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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

TGO Challenge 2014: Part 3: Consequences.

Jake_and_Elwood_in_car_at_night_Hit_It1

Lord Elpus: It's a hundred and six miles to Braemar, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.

Mad’n’Bad: Hit it.

***

DAY 3: MORNING ON LOCH QUOICH

DAY 3: MORNING ON LOCH QUOICH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

DAY THREE:

Lying all snug in Oook & Trinnie, drinking my breakfast Ovaltine, I’m looking at the maps and thinking about the next two days. Yesterday’s shortfall has consequences:

  • We’re now quite a bit behind our schedule.
  • I’ve had very little sleep because my knee aches like hell. Every time I turn over there’s a sharp jabby pain.
  • We still have a good couple of hours to slog our way around the boggy shoreline of Loch Quoich before we reach the Loch Hourn road.
  • The weather is turning decidedly cold and squally.
  • We have a B&B booked in Fort Augustus in two night’s time.

TGO2014 DAYS 3&4

TGO2014 DAYS 3&4 – CLICK TO ENLARGE

It’s time for a re-think. After yesterday’s epic we need an easier day today to recover, but we still need to get to Fort Augustus on schedule for our night of luxury in a B&B. Our original route along the ridge above Glen Garry now looks too big an ask, and so after a bit of a conflab we decide that once the road is reached we’ll trundle along the length of Loch Quoich and then continue to  the Tomdoun Hotel. After the Tomdoun it will be a bigger day through the forest, to Invergarry for a late lunch and then a bit of a slog up the canal to Fort Augustus. Phil had done this day before,with David, his brother-in-law,  ten years ago.

There is a brief hysterical moment when both my cartographically challenged companions try to convince me that our current position is a good two hours further west, and that even our current night’s target of reaching the Tomdoun will be a complete bastard. Until, that is, I point out that we had already crossed the nasty gorgey river last night at half past eight in the evening in the pissing rain.

With that, happiness returns once more to our merry band of brothers. Andy reminds us that we need to call or text Alistair, to let him him know we are not going to be where intended as we were due to meet and camp with him on the ridge.

PHIL'S PICTURE: INCOMING

PHIL'S PICTURE: INCOMING – CLICK TO ENLARGE

As expected, the shoreline around the rest of Loch Quoich is a bit of a pig. but it’s taken steadily. We are lucky with the last river before the road; We tip toe across it in our shoes on a little stony built path.  We make the road in reasonable order, just as the first squally rain shower hits.

VENISON STEAKS

VENISON STEAKS

 

I BEG YOUR  PARDON?

I BEG YOUR  PARDON?

So now it’s an amble along the minor road alongside Loch Quoich – and the weather  goes from this:

MORE INCOMING

MORE INCOMING – CLICK TO ENLARGE

to this, with Phil rolling up his sleeves and me with my sun hat on.

ANDY'S PICTURE: BRIEF ROAD RESPITE

ANDY'S PICTURE: BRIEF ROAD RESPITE – CLICK TO ENLARGE

There are a couple of small River Hydro plants just completing construction along the way, and so we settle down for a good spot of lunch at the second. The weather is now gorgeous.

PHIL'S PICTURE. LUNCH AT 2ND HYDRO PLANT

PHIL'S PICTURE. LUNCH AT 2ND HYDRO PLANT – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Eventually the horrid business of shouldering our packs and trudging down the road pushes its way to the fore. Ticking off landmarks, we come across the turning for Poulary and the track from Kinbreack Bothy, and wonder if we were going to see any Challengers. Sure enough, right on cue, up pops Jim Taylor: A truly lovely man, Jim is ninety one and three quarters years old. His pack is covered by an old bin liner. He has had a dunking in the Kingie and had taken things off to dry but had left his new pack cover hanging from a tree. He has bent his waking pole quite badly but has bashed it to more-or-less straight again.

We ask him if he would like a cup of tea at the Tomdoun, as we are likely to get there well before him. He politely declines, saying that he can’t be bothered with stoves and hot drinks. He’s quite happy with his oat cakes and a little water. (Jim went on to finish his twentieth Challenge, a day ahead of us.)

