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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Freaky Dean & the Dulnain; a Monadhliath leg-stretch: 2

It’s the little things in life that fascinate.

For example, a small child picks up his tommee tippee mug full of warm milk and shoves it in the general area of his face, and his teeth remain intact! I believe that muscle memory plays a part in this; The more they perform this act the easier it becomes. The muscles link with the brain and learn the incredibly complicated route and actions required to guide the cup to the mouth from the highchair table to the destination. And the child does not drown in milk. It is a bloody miracle – I mean – have you ever tried to spoon baby-food into a baby’s mouth? Whenever my wife put me in charge of this act with our two boys, within five minutes the kitchen resembled the Somme,

What has tommee tippee to do with the Freaky Dean & the Dulnain trip? Well, it’s been almost a year since I had been backpacking and so all the simple things that just come automatically when backpacking had to be re-learned on this trip.

Exhibit A: In the bothy on the first night, I realised with absolute horror that I had brought nowhere near enough whisky. This was very distressing. In a nice warm bothy, whisky makes the evening run along perfectly. Fortunately, Mr Walker had bought generous supplies. I am indebted to the gentleman.

Exhibit B: The body can function perfectly well without little pleasures, but the inclusion of jelly babies, cuppa-soups and hot chocolate make life go with a swing. And of course, more whisky.

***

It had absolutely pissed down with rain in the night and it was still pretty horrid in the morning, and to add to the misery, I left a warm bothy with a weedy lightweight spade without a handle, when the required implement was a sharpened heavyweight Spear & Jackson job. Such is the fun of living in the outdoors.

The route up and over to the second lunchtime hut was abandoned (well, if truth be told, I unilaterally abandoned it on behalf of the team – I’m all heart – but there was not a murmur of dissent in the ranks) in favour of a fine daunder down the Dulnain. The Upper Dulnain is a wondrous beast. And speaking of beasts, now would be a good time to remind everyone that it was in these confines (Humphrey reliably informs me) that the last wolf in Scotland was killed.

THE UPPER DULNAIN

THE UPPER DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

This is all trackless stuff, but as with all trackless stuff in the Highlands, there are plenty of deer tracks to help unlock the puzzle of finding a good route though boggy bits. It felt wonderful to be out again in the cold wet air with just the elemental sounds of water and wind as your backing track.

DOWN THE UPPER DULNAINDOWN THE UPPER DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE 

I’m always entranced by the constant shifting of the rivers in these parts. They’re like wayward women bed partners; hogging the entire valley floor, rushing from one side to the other, forcing you up on top or trying your luck teetering over her boulders alongside the maelstrom.

This next chap had had a bad winter. The birds and foxes might have pulled though with his help.

DEATH ON THE DULNAIN

DEATH ON THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

We had a seated lunch in what remains of Dulnain Bothy No 2. See if you can spot the clue to its name from the picture. Prizes for the correct answer will be dished out by Mr Walker.

BOTHY No. 2, THE DULNAIN

BOTHY No. 2, THE DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Quite why Robin & Andy decided to dress as Smurfs today escapes me.

Inevitably, having started at Bothy No 1 in the morning and lunching in No 2, we came across Bothy No.3 a little later on, where we decided enough was enough and it was time to put the shelters up and be proper backpackers, and not bothy bums.

DULNAIN BOTHY 3 CAMP

DULNAIN BOTHY 3 CAMP – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Shelter Nerds may want to enlarge the above picture, to examine if we pitched the things correctly. From left to right we have Robin’s grey silnylon Trailstar with a solid Oookstar inner. Andy & Robin are standing next to Andy’s new baby from Bob Cartwright – a silnylon HexPeak & mostly mesh inner, and on the right is Trinnie Trailstar in olive brown, with a 50/50 Oookstar inner. They went up with very little trouble at all. They were first outings in the field for each of us.

Oh, alright then; Here’s another shot of the shelters, looking down the Dulnain:

HEXPEAK & 2xTRAILSTARS, BOTHY 3, DULNAIN

HEXPEAK & 2xTRAILSTARS, BOTHY 3, DULNAIN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Any day now, the Reporter will be publishing her decision on whether or not a disgustingly huge wind farm will be built, bang opposite this wonderful bothy – the Allt Duine wind farm. There is one reason, and one reason only, why this wind farm is being proposed: Money. The three Estates who own the land will benefit to the tune of many millions of Scottish or English Pounds each, each year for a bare minimum of twenty five years. The company that owns the wind farm will pocket over a hundred million in subsidies over the life of the thing, paid for by you and me (who can least afford it) from the “green” levies on our electricity bills. How anyone with even half a brain cell can call this ‘green energy’ when it is totally fucking up this beautiful landscape is beyond me. They are the lunatic eco-warriors, the Eco-Nazis, who have forgotten all about ecology and environmentalism in their quest to ruin capitalism at any cost.

And this next picture shows what is to be lost. This is looking straight up Allt Duine, up to the high ridgeline that borders Strath Spey and the Cairngorm National Park:

ALLT DUINE, MONADH LIATH

ALLT DUINE, MONADH LIATH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Monadh Liath are a wonderfully remote, lonely place; A place to escape from the humdrum, a place to have space and time to think – commodities that are given very little value in modern life. It is a disgrace that the Scottish Government is even thinking about industrialising fabulous places like this.

Of course, not all hill walkers agree with this point of view, as seen in the bothy book, by a Challenger, no less: David Smithers.

