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21 September 2022

TGOC '22: Days 8 & 9: Blair Atholl to Braemar

 

DAY EIGHT, FRIDAY: BLAIR ATHOLL TO BYNACK LODGE

Having cleared two toast racks ("mixed, please," thus avoiding the awkwardness of choosing white death or sack-cloth and ashes with the granary-wholemeal-brown option) fresh fruit and a hearty fry up with posh sauces, great coffee and fruit juices, I was once again set up for the day. 

I recommend Dalgreine Guest House

I hadn't managed to unscramble the cats cradle of the pitchlock end of my tent, but I could always sort that out when I got to Braemar, or perhaps Clova, or Montrose? Note: I've been home some months now and it's a little job that still hasn't been crossed off my 'to-do' list. That's life.

STARTING A DECENT BREAKFAST

At half past eight I found myself (there was no-one else to find me) at the junction of the main road through Blair and the minor road that heads up Glen Tilt, buoyed up by the promise of a lovely day heading up the Tilt and meeting up with Jayme, Peter and Mario, who were at this very moment ploughing into a decent breakfast themselves. 

The route I had submitted to our Glorious Girls to pass on to the Vetters had me heading directly north east passing beneath Beinn a' Ghlo, then down to Daldhu then northwards to almost Fealar Lodge and heading to Braemar via Miadan Mor and Carn Dearg and onwards to Glen Ey. This held no terrors as Phil and I had passed this way in years gone by, when we were well over ten years younger and before either of us had been under countless surgeons' knives. However, after only just managing my first week I thought Glen Tilt was a wiser route selection; it was still a longish day of some seventeen or eighteen miles. Happily, Sue agreed with me.

DAY EIGHT, FRIDAY MORNING: RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN NEW WINDOW
Distance: 28km
Ascent:    800m

The walk up lower Glen Tilt is beautiful in any weather with the main attraction being the river tumbling down its rocky chasm, cloaked in wonderfully fresh foliage. It would be an unusual fellow who could not let this sylvan bliss seep inside his soul. Every step of the way your pack becomes a little lighter, your problems melting away into oblivion as you peek around the next corner to find the scenery shifters' next tableau. This is nature's theatre on steroids.

THE TILT

LOWER GLEN TILT: BEAT 2

LOWER GLEN TILT: WHAT'S ROUND THE CORNER?

LOWER GLEN TILT. MORE BLISSFUL AMBLING

I had my mandatory twenty minute break after six kilometres just before Gilbert Bridge at the side of the track, and tucked in to my planned but uneaten pudding from last night and a glass or two of water  before hoisting my pack and sauntering off once again up the now more open glen.

I'd often wondered how Marble Lodge came about its name until I looked closely at the sash window to the left of the doorway where you can see the remnants of marble facings either side of the top sash. Similarly, the sash window head to the right of the doorway. Over the years it either succumbed to the harsh winters or the Estate decided it was too grand for the incumbent? Let's hope it was the harsh winters.

MARBLE LODGE - YOU CAN RENT THIS AS A HOLIDAY HOME

I beetled onwards up the glen, passing a flurry of tree fettling around Forest Lodge following the storms earlier in the year. If you're a half decent tree surgeon or forester you'll be busy for years up here as there's huge amount of fallen timber that needs clearing to make the plantations safe.

I had a good half hour for lunch as I lay against an old wire fence at the edge of the plantation where the footpath zig-zags crazily up the hillside heading for Carn a' Chlamain. I watched a highly skilled JCB driver clear fallen trees with the gentlest of encouragement. These guys earn their money.

DAY EIGHT, FRIDAY AFTERNOON: RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN NEW WINDOW

Distance: 28km
Ascent:    800m

It was a bit cooler now, with the wind freshening and bringing with it some heavier cloud. I was in no particular hurry so set off at my standard pace. I'd had lunch just shy of halfway to my intended overnight at Bynack Lodge, but once there I had only to pop up the Notch, have a bite to eat and get some rest so there was plenty of time.

