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Thursday, 20 June 2013

TGO Challenge 2013: Day 9: To Braemar

It’s about fifteen miles on good paths, tracks and minor roads to Braemar from our camp, with the cheery promise of tea and biscuits at Mar Lodge. The weather didn’t look too good; it felt like there was rain on the way and the clouds were already building from the southwest. So we didn’t hang about this morning, even though it was to be an easy day.

TGO2013 DAY 9

[DAY 9: CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Now’s probably a good time to talk about Sally Solomid, that I had borrowed from Martin Rye. The first night in Sally had been a bit of a struggle as I had pitched her when knackered and in the pouring rain. That night I found taking my wet weather gear off and getting organised, in a shelter that was far smaller than my normal Stephenson’s Warmlite 2C, had been a bit of a struggle.

However by now I had had four nights to sort myself out and get used to living with the young lady (We had also spent two nights in bothies, a night in a bunkhouse and a night in a hotel) and I have to say I was quite taken with her now. She is very quick to erect – about the same time taken to get an Akto up in good shape, perhaps a teensy bit longer, but much much quicker than it takes to erect a Trailstar and inner. She is easy to put up in bad conditions as you just have to peg her four corners and rear mid point out and simply lift with the poles and she’s up and storm-proof. Then it’s the simple matter of attaching the inner, which I now had down to a fine art. There’s loads of room to stache rucksacks, boots and wet gear in the full length protected space at the front of the inner, leaving plenty of room to cook under cover if the weather forces you to do so.

There is room alongside your sleeping mat to store all the contents of your rucksack inside the Oooknest. Sally was sturdy and shrugged off blustery winds with aplomb, the ‘A-frame’ pole configuration giving impressive stability. My only criticism, which is quite minor, is that it feel slightly claustrophobic with the inner mesh quite close to your face when you are lying down.

Overall, especially when considering how little she weighs, I think she ‘s an excellent lightweight choice. You can see our little encampment below: L-R: Andy’s Treeza Trailstar, Sally Solomid, and Phil’s Akto.

TUCKED IN BEHIND SHELTER AT THE GELDIE

[TUCKED IN BEHIND SHELTER AT THE GELDIE, 1700 FEET UP – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Our first mini-break was at the slightly derelict building that provides excellent shelter at the junction of the Geldie and Bynack burns. Phil took a great deal of care framing this next picture.

PHIL'S CAREFULLY FRAMED PICTURE

[PHIL'S CAREFULLY FRAMED PICTURE]

The walk to the Linn of Dee is very exposed but we were lucky with the weather and had the wind coming at us from the side and behind. It would be quite brutish from the front as there is no cover at all. We were quite surprised at seeing absolutely no Challengers at all on this stretch – there are usually a hundred or so coming from all directions converging on the metropolis that is Braemar.

We stopped for a more substantial snack in the beautiful woods just before the road at the Linn of Dee, before a light drizzle encouraged us on our way once more.

LOOKING FOR A WINDSCREEN TO LICK AT THE LINN OF DEE

[LOOKING FOR A WINDSCREEN TO LICK AT THE LINN OF DEE – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Mar Lodge was heavenly. The Gun Room offered teas, coffee and biscuits for a charitable donation. There was an armchair, that was low and comfortable and I found it impossible to leave its warm embrace. Andy & Phil were poppets and waited on me.

We stayed a lot longer than all the other Challengers who popped in. We just couldn’t understand the hurry – Braemar was now just an hour and a half’s stroll down the road. So we had yet another cup of tea and alright, just the one more chocolate hobnob and okay – I will have that pack of “Biscuits, brown” as others strapped on packs and laced up boots and disappeared into the Great Outdoors.

With civilisation now a very real prospect I found the bathroom and washed a few days of grime from my face and brushed and flossed my teeth. I was a new man!

As we lurched awkwardly outside into the all too fresh air, we noticed that it was raining. It was that thin, concentrated showerhead rain. Looking about and out west it seemed like there was quite a bit to come. Perhaps this was why the more recent arrivals had made such a short pit-stop. As Phil and Andy were climbing into their over-trousers, I made up my mind that it was probably just a shower and anyway, as Andy was donning his waterproofs it was bound to turn out sunny.

Hmmm. Before we had left the grounds of Mar Lodge the thin concentrated rain had turned into fat concentrated straight down stuff. It was too late now; my strides were soaking. However, it was warm so no great shakes. By the time we eventually hauled our arses into the Fife Arms it was hosing it down.

