Tuesday, 5 June 2012

TGO Challenge 2012: DAY 9: Glen Tilt to Braemar

We had set ourselves up very prettily for an easy day into Braemar. Okay, it was about 19 miles of walking, but none of it was difficult and I wasn’t expecting any great difficulties with either the Bynack Burn or the Geldie, as the weather had just been showery and it wasn’t hot enough to melt lots of snow on the Cairngorm tops.

We quite fancied getting into town with enough time to have a tea break at Mar Lodge and then check into Ronnie & Fiona’s bunkhouse at the Braemar Lodge Hotel, get the washing done and have a bit of a feed before heading up to the Moorfield Hotel for the Evening’s entertainment. This meant that we needed an earlyish start. So, quite frankly, I was amazed that Andy was up & ready a good ten minutes before our agreed setting off time. This must have been down to one of a few possible causes:

  • The poor lad couldn’t sleep, or
  • His watch had broken, or
  • He had finally cracked and didn’t want the hassle of packing whilst everyone was standing about watching him again.

It looked like Nik was a late starter, and she was just surfacing as we were about to set off, so we said cheerio and left the damsel all alone to her fate, at the mercy of the dive-bombing oyster catchers. What a bunch of knights in shiny armour?

Glen Tilt was, well, Glen Tilt really. It’s a fine walk  on a good path all the way up. Bedford Bridge came and went

Bedford Bridge, Roger & Andy

and I plodded along, carrying my blister. I really had forgotten what it is like to have one of these things. It is really, really unpleasant, but the scenery and the conditions underfoot were soft and so I shrugged it off. We had a few rather nice rest stops as finally the sun had decided to make an occasional appearance. It was still chilly though, with the  wind coming straight at us.

Snow slathered Cairngorms

The Bynack Burn was crossed dry-shod; Andy picking a fine diagonal across a stony bit and then it was just the Geldie to contend with. Andy & Roger had decided to do the whole boot/sock/trousers faff whilst I just rolled up my trouser legs and plunged in. It was wonderfully refreshing, the freezing water anaesthetising my feet! I fell in with Diane Collins at this point who was cantering along at a fair old lick, having started her day very early from Ruigh-aiteachain. As my blister was now quite numb we enjoyed cracking along at her pace until I realised I had left Roger & Andy far behind as they were now doing the reverse of the trouser/sock/boot faff on this side of the Geldie. I was also getting hungry, so I decided to stop and wait for my walking partner and have a spot of lunch.

Presently, we arrived at the Linn of Dee in very good order. Andy, by now was looking, how shall we say, slightly “Gentleman of the Road-ish.” Unshaven for quite a few days now and with unkempt hair, with bits’n’bobs hanging from his rucksack, and all his extremities bandaged up in filthy micro-pore, he was a bit of a sight. We noticed a nice old couple had spotted us and they had beaten a hasty retreat to their very clean car. It was all I could do to stop Andy from racing over and licking their windows. They drove off smartish.

We tried very hard to try and persuade Mr Boston to accompany us into Braemar for the parties, but he was resolute and so we parted – he to the fleshpots of Derry Lodge and we to the Gun Room of Mar Lodge for restorative cups of tea and biscuits. We bumped into Andy Williams, who seemed to be hobbling very painfully on an ankle that would have put most on the retirement list. But he’s made of the right stuff and was carrying on. Top bloke!

There was also Diane again, who was girding her loins to lunge back out on the road to Braemar and Tony “Fire-starter” Whewell of last year’s Gelder Shiel Bothy Incident, who assured everyone that this year he had a new stove that wasn’t going to blow us all to Kingdom-Come.

Back out onto the road and Andy & I settled into a gentle stroll, heading along to Braemar. We let Diane get a little way ahead. I don’t know what does it with this stretch of road, but you can see Challengers the other side of the bay, seemingly miles ahead. I suppose it all started when I was walking with Terry Leyland back in ‘97 when we had seen a struggling Challenger (which turned out to be Oliver Freudentahl) a good mile ahead and Terry said “We’ll ‘ave ‘im!” and we sprinted off to catch him in double quick time (This, I hasten to add, was only because it was Oliver’s first challenge and he was carrying twenty tons of equipment in his gargantuan rucksack, and wearing huge army boots)

Ever since that day, this has turned into a rather bad habit of mine, and having let the distance between us and Diane stretch out to something of a real competitive challenge, I tried to persuade Andy that we could catch her. Quite rightly, he was having none of it and promptly stopped to thwart my plans with an indescribably ghastly backside slathering of cocoa-buttered Vaseline and underpants faff.

I was off like a whippet. The joy of hauling someone in with an elastic stride is quite a wonderful feeling. No-one stands a chance when I’m in this form.

I know it’s not nice. It’s a competitive and unpleasant character trait, but I just love doing it. It takes me back over forty years to school and cross countries, hauling in chaps who thought they were easy winners and grinding them down to dust…

Ooh dear, perhaps that’s too much information there… It was not my intention to grind anyone down to dust this time though, just to let the old legs have a blast and enjoy themselves. I knew that Andy also has this terrible competitive streak and as Diane & I chatted as we walked along together, we estimated Andy’s catch up point. I just knew he couldn’t help himself, and sure enough, just as we were passing the road sign declaring that we had made it to Braemar, Andy arrived, his firebox sparking with white heat!

