Wednesday, 8 July 2015

TGO Challenge 2015: Part III: Cheese & Wine Party.

Some say the Cheese and Wine Party was first thought up in Mrs Miggins' Pie shop, under the influence of London Gin. All we know is that it's a celebration of everything Challenge. 

The Cheese and Wine Party is a combination of the wonderful social side of the walk with the solitude of wild and empty places; places where deranged peat-stained loners can be found digging trial graves in cold, wet boggy places.

This year's party is held in such a spot - at a wide tussock-rid bend on the Water of Caiplich in the north eastern Cairngorms. Challengers, as a rule, come out of the west and head east. And indeed, for this party some did indeed come from the west. Others came from the north west and some from the far-flung northern reaches of Challenge Territory. That latter group would be Louise, who first headed south, then east, then north, then west and then south once again...


Phil and I found ourselves unintentionally entangled with an anarchic bunch of Very Experienced Challengers, and the capitals are important here. First to catch us was His Holiness the Irreverend David, a victim of some seven Challenges. This was no surprise to Lord E and me, as this gent has his god on his side (having saved his neck after a fearful fall down a mountainside on last year's walk) and legs up to his armpits. The man floats over the hills like a gazelle. 


We are next overhauled by the magnificent John and Norma, with Thirty (yes thirty!) Challenges beneath their belts. Norma has that rare ability to emerge immaculately presented after a rough night camping in stormy weather in the middle of sod-all. Eleven Challenges.


John has been Challenging since before time began. Calm, quiet and unperturbed by whatever the weather slings at him he is rumoured to carry Norma's dressing table deep in the bowels of his rucksack. Nineteen Challenges.


As we are tucking in to Phil's whisky in the surprise shelter - when I say shelter, do not rely on this refuge being here after another few storms, as quite a few planks are missing from walls and roof - we are caught by the cosmopolitan pairing of Peter and Jayme, with twelve Challenges between them.


Jayme tells a story of turning up at a B&B with Peter and being offered a room with a double bed. "I have nothing against Peter" he says "but I was affronted at the suggestion that I was Peter's lover - I mean; Look at him. I can do so much better than him!"


It's a wonderful yomp over the top of Bile Buidhe and down to the Water of Caiplich, first picking our way through rough ground, then threading our way through the groughs, picking up a bubbling caochan and bouncing from bank to bank on nibbled turf, down and down and down for ever. It is glorious!



We paddle across a quiet Caiplich to find that most of the party-goers are already there, Wendy Houses pitched,and I have to say, all quite well. We are roundly abused by all and sundry for being late to our own party.


This encampment is a backpacking tent-nerd's wet dream. We have the original Hardboys - the Aktos, the Young Pretenders, now with greying temples - Laser Comps, a quirky Rainbow, a couple of Rufty-Tufty Trailstars, a sexy Solomid, Scarps and a Moment, and an ageing Grandpa - a Saunders.     



Okay, I'll do my best now. Above: From bottom left, clockwise: Lord Elpus, Jayme, Margaret, Mike, The Rev, Robin, Sandy, JJ, John, Norma, Jim, A Handsome Beardy Bastard, Peter, Kirsten, Mad'n'Bad, Lindsey. (Missing is photographer Carl)


And in the picture above: (From the bottom, clockwise) Phil, Jayme, Margaret, Mike, The Rev, Sandy, Robin, JJ, John, Norma Jim, Louise (missing from the preceding picture) Peter, Kirsten. Andy and Carl (missing from the previous picture as well)

Also missing in action - pitching their tents, are Jean, Ken and please forgive me, but I cannot remember his name, a friend of Jean. All in all, twenty one of us made it to this fabulous location. Twenty one glorious people!

It's always perishingly cold at a Cheese and Wine (partly because they are usually roughly two thousand feet up) and this year the mizzle held off until about a quarter to ten, when some turned in, and a few rufty-tufties made it to the After Party Drinks chez Trinnie Trailstar.


This was planned to be my last Cheese & Wine 'do' and I have to say it was the best. Ever. Thank you, everyone.


  1. Carl.
    Is going.
    To die.

    I took the scenic route. But it was worth it.
    I think there was cake.

    Very pleased to have been a part of your last cheese and wine.

    1. There was indeed cake, Miss! And quite excellent it was too! Doused in booze over twelfty times, I gather! It was a crying shame it had to be shared with so many ragged-arsed Challengers!
      Yes - scenic routes can be a joy... But of course, we have "learned from this" haven't we?

    2. Yes sir, I have learned that, whatever the weather, look at map *sigh*

    3. I dare not tell you how many times Lord Elpus and I were temporarily 'misplaced' this year - the trouble is I now trust his map reading and he does likewise, so neither of us end up looking at any map at all, both believing that the other has it all in hand... as you may well recall when we were supposed to be heading into Glen Avon...
      Ho hum

    4. I'm almost as slow at reading this lot as I am at writing my own account. And, I'm sorry Louise. I didn't give it to him. He took it.

      After I showed him where it was, with a specific link. :-)

  2. Thanks are due to you Alan - C&W parties are your brainchild, and very fine children there are too!
    Thank YOU!

    1. I recall you have been a Cheese & Winer for a number of years, JJ. You ought to watch that... Challengers Anonymous can put you in touch with that spin-off group, Alcoholics Anonymous...

  3. Replies
    1. Except it's nice and warm and you're sitting in a chair. And you've got a nice warm bed and a bathroom.
      And there are no smelly hikers infesting your sitting room.
      But yes, apart from that...

  4. Replies
    1. Darling Tracy!
      The dreams I have had!
      What we did to each other!
      I wake every morning in such a lather!
      Are you using your telescope?
      Wicked woman!

