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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

TGO CHALLENGE 2012: DAY 3: A Chuil to Invermallie

(or WHERE’S DAVE?)

We had spent the night in the bothy at A Chuil as the rain continued and blustery winds shook the roof every now and then. It’s lovely to sit in a chair at a table and prepare breakfast and not have to worry about packing away a soggy tent.

Breakfast for me typically consists of a cheese roll, a couple of Granola bars or Cadbury’s breakfast bars, hot orange and coffee; the hot orange made by simply slipping a Vitamin C fizzy tablet into a mug of hot water. I tend to still be slightly dehydrated from the previous day’s exertions so try to drink lots of fluids in the morning. No washing up is required.

We had discussed today’s route over the past few days and as time progressed it looked increasingly clear that the forecasters had it about right. It was going to be very rough, wet and cold out there today.

So, our Storm Weather Alternative route was adopted: Stroll as best we can along the north shore of Loch Arkaig until a suitable campspot is found and hunker down to see out the worst of the weather. This had the advantage of shortening the next day into Spean Bridge where we looked forward to the relative luxury of a booked B&B.

As we headed out of the bothy it was not too bad; the trees were sheltering us from the weather and so we were quite optimistic. We stopped after ten minutes for Dave to have an undercarriage faff. It seemed he was chafing quite badly and so we stopped for a quarter of an hour as he applied various creams and Micro-pore tape to the softer tissues. Neither Andy nor I could look; The thought alone was nasty enough. Still, Dave seemed to be made of stern stuff as he was still going strong with a puffy knee and groin rot and so we headed on the few miles of forest tracks to Strathan and the open road!

Loch Arkaig is about thirteen long miles long and the road is a delightful switchback full of twists and turns with fierce little hills to make the walk ‘interesting.’ There is perishingly little shelter and the wind was coming from behind and across the loch, smashing the rain into us quite heartily. It was also bloomin’ cold. This made life quite difficult: Road walking is not great at the best of times, and Dave & Andy seem to tramp about like Panzers, slapping their feet down quite hard. This is quite wearing to walk with as they are right noisy buggers. I tend to walk on my own in situations like this, hood up and looking for the good stuff like oily puddles and broken twigs and interesting rocks to talk to.

Andy noticed that Dave was struggling a bit and so we opted to take a short breather in the spruce plantations on the left as soon as there was a gap in the deer fence – which took a long time coming.

Eventually Andy found a suitable spot up the hillside and we spent a fairly miserable ten minutes in the woods getting colder and colder as we scoffed chocolate and granola bars. Still – it was weight off the feet with the rucksacks off, but we needed to get going again to warm up. I had noticed with some despondency that over the intervening fifteen years since I had last come this way, most of the lovely little camping spots were now occupied by static caravans, littering the loch-side like a cheap holiday park. I was beginning to think that we might struggle to find a good pitch later on.

At this point we bumped into the wonderful Gordon Green who was taking a breather and so we teamed up to carry on the bash along the loch. Gordon had already worked out a plan – he was heading for shelter; a bothy on the south side of the loch at Invermallie. This was slightly further than I had promised Andy & Dave, but the thought of ‘indoors’ was enough to spur them on the extra miles. Indeed, the last few miles would be heading west to get to the bothy, but hey, it worked for me!

SMALL WATERFALL ON WAY TO INVERMALLIE

By now it was really hissing down and at this point we were all together…

Andy's Invermallie Track Picture

Thanks to Andy for the above picture; It’s amazing he got his camera out at all in these conditions. This river is in fact the track to Invermallie bothy. It’s about knee deep at this point and with quite a bit of pressure behind it. We waded the thing for two or three hundred yards until eventually the bothy came into sight:

Invermallie Bothy

It stood on a little island with a colossal bog to one side and a very large swollen river taking over the flood plain on the other. It was paradise.

Once inside we decided that all the wet gear should stay downstairs and we would sleep and dine in luxury upstairs. With the waterproofs hanging on nails to dry and rucksacks dragged upstairs, shoes off, we took stock of the situation.

Where’s Dave?

I’m not sure who realised he was missing first but there followed a very greasy moment where we all realised that we had been here some ten minutes and there was no sign of him. But we had all been together only ten minutes before we got to the bothy at the waterfall!

With a sinking feeling, we climbed back into our shoes and clumped back downstairs and climbed back into the waterproofs to head off out into the weather. It was not looking good. I decided to go downstream to the lochside. To be honest I was hoping NOT to find Dave as I was looking for either a floating rucksack or body – I had convinced myself he must have slipped and fallen in. For him not to be with us in the bothy could only mean that he was unable to get to us.

