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Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Private Secret Diary: TGO Challenge 2018: Ardnamurchan Point to Kinnaber Links, Direct! DAY 3

I thought I would start today's post with a flashback to when Phil & I spent the night at virtually the same spot on our Challenge in 2005. So here's a picture of Phil, carefree and thirteen years younger. You'll notice that in one hand he's sporting a can of lager and in the other my Sigg whisky flask. Perhaps that's the reason he's looking so cheerful... He was carrying a two man tent. He was right 'ard.

PHIL, SAME SPOT, TGO CHALLENGE 2005: CLICK TO ENLARGE

And so we come to today. There's great planning, and there's great planning, though I say it myself... Here's a tip for new Challengers: Always plan a readily achievable third day. It's on the third morning that you wake up, and it's invariably peeing down with rain, and it's thrashing in high winds against the side of your tent. You've probably been awake most of the night, wondering if your shelter is going to be in Montrose twelve days before it's due there. So you're knackered. your shoulders are sore from your pack because it's way too heavy and your legs ache because they're not used to clambering up forty five degree bogs for hours on end.

It's then that you realise that you've still got another twelve days of this madness and the world is looking like a very bleak place indeed. And, bloody hell. How far have you got to go today? Eighteen miles? Was I mad when I planned this?

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Today's walk is a happily achievable 20km with just 250m ascent. And, wonder of wonders, the morning is to be spent walking up the delightful Glen Strontian, with carpet like grass, ambling up the river and, there's a proper bed at the end of the day, with pub food and a cooked breakfast seated on chairs at a table, and you don't have to eat everything with your spoon.

You can thank me later, chaps. No, no. it was nothing. I wouldn't hear of it. Oh, well, okay then, just a small glass...

PHIL, STRONTIAN RIVER
The day then gets better still, as we collect the Fragrant Sue, and John who we last saw heading off into the wilds of North Ardnamurchan. It was a very happy group of five old bastards that strolled up the glen.

ME, ANDY, SUE, JOHN J, GLEN STRONTIAN

Just before the watershed, there's Lochan a' Chothruim to let you know that you're not lost and all is well. 

LOCHAN A' CHOTHRUIM

And then the day becomes even more fabulous. Glen Gour is just bloody gorgeous. You have between two and three miles of the most beautiful river scenery in Scotland. Plashing water tumbling over angled polished strata, billions of bubbles that catch the light like diamonds, honey-coloured stone glistening through crystal clear, life-giving water. Deer-trods to guide you along the soft earth banks.

Glen Gour is fabulous. Don't take my word for it. Plan your route to take you there one day, hopefully for your third easy day to the Corran Ferry, a couple of pubs, comfy beds with cool white cotton sheets.

You're there already, aren't you? I'll let the pictures do the talking for a while. Click on them. Blow them up to see the water, the life.

YOUNG RIVER GOUR WITH L-R: JOHN, SUE O, ANDY & ME



RIVER GOUR WITH PHIL


RIVER GOUR


RIVER GOUR


RIVER GOUR

Your heart will probably leap, just a little, when you notice a Rover Road marked on the map, so you ease your way over to the other side of the glen to collect it. In fact it's a sad thing, stony, waterlogged and unloved in paces and certainly no match for your earlier stroll along the river banks. But, it's fairly direct, but you're away from the life force of the river and so dull, dull, dull. The view forward is rather splendid though - some compensation.

LOOKING DOWN GLEN GOUR

I was very lucky to be walking with John at this point, as the frequent flooded sections of the track were alive with Palmate Newts and John's a bit of a Gussie Fink-Nottle when it comes to newts. We dragged way behind the others as the little creatures were photographed and examined in minute detail by John. It's amazing what you learn from other Challengers. I almost turned into a newt-fancier myself today.

UNDERWATER NEWT. 

It's then but a stroll to the road, and, delightfully, beautiful fresh deciduous trees, bursting with vibrant colour and new life.


The next section isn't pretty, it has to be said. It's along a fairly fast section of main road, but we diverted off for a poke around delightful Clovullin where the general store was shut for the afternoon, it being Sunday. People were out and about, cleaning windows and tidying gardens in the glorious sunny afternoon. It's a little sanctuary of calm, beautiful trees and general tidiness.

