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Monday, 4 July 2016

TGOC 2016, Days 5 & 6: Loch Ness & The Monadh Liath

DAY FIVE: TUESDAY. DRUMNADROCHIT TO DALBEG


Two days. Two days walking across one of Scotland's fabulous empty quarters. However, as you'll see later, it is no longer empty.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's Tuesday morning and the good weather has disappeared. It's an early start from our hotel and we march smartly to Temple Pier with the lovely John Woolston to catch the early boat across Loch Ness.

CROSSING LOCH NESS (1)

CROSSING LOCH NESS (2)

CROSSING LOCH NESS (3)

Gordon Menzies has been running this service for Challengers since before time began and he still skips nimbly from boat to rocky pier. We really should invite Gordon as our guest to the Dinner at the Park Hotel.

A CHALLENGE LEGEND: GORDON MENZIES

As you'll see from the maps below [click to enlarge them, or right-click to open them in another tab or window so you can refer to them should you so desire] today is a biggish day. Getting on for twenty miles with over three thousand feet of ascent, and with a chunk taken out of the day for the boat trip. By the time we have got our things together, shaken hands with departing Challengers it is nigh on nine o'clock. Thirty kilometers: That's about ten hours including stops. That'll be arriving at Dalbeg around seven in the evening... 

I squint at the map, and suggest we slice a quarter of an hour from our day by taking the loch road to Forres Foyers (thank you, Louise!) and rejoin our route there. Phil gives one of his Gallic shrugs. His family came over with William the Conqueror, you know. 

CLICK TO ENLARGE

And what a startlingly good decision this is. At Forres Foyers we stop for a good half hour for coffee and ice creams, and a final inspection of the porcelain. What's half an hour here and there? 

Walking from Forres FOYERS (!) to Bailebeag the tiny road slips through some achingly beautiful scenery. Silvered lochans glimpsed between ancient pines, and long-abandoned rowing boats slowly crumpling into the lush flora below. Views snatched of the Monadh Liath looming massively above, blurring into the leaden sky. Homesteads tucked into sheltered corners. Everywhere is peaceful. 


And then, we arrive at the entrance to the Corriegarth Wind Farm.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

For six miles we walk uphill into the Monadh Liath: Six miles on a newly constructed heavy gravel road, wide enough for large trucks to pass each other. Six miles with the wind whipping loose dust upwards. As electricians, construction workers, crane men and engineers pass us in their site vehicles, our clothing takes on the colour of the road. Over to our right, below us on the other side of the burn, there are more roads and large construction compounds. I've worked on some pretty large construction projects in my life, and this is up there with the big ones.

How has this come about? Surely "Green Energy" can only be a good thing, right?. I'm afraid not. "Green energy" can never be a good thing if it destroys what it purports to be saving. Alec Salmond and his band of ignorant SNP blackshirts are totally responsible for this destruction. As his own advisors at the University of Aberdeen have told him, building wind farms on peat soils is unlikely to save any CO2 emissions at all. But that was not the reason Salmond and his Scottish Nazi Party decided to fuck the Monadh Liath. 

No. They decided to do this because they believed that post-independence from the hated Westminster Tory Scum, Scotland would be selling electricity to the English, with the English paying double the market rate for it through subsidies levied on their own electricity bills and the Scottish Government trousering the Corporation tax from the profits and the not inconsiderable Business Rates from all the wind farms. What was there not to like? Absolutely zero investment required with guaranteed returns, with the hated English consumers paying for everything! 

The next eight pictures show the result of Salmond's Greed. Only today, Salmond is talking about Tony Blair being tried for war crimes in Scotland. Surely, this cock-sure, fat little gobshite should first be tarred & feathered and tied to the topmost turbine in the Corriegarth Wind Farm, preferably at the summit of the Corbett, Carn na Saobhaidhe and left to rot. The midges will feast on his purulent flesh, driving him even further insane, if that is possible. Then, and only then will we consider Blair's fate. Hopefully, if there is justice in this world, Chilcott will point out that man's lies on Wednesday. It was Blair and his Energy Secretary Ed Miliband who set into law the farming of wind subsides. Let the Scots have him. A bit like Capone being done for tax evasion. They can have Miliband for free.