Perhaps it’s a bloke thing…

Of course, our careful programme of things to get done in Braemar was shot to hell. Upon arrival it was straight into the Fife Arms.

Mr Howell & JJ in the Fife Arms

Pinky & Perky in the Fife Arms :-)

We *did* get the washing done and we did find our bunkhouse and we did manage to get up to the Moorfield, where I stayed in the bar all evening as Bingo Wings weren’t on and I didn’t fancy the alternative, some sort of Scottish country dancing or whatever. I bumped into all sorts of lovely Challengers, far too many to name here and had a lovely chat with David Towers, who is still going strong at 79 years young. He’s an example to us all.

I was however, quite knackered, and so decided to call it a day quite early in the festivities, and limped off down the lane, only to be dragged into the Fife with Terry Leyland for a few liveners before finally getting back to the bunkhouse quite late to sleep the sleep of the happy but dead.

Today’s route: 30.2 km with about 400m of ascent.



  1. I've made a note to try to include Glen Tilt next year, it looks delightful.

    A splendid read....but, my god - I hadn't realised how knackered I looked in the Fife!

    S'pose it's too much good living, perhaps I'll try purgatory next time.


    1. I think we were all a bit pole-axed this year, JJ. Having seen one of your pictures of meat the Moorfield I look ready for the grave, not bed!

      Glen Tilt is a lovely amble. It's all too easy to race ujp it, but it should be savoured and it's little rock pools and waterfalls explored in the sunshine. One or two are cracking bathing spots.

    2. You always look like that John :)

    3. A trifle harsh, but, upon reflection, fair...


  2. It IS a bloke thing!!! I got a one-day dose of 'undercarrage problems,' thankfully not as bad as Andy's sounds or as completely devastating as Dave's, but the Girls ... nothing!

    Don't feel too bad about abandoning the lovely Nik (but still bad form!). We met her at Linn of Dee and walked together to Mar Lodge, where she continued after taking afternoon tea with us.

    1. Your Holiness, The Incredibly Irreverend Dave: Girls are different "down there". At least, they were the last time I looked.

      I am pleased you collected Nik - I did feel rather guilty, heading off to parties and abandoning her. I blame Andy, hassling me to be ready on time. He does that a lot, you know..

  3. Your routes look pretty good, what mapping software do you use?
    Do you print off your maps or download them to a GPS if so what type?

    I'm due a birthday later this week, so now might be a the time to drop a few present hints!

    1. Hi Geoff
      I currently use Anquet (but am thinking of changing over to another system - but more on that on a few weeks time).

      I have never been a fan of GPS and would have absolutely no idea how to put a route onto the thing. On the very rare occasions that I have used a GPS it was to find out where I was - just to get an OS grid reference.

      I simply print my maps out at various scales to suit the A4 piece of paper and stick them in an Ortlieb A4 document bag to keep them dry.

      Have a very Happy Birthday, Sir! I'd have a slap up meal out somewhere with someone special, rather than a daft bit of kit...

  4. Really enjoying your trip report, Alan.
    Very understated. )

    Cotton shreddies? FFS!

    Mike fae Dundee.

  5. Ah sir, you bring back additional memories.
    Mostly good.

    And I had completely forgotten that poor old couple in the Linn of Dee.
    It was tempting to lick the windscreen, but I did not want a police escort to Braemar.

    1. The thing is, when you get one of those police escorts, you generally get a free bed for the night too, with breakfast! And you get to do those finger paintings as well...

      Sounds like we missed out on a treat, really.

  6. Well that was a surprise, I didn't expect to see my own name on a blog! I damn near fell off the sofa. I had a marvellous afternoon in the Gun Room, drinking coffee and chatting with various challengers as they passed through. I think next time I'll push on to Braemar for the Sat night though. It's not good you know, today is the first day I've managed most of the day without a stick and I'm already contemplating applying for 2014....

    1. Abandon all hope now Andy. The Challenge has you in its grip. There is no escape. Trust me (17 completed...)


      You will also find yourself on Andy Walker's blog which can be found by clicking HERE

    2. It certainly seems so. For about 90% of the way across I was telling myself "Just get to the coast so you'll have done it and that's that. You'll never be stupid enough to do this again". Within 3 days of getting home I was convincing myself that with just a few kit tweaks I should probably have another crack at it and dropping hints about 2014. I must admit the social side was unexpected and that's a surprisingly large part of the draw, the atmosphere is unique.

    3. Oh dear. There really is no hope then...

  7. Oh Andy ... been there, done that. 7 under my belt now and already got a route worked up for the 8th. Just admit it - you're GOING to be back. Then resign yourself to your fate and let it become a self-fuffilling prophecy!

    1. Hello JB and welcome to the blog.
      As a fellow sufferer you too understand the dreadful pull of this event. There is no escape. It is the Black Hole of the walking calender. Once trapped in its maw, there is no way out.


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