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Friday, 11 August 2017

TGOC2017, Days 10 & 11: Braemar to the Fee Burn


DAY 10, SUNDAY: BRAEMAR TO LOCHCALLATER LODGE

Back in the mists of time Lord Elpus and I worked on the thorny problem of the venue for this year's Cheese & Wine Party. Traditionally it is held in a remote spot, to ensure that only Challengers made of the right stuff attend, so everyone rubs along well together. In December of last year Lord E put the following invitation on the Challenge Message Board.

THE INVITATION POSTED ON THE CHALLENGE MESSAGE BOARD, 1ST DECEMBER 2016

As you can see, the party is scheduled for Monday night, high up on the ridge on the south side of Glen Doll. Right now, it's Sunday morning and we're about to check out of our B&B. It's our last chance to check on the weather forecast. Today we're heading to Lochcallater Lodge. However, tomorrow (Monday) the route is high and wild on the way to the C&W party.

The forecast at 9:50am this morning for tomorrow says the day will start with blustery winds and showers, strengthening in the afternoon, followed by gale force winds, rain and thunderstorms in the evening and night. These are pretty poor conditions for a Cheese and Wine Party.

We never know who is likely to turn up and first-time Challengers are told that they are particularly welcome as they are the lifeblood of the Challenge. Without first-timers, in very short order there would be no TGO Challenge. Based upon the forecast and the fact that I do not know the party-goers' experience of camping in dreadful conditions I decide to cancel the party on grounds of safety. The Challenge has an enviable safety record and I don't want to ruin it. I ring Challenge Control and ask them to let as many people know as possible and I also post a message on the Challenge Message Board.

At the moment our own plan for Monday is to nip up and do three of the four Munros and in the afternoon slip down into Glen Prosen and camp near Kilbo before the weather turns really nasty. We now have plenty of time in Braemar to let as many Challengers know as possible that the party is off.

We leave our B&B a little downhearted and head into the metropolis that is Braemar for coffee, cake, some retail therapy and a spot of lunch. This is very cheerful stuff and in no time at all we are both proud owners of new hats that David says are perfect copies of the Afrika Korps cap. Mine is a dusty blue, whereas his is desert sand. I'll leave that with you.

CLICK TO ENLARGE. [FOLLOWING 'SUNDAY FWA']

Having filled my new-this-year rucsac to the brim with pork pies, pita bread, cakes, cheese and chocolate bars I haul it from the ground and promptly tear the rear mesh pocket on the very fierce pointy wall of Braemar Mountain Sports. Tenacious tape does the job and so at least now she looks broken-in. Deep inside I'm silently heartbroken.

It's a pleasant stroll up the golf course road and then along the track up Glen Callater, which seems to get slightly longer with each passing year before Lochcallater Lodge hoves into view. What a fabulous location!

LOCHCALLATER LODGE, WITH THE MBA BOTHY ON THE LEFT

A SHELTERED SPOT

There's a fine complement of lightweight shelters already pitched next to the lodge and so we cast about further afield, away from the snorers to find a sheltered spot a hundred yards past the lodge. 

LOCHCALLATER LODGE KITCHEN, WITH MICHAEL IN COMMAND. NOTE: THE LODGE IS LIT BY GAS LAMPS

We spend a wonderful evening in the lodge, fed like kings by Michael Glass and the whole party is run like a swiss watch by Bill Duncan. Chaps are playing with their instruments in the kitchen and there's singing and entertainment in the sitting room cum bar.



I'm only ever a year away from the Lodge but at each visit old friends pick up where they left off like it was yesterday.

BECOMING COLD & GUSTY. RAIN ON THE WAY

LEFT TO RIGHT: IAN COTTERILL, THE PIEMAN, AND BILL DUNCAN


IAN COTTERILL'S PICTURE.  LOCHCALLATER LODGE. L>R: SABINE A COUPLE I REALLY OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO NAME , THEN JAMES KNIPE AND ME

A huge thankyou to Bill and Michael for their friendship and incredible hospitality. I know of no-one and nowhere else like  it.