2000 FEET UP IN THE MONADHLIATH MOUNTAINS

TURBINE PARTS

WAR OF THE WORLDS?

THE CONTRACTORS' OFFICES COMPOUND IS OFF TO THE LEFT

THIS GIVES AN IDEA OF THE SCALE OF THESE THINGS. LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE VEHICLES BACK LEFT

TURBINE KIT.

TOO WINDY FOR ANY LIFTS TODAY

ON THE WAY UP CARN NA SAOBHAIDHE, LOOKING BACK DOWN TO JUST A SMALL PART OF A HUGE INDUSTRIAL LANDSCAPE

In all, there will be twenty three turbines on massive steel towers totally destroying this landscape. This is an area frequented by Golden Eagles. Indeed, only on the next estate Sigrid Rausing has been doing her level best to provide the wherewithal for eagles and other raptors to thrive. And now, for what? To be chopped into broken pieces.

Please forgive me if I come across as an angry man, but I hope you agree, we have a lot to be angry about here.

***

After clambering over the untroubled very top of Carn na Saobhaidhe, peace breaks out once again, as we head east into the very centre of this glorious landscape.

AND RELAX. LOOKING EAST FROM CARN NA SAOBHAIDHE. GLORIOUS 

It is difficult to express the enormous sense of relief I feel as this huge place rapidly engulfs the pair of us and we take a rest as soon as we reach the first gurgling caochan.

Here the wind, rain and hills are everything.

COLLECTING THE CAOCHAN

CAMP AT DALBEG

DALBEG

Dalbeg is a fabulous spot. After a long day, a day of two wildly contrasting sets of emotions, this place offers peace and a quiet calm.

LOOKING UPSTREAM, DALBEG


DAY SIX: WEDNESDAY: DALBEG TO KINGUSSIE




On the second map, you'll find a section labeled as "UTTERLY FABULOUS" and that's what I shall write about.

TODAY'S WEATHER

It's wet. Happily, it's not hosing it down and so the weather suits the landscape perfectly. The reds, oranges and luminous emeralds of the bogs are not to be bleached by sunlight and now these colours sing in the moist air. The climbs up to the plateaux is not a horrid sweaty affair, and is taken calmly. A complete joy, as the wind freshens with height gained. Phil & I have been this way before, at different times, and both of us wanted to revisit this place to see if it is still as magical as we both remembered. 

And it is.

THE START OF "UTTERLY FABULOUS" (SEE MAP ABOVE)

UTTERLY FABULOUS 2

UTTERLY FABULOUS 3

UTTERLY FABULOUS 4

PHIL'S PICTURE (OBVIOUSLY...) UTTERLY FABULOUS 5

UTTERLY FABULOUS 6


UTTERLY FABULOUS 7 (C/O PHIL)


UTTERLY FABULOUS 8


UTTERLY FABULOUS 9: COLLECTING THE DOWNSTREAM CAOCHAN


UTTERLY FABULOUS 10: NO - NOT PHIL... STILL RAINING

UTTERLY FABULOUS 11: STILL RAINING

UTTERLY FABULOUS 12: MAGNIFICENT PEAT

Coming to the far end of this delightful peat-filled cleft in the hills is tinged with sadness; It feels as though we should turn around and walk back to do it once again.

UTTERLY FABULOUS 13. THE DISTANT DULNAIN

UF 14: AN AIRY PERCH BEFORE A TRICKY CLAMBER DOWN

UF 15: LOOKING BACK: WE CLAMBERED DOWN THAT.

As you all know, I'm not that good with heights, and I found the clamber down the gorge quite tricky in a couple of places, resorting to chucking my poles down and sliding ungracefully down several feet on my arse, grabbing at awkwardly placed boulders to slow my descent. The same as the last time I came this way...

I carried a packet of beef flavoured rice and a sachet of Szechuan sauce all the way from Dornie, six days earlier and as we start cooking in the Dulnain bothy, John arrives. I have absolutely no idea how this happened, but with lunch and the hip flasks two hours fly past at an alarmingly happy rate. 

I mean. Chairs. Tables. Indoors. Why wouldn't it? 

LUNCH AT DULNAIN No. 1

Eventually, way past the intended time, we grudgingly shoulder our bags and set off up the track that would lead us up, past Freaky Dean (climbed a few years back by both of us, separately) and then down to our destination, Kingussie.