FORLORN TOMDOUN HOTEL

FORLORN TOMDOUN HOTEL – CLICK TO ENLARGE

After our sixteen mile day, we arrive at the Tomdoun at a reasonable sixish o’clock and decide that there’s no point going any further as we know the next day is “do-able” with no obstacles. We’re joined by Andy, who parks his Akto in front of the bar, and Jim, who parks his Laser Comp around the side with Phil. Jim dives into his tent and we don’t see him again until morning. My knee is feeling no better at all and to be perfectly honest, this was enough for today. I need a good rest now and a decent night’s sleep.

PHIL'S PICTURE - TOMDOUN HOTEL

PHIL'S PICTURE – ANDY (x2) AND ME, TOMDOUN HOTEL

The Tomdoun’s been closed and on the market for a few years now. If it’s not sold soon I can’t see it ever being sold as a hotel again. Already some down-pipes are broken, slates are missing from the roof and when peeking inside it looks very damp as ceiling paper is hanging down and large water stains are evident everywhere. It’s dreadfully sad, but I suppose its decline was inevitable, as it’s stuck half way along a dead end single-track road in the Western Highlands. It would make a fabulous building plot for a new house or group of houses, which is what I expect will happen.

TOMDOUN DINING ROOM

TOMDOUN DINING ROOM

 

TOMDOUN BAR

TOMDOUN BAR – NO TOP-SHELF CHALLENGES THESE DAYS.

 

TOMDOUN B&B

TOMDOUN B&B – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

DAY FOUR:

There’s quite a lot of condensation this morning as it has been a damp, still night. Jim’s away a good hour before us and the other Andy follows shortly after. We get away at a respectable (for us) time of before eight o’clock. We’ve a biggish day to do, but decide on a strategy of a quarter of an hour rest every five km, with an hour for lunch, which should get us to Fort Augustus around six thirty.

PHIL'S PICTURE: TOMDOUN

PHIL'S PICTURE: TOMDOUN – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

PHIL'S PICTURE: THE WAY AHEAD

PHIL'S PICTURE: THE WAY AHEAD – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

It’s a lovely day again, if a touch chilly and soon we’re crossing Loch Garry on the Bailey Bridge.

PHIL'S PICTURE: LOCH GARRY

PHIL'S PICTURE: LOCH GARRY – CLICK TO ENLARGE

We pass a few camping Challengers (David Brown & Emma?) and have our 5k rest stop a little further on.

ANDY'S MICROPORE CHALLENGE

ANDY'S MICROPORE CHALLENGE – LAST YEAR EVERY AVAILABLE DIGIT WAS COVERED IN MICROPORE

At this point the Lovely Emma (this girl is always smiling!) comes along. Phil trips her over. Andy sits on her. I ply her with Werther’s Originals and Jelly Babies. Finally she agrees to walk with us through the deep dark forest. It is as well we have polite company as our crew have now been together for over three days and frankly we are sick to the back teeth with each other.

EMMA, ANDY & PHIL

EMMA, ANDY & PHIL – CLICK TO ENLARGE

We are all very brave. We face bovine perils with no more than a nod to the head honcho as we weave our way through their hairyness:

HAIRY COOS

HAIRY COOS

DADDY HAIRY COO

DADDY HAIRY COO – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

LIFTED FROM EMMA WARBRICK!

LIFTED FROM EMMA WARBRICK’S PHOTOS

Emma took this picture, because the back drop is the ridge where we should be, had things gone rather better on the second day. Notice the beautiful Millennium Wind Farm. The Scots sure know how to respect their landscapes…

None of us have our maps out as we all know this bit of Scotland like the back of our hands. We have fallen naturally into two groups, usually within eye-shot of each other, the fast pair in the front (Emma & Andy) and the rest dragging up the rear. I realise something is wrong when I can hear heavy traffic on a road above us to our right. There is a river flowing towards us on our right. There is a house that I have never seen before. This is bizarre. I ask Phil to pull the map from my rucksack lid, and sure enough we are in The Wrong Place. There is no sign of A&E and so after waiting for their inevitable return to see what was up, which does not materialise, we backtrack to where we should have gone straight ahead on the track over the bridge (that we do not recall) over a river.

Andy will be fine. He goes off on his own all the time. He’ll understand our not turning up.