LOOKING BACK TO VIRTUALLY WHERE WE STARTED THREE DAYS AGO

It was then just a question of a few pints of re-hydration in the pub before taking the free ferry across to the other side. There's a fair old rip current flowing through the Corran Narrows and so we crabbed our way across to the East Side and our B&B, food parcels, another pub, a shower and lots of washing of smelly socks, pants and shirts.

Hmm. Back to reality after three days of blissful escapism. And so it goes.



Sunday, 21 April 2019

Private Secret Diary: TGO Challenge 2018: Ardnamurchan Point to Kinnaber Links, Direct! DAY 2

We had slept upon 'interesting' ground in the night, but I managed to contort a shape that accommodated the lumps and bumps that the NeoAir couldn't control and so slept reasonably well for a first night out on a new adventure.

A remarkably chilly morning with a cutting wind, but glory of glories, some sunshine! This was more like it; in fact it was perfect walking weather.

SUNSHINE & TUSSOCK

Where are we going today then? enquired Andy. I'm sure he never looks at his maps... In case you were pondering this very question, the maps are below: Today's walk is 25km with 630m of RouteBuddy Uppishness. As a number, the height gain is invariably quite a bit less than anyone else's mapping system., So if you're used to the O.S, MemoryMap or (spit!) Anquet that's probably more like 800m of uppishness.

Confused? Join the club. I've spent my life in a constant state of confusion. I've been ready for the Home for the Bewildered for quite a few years.





The day is broken neatly into two halves by a boat trip across Loch Sheil, from Dalelia to Polloch. This necessitates an earliesh start to ensure we make the boat in time. Phil very kindly let another group attach themselves to our crossing, and so being late would not only inconvenience the boatman - an incredibly nice smiley man - but also the gatecrashers. Not being a chap to let anyone down, we set off in really good time, so that we could amble at a sensible pace to be well in time and enjoy this beautiful weather.

GOOD WALKING IN THESE PARTS. (A RARE PICTURE OF ME!)

Seemingly after only ten minutes in our company our wonderful carer, Lynsey, decided that she had had enough of us and headed out across the heather and bog to get away. She was muttering, between gritted teeth, something about a chap call Ben Resipole and heights of ecstasy. After this Challenge dalliance there was a throw-away comment something about seeing us suckers later on.

Fortunately, I managed a snap of our heroine before she went gadding off to goodness knows where and what pleasures of the flesh.

A ROSE BETWEEN TWO THORNS

Three vulnerable chaps, of that difficult age then had the walk to themselves. Luckily, it's a delight, with good views and more importantly a very gentle descent on a grassy path all the way down to Acharacle, where upon arrival we sat upon a stone garden wall like the gentlemen of the road we resembled, and watched the village go about its Saturday morning business, whilst we took occasional slugs from our flasks.

DOWNHILL ALL THE WAY



It was as we were strolling along the north shore of Loch Shiel, that the first text messages arrived, followed by phone calls. Bloody technology, interfering with our little wilderness ramble! The messages all come through to Andy, who is a bit of a techie geek and is always in touch with the outside world via SnapChump, Titter, or Arsebook if he's not watching a blockbuster he's downloaded to his phone, listening to it via small plastic ear plugs attached by an umbilical chord to his device.

Apparently, It's JJ, one of the Gatecrashers. Andy says: "The gatecrashers have got to the boat super early and are wondering if they could have our boat..."

Before he could finish his relayed sentence I cut him off mid flow. "Tell them to F*ck Right Off. It's our F*cking Boat, and they're not going going without us because we're on time. Tell him! Exactly what I said. Tell the b*st*rd! Tell him to F*ck Right Off!" To be honest, I'm amazed JJ has used a device as commonplace as a phone for his communication. His usual style is to rig up a sixty foot aerial and communicate via whales, basking sharks and satellites on a wind-up ham radio. "Come in Tokyo!" springs to mind.

"JJ says it's okay as he'll send the boat back to us after they've finished with it"

'You didn't tell the tw*t to F*ck Right Off,' I repeat, more menacingly this time. 'Give me that bloody phone. I'll stuff it down his f*cking throat!'

Andy is tense. 'Boss, he did say he will send it back...'

Phil and I exchange glances. How could they! What are they thinking! We start doing mental arithmetic, at breakneck speed. A boat travels four miles up a loch at say, six miles per hour. It unloads its bastard ungrateful sodding cargo, with a load of faff, because JJ's involved, and then mooches back to Dalelia. How long does this take? A lot f*cking longer than it will take us to get to the boat ON TIME.