It was on the clamber up that we three stopped dead in our tracks as John spotted an eagle overhead. Please excuse the rather blurred grabbed shot of the beast. This was the highlight of my day. As well, of course, as the Utterly Fabulous section, and Phil losing his map and being about to set off back down to the very bottom of the hill to retrieve it when he noticed something lumpy around his ankles in his overtrousers.

YES!!!     IT IS.

LOOKING BACK DOWN TO OUR LUNCH SPOT

LOOKING DOWN TO SPEYSIDE & THE CAIRNGORMS

The walk to Kingussie is fortuitously mostly downhill and as we arrive, we leave John, to slide into deep baths, followed by epicurean feasting and drinking on a pleasurable scale known hitherto only by the Gods.

TRASHING THE HOTEL BEDROOM

The Cross at Kingussie. Go on. Spoil yourself.

We did!

30 comments:

  1. Brilliant stuff Aalan, a great write up and lovely photos. Wind farms that cause so much damage and destruction are a hideous eyesore.

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    1. Thank you Dawn. You are a sweetie.
      :-)

      There's not only the visual damage and the destruction, but there's also the colossal on-cost to the electricity consumer, as wind is generally given first bite at providing power to the grid, which means that coal & gas are told to ramp down production. This leads to a significant loss of profit for the operators - so much so that only ONE gas plant is currently being built, when gas is a massively clean generator.

      Because of the diktats from the EU that the Labour government signed us up to (Blair & Miliband) we are shutting down our coal plants (which provided very cheap electricity). On top of that, we pay double for the power provided by wind.

      The result of all this is that the poor are paying a massive proportion of their income on electricity - and lots of them are on pre-paid meters which is priced at an even higher rate!
      Frankly, it is an appalling state of affairs.
      :-(

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  2. Fabulous (apart from the wind "farm"). It's astonishing to me that the SNP have been able to get away with this. Even more so that it's supported by the so called Greens. Save the planet by trashing it! Hats off to the JMT for opposing this madness. The walk from the Findhorn to Dulnain No 1 was one of the highlights of last year's Challenge.

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    1. You have to remember that the SNP represents a very small number of people - how many Scots are there? 5-6 million? And not all of them voted SNP. It is a very easy party to control, and at the time of the big decisions on wind Salmond ruled the party with a rod of iron - any dissenters were history in very short order. Sturgeon and her husband now have a tight grip on the party and the same applies. In effect, Scotland has become a one party state with just one or two at the controls.
      It's an incredibly unhealthy situation - they do as they damn well like and unite the country with an Orwellian rallying cry against the heated Westminster Tory scum.
      The wonder of it all is that the voters believe their lies.

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    2. Unfortunately, while there is an element of truth in your analysis, the reality is that there is general public support for wind farms in Scotland. There is no need to enforce the policy with a rod of iron. The vast majority of the Scottish population live in the Central Belt where they see huge wind farms. But these are on sites of low landscape value such as old mining areas so most people simply don't understand why a fuss is made of turbines in the Highlands.

      Unfortunately, the opposition such as it is in Scotland would not oppose wind farms anyway as they share the same urban perspective. The Greens just don't understand science. Getting a coherent environmental position from any Greens, anywhere simply will not happen.

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    3. Sadly Ian, that has been my experience too.
      When I organised the Wake for the Wild quite a few Scottish Challengers wanted nothing to do with it, and indeed, were quite hostile.
      As you say they saw wind energy as Scotland's contribution to saving the planet.

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  3. Surprised you went through Corriegarth but not as surprised that THE CROSS lets in 2 scruffy 'erberts.

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    1. The Cross is a wonderful establishment, frequented by Lord Elpus and me for some seventeen years now.
      Mind you, before entering we did stand up straight and stand in a polite line, just in case...

      Delete
  4. Great report as ever! Gives a real feel of the area. Sad the destruction with the turbines, King Salmon and Queen Sturgon seem bent on destroying some of the most wonderful countryside in Britain. Look forward to the next instalment

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  5. Alan,, I think your analysis of why we have a proliferation of these monstrosities is spot on. Unfortunately, if EDF pull out of Hinkley Point, which I fear is now more likely, I think we will see another wave of wind farm applications in areas like this. The great mistake we made as losing our own ability to build new nuclear power stations so we now have to depend on others.

