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Sunday, 24 November 2019

TGO Challenge 2018: DAY 4

I've no idea what you have been up to since I last wrote on here but I do know it's been seven months since I last put pen to paper.  I hope you've been behaving yourselves. What's that? Really? Oh... 

Since my last entry I've walked another TGO Challenge, cycled around Provence for a week of glorious gourmandising, applied for next year's TGO Challenge and was savagely rejected. Okay, maybe not savagely, in fact the letter of rejection was very carefully phrased so that rejectees wouldn't hurl themselves from the top of tall buildings.  For weeks on end there followed the Slough of Despond of the Standby List, which was followed by the ecstasy of the 'you can come to the party' email. 

Needless to say, life has brightened considerably since that email. The blogging mojo has returned.

*****

You've probably forgotten all the little  rules of this place so here's a refresher:


  • You can right-click any picture to open it up in glorious C H A L L E N G E  V I S I O N  ie, at a healthily happy size so you can peruse it in more detail to your heart's desire.
  • At the end of each blog entry you are invited to comment. This is a genuine invitation and all comments are published unless I believe they are of a malevolent nature. People who make such comments don't get a warning. They go straight into my little black book, to be dealt with at my leisure, when I shall hunt them down like dogs. The comments brighten the blog considerably as otherwise the content will be just my incoherent ramblings and no sane person would want that. Think of this place as fertile ground for a good conversation with bright folk who have something to say. It's not like twitter; you can have a coherent conversation here.
  • This blog attracts an awful amount of comments from various far-eastern spammers which means your comment will not appear immediately as I moderate all comments to filter out the spam.  
Right then. Off we go again!

*****

Here we both are then, seven months later, but back in May 2018. We're about to set out on Day Four of the TGO Challenge. If you recall, we had set ourselves the daft task of walking across quite a wide bit of Scotland from west to east between two imaginary lines drawn on a map exactly 10km apart. Where's the sense in that? But there again, where's the sense in most things we bash away at in life. 

I'll start by saying right from the off that the pictures of this particular walk have been taken by my companions and me. It's not obvious who has taken them, but I do have a full list of the photos and who snapped them should someone want to know. They'll have been taken by either Phil, Andy or me. 

The maps are mine. They're not the Ordnance Survey's anymore as I have damn well paid for them. The fluffy cuddly Ordnance Survey once threatened to take me to court for using maps that the general public had paid for through Government grants since before time began. They have only recently become more commercial (some would say money-grabbling). It should be noted that since becoming more commercially minded the quality and accuracy of their representation of the footpath network has got far worse.

I lugged the print-outs of my maps all the way across Scotland and what you see here are scanned images of those same maps, annotated every so often to jog my memory in the future.


REMEMBER! RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN NEW TAB.THANK YOU.


The morning's a lovely walk, slowly gaining height to join the West Highland Way, which we then follow eastwards to above Kinlochleven and onwards and upwards to camp at Loch Eilde Mor.

Here's a picture of a Highland Cow. It's expected on any blog of the Great Outdoors Challenge.


The next snap is of the delightful waterfalls above Inchree, which you'll only find by taking the small footpath above its gorge, rather than the LRT which is the more obvious route.



After leaving the comparative shelter of the forest you come upon the wide open spaces of Lundavra. You'll thank me as I've chosen a tasteful photograph to illustrate this section of the walk. I could have chosen an image of a semi-naked Lord Elpus wafting his underwear in the delicious breeze to cool his overheated very private parts. I don't mind the Ordnance Survey coming after me, but the Obscene Publications Squad are quite another kettle of fish.

LUNDAVRA

You'll only see pictures of Phil today, as Andy had joined the Fragrant Sue to go Corbett bagging. I'm pretty sure Andy was delighted to chance upon Sue (tugs forelock as I type as Sue is a Joint Coordinator of the TGO Challenge and must be obeyed) as he was getting a tad ratty at Phil's and my more leisurely pace. 

Here's a thing. Phil and I always get the miles done each day, and invariably arrive fresh and smiley at our intended camp spot to bump into our hare-like companion who has pitched camp, had dinner and knocked off a few hills before we arrive. As the walk goes on the two tortoises carry on in their own sweet fashion, always looking dapper, tidy, well fed and rosy cheeked. The hare on the other hand has achieved phenomenal mileages and ascents but looks half dead.

PHIL, LOOKING EASTWARDS ALONG THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY
This section of the walk brought me out with Horse's Burial. Seemingly hundreds of West Highland Way walkers stumbling towards us, burdened by very large packs and each with at least three feet covered in blisters. Sadly, we didn't meet many smiley people coming from Kinlochleven. 

Just as sadly, we've come to expect the next picture everytime we walk anywhere near Fort William on the TGO Challenge. This is because each year Fort William hosts literally hundreds of motorcyclists who tear around the highlands in these parts a week or so before our walk, ripping up the fragile peat soils. It's the Scottish Six Days Trials, and may they rot in hell.

There's the beginnings of local resistance to the event, as can be found HERE but I doubt if it will amount to much, as the Scottish Government have in the past given serious money to Fort William to help the event along.

RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW TAB
The walking hereabouts on the WHW is speedy, if a little dull, until you near the crumbling remains of the once great Mamore Lodge Hotel, and then there's the spectacle of the fabulous view down Loch Leven. Unfortunately at the time of our visit the place was heaving with earth moving equipment and civils contractors, building yet another small hydro scheme, with its concomitant widened and  strengthened access roads. It was a bit of a mess, but the contractors were, as always, polite and good people. 






NEVER PASS A BENCH.

We were flagging a little on this last stage and slightly irritated that the estate thought it necessary to bypass an estate cottage by instructing walkers to scramble down the hill along the fence line of the property, to then scramble up the other side. Really? Is this really sensible?

We muttered dark thoughts to each other, but it couldn't break the happy place we'd been in all day.



We made Loch Eilde Mor in good heart, and no sooner had we made camp when we were joined by Robin Evans - joining us for a few days walking -  and Lynsey who we had last seen a few days before as she headed out alone into the wilderness.



It was a little while later that Andy and Sue arrived, having done their Corbett, and a very big day to boot. I believe Sue muttered something along the lines of "If I ever mention tackling another bloody Corbett on this walk, someone fetch the bolt-gun..."

Watch this space.





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.