DAVID SMITHERS' ENTRY IN THE BOTHY BOOK

DAVID SMITHERS' ENTRY IN THE BOTHY BOOK – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Happily, the very next entry from the excellent Colin Crawford put the man straight.

After flipping up the shelters it was getting cold again, so Robin disappeared into his as yet un-named Trailstar to prepare dinner whilst Andy & I got a roaring warming fire going in the bothy and cooked in the warm, with a few snifters to help things along.

DULNAIN 3 HEARTHDULNAIN 3 HEARTH 

Not many miles, but a glorious trundle down the Upper Dulnain. All was well in my world.

17 comments:

  1. A great wee trip by the sounds of it and an area I'll need to visit before Salmond has his evil way. I'm enjoying reading both yours and Robins account of this.

    Sandy

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sandy
      I adore the Monadhliath. For me it's right up there with the Sutherland for backpacking - a huge empty place with eagles, buzzards, larks, curlew and oyster catchers for company. It's massively under-rated by the backpacking community.

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  2. And here is me believing that the tgoc was about endurance and adventure and all that boys own stuff, when really its about alcohol in increasing quantities. Neat move that Alan not raking enough nectar, saves on weight, in pounds of course. Loved the post and the pictures, look forward to reading more. The people with the windmills really are environmental thugs and all for a few quid, typical of our world these days.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Findon

      It's not all abut the booze!
      :-)
      Being a moderately lightweight backpacker (it's an age thing) it's far better to take cask strength - more bang per ounce - but If Andy insists upon taking more generous quantities I am very grateful.
      With the new kidney and all the anti-rejection drugs the boozing these days is highly moderated.
      *sigh*

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  3. Never mind wayward women bed partners, ever tried sharing a double bed with a rather large Labrador and a Boxer? And, whilst you've got a broken leg in a pot as well?

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    Replies
    1. I shall choose my words very carefully here, Chrissie.
      I select my bed partners very carefully. Now, a large Labrador would not be at the top of that list and Boxers aren't exactly "pretty" are they? Is there room for your husband in this ménage a trois? And who does he snuggle up to - presumably he won't be allowed near your broken leg?

      You need a toy-boy with his own flat.
      :-)

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    2. No, Boxers aren't pretty, they're beautiful :) And this doesn't happen every night but when I did have a broken leg a couple of years ago, it somehow managed to coincide with hubby going on a 4 week motorbike trip to Morroco. You can understand that I needed something to snuggle up to in those circumstances.....

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  4. It is good to read that the walk between bothies number two and three is worth doing, been wondering about that for a while now.

    I will be in the Moanies this time next week. Two possible routes planned at the moment. The first is to park in Kingussie and public transport it round to Fort Augustus. Then go up the Tarff, along the reservoir, drop down to Stronlairg, up the Markie, across to bothy one and then Kingussie. A cracking route but a faff getting to Fort Augustus via Inverness.

    Or taxi down to Laggan from kingussie, up the wonderful looking Glen Markie with its gorge like top, across the watershed and down the length of Abhainn cro Chlach, Findhorn, Elrick,bothy number one and then the Dulnain. Decisions eh?

    BTW I would just like to say how handsome you all look.

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    Replies
    1. Hi James
      I've walked your first route suggestion (before they built the dam) and it was superb. I think you may be disappointed with the first day's stretch, as it is now a bloody great Rover Road from the dam to the Chalybeate Spring - good for progress, but soul-crushingly depressing. The Tarff section is wonderful.
      I'm going to send you an email later tonight concerning this.

      Your second route is an absolute stunner - and the email will cover this as well.

      And thank you - they do all look stunning, don't they?
      :-)

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  5. To quote WC Fields (and good advice for all long distance walkers) "Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake", an elementary mistake!

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    Replies
    1. I shall cut out this advice and tuck it into my wallet, to be produced whenever medicine is required.
      Thank you Sir!
      :-)

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  6. Super post Mr S. I have never been in the Monadhliath and have clearly missed out. As I do most of my walking solo, and I am a woos, I suspect the remoteness would be intimidating....but worth it.

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    Replies
    1. I know exactly what you mean about huge empty places being intimidating - may I suggest you buddy-up with another Challenger (or group of Challengers) and then try it and then follow a similar route the following year - that way the route will be like an old friend, rather than a place to worry about.
      It worked for me.
      :-)
      See you tomorrow, Sir.

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  7. Sadly I fear Challengers (well most) and those with a passion for wild remote moorland enjoy it there Alan. Many just rave about the rugged steep peaks of the West and ignore the Monadhliath - which is a shame. It is indeed wonderful, but I expect ignored by the masses and under-rated in their eyes. So it's seen as less worthy of protection I feel, and those wind farms will destroy its treasures that you know about.

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    Replies
    1. I think that's spot on, Martin
      It's really important to raise its profile - so I've been writing about wind farms, principally in the Moanies, for just that reason.
      :-(

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  8. "The company that owns the wind farm will pocket over a hundred million in subsidies over the life of the thing, paid for by you and me"………. Do you think WE in the remaining UK will still have to pay if/when Scotland becomes independent? Or will the northern 5 million have to cough up an extortionate amount each in compulsory taxes while the few landowners sit far away on a lovely beach laughing.

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    1. No Al -
      We won't be paying subsidies to a foreign company for energy we can get in the open market from Europe. It will mean the Scots will be paying for all the 'home-grown' wind energy subsidies themselves - It's been estimated that this will mean an extra £300 a year per household in Scotland. Of course, they could increase oil production to pay for this.
      :-)

      Delete

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