Sunday, 12 January 2020

TGO Challenge 2018: DAY 5

Here we are again, then. The run up to Christmas was incredibly busy, hence the radio silence. Still, that's all over for another year and we can all now get back to our normal lives again.

We need to cast our minds back a year and a half. I left you with a clutch of Challengers camped at the south end of Loch Eilde Mor, which I'll have you know is home to a pair of itinerant red throated divers. Their cry is hauntingly morose. Phil puts this down to their private parts being bathed in ice cold water. He may have a point.

Below are the maps. Click on them to blow them up to a decent size. Our destination today is a place I had wanted to visit for some twenty five years, and happily, Phil - our Accommodation Officer - had managed to book us some beds!

On the first (and second as it happens, as there's an overlap) map you'll notice that I've written in red ink 'YES!' Note this for later on in the narrative.

The previous evening had been reasonably social, even though Andy & the Fragrant Sue were completely whacked after their lengthy Corbett detour. Whisky flasks were emptied as we had parcels arranged for collection at the Corrour Station House restaurant. We had slept soundly. Today's weather forecast started not too badly but the weather was closing in with the cloudbase falling  quickly. It didn't look to be too arduous a day, with about twelve map miles and either a chunky ascent or a not so chunky climb with more of a bog trot for the Foul Weather Alternative.


Almost as soon as we had set off we came about the inevitable quagmire that the hundreds of Scottish Six Day Trial motorbike riders had left in their wake. Each rider should be hung by their testicles and left to rot on a midge infested moor until their eyeballs are eaten. 

Whilst noting the red 'Yes!' on the map, the more astute reader (yes, that's you) will also have spotted 'UTTERLY FABULOUS' which is what the next half dozen pictures will try (and sadly fail) to illustrate. Pictures can rarely give you the feel of the place, the sharp clean air, the pinching breeze, the extraordinary light and the views that stretch to eternity. You're just going to have to go there to see what I mean. Phil and I had walked this morning's route back in 2005 for my tenth Challenge and we had always wanted to return to experience its delights again. It didn't let us down. I'll leave you with the pictures for a while. They'll blow up quite large if you click on them.





It's a great little walk as the tiny path snakes around the shallow spurs of the Corbett Glas Bheinn at an elevation that gives commanding views. Do go there. I promise you'll not come away disappointed. Do you remember Sue saying that if she was to ever mention going up another Corbett someone should fetch the bolt-gun? Fortunately there was none to hand as she scampered as fast as her mightlily shot knees would take her right to the very top of Glas Bheinn. 

The path turns a corner and drops us beautifully onto Loch Chiarain Bothy, a perfect shelter for a spot of lunch. If you click on the picture, you'll see the stepping stones at the outflow of the loch.


By the end of lunch the cloudbase was dropping quite quickly. The Hard Brigade shot off to the stepping stones after barely nibbling their energy bars to try and beat the weather to the top of Beinn a' Bhric, whilst the more sedentary, and some might venture to say more wise, decided to have an unhurried repast and take the Very Clever Route Wot Alan Had Spotted Many Months Ago... And yes, the capitals are important here. And here's why:

Take a peek at the second map. Between the bothy and Corrour Station there is a very large hill in the way. Now, Corrour Estate owns all the land hearabouts. If you wanted to visit your bothy from the direction of Loch Ossian (HQ for the estate) would you really want to drag yourself all the way down to Loch Treig (at the very top of the map) and then all the way back up Glen Iolairlean and over the bealach to Loch Chiarain? No? Well, neither would I. A sensible chap would try and work his way round the northern shoulder of the great lumpy hill that's in the way. With that thought process to the fore, I set about scrutinising Bing Aerial View  for signs of vehicle tracks that would take that route.

Before too long there was a shout of Ulreka! (ka-ka-ka-ka-ka) as I found exactly what I was seeking. I carefully transposed the said route to my maps to create a gpx file and Bob was my Aunty.

Now, back in the real world, none of my walking companions - who I had convinced to come with me on my trek of discovery - had seen this track on Bing and so I was burdened with the heavy responsibility of locating this mythical track on the very real, very rough, heavy-going ground. The first aerial vestige of track started at the dot circled in red and annotated with 'YES!' All that had to be done now was to head away from the very nice track that we were bowling along at a good rate that headed to the bealach, drop down to the river, cross it and struggle up rough country to the last known position of the start of the track. The others did follow me, but it has to be said, somewhat reluctantly and hanging back slightly in case I was to turn around and shamefacedly admit defeat...

It's odd, isn't it that when you're climbing to a defined location the climb seems to drag interminably. Eventually and with a heartfelt whoop of joy, I found the very same mythical track. To call it a track would be a slight misrepresentation of the truth. In reality, it starts as tyre-bruised grass the two bruises about the width of a quad-bike. But track it most definitely was and it led us unerringly bang on the gpx track I had plotted!