LOOKING UP THE TRENCH TO THE LAST PLANTATION

LOOKING BACK DOWN THE GLEN. THE BRIDGE AT NORTHING 763 LEADS TO A GREAT CAMP SPOT

It was just shy of eight clicks of easy walking to Bedford Bridge and so I made that my target for my next stop, where I thought it was probable that Jayme, Peter and Mario would overhaul me. There were a mountain bike couple who stuttered past me as I neared the bridge; I really don't get mountain biking at all. The man was miles ahead of his partner and both looked a sweaty, muddy mess. They were aiming to see the Falls of Tarf and then they were to peddle back again, all the way down to Blair. 

BEDFORD BRIDGE, SPANNING TARF WATER

Within a quarter of an hour of my arrival at the bridge and climbing into my shell clothing to cut out the now strong cold wind the three musketeers hove into view along with their very own D'Artagnan in the shape of Paul Edmondson.


L-R: PAUL, MARIO, PETER AND JAYME

We sat and chatted for a good half hour or so. They had also hardly seen a soul on their crossings. I declared quite soundly that I had hated the 25th Challenge because I had hardly seen a soul with the Challenge split into two halves, and this year's Challenge was an even more extreme split of start days. Because the Covid precautions in Scotland were far more extreme than those of England, purely for political reasons and not medical, I understood why the decision was taken - and made a good six months before the Challenge was to take place - to split the Challenge into smaller groups, but this did not stop me loathing the result with a vengeance. 

Today I learned that next year's Challenge is also going to be split into two start days - and it appears that we are to be given the start day and not get a choice. I'm going to hate that too, as in effect we're chopping the Challenge in half once again so there will be half as many Challengers you're likely to bump into - and bumping into like minded souls was one of the key foundations upon which Hamish and Roger built the event. 

This is an incredibly poor decision.

*****

Paul was the first to move as he was planning to make for the new red bothy currently being refurbished at the Geldie Burn. Within a few moments the international gang of three also got to their feet as stopping wasn't their style. I happily let them go as they were far quicker than my gentle plod and I had boots to tighten and food to stow away. 

As I climbed away on the single track up the glen's gorge I looked back to the incoming weather. It didn't look inspiring but it was coming from behind so this was likely to be a pleasure after the frontal onslaught of the first few days of the walk.

FIVE MINUTES PAST FIVE, LOOKING BACK AT THE INCOMING WEATHER

TWENTY FIVE MINUTES PAST FIVE. INCOMING!

The first shower arrived around five thirty, but it was nothing to get worked up about - it was actually quite pleasant. After the initial front passed it was light spotty stuff that didn't require a hood and so all was well with my world.

TEN TO SIX - THE FIRST SHOWERS HAVING PASSED.

FIVE PAST SIX - ABOUT A MILE TO GO

As I turned up the track to the ruin of Bynack Lodge the heavens opened. It was straight down stuff the size of pennies. I had a brief chat with Jayme who braved the downpour for a moment, and then set about flipping up Nathalie Notch, having first cleared the ground of half a hundredweight of Larch branches, general twigginess and rabbit and deer droppings that would make life uncomfortable as a camper. 

I lay back in my little tent of happiness quite pleased with how the day had gone and within moments had crashed out until I woke in the very small hours, so climbed into my sleeping bag for another solid slab of slumber.

TONIGHT'S LODGINGS





DAY NINE, SATURDAY: BYNACK LODGE TO BRAEMAR

(or, An easy day to the Fife Arms Hotel bar)

DAY NINE: RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW WINDOW
Distance: 20 km
Ascent:    230 m

Now then, sit up straight at the back and take note: Today you'll see quite a few pictures of Challengers. This is my ninth day of fourteen on the TGO Challenge and at long last I'm bumping into other Challengers! I know I've already introduced you to Paul, Mario, Peter and Jayme, but today I'm going to be walking with and seeing many more! After a veritable drought, there's now a flood of wonderful people all battling the elements, all suffering tweaks and pulls, and all sporting smiles and suntans.

UP AND ABOUT AT 6:20AM

I'm up and about at a sensible time and poking around the ruins to see what I had missed last night as I pitched Nathalie in the pelting downpour. It's an atmospheric spot with decent shelter from bad weather and top drawer views from your pitch. Baked bars and orange juice for breakfast and I was ready to pack everything away.

