TGO Challenge 2022, Day 4: Mamore Lodge to Corrour
Not all of last night's titting about on the internet was a waste of time. Before sliding sideways into sleep I had thought to look at the weather forecast for Kinlochleven for tomorrow. That's today now - that's the today in the blog, not today, the day you're reading this. You understand.
It wasn't pretty. In fact it looked, well, it looked bloody horrible. Heavy rain to move in from around 8:30 am, to persist for most of the day, with heavy gusty winds from the north east, veering east later.
LOOKING BACK TO THE MAMORE LODGE HOTEL AND LOCH LEVEN. TAKEN AT 07:36
The caption beneath the above photo tells us that it was taken at just gone 7:30 in the morning. Yes. I woke up before the sparrows had had their first fag and were still coughing, and set off at the ungodly hour of a quarter to seven to get the climb up to Loch Eilde Mor out of the way before the heavens were to open. There's nothing more dispiriting than climbing up in torrential rain, so I chose to climb up and then look forward to a good soaking on the flat with the wind directly in my face. Then after lunch, and heading eastwards once again, it would throw itself once more in my face, changing direction to do so.
If memory serves, which it increasingly does not these days, I took that photo from a rather handily placed bench at the top of the worst of the climb. What it doesn't show is the horrendous wind that was blasting me from behind. I had to race to retrieve my hat, and one of my walking poles which lifted off the bench and took off!
DAY 4: RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW WINDOW
Distance: 24 km
Ascent: 610 m
I cannot even begin to describe how awful the next ten klicks were, for the body and the soul. The rain arrived bang on time. I had walked this track before, with Mad'n'Bad and Lord Elpus on a previous Challenge - Phil's tenth - in similar weather, except on that occasion the wind was behind us. This time the driving rain was smack in the face. To add to the misery it was a particularly cold wind. The track switched from stream to lake and back again continuously, making picking a line quite tiresome.
At the far end of Loch Eilde Mor there's a stone built ruin which I knew would provide some shelter for elevenses. I found a comfortable rock next to an equally comfortable ruined wall for my chair. Actually the seat had protuberances that dug into my delicate bum and the wall similarly drilled into either my shoulder blade or neck, depending upon which agony I was trying to avoid to my derriere. It was bliss to be out of the weather. Before too long the cold seeped through my clothes, and so a snatched elevenses was over far too soon.
After the misery of the lochs, the track climbs gently to its highpoint and offers a view of my lunchtime shelter, Meanach Bothy.
LUIBEILT (IN THE TREES) AND MEANACH BOTHY THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ABHAINN RATH
I changed into my water shoes in the comparative shelter of the ruins of Luibeilt, and with my boots strung around my neck, waded into the Abhainn Rath - a fearsome crossing when in spate, and not too clever right at this moment either. I'd picked my exit on the far bank as doable for a bloke with dodgy knees - it should only involve an undignified knees and elbows clamber up the mud - and I was soon close to the goolies in very cold, heavy, moving water. I was incredibly careful here and took a painfully cold time picking each step of the crossing as I didn't fancy being bowled down the river.
The far bank's mud didn't disappoint and my Fjallraven trouser/tights legwear were soon caked in the stuff. I couldn't possibly get any wetter or muddier so simply took a straight line to the bothy through the swamp. Days later I was washing hardened, very fine mud from the inside of the shoes and all the little holes in the insoles.
MEANACH INTERIOR. A PALACE.
I spent almost an hour and a half here, tucking in to Ritter chocolate, honey roasted cashew nuts and a couple of tuna wraps. I couldn't be fussed getting the stove out, so for warmth tucked in to the Tawny Port. Jelly babies for pudding with a baked bar. I washed the whole caboodle down with fizzy orange Vitamin C tablet squash. I know what you're thinking; this guy's a gastronome!
SLEEPING PLATFORM, GARGANTUAN FOOD BAG & DRAINING WATER SHOES
At the end of this phenomenal repast the food bag was no smaller and weighed just the same.
Whilst being incredibly busy in the bothy I had not noticed the change in the weather in the outside world. As I shut the bothy's front door there was an incredible moment when I realised it wasn't raining! Granted, there was still a very cold strong wind and I was grateful for my anorak to cut out the chill but now my only concern was to find a way through the marsh to collect the path alongside the Abhainn Rath. There was a faint trod on the ground and so I trusted life and limb to it and successfully negotiated a route without drowning.
ABHAINN RATH BETWEEN MEANACH AND STAOINEAG
It was a pleasant walk following the river downstream to Staoineag, though the mud meant that slips were cruel on knackered knees. You pass through some delightful river meadows but after my torrid morning my heart wasn't in it and I was overwhelmed with fatigue.
With hindsight I had not been drinking anywhere near enough fluids and eating far too little. Prior to the walk when I had calculated what food I would need each day, my food bag barely covered the calories required. However, looking at the size of it in the bothy it was barely troubled, which could only mean that I was eating far too little.
