Dave looked less stressed this morning, having decided to ditch the continuing masochistic torture to his groin. However, the trooper that he is, he wasn’t giving up completely and had decided to meet with us at the Cheese & Wine Party at Allt Luib Ruairidh on the West Highland Railway line in the evening, a simple train ride away.
Today’s route was blessed with sunshine and cold northerly winds which fortunately were largely behind us, our route heading mostly south and east. As we swing out of the village we collected up Sandy Millar as he was leaving his B&B.
Sandy & Andy had already become known to each other as Sandy had taken Andy’s old tent on the Challenge. Fortunately it was a successful transaction as both parties were delighted with the outcome: Sandy had a lovely new red lightweight tent and Andy now had a Trailstar, funded partly by his old tent.
The two chaps got on like a house on fire and we all toddled off up the Lairig Leacach up a good Landrover track. We were actually making good progress laden down as we were with five days of food plus the wine, bread & cheese & Glayva for the party later that night. The packs certainly felt very heavy.
The Grey Corries over to our right were plastered in the white stuff but luckily our path was snow-free and firm underfoot.
We sheltered in the bothy for lunch. Even though it was sunny, it was perishingly cold in the wind outside. Sandy did something clever with a self-timer with his camera and produced a picture of three smiley Challengers.
Just as we were about to leave Ken & Norma Proudler arrived, a very fit couple in their sixties and Ken on his tenth Challenge. It always seems slightly rude to shove off just as someone else arrives and it’s tempting to linger and have a chat. However, I was conscious that this year i was finding myself increasingly tired at the end of each day. It always seemed to kick in at about the same time, regardless of the effort expended during the day, and so I was keen to get on and carry on walking while I still felt okay. This seems to be a side effect of having completely knackered kidneys, so it’s just a question of adjusting to suit their needs.
From here down to Loch Treig, the lovely old stalkers path has been butchered by a new quad-bike track, destroying the drainage and turning it into a bit of a quagmire. However if you put that from your mind, the views all around are stunning.
A highlight of the day is the section of the walk between the Allt Feith a’ Ghleannain and Creaguaineach Lodge. It’s a beautifully pastoral section followed by a fascinating glacial outwash channel that runs parallel to the river. It would make a wonderful camping spot.
As we slowly gained height, climbing up to the West Highland Railway I noticed the first pair of red balloons fluttering alongside the track. There followed more and more balloons! Just under the railway bridge Val & Dave Machin gave me a big cuddle (I remember struggling a bit here) and I noticed a Scottish flag fluttering in the breeze, stuck on the old ruin.
It was lovely. Before too long we were joined by Ken & Norma as well and Val produced a bottle of pink champagne complete with plastic flutes and all manner of wonderful grub: Olives, various spreads, pretzels, crisps plus all sorts of cheeses. Val & Dave had also called in to the Newtonmore Bunkhouse to collect some cakes made for us by the wonderful Ali Ogden! We were spoiled rotten!
We each added our own cheeses and wines. Then Dave arrived to a hearty welcome, having walked down the line from Corrour Station. As we toasted “Absent Friends” a healthy dose of soft hail topped up our glasses. Champagne on ice. It doesn’t get much better, does it?
It was well below freezing by the time we turned in, with the rain on the tents having turned to puddles of ice. The scenery around here is stunning.
Today’s route is in purple: (25.8km with 650m of ascent)