Andy is a dab-hand with his smartphone and produces weather forecasts at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t asked: His weather forecast for today was for more of the same: Stiff, cold north-easterly winds with heavy showers.
Of course, we were heading north east, into the weather all day. I guessed it to be just shy of twenty miles and so we mentally broke it down into the stretch to Loch Bhac for a break in the fishermen’s hut and then lunch at Blair Atholl in the hotel. Then it was to be a bimble up the Tilt for as far as seemed decent enough to be able to make it comfortably to Braemar the next day. Breaking the day down into little chunks makes it all the more manageable.
Walking in the forest at least gives a modicum of shelter from the worst excesses of the weather and we came upon the fisherman’s hut for a rest stop after an hour or so of gentle plodding.
Never, ever pass a chair by without making good use of it. So we stopped and rested while Andy unrolled yet another reel of micro-pore tape to bind up yet more toes and heels. He had already used up a couple of rolls binding up five of his fingers. (He had managed to slice them all with his penknife. Don’t ask me how!) The man was held together with sticky tape.
Then it was off out into the cold again for the tiny little path that weaves its way down to the A9. This gives good views of Glen Tilt and Blair Castle, both of which I singularly failed to capture well, but here are the blurred results in the rain!
We arrived too early for the bar at the hotel and so plumped for the comfy armchairs in front of the fire in the hotel and settled down for some coffees and cakes. I really didn’t want to ever get out of that chair. It was a snoozy sort of job with a winged headrest that was nice and snuggly. Then Nik Lawcock arrived in a flurry of wet anoraks and dumping of heavy rucksacks and we were now a party of four.
As the bar was still not quite open, we went for more coffee while Roger went outside to try and buy a map. He had been wandering aimlessly about Scotland for a while without one, so why he felt the pressing need right now for one Lord only knows! It might have had something to do with finding himself up on top of Schielhallion yesterday in the clouds looking for Martin & Sue’s whisky stache. You would have to be seriously misplaced to find yourself on top of anything in that weather.
Midday came and we found ourselves in the bar drinking Moulin and with bowls of hot soup and more crusty bread. One day we really ought to make inroads into the colossal food bags we were carrying, but it wasn’t to be today…
The Challenge is a wonderful series of delightful stops interspersed with quite a bit of this walking thing. This walking thing is fine & dandy if it’s a sunny day and you have a few sandwiches in a little daysack but load me up with a house on my back and then turn on the pressure hoses whilst I walk into an icy wind all day and all of a sudden it’s not quite so appealing.
But, if we wanted to get to Braemar, this walking thing had to be done. and so rather grumpily, I shouldered my pack and clambered out into the all too fresh air. It was interesting walking with new people: Nik was slow and steady but really good fun. Roger is off like a greyhound and thoroughly entertaining too. We spent various stretches of the afternoon walking with different partners and it was all quite jolly. We did suffer a bit from the very short rest-stop problem because of the weather. It was just too cold & miserable to stop for long.
Andy & Roger called the camping spot and I have to say I was ready for it, having felt quite tired for the last half hour or so. They picked out an excellent spot the other side of a large bridge. It was a on a good flat shelf with plenty of room for all four tents.
We held an impromptu “love-in” in Treeza Trailstar, Andy’s Golden “Lurve Palace”. We scrambled together odds and sods of hooch and nibbles and spent a giggly hour or so listening to Andy’s disco machine and generally trashing his place before turning in for the night.
Today’s route: (29.3km with 500m or so of ascent)