30 May 2012

TGO CHALLENGE 2012: DAY 2: Coire Dubh to A Chuil

We stole a huge tiger from the zoo, drove it home in a small hatchback and watched it devour our neighbour’s small black puppy in the back garden. It all seemed perfectly normal; It’s what tigers do. I then studied my son as he was writing the story up in his school “Busy Book” to discover what was to happen to us at the police station: An unusual start to the morning, but that’s what fresh air and strenuous exercise can do, turning stuff over in your mind in the small hours.

Of course it might have been down to the previous night’s libation and all the medications I have to consume… Anyway, it makes for an interesting time mulling it over as you stagger once more under the load of your rucksack up yet more vertical bog to gain the next rocky eyrie on the ridge.

And what a ridge it is too! Again, I’ll let the pictures tell the story of our morning’s walk with John Hesp, heading east along the North Morar Ridge. We clambered firstly up Sgurr Morr (612m) and then Sgurr Breac (728m), weaving our way past tiny lochans and the bare ribs of jagged rocks pushing up through the thin soils to give grip and contrast to the fabulous landscapes all around.




It’s glorious, isn’t it? But! There’s more!





All this hilliness and rough & tumble was taking it’s toll on this particular flatlander and at our first lunch stop (you should never limit yourself to just the one lunch when on holiday, should you?) at Sgurr na Ba Ruaidhe, I did some rough calculations: At this rate we weren’t going to reach the far end of the ridge until this time next year and then, in all likelihood, it would involve a crashing tumble down the crags at the end to land in a heap of splintered bones and sliced flesh amongst the pointy boulders at the bottom.

Some months earlier, I had carefully plotted an ‘escape route’ off the ridge at this point. This was quite important, as after this point I could see no way of leaving the ridge as it plummets down with huge cliffs and crags on either side. The ‘escape route’ actually involves more ascent and distance than the ridge walk, but includes a path to speed progress in the bottom of Gleann an Lochan Eanaiche. So, happily fore-armed, our party of three blithely headed off between the jaw-dropping crags of Sgurr na Ba Ruaidhe in a south-easterly direction down the slopes of Leac Bhuidhe, leaving Mr Hesp to continue his quest for the entire ridge. More by luck than judgement, we picked our way down through the crags at the top, avoiding the worst of the drops to lose 2,000 feet of hard won ascent.

My thighs really, really didn’t enjoy this. No picture can convey the burn and wobbliness of the bolshie legs under the weight of a pack filled with four days of food and enough camping equipment for a regiment, but here’s one anyway of what we clambered down, all the way to the very bottom:

Gleann an Lochan Eanaiche and the Corbett

Rest stop near the bottom

All ghastly things have to come to an end, and happily this careful descent did too and so a celebratory second lunch was taken down by the river. It must have been a wise decision as the boys are smiling in the next picture.


So far, rest stops on the walk had been fleeting affairs, as even with all my walking clothes on (merino base layer, fleece, insulated gilet and my anorak) I still became very cold after only five or ten minutes. So there were quite a few very short, snatched food breaks to keep the calories coming and for respite for the feet. There was nothing to do about the burning thigh muscles; a particularly unpleasant problem, which I suppose can only be resolved by living somewhere hiller and getting out more.  

The walk up the glen was actually quite pleasant, following a good path. Just over the top of the narrow bealach there were one or two spectacularly boggy sections where I went in up to my knees in foulsome smelling gloop, that would be later washed off by wading the streams in the forest.

The plimsolls were working well; I had chosen La Sportiva Raptors for the walk: An unlined pair of sticky rubber soled shoes combined with merino wool socks. Mud and gloop and rivers crossings were just splashed through with abandon. No teetering on rocks ever again, trying to keep my boots dry!

This was all just as well, as the forestry path in Glen Dessarry was a complete quagmire. Upon reaching the Land Rover track I lay down in the sunshine for half an hour, totally knackered. In hindsight, this was not a wise move as later on, with A Chuil bothy in sight, it poured down with rain and we all go a bit of a soaking, but hey!

