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06 June 2022

TGO Challenge 2022: Day 1: Acharacle to Glen Hurich


DAY ONE: RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW WINDOW

Distance: 24 km
Ascent:    550 m

Breakfast for one. Through the windows the outside looks cold and gusty. Over the last few days the forecast has veered from one poor day followed by quite a few promising days of sunshine, to that poor day followed by a very mixed days with heavy showers and heavier winds. Fortunately, Phil has me walking a fairly sheltered first day with a fair proportion of the afternoon in forestry, so I'm away to catch the school bus to Acharacle in a fairly optimistic mood. 

THE START POINT: THE LOCH SHIEL HOTEL

The school bus drops me at the Loch Shiel Hotel and I stroll into the lobby to find the signing-in sheets on a small table in the corner. It's bang on nine o'clock as I add my signature. No one's about so I hoist my pack for the first time on the walk. 

It feels very heavy.

It's an easy six mile plod to the beach where I had to meet John the boatman and I'd two and a half hours to get there; some useful time to settle myself into this year's TGO Challenge. No sooner had I finished tightening my hipbelt than I ran into Graeme, Daniel and Kaye who were about to pile into the shop to resupply for the next leg of their Challenge. They'd started two days ago at Kilchoan and so had suffered pretty miserable weather. They looked cheery enough but I lacked the wherewithal to engage as my head was set on a lonely walk and idiotically I strolled on rather than wait to join them on the walk to the boat. Odd, but that's how it works at times.

LOOKING BACK TO ACHARACLE ACROSS THE MOSS

The muted panoramas of a drizzly day are not where I look to find inspiration; they're simply the backdrop for the charm found immediately around as I make my way through the morning. The soft early May foliage of the native woodland is a joy and birdsong fills the moist air. With this scenery as my company the morning slips along beautifully. The slutchy first yards of the lane I take as a shortcut is just another way of getting into the walk, easing myself into what can be much worse later on. Magically, I find that I'm in a very good place and the very serious doubts I'd had in a sleepless night are melting away as I find my natural stride after a few miles of a slightly forced and awkward gait.




I've walked along in my little half-world, taking short breaks to adjust my pack's harness and boot laces until I'm sure everything sits and feels about right while I'm on an easy section. Everything now works together and before long boots, belt, pack and clothes are just part of me and feel perfectly natural. That's a relief as it can take me a couple of days to find this sweet spot. As the gorgeous Dalelia approaches (does Crewe stop at this train?) I realise that the three musketeers are on my heels and I have company. 

At the beach we bump into Jan and Ellen from Holland who are walking from B&B to B&B every day. They must have signed out quite early from Acharacle as they've been here an hour. John, our lovely boatman, decides to take us in two groups of three, and so I join the Dutch team for the first crossing. I struggle into my lifejacket, and hop into the boat from the beach as John shoves it into the loch. Moments later we're whizzing across the waves, powered along by an absurdly powerful outboard motor. Stupidly my phone is in my coat pocket and trapped out of reach by the lifejacket so there are no pictures of our crossing. It's a great run around the islands, pausing for John to arrange a return of a couple he had landed on one of the islands earlier in the day. Then we clamber onto the floating pontoons that make up the jetty on the other side of the loch.

A SNATCHED SHOT AS JOHN RACES BACK TO DALELIA TO COLLECT GRAEME'S TEAM

JAN AND ELLEN

When you leave the jetty there's a steep little footpath that zig-zags its way up to the top of the hill to gain the track to Polloch. There's a bench at the start of the climb so you can admire the views back over Loch Shiel. It was not yet midday so I decided to get the 150ft climb out of the way and stroll down to the hamlet and make for a spot just past the bridge over the River Polloch where there's grass and a bit of shelter from some pines and have a spot of lunch there.

POLLOCH

It was too chilly to stop for long; I forced myself to stay for around twenty minutes but only managed a block of chocolate and a breakfast bar, thinking I'd eat as I walked. By now the wind was beginning to pick up, the temperature dropping and clouds were gathering. It looked like I was to get a soaking. 

It has to be said that the minor road along Loch Doilet does go up and down rather unnecessarily only for it to come back down to loch level but I was surprised that I actually bowled along without too much trouble. That might have been the sugar rush from the gorgeous rum and raisin chocolate. 

SCOTSWAYS SIGN TO STRONTIAN

I passed the Scotways (probably better known to you as the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society) sign that indicates the start of the coffin road and miners path that I guessed Jan & Ellen would be taking to get to Scotstown for their night indoors before they headed through Glen Gour tomorrow. The next Scotsways sign pointed me in the direction I was taking - the eighteen miles or so to tomorrow's destination, Ardgour.

MY SCOTSWAYS SIGN TO ARDGOUR

Occasionally there are wooden guide posts, usually at forestry track junctions that give a helping hand, but after leaving the road I'm on well constructed fairly smooth tracks that make walking an easy affair giving time to take in the scenery, such that it is in a planted forest. Light rain showers sweep over me with the consequent drop in temperature so the anorak is brought out to remain for the rest of the day.