***

DAY 11, MONDAY: LOCHCALLATER LODGE TO THE FEE BURN

From Callater Lodge the party drawn from all points west splits into myriad routes eastward. Some fly in the direction of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor and Dubh Loch others to Lochnagar, a few to Broad Cairn, another handful over Jocks Road, some cut through the hills to Ballater but our merry band head mostly south. That's an odd direction for people who are walking to the east coast, but there you are.

CLICK TO ENLARGE [FOLLOWING 'MONDAY 18KM, 830M']

CLICK TO ENLARGE [FOLLOWING 'MONDAY 18KM, 830M']

There are five happy souls on our route today - David and me, (Of course. We're still on speaking terms) a very capable and likeable Mike Jones from Wales, and Rosie & Dickie Fuell. Quite a few Challenges ago Dickie saved our skins in a beleaguered, packed Gelder Shiel bothy in the teeth of a hurricane. And he is to be a life-saver today as well.  


It's a walk up a land rover track virtually all the way to the top of our first Munro, Carn an Tuirc. Of course, there are grunty sections, as Landrovers can scamper up virtually anything. We, on the other hand slow to a steady crawl up those sections.

LOOKING BACK DOWN TO LOCHCALLATER LODGE

GRITTY, IF POORLY PROCESSED SHOT OF RUFTY-TUFTY BASTARD DAVID

This year Dickie is carrying a water filter the size of a diver's oxygen tank. He has lugged this all the way across Scotland. I know this because he certainly had it on Day 1 from Plockton, as Robin Evans availed himself of its life-saving effusions.  

Today is a long stretch of upland and after we had emptied our water bottles with the biggest drink a chap can decently take, Dickie very kindly pumped us litres of water to refill our bottles from a peat ditch. It was all done with very little fuss and remarkably quickly. If he comes across this post he may like to leave a comment, as from what he says the logic of carrying such a beast means you carry less weight, not more.

ROSIE & DICKIE FUELL

FIRST-TIMER MIKE JONES & DAVID, WITH MAGNIFICENT COIRE LOCH KANDER BEHIND

Knowing that the weather is going belly up and all rather quickly, I am in two minds whether or not to head over very rocky ground for our first Munro, Carn of Tuirc, as it's an out and back trip. But, because it's there and we're almost within touching distance, it seems rude not to. And so we do. Is it worth it? I'm not a bagger and the views are not that marvelous but it is a bit of fun. Fun. Ah yes. I remember...

MIKE JONES, ROSIE, DAVID & DICKIE ATOP MUNRO CARN AN TUIRC (1019M)

And now the clag sweeps in and it's quite a bit colder, and wetter. But we head back across the moonscape and head for the next blighter: Cairn of Claise a couple of miles away. Compasses are employed for the first time on the Challenge. Strangely, very few of us seem to be navigating. This often happens in groups! Still, very little can go wrong up here. The Baggers' paths lead you in the right direction.

MIKE & DAVID, MUNRO CAIRN OF CLAISE (1064M) WEATHER TURNING...

ROSIE & DICKIE, CAIRN OF CLAISE

This is a bigger blighter at 1064m (For the metrically challenged, that's almost 3,500 feet up) It's another jumble of boulders to get there but this time there is a tear in the clouds and there's actually a great view down into Caen Lochan Glen. 

A BRIEF, SNATCHED VIEW FROM CAIRN OF CLAISE, LOOKING SOUTH INTO CAEN LOCHAN GLEN

A small wall that leads to the cairn gives a modicum of shelter but we don't stop for too long as it's a bit nippy. But there's always enough time for a Leerdammer and pita sandwich, stuffed with dark chocolate.

