Any reasonable person looking at that map, along with the distance and the ascent figures, would think to themselves that they would knock this off fairly comfortably and be in the Inn at Ardgour in time for a couple of pints before heading upstairs to sort out the washing and still be in plenty of time for dinner.
There are occasions where I consider myself that reasonable man, and setting off before eight o'clock with a pale blue sky and sight of the ragged ridges, all was well with the world.
FLATTENED GRASSES AND SOARING RIDGELINES
For the first half mile I picked my way along the side of the stream and noted that there were one or two absolutely delightful camp spots in the broader section of the glen as the plantation thins out. It's lovely soft walking and the sun shone, which helped a lot as the wind was cold. There's something of a stile at the deer fence. I remember an undignified clamber after I had first dropped my pack over the fence and it landing with a very deep 'spludge.' The ground, after a week or so of constant rain was saturated and for every step I was mightily relieved I had given the boots a decent dosing of Nikwax as the watery mud mix came over the forefoot.
There's a little climb up to the outflow of Lochan Dubh - I wonder how many Lochan Dubhs there are in Scotland - and the wind hits me full on.
LOCHAN DUBH OUTFLOW
LOCHAN DUBH OUTFLOW
At this point the work starts. Now then: The reasonable man had not taken into account that he had done no training walks whatsoever since emptying his pack after last year's TGO Challenge, that he had had three bouts of surgery in the last seven weeks - one with a major abdominal slash over a foot long - and that his perfectly formed ever so slightly muscled legs (things of beauty!) had virtually wasted away. The blood count - the stuff that takes the oxygen around to feed your non-existent muscles - was also a tad on the low side. The upshot of this tale of medical woe is that I am running on a 50cc moped engine rather than my beautiful three litre Mercedes diesel, that normally grinds out the miles with the rev counter barely troubled.
PERHAPS THE START OF THE FICTITIOUS PATH DRAWN BY A WORK EXPERIENCE STUDENT AFTER A GOOD LUNCH IN THE PUB?
I can tell prospective walkers of this lonely route that there are occasional traces of a path over the next four kilometres. The Ordnance Survey, who I'm sure have not visited this glen in the last fifty years, would have you believe in one. When you do believe you have found this mythical trod it lasts no longer than a hundred yards, and then the bad fairies steal it away again. In an attempt to follow the route I push my lifeless legs up the saturated hillside with slippery cobbles and boot-sucking peaty gloop. This is warm work. My body is running hot and my hands gripping my poles are numb with cold. My nose seems to be dripping continuously. I'm not happy, but somewhere deep inside this rabid old frame there's still that little flame of resolve, not yet completely extinguished.
LOOKING BACK TO GLEN HURICH
Finally I'm on a downward trajectory heading into Gleann an Lochain Duibh. Quite how the Ordnance Survey have constructed 'Lochain Duibh' from Lochan Dubh I do not know. Perhaps there was a fight over it down in Southampton and they agreed to a score draw, each of the protagonists having their own version put into print. This shit happens constantly on O.S. Scottish mapping. I shall volunteer my dispute resolution service to them free of charge. On second thoughts, all they need do is supply a good lunch with a decent bottle.
LOOKING DOWN GLEANN AN LOCHAIN DUIBH
HALLELUJAH! A PATH APPEARS JUST BEFORE THE BRIDGE TO GLEANN NA CLOICHE SGOILTE
By the time I arrive at the start of the actual path on the ground that does not disappear, I'm pretty well shot through. It dawns on me that the sleepless night spent in my B&B at Salen before the start of the Challenge, worrying about how I'd cope, was pretty much accurate. Of course, I did cope, but there were times, I can tell you.
THE SHAPELY HILLS TO THE SOUTH OF GLEANN NA CLOICHE SGOILTE
THE BRIDGE OVER THE ABHAINN GHLEANN LOCHAN DUIBH
Just for fun, those boys at Ordnance Survey have chucked in a third spelling variation: 'Lochan Duibh', this one found on the 1:25k mapping. There were obviously three in the lively discussion, plus of course the drunk work experience student who drafted the path.
At the confluence of the Abhainn Ghleann Lochan Duibh - whichever spelling you prefer - and the Allt Gleann na Cloiche Sgoilte which merges with the Abhainn Ghleann Mhic Phail, you enter Glen Scaddle. There's no mucking about with Glen Scaddle; whichever map you peruse, that's how it's spelt. Glen Scaddle has to be one hard bastard, as not even the lads at Southampton fool with it.
At this confluence the path actually becomes a track, another point missed by the post pub lunch lads. It is delightful walking on grassy soft earth with quite a few flooded bits where the Estate has given up any form of track maintenance - as they've gloriously overspent the budget further down the glen.
LOOKING BACK TO UNFRIENDLY TIGHNACOMAIRE AND ALL THE WAY TO GLEN HURICH
I had a lazy rest on the front step of Tighnacomaire under the covered porch - if you blow the above picture up you'll see the porch (Right Click on each picture to open them in a new blow-upable- window) - to try and eat and drink to restore some sort of energy level; I'd take any level going!
Just a quick observation; That last sentence has *way* too much punctuation for any sane reader to make head nor tail of it. This blog badly needs an editor wot is good with Her Madge's Inglish.
I mentioned that Tighnacomaire is unfriendly. They have a large sign discouraging any loitering in its whereabouts and directing rain soaked wind bashed walkers to a bit of a parlous ruin just ten minutes up the glen. There was no one at home, and from the its appearance no one had stayed there for some time.
