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18 October 2021

TGO Challenge 2021: Day 1: Shiel Bridge to Glen Affric

PLEASE NOTE:

The Challenge Coordinators requested a little while ago that I did not include maps of my routes in my write-ups anymore as they've found that some Challengers have cribbed the route entirely and presented it as their own for scrutiny by the Vetters. I would point out that this negates the whole point of the Challenge. The Challenge is surely to design a route yourself that you think will be close to the edge of your abilities, in terms of navigation, self-reliance and fitness. This means that when you arrive at the east coast you will have an overwhelming sense of satisfaction.

Quite a few have slavishly copied my routes and found to their cost that they were either way too difficult for them, or conversely not much of a Challenge at all! (The latter group will be the incredibly fit but clinically lazy Challengers...)

My route this year, as explained in the previous posts, was designed so that I could struggle across Scotland with a low blood count, a sackful of prescription drugs, a complete absence of any fitness and very tender stomach muscles still knitting themselves back together having been cut wide open barely three months previously.

If you do decide to slavishly plagiarise this route I can assure you the Vetters will spot it, and you will be asked to resubmit a route of your own design. In all likelihood you'll probably find it a little tame, even though I found it an incredible struggle.

There. Now you're told! So, be good, sit up straight at the back, and let's get on with the walk.


******


So with the preamble out of the way you can see from the map that this day should hold no terrors for anyone thinking of taking on the TGO Challenge. If it does, then I think you might struggle with doing the Challenge.

[CLICK TO ENLARGE] DAY 1 SHIEL BRIDGE TO GLEN AFFRIC: RED DASHED LINE
Distance: 22km
Ascent:    660m  

My day started at the bus stop at the Kyle of Lochalsh where I took a sneaky peek at the weather forecast for the next few days. Why I did this I really don't know because the forecasts are merely a best stab at what a computer prints out which a team of forecasters then play with. 


The day was to be very kind to over a hundred Challengers starting today. This is very good news as it puts a good day under your belt as a store of happiness before it belts down with rain and crushes your very soul.

Ian, who was also staying in the Kyle Hotel, is a veteran (in every sense) of seven successful crossings and sported a tiny rucksack. To reduce weight Ian wasn't carrying a stove or any of the associated paraphernalia. Slightly surprised by this at first, as I strolled across the Highlands his approach seemed to make more and more sense. We'll have to see if I'm adequately convinced by May of next year.

IAN W. AT KYLE BUS STOP, HEADING FOR DORNIE.

The view from the Kyle bus stop is really quite something. This service is used by a dozen or so school children. I wonder if they realise quite how blessed they are.



IF YOU RIGHT-CLICK ON ANY PHOTO YOU CAN OPEN IT AT FULL STRENGTH IN A NEW WINDOW: SKYE AND THE BRIDGE

The bus dropped me off at the Kintail Lodge Hotel on time and as I was adding my signature to the register of starters, Paul appeared, to do the same. I've put a comma in-between 'appeared ' and 'to' as I didn't want to give the impression that he merely appeared to add his signature.

And here is the young man, in a different outfit today. If you're keeping up, yesterday he was dressed very smartly all in black, a bit like a rugby referee. You know there will be questions at the end of each post, don't you?

PAUL: SHIEL BRIDGE & LOCH DUICH, THE START POINT

The first six miles are on the flat, which is fine way to ease yourself into the walk; It's a time to fiddle with boot laces, errant rucksack straps and remember that you left your spare waterproof matches in the bathroom. Don't ask. Paul very kindly adjusted his pace to 'Dead Slow' and we ambled our way into the day. Our first stop was Allt a' Chruinn for the petrol pump picture. It had to be done as Phil & I had stopped here twenty two years ago, amazed even then that the pump was still there. Being incredibly old, Phil had taken the time to explain to me how it worked and how as a small boy he had been sent down the mines to dig for petroleum. And all for three ha'pence a week.

THIS PICTURE IS FOR PHIL: SEE BELOW...

I seem to be wearing the same rather fetching outfit as I had back then.

TAKEN ON MY 5TH TGO CHALLENGE IN 1999: THAT'S ME [L] & PHIL [R] AND MISS WHIPLASH HIDING BEHIND PHIL

A mile or so later and we were examining a board explaining the Affric Kintail Way - a fairly new Scottish Trail. To be honest I'm not a great fan of these in Scotland as they seem to channel walkers to a defined right of way. Before you know it newer generations of hill walkers in this land of unfettered access will have taken the mindset of those in England & Wales and follow prescribed routes rather than create their own in this land of incredible walking opportunities. The TGO Challenge actively encourages walkers to find their own way across Scotland; that's why it's so special. 

SPORTINGLY, PAUL POINTS TO THE BOARD  FOR THE CAMERA.

Having stopped now umpteen times for pictures and all within the first two miles, it took all my persuasive powers to halt this walking machine just ten yards further on to visit the last ice-cream shop for three days...

He was rewarded with a four mile proper leg-stretch, albeit at a slower paces than he is accustomed to, up Gleann Lichd to Glenlicht House for a drink and snacks before the climb of the day. Even though bright and sunny, the wind was quite keen and kept temperatures down so that we were on our way in reasonably short order.