Andy's Invermallie Lake Picture

Andy & Gordon headed east down the track the way we had come to see if Dave was just stuck and wondering what to do. Eventually I worked my way along the loch shore and back up to the track, quite relieved not to have found Dave. Gordon was heading back to the bothy and Andy had headed off west along the new upper track track. Eventually we all returned to the bothy, empty handed. By now the track was thigh deep and very difficult to push against and so it was a very glum party that arrived back at the shelter to find Dave strolling in from the south across the bogs.

He had simply missed the turning.

Mightily relieved, we all trooped upstairs and started on hot drinks and food.

ANDY (HAPPY), DAVE (MISERABLE) & GORDON (HAPPY)Andy was pottering about downstairs when he gave out a yell “Get down here quick and grab your gear! The river’s coming in!”

You couldn’t make it up, really you couldn’t! The water was coming in through the walls.

Andy's Invermalie Bothy Ground Floor picture

Eventually the water level rose up the first stair tread… Outside, it looked like this from the back window:

Gordon's Invermallie Bothy Picture

To be honest, I was too tired to care anymore! It was unlikely to flood upstairs (surely?) and tomorrow was another day.

On a plus note, my new anorak had kept me perfectly dry all day in driving rain. I was pretty damn sure that my Paramo would have failed miserably. See; there is a silver lining!

Today’s route: The purple line (29.8km with about 500m ascent)

TGO CHALLENGE 2012- DAY 3 MAP

35 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It was moist.
      If I were the MBA, I'd get the chap who did the damp proof course back in to have another go.
      :-)

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  2. Well, we almost agree on that one.
    A day of cold and pain and wet.
    And at the end a huge dose of adreneline.

    Not good for your blood pressure the end of the day.

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    1. I think Dave was suffering the biggest pain by this day. The cotton shreddies are quite aptly named...
      ;-)

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  3. Cotton undies oh dear. Doesn’t bear thinking about. In fact the whole day doesn’t bear thinking about. I asked Andy if now he thinks it was the right decision to do an extra 10k in the wrong direction but you seem happy it was. So if Andy says no, we don’t want hose pipes at dawn.

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    1. In fact it was only three and a half km heading west, and with shelter to look forward to. However it was probably 8km or so more than we had planned at the start of the day but we all seemed to be okay when we made the decision when we met up with Gordon.
      Perhaps we should have checked more closely with Dave? He wasn't that communicative in the weather, though!

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    2. Definitely the right decision the Bothy.
      It probably wasn't 5k, but then if you add on the round trip to look for Dave it certainly was.
      Beats putting up a tent on a river any day.
      Upstairs was warm and dry, and the next morning we walked away with dry feet.
      Same situation again, same choice, definitely.

      I mean, look at the exiting blog posts it generated.

      It's a Challenge :)

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  4. Wow, that's a heck of a day. Reckon it was right to go to the bothy. Wouldn't have fancied camping in that weather. Cotton undies, noooooo! Wince.

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    Replies
    1. There will be more on the cotton undies in a later instalment.
      :-0

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  5. With the next day being shortish to Spean i can understand the roof sounds a wonderful idea.
    Did you consider going to Achnacarry where the Cameron Museum is? There is lots of nice ground and outbuildings around that place. Whether they would have taken sympathy on 3 bedraggled challengers (if anyone was actually around), i don’t know, but it’s a possibility under the circumstances.
    But there again its ok for me sitting here isn’t it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everywhere the ground was completely saturated. The roof was the obvious option... however we didn't know about the flooding!
      It also put us considerably closer to Spean Bridge than our Fair Weather Route would have, which had us at Glensulaig Bothy, so we knew that the next day could be a later start with a much shorter day before getting to our B&B and the pub.

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  6. It is disconcerting how all the rain goes downhill so the most benign parts of the OS map become like a disaster movie. My Gordon Green was a greenhouse with a working gas heater!

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    1. Once on the ground it goes down hill. However, walking along the north shore of Loch Arkaig it was actually coming *up* at us, being blown up the side of the loch! It was like being in a carwash.
      Your gas heated green house sounds wonderful!

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  7. Ahhh it looks perfect. I was sat at my desk during said day, dry, warm and thoroughly board. I would have swapped with any of you. Except Dave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. Couldn't have put it better myself!
      :-)

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  8. Doing the extra miles in the wrong direction sounds like the right decision to make. Imagine camping in that with the threat of being washed away.

    But that must have been a horrible feeling when you realised Dave was missing.

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    1. As the chap who had persuaded Dave to come along ion the first place, and as the chap who had largely chosen the difficult route for the first few days, I must admit to feeling pretty ghastly at having lost my mate. We went to school together so have known each other for 44 years.
      I should have kept a better eye out for him, really.