A PRETTY LITTLE GUSHY GORGE TO DELIGHT THE SOUL.
THE BRIDGE AT EASTING 945, LOOKING BACK UP THE GLEN
If you now look at the map at the start of this piece (You'll have it opened already in a new window at a super size, no doubt, as I suggested) you'll see that at this bridge a footpath is shown on the north side of the River Scaddle, and that is the path that Lord Elpus had decided upon. Of course, it does not exist as unsurprisingly any driver with any sense will have taken the very well made forestry track which goes up quite a way into the planted forest to rejoin the river four klicks down the glen rather than the boggy unmaintained affair with over a dozen side streams to negotiate. So that's the way I went too, which added a not inconsiderate amount of staggering uphill and down dale, and then back up again, which is the way of a track used by vehicles with large engines and grippy off-road tyres.
You should also note that the path shown south of the river does not exist either, I would imagine for the same reason as already suggested.
THE GORGEOUS VIEW BACK ALL THE WAY TO GLEN HURICH, AFTER LEAVING THE FORESTRY
Having taken the forestry track I was pretty pleased to be presented with the view all the way back to Glen Hurich as I left the confines of the trees to drop back down to the river. It's an ill wind.
THE FOOTBRIDGE OPPOSITE CREAGBHEITHEACHAIN
Resting to try and eat some snacks and take on some water, I had a poke about at the footbridge. I'd suggest one at a time. The picture below shows the next stage of the walk down Glen Scaddle. Someone has spent the entire road building budget for the Estate for the next few years on this section. It's two vehicles wide, and built almost to highways specification, the only thing missing is the blacktop. It's as good as any wind farm highway. Of course, there's a reason for it: Timber extraction.
THE NORTH SIDE OF THE TRACK
THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE TRACK, SHOWING TIMBER EXTRACTION
Here's a thing. I've never seen so much timber extraction as I did this year across the whole of Scotland. Other Challengers have mentioned it in their reports as well. I can't fathom out why, unless Drax Power Station's insatiable appetite for biomass is now harvesting commercial timber forests? Green energy? My arse!
This very rough track is very hard on the soles of my feet after the graunching they suffered along Lochan Dubh and beyond.
A WELL CONSTRUCTED ESTATE BRIDGE LEADING APPARENTLY TO NOWHERE
Finally I make the public road, the A861, which is a gloriously quiet single track strip of tarmac that heads for the Corran Ferry and my hotel for the night, the Inn at Ardgour. I slump at the roadside and try some honey roasted peanuts and jelly babies with the last of the filtered water - around 250 ml, which is nowhere near enough as I'm really thirsty. Its half four when I set off to walk the 6km to the pub.
BEN NEVIS, AND SALT MARSH ALONGSIDE THE A861 AND LOCH LINNHE
SALT MARSH MUTTON AND LAMB: 1
I'm distracted by an unfolding incident. There's a mother and baby lamb on the salt marsh and the tide is creeping in, ever so slowly, fractions even, and the daft pair don't appear to notice their predicament.
SALT MARSH MUTTON AND LAMB: 2
SALT MARSH MUTTON AND LAMB: 3
SALT MARSH MUTTON AND LAMB: 4
SALT MARSH MUTTON AND LAMB: 5
I'm afraid I didn't leap in to Loch Linnhe to rescue them as I was pretty sure that even sheep have a survival mechanism that would force them to wade or swim to the shore. Heartless? I was pretty thirsty and did wonder if salt marsh lamb would be on the menu this evening.
THE INN (THE BUILDING FAR LEFT) FROM RUBHA DEARG
Those six kilometres seemed to take forever, but I made the Inn bang on six o'clock. Just time for a quick one and then nip upstairs to wash the smalls, shirt and socks before a really good dinner. The service in the Inn was superb. Highly recommended.
This day had been a whole heap harder than I had imagined it to be at the outset but I had managed it. Just. Would I do it again? A resounding 'yes' as I could not possibly be in a worse condition than I was today and I would normally eat days like this for breakfast. Thankfully the weather had been kind if a bit bloody cold, walking into the wind all day, but the scenery was top drawer.
Another great chapter - full of admiration how you coped - well done and keep the reports coming. Awakes so many wonderful memories. One year after dreadful weather lots of challengers,including us, fell into that pub with horrific stories of getting washed out - lilo lil being stranded etc !!! Great writing - you don’t require an editor!!ReplyDelete
I've welled up a touch, Anonymous. There's a thing - you mentioned lots of Challengers piling into the Inn, exchanging stories. I would have killed to see a load of smelly, soaking Challengers and give them all big hugs.Delete
I was feeling a bit lonely, really, and just to talk of shared experiences would have helped.
I am just on day 4 and have had a similar OS rant. Arriving Sat I suspect. On a sunny dry day it may have been dry underfoot.
"Salt Marsh Lamb" with saute potatoes. Love it.
I do love your blogs, Andy. Don't rush them out, or they'll be over far too quickly, Sir.Delete
Your dodgy (grammatical) sentence is a rare exception, the rest is music.ReplyDelete
Hi Conrad. Praise from a man who is a master of the blog form is praise indeed. Thank you, Sir.Delete
I admire your perseverance. Looks a good routeReplyDelete
I'd actually like to have another bash at it, Robin - but taking in Resourie bothy - and of course being in better shape, which is already on the cards as the results from my last hopital appointment indicate.Delete
Glad to hear you are on the mend.Delete