The relief I felt was mixed with pure joy.


We fairly bowled along this magnificent wheeze of a route, with the clouds dropping almost onto us, but we remained wonderfully cheerful and wonderfully dry. Good views of Loch Treig opened up below us and I was pretty thankful that we had not had to go all the way down there to only come back up again. It's fair to say we were having a pretty damn good time!


With perfect timing, just before we arrived at Corrour Station we bumped into our Summit party at the junction of the Fine and Foul Weather routes! They had earned our respect for they had done the Fine Route in pretty dismal conditions, and looked pretty wet as they had been in cloud the whole time. We, on the other hand were joyous smug bastards. The Summit Party had also picked up a rather nice pair of Challengers, who we'll bump into again later on the trip.

As we crossed the railway to get to the Station House Restaurant, we bumped into two pretty nifty bits of military helicopter pieces of kit, heading right towards us. Then they both sank to within a few feet of the ground behind the Station House, shot back up again for a few seconds, and then dropped back down again. After a few minutes hanging about, they then shot off in the direction of the Bothy.

It was pretty impressive flying and someone in our party explained that this is how they blast the opposition to smithereens on the battlefield. I was pretty glad that they seemed to be on our side, as they look pretty angry creatures.

This is what they are and what they are capable of:

Once in the restaurant we collected out parcels that the Estate had very kindly held for us (if you're thinking of doing the same, it's quite a tricky logistical operation to organise a parcel drop here, as Lord E will testify) and tucked into one of the finest Cheese Burger and Chips in the Northern Hemisphere. Washed down with decent ales. We also bought bottles of wine and fine cheeses from the wonderful chef for our upcoming Cheese and Wine Party in two days time.



It was with reluctance that we left this oasis of calm, company and culture and headed off into the outside to continue to our final destination, the fabled Loch Ossian Youth Hostel. Very happily, we bumped into Darren who was having his second night here. Robin had arranged to walk with us quite a while after we had booked the hostel and so continued to walk onwards to camp further along our route, so he could have a lie in tomorrow until we caught up with him.


If I was to write a review of the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel you would have to bear in mind that I had been looking forward to staying here for twenty five years, and perhaps I had built this place up to be far more than it should be. You must also bear in mind that I'm an old curmudgeon who likes a bit of comfort, space and organisation. With those caveats in place, here goes. And I do warn you, this won't be pretty reading.

I hated, with a vengeance just about every waking moment spent in this place.

It was packed to the rafters with walkers. The bedrooms (sorry, dormitories) had bunk beds squeezed in so tightly that there was virtually nowhere for everyone's kit. As for unpacking to get the stuff you need for your stay, well, it was nigh on impossible as there was no laying out space. I'm sure POW camps in the Second World War had more room for their occupants.

The place boasts about its friendliness to the environment. If you call drop toilets that smelled so foulsome that the stench made you physically retch, then as far as I'm concerned you can stick your environmentalism where the sun doesn't shine. It will be less loathsomely stinky up there than it was in those toilets.

Because the hostel was full to the brim, there was very little space to sort out a snack supper or breakfast. I said that I hated every waking moment. The truth is that that was virtually the entire time spent there. The rooms were so cramped and full of raucous snorers and belchers and farters that sleep was nigh-on impossible.

My recommendations: Strip out half the bunk beds from each dormitory. Provide more chairs in the dorms so that you can organise your kit. And get rid of those disgusting, foulsome toilets. The place must surely be a health hazard.

This overnight stay was the lowest spot I have ever experienced on any TGO Challenge, and I've done twenty three of them up to this Challenge. The SYHA sings lyrically about this place. God Alone Knows Why. It's a squalid, overstuffed insanitary hell-hole. Ending on a positive note, (why not, eh?) it's situated in one of the most beautiful places on this planet.


And in the spirit of Old Mortality, here's a dinky little number from the Fab Four, celebrating my birthday in December.


  1. The less said about Ossian Hostel the better.
    But the day there, and the food at the railway restaurant were mighty.
    And a hefty cheese to go the next day!

    1. I'm just munching a Waitrose 1 Cherry Lattice. It's *almost* as perfect as the burger and chips at The Station House. To make a simple plate like that so perfect takes skill. And to provide us with excellent cheeses and wine to take away was sublime. Tye chef was a star, and the manager a darling. The whole Ossian Estate looked after us tremendously well. as they also sorted out our parcels, quite a feat of organisation.

  2. Ok spill the beanms what happened at the hostel.

    1. I just hate being packed in like sardines, Chris, especially so after days of wonderful wide-open spaces. I guess I like my own company and not hundreds of smelly walkers all in my personal space!

  3. Well this has come to me just a day too late. I still might modify my FWA 4 to use your "utterly fab" route.

  4. I can understand and respect that one .


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