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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

TGO CHALLENGE 2012: DAY 1: Morar to Coire Dubh

FRANK, TARBET

Listening to tales of life in the Highlands, taking tea with Frank, in his small book-lined parlour in Tarbet must be the closest you can be to ‘getting away from it all’. And yet we had only been walking for half a day.

Frank, now eighty seven years old, living in the middle of nowhere, tells tall tales, honed & polished with twenty five years of re-telling, of libidinous priests & nuns, wild wedding parties and sour German tourists. He has time to spare and willingly shared his life with us for a part of our afternoon as we sheltered from a biting northerly wind, sitting around the wood-burner in his home, the converted chapel.

Tarbet is a tiny community tucked into the windy gap in the ridge between Lochs Morar and Nevis, connected to the outside world only by boat or a meandering path, which we had tumbled along, through sun-spilled birch and oak woodland hugging the shore of the deep fresh water loch, from Morar, our start point.

The weather had been bright, blustery and promised violent stormlets that never actually materialised.

The following few pictures will tell of our walk eastwards this morning:

DAVE & ANDY @ MORAR

(ALL THE PICTURES IN THIS REPORT WILL GET BIGGER IF YOU CLICK ON THEM. HOVER YOUR MOUSE OVER THEM FOR A DESCRIPTION)

LOOKING EAST UP LOCH MORAR

SUNLIT TREES, LOCH MORAR

ANDY & DAVE ON LOCH MORAR PATH

ANDY NEAR SWORDLAND

We might easily have stayed longer with Frank but our route asked for a final push up the next section of the ridge; a tough scramble up alongside a deer fence in knee deep heather, to position us for a crack at a bothy for the next night.

FRANK'S CHAPEL @ TARBET

ANDY & DAVE, LOCH NEVIS

ANDY & DAVE, LOCH NEVIS, BEN ADEN & SGURR NA CICHE

I’ll tell you now: You really should appreciate the next few pictures as I thought my heart was going to punch its way through my ribcage as I clambered up the steep, rocky, heathery hillside, with my legs turning to jelly. (Just thought I would mention it….)

LOCH NEVIS, BEN ADEN & SGURR NA CICHE

SGURR MORR

On our way to our chosen campspot, we fortuitously bumped into the lovely John Hesp and so we walked the last few hundred yards together to Coire Dubh, where we popped up our shelters.

COIRE DUBH, NORTH MORAR RIDGE

After pitching the tents we scampered about the ridge, snapping photos and watching some spectacular snow showers sweep Loch Nevis and Sourlies.

THE BONES OF THE RIDGE

SNOW SHOWERS SWEEP LOCH NEVIS & SKYE CUILLIN

It really doesn’t get any better than this.

Today’s route is shown in purple. (18.3 km with 900m of ascent)

TGO CHALLENGE 2012- DAY ONE MAP

 

2nd OCTOBER 2013: SAD POSTSCRIPT:

Very sadly I have learned from Matt Hobley that Frank Conway, who lived at the chapel at Tarbet has passed away in hospital after a short illness.

We only met Frank for an afternoon, but we felt our lives were enriched having met him.

RIP, Frank.

This lovely piece of music was written for Frank by Hamish Napier

Please click on this link, to hear SLOW AIR: Father Frank Conway of Tarbet

You can find another lovely take on Frank, by clicking HERE

43 comments:

  1. Lovely photos Alan! It looks like an excellent day's walk. Looking forward to reading more...

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    1. Thank you, Alistair. It was quite splendid and made all the more so with copious helpings of Lagavulin and sloe gin from the flasks before turning in.

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  2. Oh bugger, my first comment seems to have ran off somewhere.....

    I felt for a moment I was there with you and Frank - its the work of the Gods that I wasn't.


    Great photos and especially like the photo above Loch Nevis with the bright purple heather. They we all well worth the effort and I'm anticipating that you were soon reunited with your hill legs!

