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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. 

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 A 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 Coire Bhuidhe for a longish plod down to our campsite. This is actually quite hard work, as neither of us is 'hill-fit.' 

DROPPING INTO COIRE BHUIDHE

PHIL & COIRE 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.



Thursday, 2 July 2015

TGO Challenge 2015: Part I: Town & Country

Day 'Minus One'


Many years ago, Lord Elpus and I would stand barely awake and bleary-eyed at Luton Airport at GodKnowsWhatO'clock in the morning and much later the same day, after struggling with 'outsize baggage', buses and trains, we would arrive at the West Coast, completely knackered to start our first day of our two week holiday walking across Scotland on the TGO Challenge.

We were throwing ourselves, in indecent haste at Scotland, and it resulted in two jaded walkers who passed magnificent rock architecture, bubbling and bouncing cascades, barely noticing anything that was not immediately in front of our feet.

THE CAFE IN THE GARDEN, RUSSELL SQUARE





But not any more. This year I sit on the top deck of a bus, marvelling at the views over garden hedges as it weaves its way through Windsor and London, and alight at Hyde Park Corner. Then it's a delightful wander through the tourists up past the Ritz and Piccadilly Circus to enjoy a late lunch at Cafe Boheme in Soho. A short stroll through Bloomsbury for a coffee & Danish in Russell Square, now mingling with the well-heeled retired and trendy young students. 

BLOOMSBURY. AT LEAST THE ARCHITECT HAD A GO...

EUSTON STATION

Another gentle amble finds me at Euston station, and then the Bree Louise, this evening a bustling hot, humid and full of excited Challengers sort of place. Pies & Beers, and old friends to see us off.


THE BREE LOUISE, EUSTON

TOBY, GORDON, PHIL, VICKY & ROBIN, AT THE BREE LOUISE

JEREMY, AT THE START OF HIS TENTH CHALLENGE. I WIN THIS YEAR'S BET WITH PHIL ON THE NUMBER OF MAP CASES. JEZZA WAS LATER TO LEAVE THESE IN THE PUB, ONLY TO BE REUNITED WITH THEM AT THE VERY LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE ON THE SLEEPER BY A VERY KIND CHALLENGER DUE TO TRAVEL ON THE NEXT TRAIN. [PHIL'S PICTURE]

VICKY DRESSED IN THE LATEST ULTRA LIGHT WALKING GEAR

VICKY, IN "SO LAST YEAR'S" WALKING GEAR

London is a fabulous city.



Day Zero:


After an evening in the bar and a night stowed in our bunks on the Caledonian Sleeper, we wake to Inverness Railway Station, and another beautiful morning. A coach delivers us to the front door of the Kintail Lodge Hotel, at Shiel Bridge on the west coast of Scotland.

KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL, SHIEL BRIDGE


SHIEL BRIDGE, KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL. PHIL CONSOLING ANDY, WHO THIS YEAR IS WALKING WITH "THE BIGGER BOYS."


PHIL'S PICTURE: KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL

LOCH DUICH, FROM OUR HOTEL

LOCH DUICH

With the weather set to "perfect" we have a whole afternoon to ease ourselves into a holiday mood. The rest of Britain is casting its vote in what promises to be a very tight General Election resulting in another disastrous hung parliament, but right now all that is a million miles from this little piece of Paradise. We celebrate the start of our holiday with a lovely meal and a good bottle in the conservatory, watching the sun set in the north west.

EVENING AT KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL

Watching Channel Four on the bedroom telly, Andrew Neil says the exit poll is suggesting a surprise win for the Conservatives. Paddy Ashdown promises to eat his hat if that were to be so. And with that, we slide into oblivion after a thoroughly relaxing two day journey.

This is the way to do it.