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    1. I agree with you entirely on Hinkley Point. If that goes tits-up we are in a lot of trouble. But the cheapest solution by far would be to go with new gas plants - they're cheap, and quick to build.

      It might be worth looking at how much penalty we would face in the courts if we abolished wind subsidies altogether. It will be a huge penalty, but over the course of years it will still be cheaper than having to pay coal & gas subsidies to make them profitable! It's insane that we have to subsidise our core generators, just because we subsidise wind.

      Of course we should scrap the Climate Change Act in it's entirety and devise our own way of reducing emissions. But skewing the market with subsidies just begets even more subsidies until, as we see right now, the market is bolloxed.

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    2. You are absolutely right about subsidies. What we have here is a classic case of deciding on a solution rather than focusing on the problem. I agree with reducing emissions but the way to do this is through regulation rather than politicians subsidising solutions. Of course, a cynic might say they are subsidising their business and landowner pals but I could not possibly comment. IMO, subsidising consumption reductions would be a far better use of the money and it would have provided a lot more support to local economies.

      Delete
    3. I agree, but you must remember that it was a Labour Government that put legislation in place. That being the case, virtually all of Westminster voted with them. So, you may well be right, Sir. Follow the money.

      Delete
  6. Yeah, that waterfall. I remember that. Laura wasn't keen on it and I had to lead the way, "It's fine, really...just, don't go this way..."
    PS. Foyers. If you were in Forres, you were terribly off route, and didn't pop by to say hello to David!! Just sayin'...

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    1. Ah. I'm glad you pointed that out, Wilson. I was wondering if anyone would spot that...
      :-D

      And as for "It's fine, really...just, don't go this way..." Funnily enough, Phil said exactly the same to me as he slid / tumbled down some sections...

      I will make the appropriate correction late this evening after dinner.
      :-)
      x

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    2. ...I take it only correcting it the first time is deliberate? x

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    3. Well, we would hate your beautiful writing to be littered with mistakes, wouldn't we? 😉 x

      Delete
    4. (...psssst, you've missed the second one...)

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  7. I won't easily forget the sight of the herd of deer gazing bemused at the destruction of their once pristine environment.

    Of course, such things make no impact on the Brighton/metro dwelling right-on green save the planet warriors. Mad, sanctimonious faux left zealots every one, who, strangely, seldom seem to leave their cosy urban surroundings to enjoy the environment that they purport to protect ... by filling it with steel and concrete.

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  8. Total devastation! The road up from Dumnaglass was equally depressing. It was wonderful getting back to the loveliness of the peat bogs again. An excellent lunch gentlemen, with some good cheese. A fine couple of days spent in a fabulous landscape. Lovely account & a good snap of the eagle Alan.

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    1. You're a very very nice man Sir. I wouldn't have the picture if you hadn't been so eagle-eyed...

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  9. A picture of devastation of beauty perfectly portrayed. You see photos of the utterly fab section and I have hope and despair in equal measure

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    1. Exactly my thoughts. It would be so easy not to catalogue the ghastliness of it all; to put your head down and just get out of the hell as fast as possible. But until walkers take these pictures and let folk see what is being done to these fabulous places in their name the devastation will continue.

      It's heartbreaking.

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  10. What? Lambert is descended from the Normans? You didn't tell me that. If we hadn't had to sort out the Danes at Stamford Bridge he wouldn't be here now, and I might tell him that. And now it's clear how he got his lordly title. His anscestors wiped out the Saxon nobility, then stole our lands so that William the Right Bastard could reward his mates. Lord Elpus indeed! Still, I am big enough to let bygones be bygones and I will mention this no more. Unless provoked.

    As for the more serious matter, I still managed a chuckle at the punishment that you invented for smug, arse faced Salmond. He deserves all you proposed and more.

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    1. Blimey! Still here? You're a Stayer, Sir. The Challenge needs Stayers.
      Lord Elpus tries to keep a very low profile when it comes to his Norman heritage. The terrible shame. But there again, the fabulous wealth...

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  11. As you are aware, Alan, I am (currently) a civil servant in teh politically restricted class ... so I must refrain from making public comment on any of this. For now.

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    1. I await your career change with interest, Sir!

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