Anyway. We then spot a riverside path on the map that will cut off a few hundred yards and link up with the minor road to the Mandallays. This is brilliant, except after ten minutes of increasing bush-whacking, the path peters out into stones and riverside bog and then finally to nothing at all. Backtracking once again, we find a new track that leads us to a new foot bridge over the river. The forestry track bridge has gone, which is why we did not spot it - either torn away in a flood or blown up, or taken away by aliens. Whatever the reason, its absence has just added over a mile to our already biggish day. Ho hum.

Phil & I fall upon the Invergarry Hotel and order enormous baguettes and three pints apiece, for valour. Ordinarily, faced with a plateful this size I would have baulked. But not today. Three and a half day out in the muddy wild and this baby was mine! I can thoroughly recommend the Invergarry Hotel’s baguettes.

After a little while Andy joins us. He is fine. No. Honestly, he is fine about being left in the middle of sod-all explaining to a pretty woman that it was perfectly normal for your mates to leave you in the lurch and that it happens all the time. Then the party gets bigger with the arrival of Alistair and then David Brown. This is all quite lovely and we really don’t want to move from this wonderful place.

ANDY'S PICTURE

ANDY'S PICTURE: WE’RE FEELING MUCH BETTER FOR THAT - CLICK TO ENLARGE

So now we’re joined by Alistair as we trudge, nimbly, I might add, up the ‘A’ road towards Bridge of Oich. It’s still a fine day and waggling your pointy waking poles seems to deter the motorists and truckers. Apart from one, who with nothing coming from the other direction almost wipes us out. He could have had great fun picking Paramo and Osprey out of his radiator grille when he got home.

We make the bridge in good order and pause to take photographs of the swing bridge and the old bridge:

PHIL'S PICTURE: BRIDGE OF OICH

PHIL'S PICTURE: BRIDGE OF OICH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

PHIL'S PICTURE: SWING BRIDGE

PHIL'S PICTURE: SWING BRIDGE – CLICK TO ENLARGE

I’ll be honest – there is little pleasure in the last four or five miles along the Caledonian Canal. My knee is starting to bitch like hell and the general knackeredness from the first three days is catching up with me again. Our party is slowing up, but still broadly on our schedule. We take a long break on a pathside bench, and Andy covers his feet in yet more Micropore.

PHIL'S PICTURE OF ANDY'S MICROPORE

PHIL'S PICTURE OF ANDY'S MICROPORE

Alistair has a phone call to make to his children in Fort Augustus and so zooms off at enormous speed so he can read them bed-time stories. What a lovely man. Then from behind we are overhauled by David Brown. He’s going well.

DAVID BROWN ON THE CALEDONIAN CANAL PATH

DAVID BROWN ON THE CALEDONIAN CANAL PATH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

I limp into Fort Augustus completely knackered, dump the rucksack at the B&B and wander down the lock staircase to buy some cheese & wine for tomorrow night’s party. I bump into John & Norma, who both look fresh and relaxed. I feel like a train crash alongside them!

However, a shower, a few coffees, and the washing done and I’m back up to speed again and down to the pub, where the Usual Suspects are gathered. A huge fish & chips later and a few pints and all is well with our world.

At last, we’re back on track.

31 comments:

  1. Always take notice of experienced challengers. Erm. Well maybe not eh.
    Andy was lucky that bull didn't see the red rag on his rucksack.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Experience:" The art of getting away with it. The more you get away with it, the more experienced you become. And the more mistakes you make, the more you know what can go wrong.
      Any time, Sir. Ask away!
      :-)

      Delete
  2. That's not Micropore sir, that is Mefix tape.
    Much stronger, and it is great when your socks are a bit wet, and you want to stop your feet rubbing on them. Hence the fact I actually go NO Blisters. Prevention better than cure.

    Which brings me to a comment I recently saw on the Gossamer Gear web blog thing, where someone said.
    "If your feet are not painful, sore and ache when hiking then you are probably not doing in right".
    What a pillock.
    I replied, that "If THEY are, then you are definitely NOT doing in right."
    Got no reply yet though :-)
    Excellent preventative.
    Did you say I had forgiven you for leaving me with the lovely Emma.
    Had I known better, I would have left you to it, and formed a new allegiance.
    But mates are mates, and I was ever hopeful to find some that didn't annoy me.
    By the way, my route to Invergarry was much quicker, and to be honest the company was much nicer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pleased that we are forgiven, Sir. You were in far better company to while away the hours.
      :-)
      Painful, sore and aching feet is doing it right, eh? Good Lord Above, Sir!
      Hammer Chewers!
      Hammer Chewers!
      :-)

      Delete
  3. Makes our catch up two days from Foyers to Newtonmore look like a breeze. Oh that's right, it was! By comparison.
    Quite enjoying your new styley write up. Such fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Louise
      :-)
      All catch-ups are tricky, Miss, as there's the knowledge that you're not going to get as much free time recovering at the end of the day, and they're the bits that really make a Challenge enjoyable in nice weather..