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    1. Ah - the Hill Legs. They didn't arrive until Day 6. I should have posted them on to Morar to collect at the start point. These legs were right difficult bastards for the first few days of the walk. I had to give them a proper 'talking-to' on occasions...
      They just sulked and carried on bitching like gurls though.
      :-)

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  3. You just beat me to day 1.
    Comparing day 3 should be interesting.

    Who was in the Pub at Morar other than Bob Philips.
    There was I think Bob Butler?
    Who was the chap who had been on the train and went to Sourlies?

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    1. No - Bob Butler was safely in Australia with Jan, very sensibly taking a nice holiday. He's a sensible chap.

      However, there *was* the jolly splendid Paul Myerscough and Big Bob Garnett. Neither of whom banged on about Volvos all night...
      :-)

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    2. Wish it was a holiday, I am working and Jan is at home enjoying the sun, cool and damp here. At least I can read the evolving saga.

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    3. Oooh! Still, think of it as a holiday. Although I make a point of never going anywhere where there are things that could bite me or eat me.
      Mossies & Clegs excepted, of course...
      :-)

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  4. Stunning photos Alan, really looking forward reading how your challenged unfolded...

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    1. You are too kind Tookie.
      :-)
      I took millions of photos, merely as an excuse for a breather as the others bowled off like hares up the hillsides. Statistically, some of them ought to have been okay!

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    2. We must have gone to the same school of walking, that's reason I carry a big camera. While everyone skips up the hill like a mountain goat, I'm capturing the view for prosperity. It takes a bit of time that does. ;)

      However I'm probably not fooling anyone....

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  5. Replies
    1. Thank you, Alen.
      There should be more every few days or so as the odd flashback lurches sickeningly into focus during the night-sweats.

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  6. Replies
    1. It is indeed a fabulous start, if a trifling committing. There's only really one way to go, whatever the weather. We were quite apprehensive about it but hit lucky.
      :-)

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  7. It was a fabulous way to start.
    What luck

    I have my Day 1 finished now HERE

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    1. I shall scamper off to your place then, and refute all the terrible stuff that will undoubtedly be scrawled all over the page.
      Will there be tales of WD40 and the scantily-clad pole dancing artistes, I wonder?

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  8. Looks like a splendid start and not too bad on the legs. What a lovely spot Tarbet. It reminds me of Kingairloch in some ways. Good pics and decent weather. I know there is worse to come.
    He says!

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    1. "Not too bad on the legs..."!!!
      It was agony, Ivy!
      And, yes. There is worse to come. But even better stuff first!

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  9. Splendid stuff.
    The first few days of each of my Challenges have always succeeded in taking my breath away - leaving the Flatlands of Cheshire and arriving in the glory that is Scotland is such a fabulous transition.
    That's well encompassed by your excellent report.....can it get better I ask myself??
    JJ

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    1. It's all downhill from here, JJ. All the way down to the top of the next hill.

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  10. Great to hear that Frankie is well and on form. Look forward to catching up with him again in July. Nice, also, to see pics of this fabulous area. There are some bonnie brownies in them wee lochans!

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    1. Hi Matt.
      Frank is on astonishingly good form for his age. Before leaving we had a little sing song as he played "Abide with me" on the Chapel organ. He also got the moose telling dirty jokes...
      I shall return! Might be an idea to take a small fishing rod with me too... A few days spent up on the ridge with brown trout for breakfast certainly appeals.

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  11. What a start and Frank sounds like someone you need to meet. Take the rod and go chill. Before that, get typing the next bit up. I am enjoying this.

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    1. Day 2 is now up and waiting for you, Martin!
      :-)

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  12. "...we fortuitously bumped into the lovely John Hesp....."

    And so another avid fan of this blog is born.

    John

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    1. I'm really looking forward to seeing where you disappeared off to after abandoning us to our drop down from Mordor to the bowels of hell.
      The bowels of hell: And who did I go with? Any dusky handmaidens? No. Wilky and Walker, the Laurel and Hardy of the Chally. Jeez!