      However, as soon as I saw him peeling apart the pages of his paper-mache passport in the bothy I had mixed emotions: wanting to take the piss, but also wanting to blurt out "I told you to put those things in a waterproof document bag!..." but looking at the shivering wreck of the Wilkinson, instead I persuaded him to get warm in his sleeping bag.

      I suppose we were all mightily relieved. It could have been so badly different.

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  9. Wadders weather Alan. Nasty. Glad Dave was ok. Tales like this are the ones you will talk about more than, it was sunny and we had nice views.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh I don't know... Sunny and nice views make for great pictures!
      :-)
      I should have taken more care of Dave, really.

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  10. Berrrlimey lads! What a day! Did the water rise, how far did it invade in the bothy - come on Alan, I need the next instalment! I'm all over this right now.

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  11. Replies
    1. Good Lord! You're dictating this to your secretary, aren't you?
      :-)

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  12. I'm glad you were all OK. But Dave doesn't look at all pleased in that photo...

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    Replies
    1. I know he's an old mate, an' all, but Dave has never been an easy chap to please!
      He was a tad cold and had taken his strides off. A chap is never at his best sitting in his chafing shreddies...

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  13. Dont you know that's WW2 Commando training land! No shreddies should have been worn in that area. Obviously that was Daves mistrake.

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  14. Would that be our "Mad Farquhar" Eddie Jordan, by any chance?
    ;-)

    I'm not so sure, as Wilky's trousers seemed to be quite cottony too - they certainly held a lot of water...

    ReplyDelete
  15. Egads Sloman! Were you expecting a monsoon?
    I'm not feeling so envious now - scrot rot and subaqua bothying: it's not all cakes and ale is it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed! There were precious few cakes and just a few dribbles left in the flasks from the first two nights of carousing.

      A better choice of gear would have been wet suit and flippers. With the water rising on the bothy, perhaps a snorkel too.

      I remember the sun-kissed cliffs of Jersey with plates of wonderful sea-food and endless beers with s much affection...

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  16. Sounds like we followed a similar route. Due to not being being able to cross the Kingie from the south I met another Challenger in the same predicament and we ended up hitting Loch Arkaig after coming down by Loch Clair (where conditions were akin to the top of a Munro rather than a lowly 300m).

    We trudged along the road for a few hours and Andy was fairly sure there was a bothy on the far side but in the end we camped at the waterfall at the end of the Loch amongst some picnic tables...just couldn't quite muster a few more k on the road to the bothy (which we weren't sure was there anyway).We were joined at c8pm by a very wet Challenger who came down the closed glen from Fedden.

    Next time I will look at my 'Bothy Notes' book that accompanies MBA Membership a little more closely...

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hi James
      Flexibility is the key to a successful Challenge in difficult conditions - By reading all the other Challenge reports online you'll see that very few stuck to their original plans. , Even the FWA's ended up with alternatives.
      It's really handy to "read around" your route beforehand, so that you know where all the alternatives are. (You'll see from some of the maps on here that I have put the location of bothies on the maps even though I am not due to pass directly by them... You never know when you might need shelter.
      :-)

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  17. [..]and were informed that the bothy was jokingly called the Ark by those who knew it better than us [..]

    From: MBA Newsletter Autumn 2012

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    1. Quite so, Willem. Quite so!
      Pretty handy having an upstairs though. Without that it wouldn't have been much fun at all...

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  18. Hi Alan, first of all: You have a great blog! Your detailed posts about the TGO Challenge are a great source of inspiration and information for me when planning own trips.

    I'm especially interested in the original planning for Day 3 of your 2012 TGO Chalenge because I'm planning a trip from Skye via the Kylerhea-Glenelg-ferry, Kinloch Hourn and Strathan to Spean Bridge.
    This year I did a trip from Glen Pean Bothy to Spean Bridge via the north shore of Loch Arkaig and Invermallie Bothy exactly as you described. For next year I want to avoid the dull road-walking…
    So it would be great if you give me a few details on your route-planning.

    Yours Andi


    PS: As you see in the linked image, I had slightly better weather at Invermallie this year... ;-)
    i.minus.com/ibi6wzjOc75fAv.JPG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andi
      First of all, thank you for your very lovely comments.
      :-)
      My intended route for the section from Dave's Bothy (A Chuil) to Spean Bridge can be found by looking at the route sheet for TGO 2012 - by clicking HERE

      Given half decent weather I think it's an absolute cracker, with high passes, staying at Glensulaig bothy, and a lovely ridge walk on the way to the Great Glen.

      I'd like to stay at Invermallie again, when it's not in the middle of a raging torrent - your picture makes it look like a little piece of heaven.

      Thanks for saying "Hi" - I hope your trip works out well for you.

      Delete

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