  5. Al, by fast forwarding to the C&W you seem to have drawn a discreet veil over the horrors of Day Three and the rescue from Tomich by the lovely Amanda. Not to mention Socks and Drugs in Drum ... and will your readers ever be told the full story of Tracy and the exploding sleeping bag - with photos?

    Reveal all, Sir! No inoffensive bowdlerised version - not on your glorious Twentieth!

    Or, could it be that following the smiting of the Green Dragon by the blessed St George of Osborne, you are expunging certain episodes lest they jeopardise your application for the twenty-first?

    We wonders ... oh yes, we wonders ...

    1. These posts are in no particular order, Sir.
      I have a few more up my sleeve.

    2. "Tracy and the exploding sleeping bag"

      Naughty boys. You all said you'd be discrete about that.

  6. Indeed, Phil, well said. Perhaps Alan would like to put the record straight regarding these Events? (Or not).

    1. "these Events"
      Good Lord, Miss! They were ghastly. Truly ghastly.
      It is said that in life everything can be fixed with either duct-tape or WD-40. Duct-tape fixed my shredded sleeping bag but I seriously doubt if a thousand rolls of the stuff could have stopped Tracy in her pomp. And I fear the WD-40 would have only encouraged her.

      Unfortunately, I do have photos of a naked Lord Elpus performing lewd acts with his stockings in a hotel bathroom, which may well make their way on to the blog...

    2. I am temporarily struck dumb by that prospect.

    3. Hi,
      If this is truly your last challenge then you will have to have an alternative venue for a cheese and wine party. Fisherfields perhaps?
      Not at the same time as the challenge as I am not fed up with it yet.
      All the best.

    4. Hi Sandy

      I've never been fed up with the Challenge - each year is a different event - you could do exactly the same route each year, but the weather and all the different Challengers you would meet would make it a different experience each time.

      What depressed me beyond despair was the proliferation of wind farms and new estate tracks. I looked at the wind farms that were due to be approved and built across the western and middle sections of Challenge territory and saw that the entire central section of the walk was going to be destroyed with industrialised landscape.

      However, as you will have heard, there is a new Conservative government. Un hindered by the unhinged LibDems they have taken an axe to the wind farm subsidies. Any wind farm that has not got approval and approval for its connection to the grid will no not attract any Renewable Obligation Certificates and no Levy Exemption Certificates either. The upshot of this is that the wind farms will no longer be able to milk about £43 in ROCs and £5 in LECs from the energy consumer for each MW of power generated.

      The effect of this will be to stop any further wind farm construction DEAD. There will be no more wind farms built in Scotland (and the rest of the UK) as the carpet-bagger leeches that make up the industry will no longer be able to make massive profits at the consumers' expense. They will fuck off and die, hopefully.

      So, with that cheery thought, I may well now, as Louise succinctly put, "be back!"

  7. Just call him Arnie..."I'll be back!" (Said in a thick accent)

    1. Now here's a funny thing, this was going to be my last Challenge too (mind you, I did say that last year, and the year before that). However, whilst out on a walk with Miss W at the week-end I realised that I was calculating our distance and ascent and comparing it to a Challenge day. In other words, I was already preparing without even realising it. It was a Damascene revelation.

      So I have decided that, yes, I WILL apply for 2016 ... and as it happens I can pen a reasonable facsimile of Alan's signature.

      Miss W is already looking for some hilly bits for us to grunt up over the coming months. Apparently I will thank her for this in May.

    2. Fabulous, well done Phil!
      Laura and I often find ourselves thinking of our walks in Challenge terms. It's not just addictive. It becomes a part of the very soul.

    3. "Just call him Arnie..."I'll be back!" (Said in a thick accent)"

      Thick? Thick!!!
      I'll have you know I got some levels at school! Okay the accent is a bit "estuary", but even so!

    4. For the last twenty years I was damn sure that Phil had one of those portraits up in his attic. But in fact, it's Miss Whiplash we have to thank for his youthful demeanor; she is the reason the old bugger is so athletic and vigorous.
      Every year she drags Phil round the local walks - across boot-clinging muddy fields, in rain, sleet & snow, with barely a sniff of the barmaid's apron. And on each and every walk, as Phil is griping away, two hundred yards off her pace, she merrily quips "You'll thank me for this in May."

      I do not recall Phil ever thanking Miss W for this on any TGO Challenge in May. In fact, I silently curse her, as Phil is a distant speck on the horizon, merrily bouncing his way over the peat bogs.

      He's an ungrateful bastard!

    5. Please don't be hurt, Alan. I was taking into consideration your expertise with spirits.

    6. You're a very, very sweet thing.
      I think. I'll ask Phil, 'cos he's clever, as well as Handsome & Witty, according to his Facebook & twitter profiles.

    7. Quote Alan: Phil is a distant speck on the horizon, merrily bouncing his way over the peat bogs.

      This is true, but what Alan fails to make clear is that it is the horizon behind him. It's those bloody long legs of his. I have little short ones by comparison (or"normal").

      And I DO thank MIss W. Not in May, perhaps, but when the pain has been forgotten ;-)

  8. Ok Al i am now up to date. I know its taken me a while to catch up but there were many contours Sir!
    Late again for the C&W eh. This will not do. So when do we get the next instalment?

  9. Back home now, so I'm trying to catch up. I do hope you'll be back on the Challenge, and that C&W parties will continue to flourish...

  10. Ok Alan when are we going to get to read the next thrilling instalment because i,ve read this last lot 6 times . oh bye the way how are you now ?


Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!