING TO CREAG MEAGAIDH & THE WINDOW – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Phil has a camera with a zoom lens that allows you to count Candice & Cheryl-Anne’s freckles at half a mile. Here’s his picture, looking up to our proposed camp spot next to the Window. It was really cold and windy where were had had lunch, so it would have been interesting up there.

PHIL'S PIC OF THE WINDOW

[PHIL'S PIC OF THE WINDOW – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

It was then a delightful amble following the burns down to the Dog Falls, crossing the streams early as they were all running quite full and fast.

ANDY'S PIC OF DOG FALLS

[ANDY'S PIC OF DOG FALLS – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

The Dog Falls are impressive – a chain of big drops  set amongst huge wild country. Andy spent quite some time videoing the Falls and so we took our time, enjoying this fabulous afternoon.

DOG FALLS

[DOG FALLS – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

We were making our way down to Glen Roy, but rather than take the path to Annat, we decided to cut off the corner and head pathless more directly to the bridge just before the bothy. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake, as the ground was very very hard going – rough heather and bog; Very sapping. Phil’s excellent work with the map meant we avoided the steep little gorge lower down that can trap the unwary, and we cut across a gorgeous section of moorland that would make a wonderful wildcamp.

The Parallel Roads sang out from this vantage point.

PHIL'S PIC OF THE PARALLEL ROADS

[PHIL'S PIC OF THE PARALLEL ROADS – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

 

LOOKING ACROSS GLEN ROY

[LOOKING ACROSS GLEN ROY – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

There were a few boggy bits to negotiate, so I’ve included one of Andy’s excellent bog pictures. It shows that this area was once covered in trees – the ancient roots are perfectly preserved in the peat.

ANDY'S PEAT BOG

[ANDY'S PEAT BOG PIC – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

We’re still smiling in the next picture, which must have taken a bit of effort, as we had just completed the difficult boggy section after the Dog Falls. Perhaps it was relief that the day was almost over?

PHIL'S PIC: ENROUTE TO LUIB CHONNAL

[PHIL'S PIC: ENROUTE TO LUIB CHONNAL – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

As is the norm, I arrived at the bothy completely shagged. Okay, it wasn’t as bad as last year, as I had been on EPO for a year and the blood count was a bit higher this time around. But I still need a little time at the end of each day to get somewhere back to normal.

Already in residence Andrew, another Challenger, had been there a little while. He was a proper rufty-tufty walker with his sights set on the hills tomorrow and he was busying himself with Naismith to see if it was possible. A lovely bloke.

Phil did his magic with the bothy stove and was pleased to see that the stove damper rock that he had provided at our last visit a few years back was still in place. There was a massive stockpile of fence posts downstairs and before long the others had sawn and split enough for the night and Phil had the stove singing. I managed to avoid all the manual labour, but truth be told I was still a bit shattered. We were warm, comfortable, fed and happy. Socks were drying on a line above the stove. Just as the last of the whisky was being drained, Alistair clambered up the stairs with a gargantuan rucksack.

From it he produced kindling, logs, (kindly supplied by Ali & Sue from Newtonmore Hostel) firelighters, newspaper, four or five bottles of wine, a bottle of port, half a dozen cheeses, and water biscuits! We are in awe of the man!

And just as we were well into things, up popped Richard who had had a big day, on the hills when the weather allowed and down again when it was poor. He was another soul on a difficult route, but he looked cheerful enough and joined in merrily. The six of us polished off all of Alistair’s provisions. Alistair said Mike Knipe was parked up a few miles down the track but as he had had a massive day he wasn’t going any further.

PHIL'S PIC: CHEESE & WINE, LUIB CHONNAL

[PHIL'S PIC: CHEESE & WINE, LUIB CHONNAL – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

There was a lot of shuffling about down the other end of the bothy during the night, but the girls had gone by the morning.

24 comments:

  1. Top lad there in Alistair with that effort. Far too much comfort you boys had. Mind you were a bit slow on the hills when we meet you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A top man indeed, Martin.

      It was Scott who said "It is easy to make plans when one sits in a good, warm cabin, but to realise them is not so pleasant and simple"

      and I think this next quote has been attributed to Shackleton:

      "Any fool can be uncomfortable"

      Phil Andy & I concur with both of these great men.

      Delete
  2. Hi Alan,

    Sorry I just missed you lot. I was also off route to avoid snow and passed through just a couple of hours before you arrived at the bothy.

