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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

TGO Challenge 2016: Day 1: A perfect route?

With over thirty Challenges between us, Lord Elpus and I think it's vital to start a Challenge well - in the right spirit, if you will. If you start well the chances are you'll get through the inevitable low points with more of a spring in your step.

You want adventure? Yes please, but we're not adrenaline junkies, so just a few sprinkles. Good views? Most definitely; Let's not get stuck in any trenches. Wild and off-piste? Oh yes! But again, not too much as we still have another thirteen days to struggle through. Away from it all? What, on the first day? Why not, Sir! 

Picky? Perhaps.

We had plumped for Dornie as a starting point back in October. Over the next few months half a dozen routes to the Great Glen were sketched but none was satisfactory. They were either too stretching, too dependent upon good weather or worse, a combination of the two. Finally, on a particularly unpleasant night in January, with time running out to submit our route and with sleety rain splattering against our study windows, we sat into the small hours, determined to solve the puzzle of the perfect first day. 

Fuelled by Highland Park in Lincolnshire and Talisker in Berkshire, with Ordnance Survey maps spread out over our desks, we finally cracked it. We settled on a route that should be fabulous in fine weather and do-able, if a little challenging, in foul. It also suggested that we might have this little piece of paradise all to ourselves. 

PHIL, DORNIE HOTEL

There are very few rules on the TGO Challenge, but one states participants should sign the register at the start points after 9:00am. Having breakfasted handsomely, we dutifully sign at just gone that magic hour and set out, noting that one very learned gentleman had signed before 1:30pm the previous day (Thursday) but had recorded his signing as 9:00am Friday. I'm sure he thinks he is jolly clever. 

And so to our route. Here it is, set out below. You can click on it to make it larger. [Indeed, if you right-click on any of the images on this blog you can open them in a new tab or window and blow them up to a very large size. Stick around; You can learn things here!] It's the actual map I printed out for the walk. The red dots show our planned route, the blue circle is where we thought we might camp and the green dots are the route we actually took after assessing things on the ground.

OUR ROUTE FOR DAY 1

The minor road south east from Dornie is a little minx, snaking her way upwards with some grand views. This is fortunate as it provides rest stops for the clinically unfit to fumble around for cameras in order to regain something approaching normal breathing. We have her company for about three miles.

LOOKING OUT TO SEA. EILEAN DONAN BOTTOM LEFT

ZOOMY ZOOMY TO THE SKYE HILLS

LOOKING ALONG LOCH DUICH, INLAND

ZOOMING IN ON MORDOR

And so we start our stroll into the heart of the Great Molar. If you have another look at the map, you'll see what I mean by that description. The starting track becomes a path which then becomes a trifle sketchy but by reading the ground carefully we follow the line well past that recorded by the Survey. We are definitely in "smug mode."

LOOKING WEST FROM ABOUT EASTING 942 IN COIRE DHUINNID 

NO CAPTION REQUIRED

Rather than following our route all the way up Coire Dhuinnid to the lochhan, we follow a little stream that gives easy progress, taking pictures of the fabulous views out to the west. They just get better and better. This is all trackless walking now, and a complete delight. Scotland has had dry weather for a couple of weeks prior to the Challenge and the ground has a dry crust overlying the bog beneath. 

PHIL, WITH SCENERY TO DIE FOR.

ZOOM ZOOM.

THE LIGHT IS FABULOUS

Magically, a new view springs up to the north east. The scenery shifters are now working over-time as mountain after mountain is raised into view.  Phil declares a lunch stop. The views out to the west are now history and we feast on 'Tuna with a Twist' sandwiches and the route ahead. Can you ever dig out the last of the tuna in the corner of the packet? 

A NEW VIEW! OUR FIRST GLIMPSE OF CARNAN CRUITHNEACHD TO THE EAST

VIEW FROM OUR LUNCH STOP.

Route-finding is a doddle in this weather, but with all the lumps and bumps I wonder how tricky it could be with the cloud around your ankles and pelting rain refilling the bogs. But that is not our problem today and we drink in the fabulous views in every direction. 

VIEW THROUGH THE LITTLE BEALACH AT EASTING 961

ACROSS COIRE NAN GALL TO CARNAN CRUITHNEACHD

THE SAME AS ABOVE, BUT BETTER OF COURSE, FROM PHIL.


I LOVE THIS PLACE!

Our next objective is to round the northern ridge of Beinn Bhreac to make the bealach. In an attempt to stay high I lead us into slightly tricky ground, but only for a short while as we make wonderful grippy-slabby rocks (not shown on 1:50s but do appear on 1:25s) that make progress a joy once more. You'll see this on the map at the start of this post.

BEINN BHREAC SKYLINE

PHIL'S PICTURE OF AN ENORMOUS ERRATIC, AND A BOULDER ON THE RIDGE LEADING UP TO BEINN BHREAC

BEALACH BETWEEN BEINN BHREAC & CARNAN CRUITHNEACHD, WITH DISTANT NORTH WESTERN CORRIES OF BEN FHADA

And now we have new views through the bealach to the south. And what views! This is top-drawer stuff and we are both grinning like Cheshire Cats! 

LOOKING BACK TO THE ERRATIC & CARN LOCH NAN EUN. PRIMORDIAL BONES PUSHING THROUGH SCOTLAND'S SKIN

We are just half a day out of a busy start point and we have this all to ourselves. The walking has been fabulous - easy strolls along a road, followed by a straight-forward climb up a track and path, and then a careful but progressing walk on the wild stuff. There are mountains and mountains in every direction, blue skies and fluffy white clouds. This is Scotland at its most ridiculous best.