LOOKING DOWN THE BYNACK BURN

6:30 AM. BACK IN THE WARMTH OF MY BAG

I was away by a quarter past eight and made light of the Bynack Burn, which bode well for the Geldie as they're usually in synch with each other in terms of crossability. As I strolled north towards the Geldie Burn I bumped into three early risers from the Backpacking Club who were heading towards me. You do meet good people in the hills and they cheerily let me know that the Geldie was a pussycat this morning.

 THE BYNACK BURN AT A QUARTER TO NINE

LOOKING BACK UP THE BYNACK BURN TO BYNACK LODGE

When in spate the Geldie Burn can be a real problem requiring extreme care to cross safely. Today, my Backpacker Club friends were spot on. After a brief inspection I was soon wobbling my way across from boulder to boulder, very aware that on the far bank there were three souls I thought I recognised, who had whipped out their cameras and phones to record my imminent demise, so sure were they of my headlong plunge into the ford.

LOUISE'S PICTURE: NINE O'CLOCK, STARTING TO FORD THE GELDIE

EMMA'S PICTURE, 9:01 

Swiped from the good Doctor's photo album: "We met Alan who was coming up Glen Tilt - no one else can rock that acid yellow look."  Acid yellow? I had always thought it was saffron. A cheerful colour for the gloomier days?

And lastly, here's Louise's video of my stick-thin legs wobbling over the rocks. (Spike: "His legs hung from his underpants like two pieces of knotted string.")

LOUISE'S VIDEO

The malevolent trio who wished me nothing but misfortune can now be introduced: Barry, who it should be said is in fact a sterling fellow and had not produced a recording device during my wobbles over the Geldie but through association is doomed nonetheless, Louise - a known cad and bounder who recorded still and moving images, and the Doc, who to her credit only took an image or two, preferring to watch the actual submersion through her own eyes. 

This was a wonderful meeting, as I do not believe any of us were on our route sheets' fine weather routes. They had been camped at the soon to be new bothy, no more than a couple of hundred yards away, having had the luxury of porcelain to make their overnight experiences complete. 

We headed off, Emma teaming up with Barry, as I learned of the dramas Louise had encountered earlier on in her trip. I recommend a read of her blog of the trip - she certainly had an interesting time!

PHOTO C/O EMMA: WHITE BRIDGE, WITH BARRY, LOUISE, AND ME IN A NATTY SAFFRON JACKET

We were of course overhauled by racing snakes Mario, Peter and Jayme - I'm not quite sure what had happened to Paul, but each looked well fed and all sported new gear.

PHOTO C/O EMMA: AT TOMNANMOINE - MARIO, BARRY, ME PETER, LOUISE & JAYME

BARRY

PETER & JAYME'S BEARD COMPETITION

LOVELY MARIO

LOUISE

LOOKING TOWARDS THE LINN OF DEE

TARMAC, THE LINN OF DEE AND A WELCOME NOTICE FROM MAR LODGE: RIGHT-CLICK TO BLOW UP IN A NEW WINDOW

Mar Lodge is a lot further than memory allows and so the stretch of tarmac on the map between the Linn of Dee and the Lodge is another candidate for the scissors. Louise, Barry and the musketeers strode on ahead  to scoff the remaining biscuits laid on by Mar Lodge. It was as well that Ben Dolphin, in his new role as a permanent ranger at the lodge, had noticed the ravenous hordes' scandalous behaviour as just as we collapsed into the waiting chairs he topped up the biscuit plate. 

THE MAGNIFICENT BEN DOLPHIN AT MAR LODGE

With time on our side we spent almost an hour and a half in our chairs, blissfully happy. This walking lark is all very well, but after all said and done, you only walk to get somewhere and this seemed like an excellent somewhere to cherish.

A MAGNIFICENT PICTURE OF LOUISE (TRUST ME, THERE WERE WORSE!)

BEN'S PICTURE OF BARRY, LOUISE, ME & EMMA

However, the boys rushed off towards Braemar, no doubt via a few Munros and Corbetts such was their zeal for progress.