We're twenty minutes away, and On Time. The capitals are important here... Lord E and I come to the same conclusion. We both chorus 'Tell JJ to Sod. Right. Off!"


Of course, JJ and his deceitful, treacherous, gang take the boat. We're stuffed.



However, what we hadn't taken into consideration was that the Very Lovely and Considerate JJ had obviously been standing next to the boat and noticed its two sodding great Rolls Royce Merlin Outboards strapped to the blunt end. He had realised all the time that this is no ordinary Dunkirk job that bobs up and over the choppy seas . No, this thing's an E Boat that slices through the waves without even a splash, blasting its way through the waves at breakneck speed. Four miles? Eight minutes, tops.
Two minutes to unload, eight minutes return. Back with two minutes to spare.

JJ. Forgive me. Whoops!

We leave on our sailing, bang on time...










THE TEAM RELAX ON THE MULBERRY HARBOUR

It's a fair old climb up to the top of the road next to the communication mast. Phil and I had done this stretch before, back in the mists of time. It had been a boiling hot day back then and we were younger and less experienced in the gentle art of cadence walking and resting.

However, today was also a bloody hot day and we are older, more infirm with every year, and our knees laugh at the very idea of walking in an any semblance of cadence. We're screwed.

Still, we know there's a gorgeous view-point two third of the way up the climb with a bench, and benches are what chaps of our age look forward to more than a night of passion with Elizabeth Taylor.

And here is that Beautiful Bench!

TWO OLD LAGS SITTING ON A BENCH

However. In the intervening years since our last visit, those trees on the slope just beneath the viewpoint have grown by a good twenty feet. There is now no view.

Well, a bench is a bench and we must take these small mercies where we can. We'd seen the view years ago.


ONE OF MAD'N'BAD'S COMMUNICATION HUBS

At last, we had sweated our way to the top of the hill and could finally enjoy a little off-piste strolling, in a general down-hilliness direction towards our intended camp spot.

This was not how we remembered this particular stretch of loveliness at all! The ground resembled a battlefield. The Somme, perhaps Paschendale? It was incredily chewed up, with pock-holes a good six inches deep separated by narrow slumping clay/muck/ooze to the next pock-hole. It was a nightmare to walk over.

Then we came to a sign. Cows. Highland Cattle had been let loose here in quite dense numbers to do exactly what we had found. This ground is far more welcoming for natural tree growth - so native species would recolonise this barren landscape once again, without the need for man's intervention. This should produce a hardier tree-stock that's likely to thrive in this cow-built nursery.

Be that as it altruistically may. It was still a nightmare to walk over.


THIS CAN'T GO ON FOREVER, SURELY?



BUMMER. IT'S DOWN THERE THEN. IT ALL LOOKS A BIT STEEP...



SAFE AT LAST.

We somehow got suckered into a bit of a ravine, followed by a tree bash on a very steep slope down to the bottom. I was knackered. Totally. I ate, and promptly fell asleep, doors open and happy that the day was done.




Wednesday, 17 April 2019

PreWalkDaunder 2019: The Langdales.

After walking the entire length of the platform at Kings Cross, I realised my brand new micro-fibre knickers were rapidly sliding downwards to the crotch of my trousers. Only a week earlier I had finally admitted to myself that perhaps I no longer owned the sylph-like 34" waist of the past thirty years and had sadly admitted to a plump 36". And so the order was placed.

Well, that went well.

We piled out of Phil's war machine at Long Preston and I was sold two pairs of the correct size of  Very Technical Knickers, silver lined and stretchy to hug my new-found petit derriere and various redundant accoutrements by the awfully nice people at Rohan. Whilst this expensive transaction was taking place, Phil, Andy & Mick - aka Lord Elpus, Mad'n'Bad and Croydon -  were taking tea just over the road, served by equally friendly staff.

NB: You can click on any of the photos and they will blow up to a droolingly lustful size.

CROYDON, LORD ELPUS & MAD'N'BAD TAKING TEA





Arriving at Baysbrown campsite in Great Langdale we found that the Advance Party - the VeryVeryNiceMan, the Commander and the Doc - had not pitched our lodgings. Slightly miffed by this lack of thought, we set to and within the matter of a moment soon had a place to stay.





THE DOCTOR



MAD'N'BAD



DOC & LORD ELPUS, WITH LANGDALE PIKES BACKDROP

After a deal of scratching around we found two responsible adults to convey us to the Britannia Inn in Elterwater, a favourite watering hole, for dinner.