At the Fife we bumped into zillions of Challengers. This is where they had been all the time! Andy & I were due to stay with Kate at “Rucksacks” (Phil was living the high-life in the Fife) but then Laura and Louise made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: A night sharing a lodge cabin at the Braemar Lodge Hotel with two beautiful ladies! Within a flash, Andy had rung Kate to let her know that she could re-let our bunks and we were skipping up the road to a kitchen, a sitting room with reclining chairs, our own room and two lovely girls.

LAURA'S PIC INSIDE THE CABIN: ME, LOUISE & ANDY

[LAURA'S PIC INSIDE THE CABIN: ME, LOUISE & ANDY]

Andy volunteered to take the smalls to the washing and drying machines – he wanted the thrill of his undies mixing intimately with Laura’s. There was talk about the campsite being flooded and people having to move their tents to higher ground. It seems we had made a very wise choice.

Then it was back into town for a slap up feed at the Old Bakery and a few pints of the black stuff in the Fife. Old friends were re-acquainted and a fine evening was had by all.

A good day, with the back of the Challenge now well and truly broken.

37 comments:

  1. I am enjoying the commentary of your travels and am pleased to see the John West tuna which appears to have disappeared in my locale just as I was preparing for my expedition. Did you consume all the world's known supplies?
    The MLD shelters, whichever you choose are of the highest quality and are always worth a look when considering a shelter, but they also require a different mindset.

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    1. Thank you Roger
      :-)

      I am actually quite taken with the Solomid and wouldn't mind having a look at the Duomid or the Japanese equivalent, the Locus Khufu
      I know what you mean about the mindset - I have become a bit of a convert, having tried the Solomid.

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  2. "There was talk about the campsite being flooded and people having to move their tents to higher gound"

    Surely no Challenger (being experienced backpackers, as they are) could possibly have been so careless as to pitch in a position that would flood !

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  3. Ooo! I'm a laaaady!! Thankfully no photographic evidence has surfaced, phew...

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  4. Hasn't that old building near the Geldie Ford got lots of warning notices outside it saying it's unsafe? I am a martyr to authority so I stayed well clear when I read them. But you'll have elf and safety down on you like a ton of falling masonry. And Gayle I am feeling suitably chastened having had to move my tent on the first night when it got rather wet...

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    1. You should see some of the hovels I've slept in over the years! Compared to them, this one is first class and very sturdy indeed.
      It could do with some windows and a door though, to keep the draughts out. It seems the SNT want it to fall down.
      Shame, really.

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  5. What a fine ramble you have had - now just get the bus to the coast! I am impressed beyond measure. You seem suddenly to have popped out of the wilds into the most salubrious civilisation.

    I must say one of the things that has impressed me with your report (and others) is the sheer number of like-minded souls crawling all over the place in these hills and wild places. It is so pleasing to read how so many folk are getting out into nature and living it. Hell at times of course but so rewarding.

    There are just so many people out there by the sound of it! Now, ahem, in my day (and here I talk of the late 50s) you could walk for days and not see another soul. Three of us once spent two weeks on a Munro-bagging trip up the middle of the Highlands - crossed one road and saw not a single person.

    My first walk, which I did by myself, was from Glen Doll to Inverey (there is a hostel still there?), then to Aviemore the next day. Saw no-one else in the hills! Now that wouldn't happen these days by the sound of it?

    Take care.

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    1. Hi Adam
      The TGO Challenge puts 300 or so souls into the Highlands all at the same time - though there are a dozen start points on the west coast and four possible start days to spread the load a little.
      However, there are inevitable pinch points - crossing the Great Glen, Braemar, Ballater, for example.
      You can pick a very social route and include a lot of these pinch points, but may Challengers choose to have a remote walk, hardly seeing anyone for two weeks.
      The beauty of the Highlands is that it is so vast, people are swallowed up by the landscape.

      Sadly, both the hostels at Glen Doll and Onverey are now closed.

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  6. Quote: the back of the Challenge now well and truly broken

    If only that were true. Monday is looming, with thumping hangovers, mountains (Munros!), snow, cloud ... and a hot drinks machine :-D

    ... where some inconsiderate b*****rs had consumed all the hot choccies :-(

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    Replies
    1. Indeed, Sir! And didn't we do well?

      Yes the missing chocolate was a low point... We should have words with the "powers that be" to lay in greater supplies!

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    2. If that's the same one Laura and I visited in 2011, we had to make do with hot orange squash. It didn't hit the same spot!

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    3. I had the hot orange too... Not what I was expecting AT ALL!
      Harrumph....

      It is wonderful to find little luxuries such as this and the heated loo in the middle of nowhere though...