SCOTSWAYS GUIDE POST

Now and then the track reverts to a metalled road which had me wondering the reasoning for it. There's absolutely nothing up Glen Hurich apart from trees, and fantastic scenery. Perhaps in earlier times the lead mining that was prevalent in Strontian also took place here as well. There's no mention of it on either the 1:50 or 1:25k OS maps.


METALLED SECTION

GLENHURICH

A RENOVATION PROJECT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, GLENHURICH

YOU'LL HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT TO SORT THIS ONE

THE WAY TO RESOURIE BOTHY

My route takes me over the bridge across the River Hurich to the south side of the glen. Phil & I decided not to visit Resourie as it could have left an awkward crossing of the river if it was in spate, and the southern track takes you a couple of klicks further up the glen and more importantly past the potentially awkward gorge at Mam Beathaig, where a huge rocky spur juts from the northern wall of the glen forcing the river through a narrow gap, that has an amazingly wild feel. You seem to enter another world having passed through this gap.

A HANDY REST STOP OVER THE BRIDGE, IN THE MISTY MURK

It was whilst having a break at this grassy spot that a Forestry Scotland Fiesta stopped for a chat. The driver, a guy slightly older than me was interested where I would be stopping. I showed him my map and he suggested that if I camp very slightly further on he would be grateful. Apparently there's a new pair of birds that have set up home and he suggested it would be better if I was out of eyeshot of their new home.

MY UPPER TRACK ON THE SOUTH SIDE, AND THE LOWER TRACK ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE RIVER


THE NARROWS AT MAM BEATHAIG

A TRICKY LITTLE FORD - QUITE DEEP, PACEY AND SLIPPERY UNDERFOOT


After the ford the going is back to Highland Glen, with quite a few interesting burns pushing their way to the main river and so there are a few guide posts to help you find your way. These are the last you'll see. I would imagine after heavy rain these side streams could be problematic, as they are difficult to get out of in places - a bit of a muddy scramble.



A WELCOME PAIR OF SMALL CAIRNS THAT STEER YOU INTO THE TREES FOR A PATH ALONGSIDE THE MAIN RIVER

I set up home as suggested by the man from the Forestry, on a raised platform above the river, not wanting any unpleasant surprises should it piss down in the night. I was certainly ready to stop but very pleased that I had actually managed the day. Water wasn't a problem as there was an abundance of the stuff everywhere you looked. Punch a hole in the ground and I think there would be a geyser twenty feet high.

RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW WINDOW - NOT TOO BAD A SPOT, IF I SAY SO MYSELF. PHIL WOULD LIKE THIS.


OVALTINE AND REAL TURMAT

After lying down on my scrumptiously beautiful sleeping bag and wonderfully warm squidgy mattress I found it difficult to find the enthusiasm to eat. The Ovaltine was good, but I only managed half my Real Turmat Beef Stew, which is one of my favourites. I buried the rest. This was odd as I hadn't had much to eat during the day. Or, come to think of it, anywhere near enough to drink. This was a problem in shitty weather, and it would bite me in the arse later on. However, a few warming mouthfuls of Waitrose No.1 Tawny Port (try it; it's gorgeous) settled me down for the night and I was away with Ms Hepburn for a solid nine hours.

MY HOME FOR THE NIGHT





18 comments:

  1. Oh boy! does that Scottish ambience shine through? Although the mountains are fine these lower ancient tracks connect you with that incomparable landscape, that is of course if the clag is not at ankle level. No mention of midges?

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    1. Hi Conrad
      It was a great first day, especially so as I was so unprepared - which Phil knew would be the case when he planned our route - as he would also have been just out of an operating theatre had it taken place as planned.
      The western glens have such majesty about them - tall craggy ridgelines and massively changeable weather to change the character of the place within moments.
      There were no midges at all, thankfully!

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  2. The speed of that crossing of Loch Shiel was comical - I grinned a lot. The price was less comical, a QC would probably have been cheaper. And I owe Ray a fiver...

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    1. To turn out in all weathers at times to suit each walker? John deserves a medal! And it is an exhilarating crossing to boot!

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  3. Anonymous was me - it wouldn't let me log in with usual Google account.

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    1. Ah, yes. Ray told me to collect that fiver from you at The Park. Oops! Never mind, he said he'd he back...

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    2. Hi Andy
      I think Blogger's getting a bit creaky in its old age. I don't think the chaps at Google spend too much time sorting that sort of stuff out these days.

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  4. If I’d known you were Ray’s debt collector I would have settled up in Braemar (or Tarfside?) when I saw you - honest!

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    1. And if I'd remembered, I'd have asked...πŸ™ˆπŸ€£πŸ€£

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  5. ah, but which Ms. Hepburn was it? bear in mind there is only one right answer!

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    1. If you have a thing for the slightly older woman, Katherine's your girl. I adored her in African Queen. But my heart is with the gorgeous Audrey.

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    2. It must always be Katherine in the end.

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  6. ‘Slutchy’ - I like it. His Lordship set you up with a nice first day. Some great photos and a cracking camp spot.

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    1. Hadn't realised that slutchy wasn't a word - I'd added to my dictionary on here many years ago! 😁

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    2. My word of the trip was 'drismal'.

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