As a rule, I don't bang on a lot about gear here. These days I buy new stuff when the old tried and trusted stuff falls to bits. But I will take a moment to tell of the wonders of Trinnie Trailstar. This is Trinnie's fourth TGO Challenge.
First, the bad stuff.
First, the bad stuff.
- She takes a while to put up. Not Trinnie herself; no, you are under cover quite quickly but the combined package of Trinnie, my wonderful Oooknest and my porch groundsheet.
- Occasionally the wind can shift a hundred and eighty degrees but I've never found that a problem as the porch is so huge no weather makes its way to the inner. If a big storm's coming you'll know all about it when you're pitching, so you won't make a mistake with her orientation.
|LOOKING BACK UP GLEANN FHIODHAIG AFTER BREAKFAST|
- Then of course there's the infamous 'Trailstar crawl' that can result in wet knees and condensation on your back. I've never found this a problem, but perhaps I'm more agile than most and more tolerant of minor inconveniences.
However, the good stuff far outweighs any of these niggles:
- Trinnie can comfortably accommodate party-goers.
- She's a great place to discuss the day's plans when it's peeing down with rain, or pass whisky flasks to each other.
- Sopping gear can be dumped in the cavernous porch out of the way to be dealt with after you're all dry and snugly after dinner.
- There's so much room in my Oookstar (that's an inner-tent designed specifically for the Trailstar) that organisation is a piece of cake.
- There are no zips to get iced up, and she is incredibly stable in ferocious wind and rain. You're guaranteed a good night's sleep.
- In the morning, when it's chucking it down outside it's an absolute doddle to pack away all your gear apart from Trinie herself, undercover. There's loads of room to put on your boots, change into your waterproofs in a dry spacious interior.
This morning Trinnie is soaking from overnight rain but I pack away a virtually dry Trailstar. I fly her, rather like a kite, and shake and shake and shake all the water from her flanks until she's virtually dry. Then it's simply a case of bundling her into her stuff sack and popping her under the lid of my rucsac.
And so to today's route. It's Sunday and Mrs May is apparently living in 10 Downing Street.
It promises to be a very good day indeed, following 'FWA1' on the maps below, with just a 20km stroll and 430 RouteBuddy metres of ascent. That's about 800 of your MemoryMap or Anquet metres... As you can see from the first map, designing all the foul weather alternatives for this section proved to be an interesting experience. Having taken our FWA yesterday it means that today we continue on FWA1 until we rejoin our fine weather route at Luipmaldrig.
|MORNING MAP. CLICK TO ENLARGE: FOLLOWING ROUTE FWA1|
We are walking together today and surprisingly for a large-ish group we set off more or less on time. I would be hard pressed to find lovelier people to spend a day in the hills with.
|AFTERNOON MAP. CLICK TO ENLARGE. FOLLOWING ROUTE FWA1 TO 'FINE CAMP'|
It looks to be one of those open and shut days - lovely warm sunshine followed by brisk frisky showers, repeated at hourly intervals. I adore this sort of hill weather. Photographs are infinitely more interesting with huge piles of dramatic cloud, showers draping themselves across layers of hills and freshening wind heralding another brief downpour. It makes you feel alive again.
|THE RIVER MEIG|
The Meig rewards with every twist and turn, and then the glen gradually opens as Scardroy approaches.
|PASSING SHOWER, GLEANN FHIODHAIG|
|DAVID, HMP3 & EMMA, HEADING FOR SCARDROY|
Scardroy must rank as one of the most beautiful locations for a house in Scotland. This is my second visit - Lord Elpus had sent me this way years ago when he was recovering from having the first set of innards removed - and I would happily come this way again and again. The grass and wall just past the red rhododendrons make a wonderful spot for elevenses in the sunshine.
|HMP3 & EMMA|
Neither David nor I realise that at this point Emma is feeling quite unwell, and after our very relaxed stop, we scamper along the road together, with HMP3 and Emma walking as a pair behind us. We reach the farmstead at Inverchoran just as a very feisty shower hits, with some menace. David and I are in our base layers and make a dash for the shelter of the trees where the track begins to take us up through the wood. We stooge about for a while, but there's no sign of Humph or Emma, so we carry on up the hill, thinking they'll catch us when we stop for lunch at the top.
|LOOKING BACK TOWARDS SCARDROY ALONG LOCH BEANNACHARAIN|
I remember this track from last time. It's a grunty swine. About 750 Imperial Feet of up, in very steep indeed sections that make my legs go to jelly. I've no idea how David's jellylegs are coping with this, but the Bounder seems to be doing well enough. You really have to squint at the map with a very hard squint to see all the stacked brown squiggly lines hiding in the pretty green colouring of the woodland.
|LOOKING BACK TO SCARDROY AFTER A GRUNTY CLIMB UP A TRACK IN THE WOODS IN THE RAIN|
Eventually, gasping for oxygen, we break the shelter of the trees and the sun is belting down once again. We struggle along up the track, promising ourselves that at the next rise we'll stop for a spot of lunch, until at that rise we see another better looking spot a few hundred yards further on. And then the same again.
|RUFTY-TUFTY DAVID AT OUR LUNCH SPOT|
I determine to make savage inroads into my still gargantuan food bag. Pork pies are despatched with the last of the mustard. Three Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewells are swallowed whole. The honey-roasted cashews and cranberries are devoured. Just as I am about to start on my Lion Bars the wind freshen alarmingly and we look up to see the view in the picture below below.