Eventually, shamed by other Challengers arriving and then departing whilst we luxuriated doing absolutely bugger all - an art in itself, perhaps we should apply to the Arts Council for a grant - we stirred our stumps as Louise fretted over her impending marathon clothes washing session.

REFURBISHED VICTORIA BRIDGE IRONWORK

It was a lovely stroll into Braemar via the Tomintoul view point with its beautiful toposcope and we bumped into 'normal' people out for a walk. This was odd, as it brought back a brush with the real world after over a week in our little half-worlds.

STEELY EMMA WITH IRONWORK

"IT WASN'T ME, MISS!"

EMMA'S PICTURE: LOUISE, BARRY AND ME

BARRY, LOUISE AND A CHAP WITH AN INCREDIBLY LONG RIGHT ARM

ENROUTE TO TOMINTOUL VIEWPOINT

VIEW TO THE CAIRNGORMS FROM TOMINTOUL VIEWPOINT

A GOOD VIEW OBSCURED BY THREE CHALLENGERS

It's a wonderful downhill walk to the village of Braemar, and it took no arm-twisting whatsoever to find ourselves in the bar of the Fife Arms. Because of Covid, it was waitress service so we bagged a large table, much to the alarm of the rather well-heeled guests already working their way through their afternoon or champagne teas. Rucksacks were piled against waiters' furniture and then moved after a polite request from the staff. 

As we waited for our order of beers and ciders to arrive I noticed furtive sniffing of armpits at our table. Everything was fine and to their credit the waitresses were charming and efficient. However, Louise fretted, knowing that her clothes washing was a priority. Sadly we left our little pool of luxury and headed off to our various overnight stays.

Some months earlier I had bagged a table at a favourite restaurant and subsequently invited the lovely Emma to share it. After a furious session of showers and suds I made it on time to escort her to dinner in fresh clean clothes and a big smile. Then it was a trip to the pub for a few snifters. Okay, she's not Phil, but she made a good fist of it. The time flew by.

These last two days were wonderful, finally making up for the ghastly start to my Challenge.



AN AMAZINGLY TIDY B&B AT BRAEMAR


WORTH A LISTEN

10 comments:

  1. At this point I had to be just ahead, having been with Louise and Emma in the Feshie Bothy and while they camped at the new Bothy next, you at Bynack, I was just ahead on the hill at Tomnamoine. I was through Mar Lodge and into and out of Braemar, since my accommodations had unfortunately burned down, and ended up at Loch Callater.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Sweetcheeks
      😊
      I must have stayed at the Braemar Lodge Hotel for over twenty years, and so was mightily sad to see it had been totally destroyed, especially so as it is my usual accommodation in Braemar and I was interested to see how the new owners were getting on. However, Lord Elpus saved the day and found me excellent digs in the village centre.

      I hope your evening with the boys at Lochcallater Lodge went splendidly, Sir, and I hope to see you back on the Challenge before too long.

      Delete
  2. I am seriously non-photogenic, and you say there are worse?! Good grief *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The photo on the blog was the best of a bad bunch, I'm afraid, Missy. I was thinking of substituting it with a picture of Audrey Hepburn, but that would not have done you justice.
      😘

      Delete
  3. Great write up Alan.
    A pleasure to meet up with you as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wotcha!
      The pleasure was all mine, Sir. To bump into such a splendid crew, with the added bonus of Paul was a real tonic for this lonely lad!

      Delete
  4. Alan I’m mortally offended (not) as you omitted my instructed (censored) greeting just after the confluence prior to Mar lodge. But yes I’m afraid it’s acid not saffron, but hey please don’t tell me a man of your exploration aspirations didn’t push the boundaries in the 60/70’s

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr P!
      How very dare you, Sir!
      I was a very good boy back then - a chorister in the parish church and Patrol Leader on the Scouts!
      😂

      Delete
  5. Nice one Alan, as usual summed up perfectly. it was good to meet up again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This blog is a mish-mash of the hazy recollections of each day, designed to jog the fading grey matter into life at a later date. It's lovely to record meeting up with Challengers, who are what the event is all about. The walking across Scotland thing, with all its splendid views, chance encounters with wildlife and battles with the weather is just a vehicle for bumping into wonderful like-minded people of all ages and all walks of life.

      Delete

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