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    4. What?? Heated loo? It was a tilted portaloo last time I was there!

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    5. The tilted, fetid portaloos were there when they were rebuilding the loo block. They are now shiny stainless steel with hot running water and background heating.

      A *must* stopping place before the porcelain of Tarfside.
      :-)

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  7. Oh, how's the kiddley doing, btw?

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    1. I'm about to find out - sitting at the Renal Unit at the Churchill Hospital waiting to see the Doctors. I'm on two visits a week at the moment. But it's now a lot less painful and things are definitely looking up.
      :-)

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    2. Just seen the Docs - they are delighted with my progress
      :-)
      Star patient, apparently!

      Delete
  8. Did you and Andy find that your bright yellow shelters attracted an abundance of flying, er, flies?
    Just wundrin'.
    JJ

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    Replies
    1. Hi JJ
      (I got your message by the way and will call you back later today!)

      No - surprisingly I had no flies at all - it was usually pretty windy though, which probably kept the blighters at bay.
      :-)

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  9. I don't think you really captured the essence of the drooling in that photo.
    Next time we need to find a car windscreen!

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    1. It's fascinating comparing that picture of you at the Linn of Dee with the one at the start at Oban
      HERE

      Entropy?
      :-)

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  10. i see what you mean about the pictures alan in first one andrew looks calm and nearly normal , the second he looks like he,s lost the plot totally

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  11. Good to hear the snake and pygmy is doing well.

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  12. Another great read thought we'd jumped into a Dick Emery sketch describing the tent oh Alan your are awful ;-)

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  13. "She is easy to put up in bad conditions as you just have to peg her four corners and rear mid point out and simply lift with the poles and she’s up and storm-proof. Then it’s the simple matter of attaching the inner, which I now had down to a fine art."

    I say! Your blog moves into new terrain.

    If I did this kind of walking where you have to anticipate 4 season rough stuff these wigwam style tents look the business. As it is, I'm happy with Tina Tarptent in the sunshine. She's quick, light, and comfortable for 3 season protection.

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    Replies
    1. Move over Chris Townsend! Gear reviews, eh?
      :-)
      I'm pleased to see your Tarptent is "Tina". These girls look after us handsomely and need to be recognised.

      Delete
  14. Indeed! Tina is very good to me. She was however a little wayward in a recent trip to Wales: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DomavRZH4xY

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    Replies
    1. So we're not going to see your underwear then, James?
      ;-)

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  15. Whilst you were getting nice and comfy in the Fife I was creating a puddle beneath the bitch slut window wondering what the hell I was doing. Mar lodge held me on a comfy chair for at least an hour with a buffet lunch, perfect timing that was.

    I think that Martin is going to sell Sally Solomid, are you going to indulge?

    Did Andy find a window to lick or was he arrested before he managed that?

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    Replies
    1. That window is rather good.
      :-)

      I have warmed to these pyramids. I think I will go for a Locus Gear Khufu with the DPTE and one of Sean's custom made inners.

      Sadly, all the cars had vanished by the time we hit the road at the Linn of Dee, and Andy did not have too much saliva spare when we got to the car park.
      :-)

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  16. Interested to see the comments about the Solomid - it seems to attract far less attention than the Duomid. I recently got a Solomid myself (with the MLD mesh inner) and have been very impressed. Before buying it seemed that most people have preferred to go for the Duomid, but given that I was always likely to use an inner (protection from midges and it helps to contain all the loose odds and ends of clothing and equipment within the tent), the Duomid would only have offered more porch space. As it is there is plenty of space in the Solomid porch. I'm used to the Laserlite and Laser Photon and the Solomid offers similar space and appears to be less noisy flapping in the wind. Since I have to dry my tent indoors with little space the Solomid is super convenient as it is easy just to hang apex from the ceiling. The MLD mesh inner does rest on the face when sleeping but maybe because it is mesh it isn't an inconvenience or claustrophobic - through I do notice the cold more versus a solid inner. For just over 800g including pegs (Silnylon version) it is a great little lightweight tent.

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    1. Agreed, Sir!

      I still think that I'll go for the Khufu though with one of Sean's custom inners as with the DPTE you can have a bigger inner width - I'm thinking of about 1000mm which with a clearance of, say 150mm at the back will give a porch depth of about 500mm.
      I'll probably go with a solid three sides and the doors solid up to 400mm than mesh backed by droppable solid above (like in the Akto).

      This will give much more room in the inner for easier organization than the Solomid inner, which I would guess is about 750mm wide.

      Delete

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