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Saturday, 4 April 2020

TGO Challenge 2019: DAY EIGHT


Observant members of the congregation will have noticed that some days in this year's write-up are bunched together. The main reason for this is that they are similar in nature and so fall naturally into one blog post. Today's write-up has a post all of its own because it stands out in my fading memory as one of pure joy.

*****

Bizarrely, we start the day as a united team and decide to head for breakfast at the Sugar Bowl - a first class cafe in Kingussie High Street and happily right next door to one of the best butchers & pie shops in the Highlands, in King Street.

ANDY, THE SUGAR BOWL

DAVID, THE SUGAR BOW

As we tucked in to our Full Highlands a group of American Challengers arrived. I'm afraid I can't tell you their names as they each have trail names that went in one ear and straight out the other. They seemed like really nice guys. Their rucksacks were incredibly small and obviously very lightweight. They also looked like they could each walk several Challenges in the time it would take me to complete one.

Walking out of Kingussie on the way to Tromie Bridge Lord Elpus and I fell into a philosophical conversation. Should we rethink what we carried ourselves? At this point our Colonial Cousins overtook us and strode away effortlessly. 

Over the years we had steadily chipped away at how much we carry. Back in 1995 on my first Challenge I recall my pack weighing in at over 41 lbs with food and whisky for 3 days. Over the years it fell to around 27 lbs and has since risen slowly to around 33lbs. Most of the increase was down to additional comfort: A heavier and warmer sleeping bag, a more comfortable pack, hotel trousers and shoes, and more warmer clothing. However a fair bit was down to whim: A more windproof cooking system, heavier camera gear, electronic apparatus and associated chargers. More heavyweight waterproof stuff sacks. You can never be too safe you know...

Lost in conversation neither Phil nor I noticed that the Two at the Front were beetling along at a fair rate of knots until we rounded a bend in the road and saw them standing, looking back at us both ...

ANDY & DAVID - THE TWO AT THE FRONT

The day was now brightening up considerably and so layers were stowed in packs and we ambled onwards. This was a well worn route for us; I've lost count of how many times we've headed this way to the Feshie. It's a lovely, effortless walk. The morning passed with birdsong, sunshine and a great deal of happiness.



I'm not quite sure how, but around Corarnstilmore - the old sheepfold - the Two at the Front became the Two at the Back, and it was only when they re-passed us as we were tucking into an early lunch that this became evident.

The previous evening David had received news of his Mum's declining health and over the course of the morning he'd come to the conclusion that he could trim a day or so from the walk and get back home earlier to see how he could help. Sadly, this was to be the last time Phil & I would have his company this year as he was about to set off on a very large day with Andrew as part of this plan.

The re-established Two at the Back continued onwards into Glen Feshie and a couple of delightful stops at pathside streams and beneath sheltering Caledonian Pines. The already lovely day was now about to come a magnificent day. The map will help with the story. Right click on it to open it at a larger size in a new tab, for referral. You can click on all the pictures to blow them up to a decent size.

THE AFTERNOON'S MAP - CLICK TO ENLARGE

The next eight photographs are of the wonderful climb on the footpath up Slochd Beag. Leaving the shade of the wonderful pine at Ruigh-fionntaig the path isn't immediately obvious but soon becomes a single track amongst the heather. It's overgrown in places, but if you keep heading in the right direction it's clear enough.

LOOKING BACK TO GLENFESHIE LODGE

The next picture (if you blow it up) shows the nature of the path well as you slowly gain height.. There's nothing gut-wrenchingly steep; it's a beautifully crafted stalker's path.


There are a couple of really good zig-zags - steepish in places -  that could be easy to miss if you're not paying attention but the views are now getting better and better as you enter the narrow chasm of Slochd Beag.










This has to be one of most rewarding little climbs on the Challenge - an easy gradient, not too much of a climb, around 900 feet of ascent, and totally joyful! Sections of the path are becoming slightly overgrown or subject to inundation from soil and stone from above but it's always fairly obvious where you're going.


Spend time on this. Enjoy it. Don't go at it like a mad thing. Take pictures. If your pulse starts racing you're doing it wrong. It's bloody wonderful so make the most of it. We certainly did.


We finished our flasks of water at the top as from here on there's no need to carry any, as you're going to follow a beautifully constructed little path alongside the Allt Lorgaidh up into the Glenfeshie Forest. You'll have noticed from the map that there are footbridges shown - indeed there are far more than the map suggests, each beautifully built over the gushing little side streams. You're slowly gaining height on this section of a couple of miles of the most fabulous walking. The air was full of bird song, chiefly skylarks and buzzards. The water is crystal clear and the sunshine, blissful.