Rather than stop in a sunny spell I decided to carry on down to Creaguaineach Lodge and have a rest there in the shelter of the pines. Consequently I didn't enjoy the gloriously scenery I was moving through. What a dreadful waste!
THE PATH DOWNSTREAM FROM STAOINEAG
It was as I was resting against a tree at the ruined lodge, scuffing through the bottom of my food bag looking for tasty delights, that I noticed a chap in similar apparel to my own, bearing a similar sized pack and taking a long look at his map. He had to be another Challenger but before I had the wit to get up and say hello he had walked off across the bridge, probably never to be seen again!
Bugger! My first Challenger actually on the walk and I missed him.
I managed another Ritter chocolate bar and a handful of cashews and a long drink of orange, pulled on my beautiful boots and set off once more. However, this time there was a bit of life in the legs. It's amazing what some warm sunshine, a good rest and some high calorie snacks can do to a chap.
AN INTERESTING ESTABLISHMENT AT THE BOTTOM OF LOCH TREIG
At the bottom right hand corner of Loch Treig the map shows a building. It's one of the small hydro buildings that the Ossian Estate have built over the last few years. However it was also the spot that the mystery Challenger had earmarked for good camping. I found him strolling back up to the main track, having scouted about unsuccessfully for a spot for the night. He was Graeme, a first timer and thoroughly lovely bloke. I explained that I was heading up to Corrour Station for a slap up dinner and would probably move on afterwards to camp further along my route. I recall that he had walked a very long way today and was rather hoping to camp as soon as possible.
I suggested the spot immediately after the track passed under the railway, as I had had a Cheese & Wine Party there around a dozen years ago. We walked together up the gruntily steep track from the loch for all of a mile, before he headed off to his camp and I headed up the incredibly boggy path to the station.
Just as I was falling into the warm fug of Corrour Station House I noticed a tent pitched off to the right. Ordering a couple of pints of cider and a plate of fish and chips I asked if they allowed camping and of the fee.
"Anywhere you like if you can find a flat spot. It'll be windy, mind." And "Oh, there's no charge and we leave the door to the loos open so you can have access to them overnight."
CORROUR STATION RESTAURANT
I thought I had died and gone to heaven with a Gold Card. I was definitely going no further tonight and was going to enjoy a table, and a chair, and good food, and good drink, and kindness! This was blissful.
Putting the tent up was reasonably tricky as the pegs only managed about a couple of inches each but that was good enough as I was absolutely knackered once more, and fell into my sleeping bag not to be shifted until the next morning. As I lay there, I realised the the Caledonian Sleeper would be coming through later on that evening.
For the first time, ever, on a Challenge, for the first time in twenty six years, I imagined myself climbing aboard and waking up in Euston, and all this mad nonsense could stop. Thankfully I was fast asleep when the old girl trundled through Corrour. Had I been awake it would have been a close call.
Corrour Station, an oasis! Sounds like a tough day with a good end. Walking into a cold wind gets to you after a while.ReplyDelete
It was a good afternoon, but with a total lack of match fitness a tough morning just took me out - it happened to me on the second day as well. Normally the mornings would have been a blip. Corrour Station is very special.Delete
I remember much of that routeReplyDelete
And the station food, the year of the helicopters, (sellers of cheese and wine too) just before we went to the horrors of the cramped Ossian hostel. If only they'd allowed camping that year.
They might well have, Andy, but it could be just that we didn't ask... A magnificent stop that set me up to continue in a much more positive frame of mind.Delete
Talk about a virtual experience, I was with you all the way - I have battled in similar conditions. You seem to carry a better variety of food than I have done. I had better weather as I walked to Corrour and overnighted there on my LEJOG - from my journal:ReplyDelete
"13th June 2008 - The b and b at The Corrour halt on the West Highland Line is excellent. This is a station in the middle of Rannoch Moor with no road access and a truly wild spot. The b and b is run by Beth Campbell who is an ex nurse. Proper draught beer is served and very good home cooking provided. I had prawns in breadcrumbs and ginger and then venison bolognaise. I was able to have a good bath here as well. The welcome was warm and an undefinable pleasant atmosphere prevailed."
The accommodation is now in the old signal box, and very comfortable too. I always have trouble with food on a long walk as it has to be something that I really look forward to - hence splashing out on honey roasted cashew nuts, the Ritter chocolate blocks etc. The drained tins of tuna - in sunflower oil or brine - is perfect in small flatbreads and I always manage to eat those - dehydrated evening meals less so, probably because of the faff of preparing them when I'm knackered.
I almost didn't take a stove this year, and to be honest I wouldn't have missed it at all.
I kicked out cooking equipment on my last couple of multi-day trips and didn't miss it at all. Unfortunately my multi-day trips have been curtailed due to certain domestic problems, otherwise I would have been off down the country somewhere several times of late.lDelete