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    2. All will be revealed when I write up my Challenge, but I can tell you that I ruined a perfectly good Paramo trouser and Hesp leg.

      John

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    3. ooh! Hurry up then with your report!
      :-)

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  13. Those are some particularly punchy backdrops Alan - just one question, did you climb up to take that photo of your camp to get away from that mischievous Walker? Or did you actually send someone ahead with your tent to get it pitched ready for arrival?

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    1. All my own work, Sir. Now, had Phil been walking, he would have had the tents up, the washing done and the coffee piping hot upon my arrival!

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  14. What a lovely description and set of photos. A few years back I was in Sourlies and intended to do this route to get back to Morar. Bad weather intervened so we ended up walking along the south shore of Loch Nevis to Tarbet and then taking the path you followed back to Morar. Apart from fording a few rivers in the Loch (a safer option!) it was a spectacular if tiring journey. Rocky ground meant going inland a few times was necessary but from memory there was none of the 'grass climbing' that often bedevils these kinds of routes.

    I shall have to go back and take your route next time, have already been checking bus/train times to work out the journey to Morar. And this less than a week from returning from the Challenge...

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    1. That's very kind of you to say so.
      That sounds like a fun trip, James.
      So - will you be back for another Challenge?
      :-)

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  15. Probably not next year, but in the future for sure...

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  16. Like your colourful array of tents - is this a post-edit job or did you pre-arrange for each have a different colour? Did you bump into Bob Phillips I wonder? I left him at a lochan a little further up the ridge. Me I found my lochan an hour or so further on. Lots of lochans for everyone up there. By the way if you go round the corner to the 'sheepfold' it's a nice gentle slope upwards to the ridge.

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    1. Paul
      The discerning hikeist should always consider his companion's attire and tentage; It will be the other chap's attire that appears in all the photos, after all.
      The tents should either be identical and pitched in a tidy parallel fashion, or of complementary colours and set randomly, to enhance the foregrounds in shots of the mountainous backdrops.
      :-)
      We saw neither sight nor sound of Master Bob since his endless discussions with our Wilky on Volvo 740's the previous night at the hotel.

      That ridge is an absolute joy and deserves more time to dally amongst it's pools with a rod for brown trout.

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  17. I have twice stayed at Frank's both times on canoeing trips. Since the first time he now has a proper toilet and a shower contraption.
    On our second visit he had a party to welcome back an even older resident and they were playing folk tunes until about 3am.

    The theatre mogul has a house nearby and if you time it right - we did- you get the left overs a real treat.

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    1. Hmmm Not sure if I would want Cameron's left-overs... nless they are the unopened bottles, that is :-)

      Frank's place is a little gem - and for £2 per night and absolute steal for a truly "get-away-from-it-all" experience.

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  18. Shame to hear about Frank. Having just read Andrew W's account of your 1st day and now yours I was thinking how I'd like to meet Frank :-(
    Great photos and write-up, looking forward to reading more. After a break from readibg Andrew's account however as my sides still ache from laughter. He has a singularly comic and effective style of writing doesn't he!

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    1. Indeed, Elton. Frank was a lovely bloke.
      And yes, Mr Walker is a wonderfully funny chap - and I shall have the pleasure of his company again in 2014 on the Challenge, as we struggle from Mallaig to Lunan Bay via a dozen or so Munros and Corbetts.
      :-)

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  19. Good luck to you in 2014 then ;-) I'm goin to apply for my 1st attempt at the Challenge nxt year for 2015 all bein well. I'm so caught up in the bug already that I'm plotting routes :-)

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    1. Beware.
      It's incredibly addictive. 2014 will be my nineteenth TGO Challenge....
      :-)

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    2. 19th!? Congratulations.
      I'm well prepared for this particular addiction although the wife on the other hand... Lets just say I'm breaking it to her gently (worming my way around more like!)

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