ALLT LORGAIDH

At the head of the Allt Lorgaidh you contour round above the peat hags to collect the defile Clais Bheag which supports the fabulous Caochan Dubh. We didn't see another soul all afternoon and yet we were never more than a mile or two from the Great Trade Route up Glen Feshie where countless Challengers, and others would all be on their way. Our route involves an additional 500 feet of ascent and probably another three or four miles of walking, but for both Phil and I there is no comparison in the quality of the experience.

PHIL, CLAIS BHEAG

I've extolled the virtues of Caochan Dubh in the past on here, but it's charm lays in the fact that it is made up of sections of blissful downhill walking on springy turf, punctuated with little rocky drops of no more than a metre or so that herald the next section of grasy bliss. You can pick your way over the gurgling caochan to your heart's content as it is barely a foot or so wide and very often quite a few feet underground in tunnels in the black peat. 

CLAIS BHEAG

ME, CAOCHAN DUBH

ME ALONGSIDE CAOCHAN DUBH

We walked on a little further than our intended stopping place, just in case Andy and David had come this way, as they hadn't let us know that their plans had changed. We'd assumed they had, because we were sure we would have spotted them climbing up Slochd Beag had they been following the route sheet. But they are a pair of racing snakes, so there was a chance that they had, so we continued until we caught sight of the Upper Upper Feshie in case they had stopped there as we had discussed this as a possible overnight spot. As they were not, we found a couple of lovely spots either side of the caochan and made our homes for the night.

OUR CAMPSPOT, CAOCHAN DUBH - CLICK TO ENLARGE

It had been one of the very best days of my twenty four TGO Challenges. In fact, it was perfect.

CHEZ LORD ELPUS


CHEZ MOI


SUNSET AT CAOCHAN DUBH


In the spirit of Old Mortality, to finish a perfect day here's musical perfection: Lucia Popp at her very best. You'll need to turn your speakers up as for some reason it's been recorded at a very low volume.



17 comments:

  1. Alan, an excellent and entertaining report as always.

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    1. Thank you, Neil.

      I've added your blog to my Better Places to Visit links.

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  2. Replies
    1. You've no idea how much happiness it brings when I write these posts, Emma. The trouble is I've forgotten so much. i really should make more of an effort to write things down on the trip itself. i spend enough effort taking snaps and carrying the camera and chargers, and I barely use my incredibly lightweight Moleskin notebook...

      Note to self: *Must try harder*

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  3. You certainly did a wonderful route. Of course the trade route up the Feshie and beyond is pretty lovely too, but it is the trade route and even I've done it a fair few times. I did have the joy and necessity of Andy beasting me along it very for very many killer metres as you had your own Lou Reed of a day. And at least we ended the day with the delightful company of Russ Manion.

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    1. I'm wracking my brain here, but I don't think I've ever camped up with Russ! He and Joyce did however put me up for the night on my LEJOG. A lovely man.

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    2. He is indeed. We camped behind the ruin near the Geldie Ford. The poor chap was suffering from low blood sugar when he arrived and snaffled the last of my fruit pastilles. Couldn't have gone to anybody nicer.b

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  4. Plus of course there were the beautifully constructed little stone bridges, showing where the long abandoned path used to be. It was whilst approaching one of these that my dry shod right leg plummeted through the thin turf into the steam below!

    Nevertheless, a terrific place to explore. A very worthwhile change to the usual route for the discerning Challenger.

    In the words of the immortal Janet of Juke Box Jury, "Oi'll give it foive."

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    1. It was Janice Nicholls on Thank Your Lucky Stars who gave it five.

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    2. How could I have possibly forgotten your one-legged plunge! It made my afternoon!

      Oi'll give it foive as well for style and girly shrieks!
      😂😂

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  5. Ta Cedric. You are of course absolutely correct!

    54U2!

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    1. I would give that route 10. Fabulous.

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    2. Ooh! A new visitor to the blog - or at least a first time comment from you. Welcome, Cedric!

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  6. Stunning route into some really wild and lonely terrain. I can see why this was down as one of the best challenge days. You can really feel the joy in the writing, well played! :)

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    1. One of the lovely aspects of the walk was certainly the feel of remoteness but on the other hand, the built stalkers path and the wonderful little stone bridges over the side streams made for easy going on the uphill sections. then it was wonderfully wild across the peat hags and fown Caochan Dubh. Total happiness, Andy.

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  7. Yes, another special part of Scotland to walk. I did the trade route a few years ago and will have to return again. See you in 2021 & many more crossings.

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    1. Over recent years the route up Glen Feshie has improved remarkably. Deer numbers were reduced dramatically and the trees are coming back in abundance. With them, wildlife is returning as well - The whole ecosystem is dramatically different. It's always a delight, William.
      😃

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