GLEANN LICHD & GLENLICHT HOUSE

The next section warms you up, as it's a climb of around 300m in 2 km at a steady pull all the way. We took it fairly evenly and I slowed things up by taking snaps with the phone. This route out of Shiel Bridge has to be one of the best first days, in that it leads you gently into spectacular mountain scenery.

PAUL [FAR LEFT OF SHOT] CLIMBING ABOVE THE ALLT GRANNDA

 
FABULOUS MOUNTAIN ARCHITECTURE


PAUL, AT THE TOP OF THE MAIN CLIMB, WITH THE FIVE SISTERS & KINTAIL FOREST

Just 14 km from our start point we pass over Scotland's East-West Watershed at Cnoc Biodaig. Whenever I come this way I'm always amazed that it's so close to the west coast. So, that means it must be downhill all the way from now on then...

It's now just a nice walk passing Camban Bothy - considerably improved after my stay there in 1999 - and then dropping down to Alltbeithe Youth Hostel, where I had a mini snooze in the sunshine. Paul had further to go - to the beach at the west end of Loch Affric - so he carried on. After a very relaxing time I sauntered off for my last couple of miles to my chosen camp spot. It was all very peaceful, but worryingly the wind that had been with us all day was now beginning to drop. And that could mean only one thing...

Midges!

LOOKING WEST

LOOKING EAST

HOME FOR THE NIGHT


This was only the third time that I had pitched the Notch. It's a fairly easy pitch once you realise that the pole tips need to be at the same height when on uneven ground to get the cross-ridge level. After that, it's a doddle. There were still a few things to learn about the pitch-lock ends but for tonight it was good enough as I was surprisingly tired when I finally lay down. I didn't bother cooking, as I hadn't eaten anywhere near enough of my day-food so I feasted on chocolate peanuts, yoghurt-coated cranberries, cheese rolls and gallons of orange squash - plus almost a bucket of pills that would stop me from dying a terrible agonising death. (That's a joke... ish)

On a normal Challenge there would usually be a cluster of tents pitched hereabouts, but with the numbers reduced by two thirds this year I had the place all to myself. It was quiet and as the wind dropped the only sound was the patter of thousands of tiny midges dancing on the taught flysheet and the gentle plash of the stream nearby.


Now then, this video need to be played at Volume 11.


10 comments:

  1. I assure you that any fashion statements were entirely coincidental. If looking stylish was a priority I would have chosen something other than those blue and yellow Hokas. Unlike you Alan, I found that day very warm. I look knackered at the top of the climb. I got lucky with the midges, had no bother with them a few miles on fortunately enough.

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    1. A very sensibly chosen pitch, I recall next to the beach on Loch Affric. Lots of wind available. I saw you all packing up as I was climbing up the ridge to the south of you the next morning.

      I can't possibly comment on fashion sense as one year I walked in some La Sportiva Raptors that looked like huge angry hornets.
      πŸ˜‚

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  2. Did you get tea and cake from the lovely Hannah at the hostel? Even better if she had those fresh baked scones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately not, Dear Thing.
      The youth hostel was very firmly locked as part of the Covid precautions...

      Delete
  3. That is a glorious piece of music πŸ‘ŒπŸŽΆ

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    1. Always played at eleven.
      It was a great film.

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    2. You liked that.
      This will please you I think.
      Shame about not getting to Hannah's Scones!

      https://youtu.be/O3QWZjSRGjw

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  4. That is a lovely start to the Challenge - I did exactly the same route on my second, although I camped slightly further on than you. Within half an hour of starting I met the delightful, and almost impossibly kind and lovely, Hugh and Barbara Emsley and walked with them for several days that year, and again the following year. As you know Barbara tragically passed away a year or so ago, suddenly, unexpectedly and whilst still far too young. This post brought them flooding back into my thoughts. The Challengers are a wonderful bunch, aren't they?

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    1. It's a great start as even in rotten weather it's not too long a day to decent camp spots. Then there's Camban or the Youth Hostel for escape from dire weather.
      Having said that an equally, or perhaps a route with better views from Shiel bridge (ignoring the High Level stuff, obv.) is via Bealach an Sgairne with the fabby views into Gleann Gaorsaic & Gleann Gniomhaidh that I did with Phil & Fenboy Coady twenty years ago!
      LINK

      Don't get me started on the wonderful Challengers we've lost way too early. I remember them with huge affection.

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  5. Wonderful stuff. I've never actually walked the section between the coast and the col but I've spent happy days climbing the mountains around Camban including a week in sub-arctic conditions when there was snow accumulating under the roof in the sleeping loft! A camp on the beach at Loch Affric is a long held ambition.
    Really don't why people would nick someone else's route. Apart from the safety aspect (if you can't read a map and plan your own routes in the comfort of a house, how can you expect to do it for real in the big wide world) its part of the fun. Whenever I read outdoor posts, the first thing I do is open OS Maps so I can follow the route, often resulting in lost hours while I plan possible trips and scout for campsites or interesting routes. I am a bit map obsessed though!
    Also agree on the proliferation of long distance routes. Unless I tackled a famous route of long standing fame I'd always plan my own routes. I might be making this up but I'm sure I read that down in Hampshire somewhere there is stretch of path with more than 10 of these routes on it!

    ReplyDelete

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