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Monday, 7 August 2017

TGO Challenge 2017, Days 8 & 9: Aviemore to Braemar


DAY 8, FRIDAY: AVIEMORE TO GLEANN LAOIGH BHEAG

Thankfully, the weather forecast isn't too bad; it's certainly good enough to abandon any thoughts of our very lengthy (60km) Foul Weather Alternative of two days to Braemar via Glen Feshie. It's overcast with showers later. Hopefully, by then we'll be over the top and heading downhill.

But today's not plain sailing by any means. We've just had two very long days and so we're starting today's sixteen or seventeen miles over the Lairig Ghru with those 60km still in our legs. Thankfully David's jelly-legs and my dodgy knee seem to be holding up remarkably well.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

David taps on my door at the appointed hour. I'm still in my shreddies stuffing a food bag the size, shape and weight of a size 45 leather hiking boot and a bag of Cox's Orange Pippins into the top of my rucsac.

Phil waves us off. He's going to drive around to Braemar whilst we stagger through the wild stuff. I think he has the better deal... However, the weather's holding up and we have a fine four miles of gentle walking through the Rothiemurchus up to the Cairngorm Club Footbridge. Here we bump into Jayme & Peter's party who are aiming to head up onto the tops on their way to Braemar. They're welcome to that and I sit myself down to make inroads into the food bag as we have set out with no breakfast. A hefty Naan bread from yesterday evening, stuffed with cheese fills a hole nicely.

David's itching to be off and so reluctantly I stir my stumps and we set off again. 

THAT WAY

If you've not spent time in the Rothiemurchus I would encourage you to visit. It is a magical place but the Rothiemurchus Estate is doing their utmost to screw it up, clear felling whole areas, and building a new town opposite Aviemore. And the Cairngorm National Park Authority, the supposed guardians of this magical place backs this behaviour, despite howls of protest from the public. Only in Scotland...

THE ROTHIEMURCHUS FOREST

It's a steady plod uphill with the breeze in the tree tops and birdsong as our backing track. Down to our right the Allt Druidh is tumbling over its rocky bed. This really is fabulous walking.

THE TOP END OF THE ROTHIEMURCHUS

It's a brief couple of miles in the forest and we now emerge into the lunar vastness of the Lairig Ghru. Here are some interesting facts about the Lairig Ghru: 

  • It would be possible to fit the entire London Underground Tube system within the void that is the Lairig Ghru (Not including the stations.)*
  • It would be possible to fit the combined populations of France and Germany within the void that is the Lairig Ghru. (Some say that this is a splendid idea.)*   
  *One or more of the above interesting facts may be a figment of my imagination.

IT DOESN'T LOOK THAT FAR...

We stop for a sheltered lunch immediately before the very top of the pass. The intermittent sunshine is warm, the persistent wind bitingly cold. The boulders are a bit of a bastard in the wind; I've been through this place in very poor weather with Lord Elpus quite a few years ago. I recall them being quite a challenge then. As it is today, it's merely quite tricky, only very nearly breaking my neck a couple of times. David breaks his in four places, but I tape it all back together with duct tape and the lower sections of his Pacer Poles. If you squint, you can barely notice it.

MR WILLIAMS ATOP THE LAIRIG GHRU

We are making steady progress down the ramp from the Pools of Dee when we are overtaken by two wild-eyed speed merchants. One of them is Tim, who you will meet later. They're heading off to Corrour bothy to dump their packs and nip up the Devil's Point. It takes all sorts, I suppose.

LOOKING INTO GARBH CHOIRE

I spent a night in Corrour Bothy back in a summer in the mid Seventies. I recall it being a pretty ghastly place back then. It had an earth floor and mice. But it was preferable to being outside as the midges were voracious. 

CORROUR BOTHY COWERING BENEATH THE DEVILS POINT

From about here I'm rather hoping we are not. In fact, I'm rather hoping we are three miles further on and about to camp. Eventually, and this does take quite some time, as we approach the Luibeg Burn we can actually see where we're going to stop for the night half a mile the other side of the burn.

At this point, in celebration David tumbles forward, head first, down the steep hill and hits the very hard track like a sack of spuds. He breaks his fall with his arm, on a very well constructed stone cross drain. On impact my heart is in my mouth. It looks sickeningly painful. We sit for a few minutes to recover our senses. Surprisingly, nothing's broken. It's just as well as I have used up all my duct tape fixing his blasted neck.

As I finally climb into Trinnie Trailstar for a lie-down the rain starts in earnest and continues for most of the night.

That was a bigger day than expected. But it's done. I sleep very well indeed. Braemar tomorrow!

   

DAY 9, SATURDAY: GLEANN LAOIGH BHEAG TO BRAEMAR

The Rufty-Tufty Bastard is surprisingly perky this morning. I put it down to the promise of a sniff of a barmaid's apron in Braemar. We pack in the rain which turns gently to a soft drizzle. It's all quite lovely. It's a little over ten miles into Braemar on easy tracks. We should be there for lunch!