    Cheers

    Rolf

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah Rolf!
      It would have been great to have bumped into you again on the walk.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  3. I wonder if I'll ever be in the right place at the right time for cheese and wine? Looks quite civilised.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There can be no excuses for missing them this year as we published them only hours after the list of those on the Challenge was published!

      I think you are deliberately avoiding us.

      We are hurt.

      Delete
    2. ...my route was already planned...as is the next one.

      Maybe I'm just too organised.

      Delete
  4. Happy Days - nice to see Alistair enjoying himself despite missing out in the draw.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy days indeed Sir!

      Alistair had already done a monster day in the hills, which you can find on his excellent blog. The man is a shiny star!

      Delete
    2. I second Alan, it was indeed happy days!

      Although I'm not sure I would describe my day's walking that day as a monster day as I climbed the relatively low hill of Creag Dhubh above Newtonmore, for which I was only out walking for a few hours. You can read about it here.

      Delete
  5. An excellent write-up Alan - and a good C&W do too.

    My first visit to Luib Chonnal was in 2004 when I stopped in to eat my lunch - the weather being pretty awful outside. I'd been living off dried food for the previous 4 days...and some swine had hauled a tin of Heinz Baked Beans with Pork Sausages up there. The smell was overpoweringly wonderful! I don't think I was the only one in that bothy would would have committed unspeakable awfulness to have just a mouthful of that E-laden crap!

    JJ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ta, JJ
      For me it's always sausages and bacon.

      I would happily murder someone in a remote bothy to have their sausages and bacon.

      Just saying.

      Delete
  6. Good on Alistair - top man for keeping you all suitably fed and watered.

    There's a missing openning in the market for getting supplies to remote bothies etc :-)

    I'm enjoying the read.

    You'll get to St Cyrus before Andy at this rate.

    How's your recovering going?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a splendid idea.
      I could do that job!
      Young Walker's miles behind now: "Eat my shorts!"

      The recovery is going fine - I am now completely disconnected from all the machines and tubes and bags! Walking about, gingerly.
      Getting there!
      :-)

      Delete
  7. Oh what a perfectly splendid account! Just read yr latest in the company of Mango Terrier, who got extremely excited about Dog Falls. We have been cross-checking yr redacted version with the Mad 'n' Bad account. It is all Very Wonderful. And glad the tube is holding out - a good Speyside drip is always welcome. Beasts to you and yr brother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All the beasts to you, Sir!

      Mango & Gazza would indeed love the Dog Falls - they were in a mighty animal state when we were there.

      My Brother is home and doing well.
      :-)

      Delete
  8. An excellent report Alan, and thanks to all for a good sociable evening in the bothy :-)

    You've slightly over quoted the amount of wine I carried in - it was three small bottles plus a bottle of port (I opted to leave the whisky in the car as my bag was heavy enough!) I was very glad all my supplies were used up that evening as it made my bag so much lighter the following day when I climbed two hills both called Carn Dearg!

    I see you've overtaken Andy in the writing up. I look forward to reading about the rest of your crossing :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Searching for the truth on this blog?
      Good gracious Sir!
      If you want the plain unvarnished truth, we need to wait for Mr Walker's account.
      :-)

      Delete
  9. Great read photos brilliant there should be a book written,film(Terry Abraham)excellent stuff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you LA

      A fine idea. There was a video made of the Challenge a few years ago, but it was a very poor affair. If someone like Terry got his hands on it, it might be a whole new ball game. It would need to be very well funded though in order to have enough coverage.

      It has been discussed...
      :-)

      Delete
  10. You have too much free time with your 3 kidneys.
    I can no longer keep up.
    I have not started day 5 yet.
    And now I know what really happened, how on earth can I write my fictitious version.

    Ok, I will, but it must wait until the weekend.
    I have work, and work and work, and a physio appointment.

    Oh God how I hate work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've got a busy few days coming up now, so I'm not sure when Day 6 will hit the streets.

      I'll be back and forth to the hospital every other day for a few weeks, so I'll be a bit knackered too.

      Good luck with the work - you *do* realise you are keeping the country going, single handed?

      Delete
  11. Well done all! An epic adventure! I can feel the aches and pains coming on as I recline a world way in Australia.

    To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.
    Robert Louis Stevenson

    By the way, you guys seem still to be heading basically north - is the plan to bear right at some stage? Or get a bus from Inverness?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, Adam.

      We have been paralleling the east coast for five bloomin days! At this point we are no nearer the east coast than we were when we started five days ago at Oban!
      :-)

      Delete

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