      Delete
    2. So true! And we had seriously nice weather to recover in this year. Our catch up pitch at Dalbeg was a bit late (9pm ish?) but a nice evening to make up for it. The coldest night of the crossing for us I think!

      Delete
    3. "Pretty woman"? Since you mention me in such glowing terms, I am willing to completely forgive you for disappearing without so much as a by-your-leave.
      Looking forward to the next episode.

      Delete
    4. I was disturbed when you didn't appear with Andy at the hotel. He had had plenty of time to cook and eat you.
      Old habits...
      He came up with some cock & bull story about you turning around and leaving him for Laggan. I suppose you found the foot bridge way before we did and our off-piste riverside scrambles.
      This navigation thing. Hateful. I'll be glad when Phil learns to read a map. Mind you, this walking thing's not too hot either. The sitting down thing in a pub's okay though. Perhaps we could change the Challenge rules slightly?

      Delete
  4. Hands, feet, knee. Is there any part of Andy that isn't held together with surgical tape or bandage? No! Don't answer that! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Robin
      You forgot the Kevlar holding Andy's innards in place. He obviously has a skin problem - You'd have thought after losing all that weight he would have yards of the stuff spare to use at will.
      :-)

      Delete
  5. Enjoying the write up so far - I look forward to reading the rest :-)

    I was pleased to receive your message about not making our planned camp on the third night! I too was behind schedule that day and was somewhat relieved to have an excuse not to slog over the miles of rough looking ground on Sunday afternoon after having climbed my two Munros :-)

    I hope you had a good night camped outside the Tomdoun - I would have joined you had I not already made plans to sleep in a comfy bed that night!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We passed by the driveway to your B&B in the morning, Sir. We were sure we could smell the perfumed soaps and Full Highalnd Breakfast.
      Phil was all for gatecrashing your table and ordering another three platefuls. It was *that* close...

      Delete
    2. There was plenty of space at my table that breakfast-time as I was the only guest. However there was a small hill to climb to reach the B&B from the road, which would have been extra ascent for you!

      Delete
    3. Extra ascent ascent, you say...
      There would have had to have been (is that English???) a conflab at the side of the road, to discuss the various merits of sausage, bacon, eggs, mushrooms (hold the tomatoes, please) and fried bread, with large pots of coffee over the disadvantages of clambering up unnecessary hills. We would have needed to have consulted maps and such.
      Now I'm torn.
      :-)

      Delete
  6. I was enjoying that...until I was confronted with a close up of Andy's foot! Aarrgh!!!
    Can we have a warning in future please :-)
    Keep up the good work, no slacking, I'm ready (I think!) for the next instalment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Al.
      My finger hovered over the publish button for quite a while before committing to that picture. But, this is a warts'n'all blog and what we see you get, I'm afraid.
      :-)
      The next instalment will be devoted to the Monadh Laith - the most wonderful backpacking country in Britain.

      Delete
  7. Nothing wrong with that foot - amazingly healthy-looking.

    Excellent story again and so well written up, Alan. I can sense being there!

    I really like your picture of the camp showing the length of Loch Quoich. It shows your situation and onward path so well.

    These RouteBuddy maps are very good - helpful.

    What do the two River Hydro plants do? I haven't heard of a hydro plant half way along a stretch of water.

    Jim - 91!! Jeez!!!

    Emma seems a bright one.

    Onward, ever onward. Looking forward to next instalment. Many thanks for these posts, Alan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Australia!
      You're very kind, Sir.
      I'm currently watching your compatriots playing Holland in the World Cup and it's 2-1 to Australia at the moment!
      The Hydro schemes are capturing the energy from the rivers running down the hillside - I can't imagine it's a lot of energy for the capital cost involved, but these schemes are proliferating in Scotland at the moment. Someone must have thought they are a good long term investment. It's probably because they're heavily subsidised by the bill payers as they are classed as "renewables" (I'm not 100% sure about that - so I'll check).