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

I forgot to take a snap of our campsite last night, what with the rain and all, so I make amends this morning. You'll have to use your imagination a little, but you get the drift. The picture below is of a naked Trinnie.

TRINNIE TRAILSTAR WOZ ERE

Fortunately David is clothed in the next picture and is actually smiling!

GLEN LUIBEG

The weather enhances the place. We're soon at Derry Lodge, where we bump into Jayme and Peter's team and for the first time, first-timers Rich and his brother. (Pete?) 

GLEN LUI

I spend most of this section walking on my own, as I dislike large groups, and stop frequently to take all these moody snaps. It appears that the National Trust for Scotland, when it isn't threatening/bullying small Scottish gear manufacturers with highly dubious legal actions, is doing a grand job hereabouts. The place certainly feels more natural than the last time I was here.

GLEN LUI

GLEN LUI

GLEN LUI

GLEN LUI

It's still raining as we make Mar Lodge, via the Tradesmen's entrance to sit at tables and on chairs to drink teas and coffees. It appears the whole TGO Challenge has been through here so far. Well, sixty five of us if you believe the five bar gates on the white board. (See the picture a few below here). I snap away merrily. There are more people, but I don't like using flash and a lot of pictures are beyond unusable.

COLIN, MAR LODGE

FAZ. MAR LODGE

SABINE, MAR LODGE

PAULA, MAR LODGE

IAN C, MAR LODGE

JAYME, MAR LODGE

ROB & REBECCA, MAR LODGE

FAZ & TIM, MAR LODGE

PETER M, MAR LODGE

NTS MAR LODGE WHITE BOARD

David chivvies me along as he's keen to get to the fleshpots. But not too keen, as he drags me away from our scripted route of a very sensible dry and flat minor road and instead we clamber uphill on forest tracks. The situation is considerably improved as we are walking with a bright young girl called Issy, who David is convinced is our youngest Challenger. She's very flattered by this but remarks that she remembers Lloyd George's maiden speech. Still, she's great company and much much prettier than the grumpy, rufty-tufty bastard I'm usually looking at.

COLIN, ROAD TO BRAEMAR

ISSY & DAVID, ENROUTE TO BRAEMAR'S TOMINTOUL VIEWPOINT

A RARE SNAP OF DAVID & ME


THE VIEW FROM ABOVE BRAEMAR, BEFORE YOU GET TO THE VIEWPOINT

As it happens, the walk to the viewpoint is rather fine with misty vistas of Deeside. If in the future you decide to come this way I strongly recommend that you snap your views before you get to the actual viewpoint, as there you will find all the views obscured by the tops of very vigorous birch trees.

PITY: ALL VIEWS NOW OBSCURED BY BIRCH TREES

ISSY & DAVID

Finally we make Braemar and head straight to Gordon's Tearoom for a slap up lunch. Sadly, Phil has been and gone, kindly leaving my small food parcel in our B&B.

Once in the B&B it's the usual grind of clothes washing, and generally destroying the place with mountains of smelly outdoor gear festooned about the place. Trinnie Trailstar enhances the decorations in the shower, and the spare bed is used to marshal my mounting food mountain.

We hit the Invercauld Arms at six for a few sharp Guinnesses, and then move on to the Gathering Place to meet up with Hugh and Barbara, who I have heard of by reputation but meeting them surpasses expectations. What a wonderful couple.

IAN, BRAEMAR'S INVERCAULD ARMS

BERNIE ROBERTS, THE INVERCAULD ARMS

MIKE KNIPE - THE PIEMAN

MY DEHYDRATED FILLET CAME UP TRUMPS, THE GATHERING PLACE. DECENT BOTTLE OF RED.

MAD'N'BAD, THE GATHERING PLACE

After dinner the night is still young and so I head back to the Invercauld Arms for more Guinness and a sing-song led by the exceedingly talented Croydon. The place is still rammed with happy Challengers, all in very good form. The bar staff encourage us to leave around midnight and I actually find my way back to our B&B the very first time of trying!

JAYME, THE INVERCAULD ARMS

All in all, another excellent couple of days and we are still bowling along nicely. We've no blisters and we're getting fitter by the day. We've had half a day off today and we decide to take the morning off tomorrow and take our Foul Weather Alternative route to Lochcallater Lodge. The rest will do us both a bit of good.

6 comments:

  1. Do you think there would be room for the contents of my locker of unused items of gear "that seemed like a good idea at the time" in the Lairig Ghru as well as the French and Germans? (See my last two posts)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Floppy hats, umbrellas - Chuck them all in Sir. Room to spare. We could probably fit the Greeks in there as well, at a pinch.

      Delete
  2. ...and, if there's any space left, I can think of a coupla people to chuck in there.
    Great read Alan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now there's a thought, Geoff!! I shall have to consult my little black book of people who have pissed me off beyond measure.

      I'm not sure there's going to be enough room.

      Delete
    2. Good show. Any room left and I can think of a few cads, bounders and Communists.

      Delete
    3. I've a feeling there may be some duplication here, James.
      ;-)

      Delete

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