We had been aware for quite a few days that the weather forecast had predicted heavy rain and storm force winds for the next day, starting tonight, so it was good to be in the shelter of the bothy. Freddy Campbell became fire-chief and kept the bothy fire going to warm us all and dry out the socks. A wonderful chap on the Challenge from the room next door appeared a little later with cans of beer! He shall go to heaven with a gold card and help himself to all the virgins.

Candlelit Bothy Mantlepiece

So, today’s route looked like this: The purple line (16.4km and 880m of ascent)

TGO Challenge 2012- DAY 2 MAP


  1. Ah, so that is where we went.
    I was just following that bloke in front.

    Pinched a photo of me to add to my blog.

    1. "I was just following that bloke in front."
      That couldn't have been me, then! I was the chap at the back 'taking pictures' with my heart coming out of my chest...
      It's interesting that our descent routes look different?

    2. Yours will be correct.
      I have no idea where I went that day.
      I kinow it was bloody steep though.
      I am guessing that I assumed we came off at the next lochen but we didn't.
      I should consult my maps more, but I could see where I was going.

      Just looked out of the window, and it is pissing down.

      Ah.. the memories :)

      Is it me, or are these security codes getting harder and harder to read?

  2. Replies
    1. So, what exactly *is* reality?
      Is it the tiger I stole from the zoo or the burning thighs or your crooked foot?
      I had forgotten about Dave's knee. That didn't look too clever either...

  3. Wow, you were walking with Tigers?

    And you were burning thighs to keep warm.

    This is turning into a I-cannot-put-it-down-masterpiece.

    The sense of anticipation is pant wetting (can I say that?)

    Keep walking

  4. If you had seen the size of my first aid kit you will realise that it's possible to conjure up any animal you want in the early morning dream-time cinema. I could start up a pharmacy.
    The burning thighs eventually sorted themselves out, the lazy good-for-nothing bastards were bitching and complaining for days.

    I'll get a new set for the next Challenge.

  5. Ah, reading this I had a strange sense of deja -vu all over again. Glad you popped in to take tea with Frank at Tarbet. Top bloke and a top bunkhouse too. Not only a proper flushiung loo, but a shower (of sorts) a singing moose head and Frank on the chapel organ - you don't get all that at the YHA.

    1. Indeed Sir!
      I think we were very lucky with the weather though. I think it could have been an epic struggle in poor conditions.
      Frank's an interesting chap. He spent the war years as a miner near where to Dave lives now - they spent quite a long time chatting about the various women they both know...

  6. That ridge is nice. Plotted a route that way once. I am silly and think I would carry on the whole thing. Real wild section. Ace.

    1. That's because you're 'Ard, Martin. I'm a Softie Southerner, me, who knows his limitations and lives to tell the tale!

  7. Replies
    1. Indeed, David, indeed. It's stunningly beautiful. One of the reasons we took so long over the ridge in the morning was that we were simply drooling at the views at every turn.

  8. And you all look so happy in the pictures. Except, where are the photos of you? Over to Mr Walker's pages I go.

    Keep 'em coming, staving off the withdrawal quite nicely, these reports.

    1. This should indeed be read in conjunction with Mr Walker's fairy tales!

  9. That ridge looks epic and by the sounds of it the 'escape route' wasn't much less effort - at least on the legs.

    This is shaping up to a great set of reports and again the photos are excellent, especially the one of Gleann an Lochan Eanaiche. That sky has the look of " the Gods mean business".

    Getting pangs for the hills just reading these.

    1. With our slow (admittedly enjoyable) progress I thought it would be best if we came off the ridge early as the weather forecast had been quite specific about getting crappy later in the day, and I didn't fancy a difficult drop off through crags in the rain.
      A bigger descent, but best done early, which turned out right, I think, in the end.

  10. I'm here to tell you Alan that the wobbly-legs and heart-through-the-chest-sensation were all well worth it. Otherwise I wouldn't have had these lovely pictures to admire with me cup of tea.
    (I'm feeling more than a bit envious however)

    1. It's good to know that my work is appreciated. I'm doing this for you, you know. I'm a slave to the our congregation, a martyr to the cause of good views and clean living...



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