BEALACH BOULDERS AND BEYOND

There follows a bit of a grunty climb up an open hillside to the south of Carnan Cruithneachd that reminds us both that we are indeed softy southerners. There are quad bike tracks to assist, but generally the going is firm and the slope eases as we near the top. We both take a lot of stops, with no pretence of taking pictures, as by now it's warm work and we're getting quite tired. I've led us slightly too high so as to stay on easier ground, and once at the top we pick out a great spot a little nearer Bealach na Sroine than we had planned, with a stream fed from a small lochan, which promises good running water and great views.

THE MOST PERFECT CAMP AND THE VIEW NORTH EAST

And my God! What views! We have the tents up in a jiffy and we spend the next hour passing our flasks to each other. Phil has a Speyside number that is quite delightful, whereas I've stuck with Talisker for the full lung inflation experience. 

180 DEGREE PANORAMA

A VERY LONG HAND-HELD ZOOM NORTH EASTWARDS TO,  I THINK, AN SOCACH & AN RIABHACHAN

The views are to the north west, and we spend a while trying to work out which hill is which, but come to the conclusion that it really doesn't matter. We are here, right now, in a fabulous place. The weather is kind, the views fabulous and we have completed one of the most magical first days we can remember on any of our Challenges. 

This is as good as it gets.

THE LAST OF THE MAGICAL EVENING LIGHT

34 comments:

  1. Fab views indeed.... and for that little bit of tuna (or, as I like to call it, mackerel) you need a dog.

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    1. It would be messy, Mike. I would end up wrestling the last piece of tuna (or mackerel) from the dog's mouth.

      Delete
  2. Views, views and more views, wonderful. Great pictures chaps and a most enjoyable account of day one.

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  3. Quite a pretty route that.
    And lovely scenery.
    Took us 2 days to get to proper lumpy bits. :-)

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    Replies
    1. 'Pretty' doesn't do her justice, Sir!
      She was Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Tautou all rolled into one!

      Delete
  4. Hmm, we across a Challenger just outside Shiel Bridge around 10.30am on the Friday. He'd started out from Dornie.
    I think he must have been a very fast walker.
    Nice pics by the way :-)

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  5. Looks like an epic! I've not ventured up to Scotland yet but I'm looking forward to the day I do ;-)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Th entry form for the TGO Challenge is in the October edition of 'The Great Outdoors', which bizarrely, is in the shops in September. Fill it in Sir.
      You know you want to...

      Delete
  6. An imaginative route so obviously the Highland Park and Talisker combination works well. Super views and pics.

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    1. I think all routes should be built upon Talisker fume-filled lungs if this one is anything to go by, Gibson.
      :-)

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  7. Wish I had thought of the last year. Another time!

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    1. There is always another time. My first route out of Dornie (with my son, Oli and a couple of friends was in torrential rain and so we took to the road around Loch Long. I have to say that it was quite lovely! The clouds and mist hanging over the sea loch made for atmospheric pictures.

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  8. Replies
    1. Do not be down-hearted, Missy!
      There *will* be another year, eventually.
      :-)
      x

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  9. It was a rather fab first day, wasn't it? And the light as the sun set ... fab-tabby-uuuulous!

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    1. Quite so, Sir. I forgot to thank you at the time for the light as the sun was setting. You had arranged everything else pretty perfectly and I just assumed that the sunlight was thrown in as part of the package.
      Ta, fella.
      :-)

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  10. An enormous erratic and a large boulder on the ridge. Pure poetry, made me smile. So lucky with the weather Al.

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    Replies
    1. So then, Al, Sheila...
      Next year for the Chally?

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    2. Who knows. It might have to go to a referendum. But then i or Sheila may veto the decision. Seriously, we won't know until Sheila's office sorts its holidays out after Christmas. Thats why our wee trip to Scotland this year was a week later than chally start date and we could only get 10 days off. Life is never simple until you both retire.

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    3. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you both.
      :-)

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  11. Totally splendifferous, phantasmagorical even!

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    1. Thank you, Miss!
      It was all quite overwhelmingly wonderful!
      And honestly, our pictures really don't do the place justice.

      Delete
  12. I have been storing up your Challenge blog posts, Alan, because of busy-ness on other things. I am not keen on busy-ness but sometimes needs must. But I now have a treat in store for me as I slowly get round to reading them. Splendid first day. It clearly made a big impression on you.

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    Replies
    1. Ah. I may have peaked too soon. There are a few highlights later on though.

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  13. Off to a superb start (sorry, bit behind with reading your tales of challenge daring do's and all that. I've walked up that first valley before and scrambled about on those rocky knolls. Wild place

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    1. Wild indeed, and so close to the road!
      There's fun for all the family there - small boys can climb their first mountain with views over Skye.

      Delete
  14. Wow a cracking first day and one of your best ever you say? I look forward to seeing how the rest of your route goes as I have taken into close consideration your kind advice about making my first Challenge a 'sociable' one. This route has everything else and it's only the first day! A pity the school holidays aren't the same week. I would love to take my lad to climb his first mountain here not far from the road with views to Skye. Fab reading.

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    1. You will just have to make a special trip for him, Sir.
      😊

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  15. Glorious stuff. Yup. Even better than Loughrigg. My appetite is being whetted.

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    1. Don't peak too soon, now. A slow and steady burn is required. And mind that leg.
      :-)

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  16. What a fabulous first day! You're making me think I really must get around to finishing my own write-up ...

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    1. Now you listen to me, Good Sir!
      I've been hanging in suspense for weeks wondering what happens next after your cliff-hanging ending!
      Please continue, forthwith!

      Delete

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