      Delete
    2. Lost 2-3 in World Cup :(
      That's us out of it. They'd better pack their bags and come home now ... they have done as well as expected and that Cahill goal was a sparkler:
      http://digg.com/video/tim-cahill-goal-australia-video-world-cup

      Delete
  8. Some fantastic photographs, Scotland is stunning. I hope your knee is okay now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Steph
      :-)
      It still twinges and my shin's still sore (Lord only knows why my shin hurts when I whacked my knee) But it's certainly on the mend now, thenks.

      Delete
  9. Hi Al- glad to hear you are on the mend! Injuries are so frustrating...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are.
      :-(
      I had had quite a few plans for June but the knee still twinges and so all I'm doing at the moment is staying put, resting it, and losing all my fitness gained on the Challenge. Speaking of which - Have you thought about applying in September? (Oddly, the October TGO magazine comes out in September.)

      Delete
  10. "It would make a fabulous building plot for a new house or group of houses........."

    Ouch!! "Pave paradise and put up a parking lot" eh Alan :-)

    Let's face it at £225k it would make a nice house never mind a nice plot. Who knows the new resident might even be charmingly eccentric.........

    John

    http://www.bellingram.co.uk/properties/show/1444

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That does sound a bit harsh, doesn't it, John!
      :-)
      I dread to think how much the renovation would cost - well over £100k I would have thought.
      It would be wonderful if a charming eccentric were to buy it Sir...
      I see someone's made an offer.
      Would you know about that then?
      ;-)

      Delete
  11. I'm saying nothing Alan. But I will say this, if a hundred of us were to put £3k each into it we'd have a Hell of a timeshare. Half a week each per year. My half week's at the beginning of May............

    Or four people sharing two weeks per year. My fortnight's at........

    ReplyDelete
  12. There are two different kinds of hydro-electric power generating plant (and I had to learn all about them a few years back when I was doing a Rating case on t hevaluation of hydro-electric plant). One is high head, and the other is run-of-river.

    Apparently pretty much all of the available, viable high-head sites now have schemes; but there are plenty of potential run-of-river sites still without little whirry things in them, and I'm guessing this is what you are seeing here.

    And yes ... it's not about generating electricity at all ... it's about earning ROCs. 'Cos ROCs really rock ... so much so that wind-turbine operators are actually happy to PAY to put their electricity into the national grid, in order to get their ROCs off. I kid you not ... and you should have seen the look on the face of our QC as our expert witness explained the economics of the thing to him!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that Jeremy. Very insightful, Sir.

      It is quite staggering how much our country pays in ROCs - it currently stands at around £2.4Bn a year - but this is set to rise as more and more wind comes on stream - expecting to peak at around £7Bn EACH YEAR in four years time, and then continuing at that rate for the following 20 years. That's one hell of a lot of our money.
      I had not heard that Renewables companies were willing to pay to put their supplies into the grid, but of course that makes perfect sense, when you think about it.

      Utterly depressing.
      :-(

      Delete
    2. Is it me here or is this a composite of political and economic stupidity, alongside possible political and economic corruption. the whole thing smacks of blinding incompetence, and monumental scam. Just my opinion (that's for whatever government bot is undoubtedly snooping on this)

      Delete
    3. I don't believe it's political stupidity - political cunning, perhaps, in order to get elected:

      You have to wind the tape back well over ten years, when NGOs like Greenpeace and WWF and FoE held massive sway, and had persuaded outfits like the BBC and the New Labour (who were in power at the time) that Man-Made Global Warming was a "real and present danger" to humanity. At the same time, the message was sent out to the general population that this was very big and had massive consequences.

      Political parties are loathe to stand up against opinion like this, especially when the research has been started by your own government.

      So Miliband, as energy secretary, guaranteed subsidies. The Tories fell into line; who in their right minds would not, as the voting population believed in it. Blair had already signed us to a massive programme of emissions reductions which turned into an EU Directive (at 3:00am in the morning, and he had no idea that he was signing up for our entire energy emissions, not just those from the production of electricity) Cameron hugged huskies and even more money was chucked at Renewables.

      Because of this, the electricity bills are now rising more quickly than they otherwise should be.

      But yes, Andy - it is a scam - a massive fraud.

      Delete

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