DICKIE, ROSIE & DAVID. CAIRN OF CLAISE

At this point we finally head east for the first time today, down a long delightfully soft slope. We briefly drop beneath the cloud, with the views now only hampered by strengthening rain and wind. Back in Braemar we had decided to cut Tolmount out of today's schedule and it's the right thing to do as the weather is now not so great.

DAVID, HEADING TO OUR NEXT MUNRO.

It's now gone midday and it's pretty shitty weather, so I let everyone know that once we're over the other side of our next Munro, Tom Buidhe - an easy job at a mere 957m - I'll put Trinie Trailstar up for a bit of shelter so we can have lunch in some comfort. This certainly lifts my spirits and I hope others' too. 

Tom Buidhe really is a doddle and at the top, in the pouring rain we meet a real-live Munro Bagger in the flesh, and he very kindly takes our group photo with my camera. Then he fairly gallops away in the direction of Glen Callater, muttering something about mad dogs and Englishmen out in a midday storm...

UNPLEASANT WEATHER ATOP MUNRO TOM BUIDHE (957M)

THE SCENERY HEREABOUTS. EASY WALKING, DRY UNDERFOOT

It's an easy gambol down the slopes of Tom Buidhe and in the rain David and I have Trinnie up in a flash, whilest Dickie heads off with his filter and our water bottles to replenish supplies for lunch. That man really is a star.

You've never seen 'The Famous Five in a Trailstar', have you? That's probably because it's a bit of a squeeze, and even Enid, who apparently liked a bit of bodily contact might have thought that this was beyond the pale. However, we are out of the wind and rain. Halfway through lunch the wind and rain stop and blue skies appear. Still, it was a good break.

POST LUNCH, HAPPY, ABOUT TO HEAD FOR LITTLE KILRANNOCH

The next section, over Little Kilrannoch and Dun Hillocks is an absolute delight. I dawdle a little on this section as the sun is out, the larks are singing their little hearts out and navigation's an absolute breeze. This is perfect Challenge walking. Up high, great views, easy going underfoot, and mostly downhill.

MIKE JONES. DUN HILLOCKS

We are now in sight of the Fee Burn, our proposed location for the Cheese & Wine Party. David and I decide to go down and take a look at the site, as neither of us have been this way before. Aware of the forecast, Mike, and Dickie & Rosie decide to carry on over Mayar and then drop down to a valley, but we let them know that we may actually stop here. We say our goodbyes and head off down the Fee Burn, which is  bloody good walking.

DICKIE & ROSIE

By good fortune the Fee Burn is an absolutely brilliant spot for a Cheese and Wine Party. There's lots of good water and plenty of excellent spots to pitch shelters.

Both David and I are still concerned that some Challengers may not have got the news that the party has been canceled. This helps us make up our minds. We'll camp right here, so if anyone does turn up we can have a makeshift party. Our own shelters are pretty bombproof and so the forecast weather shouldn't be a problem for us.

THE FEE BURN (TAKEN NEXT MORNING)

This is possibly the best stop of our whole trip. We're in a reasonably sheltered spot on soft dry-ish flat turf with a gurgling stream beside us. At the moment the weather is glorious. It's still early afternoon and I have a wonderful late afternoon doze, polish off an enormous rather tasty meal and then slide into blissful slumber.

I'm aware at some point in the night that it is absolutely heaving it down - it's the noise that wakes me, but Trinnie is rock solid and so I slide back into Audrey's arms to get back to where we had left off.

All in all, a fabulous day, done.

2 comments:

  1. I ascended Tom Buidhe in thick mist on a grim day with my pal Pete. I took a compass bearing from the summit to continue our planned route, fixed a point in the near distance to walk to, maybe a sheep or a darker bit of swirling mist, and off we set, I having put the compass back in my pocket. Ten minutes later Pete said "we've been here before" then we spotted a cairn and discovered that Tom Buidhe was one of the few Munros that I have summited more than once.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This does remind me rather of Monty Python's Twin Peaks of Kilimanjaro Expedition... Are you sure there aren't two peaks named Tom Buidhe?

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