'How far do you think that is away?' asks the VeryVeryNiceMan.
In a frenzy I'm stuffing away my food bag and pulling out all my waterproofs and reply 'About thirty seconds' as the first penny size drops bounce smartly and very wetly on my bald patch.
-An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy jackets just in time
But David was still yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man on fire or in lime...
|INCOMING! VIRTUALLY NO SOONER THAN WE HAD SAT DOWN...|
It's a belter of a shower, lasting quite some time. If you were of a pedantic nature you may wish to call it a summer storm, but this is the Western Highlands of Scotland, so it's just a passing shower. Either way, it great to have some real weather chucked in our general direction. This is not the time to wait for Emma and Humph and so we carry on in the fabulous downpour. On a happy note it's coming ever so slightly from behind as we follow the delightful hill path over the top of the bealach and then down towards Glen Orrin.
|ANOTHER PASSING SHOWER. LOOKING SOUTH ACROSS GLEN ORRIN|
Even in this weather of fierce stormlets followed by blazing sunshine this walk is utterly fabulous. We follow the wonderful little gorge, swapping banks occasionally, down to Luipmaldrig and fall inside, grateful to be out of the hot sunshine.
|A BELTER OF A PASSING SHOWER AT LUIPMALDRIG, LOOKING EAST DOWN GLEN ORRIN|
Chairs. Tables. Civilization. A settling cup of Horlicks with a large dash of Bowmore. Criminal, I know, but quite perfect with shortcake and a slice of fruitcake. But I don't have any shortcake, or fruitcake for that matter, and so I'm making do with Tuna-with-a-Twist in pitta bread, followed by six slices of Leerdammer in pitta bread. And another Horlicks with a larger slug of Bowmore.
This is life as it should be lived.
As we're packing up to leave, who should stumble through the door than our old mate Humphrey. We stare at him quizzically.
'Ah. Yes... I didn't burn her!' the Brute blurts...
Where is she? What have you done with Emma?
And so Humph explains that poor Emma had been feeling ghastly for days, if not weeks and had come to the end of her tether at Inverchoran and decided to walk down the public road to civilisation, call Challenge Control and go home to bed.
We're stunned. We honestly had no idea. From my overview maps I know it's a long walk down that road.
|DAVID, LEAVING LUIPMALDRIG|
Seeing as we're Ruft-Tufties and Well 'Ard, we forsake the luxury of the bridge back upstream and David walks through in his plimmies and I tip-toe across the very low River Orrin dry-shod. Pleased as punch to have saved all of half a mile, at best, we saunter down the right bank of the River Orrin in gorgeous sunshine.
|DAVID CROSSING RIVER ORRIN, SAVING A PLOD BAG UP TO THE FOOTBRIDGE|
|DAVID'S PICTURE OF ME CROSSING THE ORRIN|
|DAVID, HEADING DOWNSTREAM, EAST ALONG THE ORRIN|
If you take the trouble to scroll up to the second map in this post you'll notice that we're due to camp alongside the Orrin Reservoir. That's what the Ordnance Survey would have you think. But it is not so. In fact, walking down Glen Orrin, you will not find the reservoir for quite another few miles further on than those Cartographic Cads would have you believe. Quite why they show the reservoir where it is I do not know! If any readers can cast any light on this mystery, perhaps they could pen a reply in the comments section. As it is, we saunter through some lovely grassland apparently deep under water.
|DAY 3: CAMP. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
You'll see, if you look closely at the picture above, that hefty little showers continue their games after we have flipped up our shelters.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves for a while. They're all taken at our perfect campsite.
|BEASTIE HEADING FOR MY OOOKNEST|
|LONG ZOOM BACK TO LUIPMALDRIG, SOMEONE HAS THE FIRE GOING|
|HMP3 MAKING HIS WAY TO MEET UP WITH US|
|LOOKING SW FROM OUR CAMP|
|HMP3'S LASER COMP, DAVID'S SCARP 1 & TRINNIE TRAILSTAR, BETWEEN SHOWERS|
Today has been another belter of a day. I adore this weather. Scotland becomes a live beast, the air is cleaner, fresher and the hills have structure and strength as sunlight streaks and slices through ragged skies. This is the TGO Challenge at its glorious best.