A CHILLY START: CROYDON'S WENDY HOUSE


EMMA'S PHOTO SHOWS JUST HOW COLD IT WAS IN THE MORNING: CLICK TO ENLARGE

Trepidation; there's a thing. Since walking in to the Park Hotel in Montrose last May at the end of my TGO Challenge I have not once set out for a walk. No three miles a day. Nothing. Virtually everything in my brand new rucksack is new this year, the old stuff having been totally worn out, and all of the new seemed to be ever so slightly heavier than the replaced kit. 



But this was a Decent Daunder and David had put in a nice easy start to Little Langdale. Some stayed at the cafe for lunch whilst others pressed on to find the Three Shires Inn, a couple of pints and sandwiches. It wouldn't be a proper PWD if there were no schisms.

LORD E.






THE VVNM & THE DOC



DOC







CALL ME "'MA'AM"



CRINKLE CRAGS & BOWFELL, & EMMA


LORD ELPUS



PITCHED ABOVE RED TARN


PONDERING THE MEANING OF LIFE






Mr Walker is a fine fellow who positively enjoys hurling his ageing frame up mountains, that could so easily be bypassed by more sensible fellows. He had left us to fling himself up onto Pike o' Blisco and the blighter was still at Red Tarn before the main party. And he wonders why his knees are shot...

ANDY, EMMA & PHIL

However, this feat of athleticism was not enough for the old bird, and he gamely escorted the Doc back up to the top again. Mad'n'Bad. Well, mad certainly.

EMMA



MAD'N'LOVELY, REALLY



A GRIZZLED OLD-TIMER

Another night of well below zero and ice-plastered tents preceded a cracking second day. It's a tricky descent with heavy packs into Great Langdale and once gained the Daunderers split into two parties; one heading for the heights of the Pikes, the other heading first to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel for a Cumberland Sausage, mash, carrots and gravy, washed down with a couple of pints and coffee.

THE SUMMITEER PARTY


OLDER & WISE


HMM. JUST OLDER. 



CROYDON SPOTS A SHAPELY ANKLE



THE START OF SO MANY ADVENTURES


TACKLING THE PIKES, DIRECT




After taking decent breaks, Croydon, Lord E and I finally made the top of the climb and gambolled, some more gambolly than others, down to Codale Tarn where the Summiteers had found a suitable spot well above the riff-raff that was to appear later.

EMMA CRITIQUES ANDY'S TEENY PEE-POT








DUSK

Yes. Another well-below zero night. Because we're hard.

DAWN

The VVNMan had surpassed himself this morning. The route down Blea Rigg is quite charming. This was a busy Half Term yet we only met a handful of walkers all morning. The ground's interesting and the views extensive. Well worth another visit.

L>R: DAVID, EMMA, MICK, JUDITH, ANDY & PHIL


AS BEFORE BUT I'M IN EMMA'S SPOT. EMMA'S PHOTO, OBVIOUSLY



JUDITH


MICK


HARRISON'S STICKLE & PAVEY ARK


EMMA, SMILING AS ITS NEARLY OVER


ARTY PHIL






By this point, the VeryVeryNiceMan made his excuses and left for a dinner date with a gorgeous girl, apparently. Judith & Emma weren't put out in the slightest. Honestly.

PHIL ADDRESSING HIS CHARGES

Having taken command of the Daunder in David's absence, Phil then scuttles off, never to be seen again until the cafe in Chapel Stile. Obviously a born leader, giving his platoon some decent headroom.

Fortunately, Judith took the reins and shepherded her flock back down to safety in Chapel Stile.

A LIVING HERDWICK



CHAPEL STILE


COMMANDER BENCHMARK


EMMA, SHOCKED WE ALL MADE IT BACK


ASK HIM WHAT HIS DAD DOES FOR A JOB. I DARE YOU.

A round of applause to David for organising the route, dinner, and herding the cats so they all turned up on time. An excellent job. Another vote of thanks to Phil for all the driving to the Lakes and back to Grantham.

And lastly, heartfelt thanks to all the Daunderers themselves, who make this event such a joy. Life is full of vibrant colours and happiness when you're amongst their company.

Now then - there's the small matter of a walk across Scotland in a few weeks time. Will we be ready? Probably not, but I'm sure it will all turn out OK.


And finally, in the spirit of Old Mortality, here's some music.