A walk up Stob Ban, Grey Corries.

The weekend was almost upon us yet again and ideas I was juggling ideas around to where we would go walking. I fancied a night out in the tent with a low level backpacking route in mind. After talking to my friend, it was decided that a day out on Sunday would be good.

The forecast for the west was looking good after looking at the M.W.I.S. and MET office site and Stob Ban on the Grey Corries was to be our objective for the day.

An early start was agreed and I drove to Dufftown early on Sunday morning to meet Stuart and Austin. We left at 6.25 and arrived at our destination near Spean Bridge just after 8.30am.

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Getting ready at the start of our walk.

8.45am and we were taking our first steps up the glen of the Lairig Leachach pass to our hill.

Not far from the car is the ‘Wee Minister’ Orignally in the early 1900’s there was a stone statue, but for some reason it was destroyed in the 1970’s, but locals replaced it in 2010 and its said that it bears good luck to all walkers and climbers who pass.

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Austin setting the pace with Stob Ban coming into view and the small Lairig Leachach Bothy.

Eventually after a fine walk along the Glen, Stob Ban was visible and it was good to see the summit cloud free!

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crossing the river near the Bothy was easy- I thought after the recent rain that could be a problem, but not today!

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After crossing the river, the hard work was about to start with a vauge steep boggy climb, but once higher up the path became firmer and more defined.

We arrived to a cloud free summit and had reasonable views.

Soon we arrived at the 977 summit of Stob Ban- A new Munro for Stuart and Austin. I was previously here on April 2000, when I walked all the Munros of the Grey Corries on one days outing.

We simply returned to the car by retracing our route by the way we came. The walk took us just under six hours.

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The start of the short but steep descent from the summit.

 

 

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The Great Outdoors Challenge 2018?

This year I was lucky enough to walk across Scotland on a route I devised after being accepted on The Great Outdoors Challenge (TGOC) with my partner Lynn.

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The route I chose was a relatively easy crossing- sticking to low level paths and tracks with the odd high level pass thrown in for good measure along the way. This was our first challenge and both of us have never done a walk of this length before in one go, so choosing something reasonably easy and across a lot of familiar ground was a wise decision- although we found it fairly easy going even with big packs.

Along the way, we many many new friends with other challengers and we discovered that this was a yearly essential in many people’s walking calender- quite a number of people were on their tenth crossing!

Addictive was the word we heard again and again from other people- although at the time I failed to see why so many people would do the challenge year after year- but I will get back to that one later.

Our chosen route was one I enjoyed and I would have only changed the day we walked from Garva Bridge to Newtonmore as it involved a fair bit  of road walking and as it was a warm day- our feet objected to the tarmarc bashing in the heat!

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I think I chose well with all our equipment for the trip, but I shall briefly go through some of our gear:

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack: I’ve had this pack for well over a year now, its not the lightest of packs, but its the comfiest pack I’ve had and dont intend to change it at the present.

Tarptent Scarp 2 Tent: This tent served us well on our walk- great interior space and having two porches was good too, although what we did sometimes was to store both packs in one porch and cook in the other. The weight of the tent for the trip was around 2 kilo’s which equates to a kilo per person, so cant complain there- although we could have used a lighter tent, but I didnt want to compromise on space.

Meindl Minesotta GTX Boots: Great reasonable light weight fabric waterproof boots which were great on the walk- I only had one small blister which I think was the result of the day when we did some road bashing in the heat, as I’ve never had any problems at other times with these boots which I’ve worn a lot. Wear and tear on the soles were miminal and they kept water out for the duration of the trip, although now they have started to leak- I’m going to see if Meindl with cover this under their warranty.

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It was great to complete the challenge, and at the end I wish I could have turned round and walk back to the west coast! It was a great achievement and very satisfying to do this walk coast to coast and yes I’d like to do it again. Pick your starting point on the west and your finish point on the east and plan your unique walk across Scotland- making many new friends along the way and seeing some fantastic scenery with some great wild camping locations. Now I see why its addictive!

Its now only a month away before the entries for the TGOC 2018 goes live and I’ve already been looking at possible routes- lets hope we are accepted for next years walk!

TGOC: Day 7- Newtonmore to Glen Feshie

Day 7 was a foggy start and we were up early. We left the campsite at 6.30am and headed straight to the truckstop for a big breakfast.

Full of beans so to speak, we were fuelled up for the day and refreshed and a days break.

First part of the walk was through Newtonmore and we followed the cycle track to Kingussie. The fog soon lifted and the temperatures were rising.

Out of Kingussie, we took the minor road which passes Ruthven Barracks to Tromie Bridge.  From here with took track and paths over to Glen Feshie. At this point we were meeting other challengers heading the same direction and I chatted to fellow challenger Kaburn whom gave me a fascinating insight into his walk so far and where he had planned to go from here.

Soon we were at the Bridge which crossed the Feshie. The rock pools looked very inviting and I was tempted to take the plunge in such beautful warm weather but I managed to resist! We sat at the bridge for lunch chatting to Frank for a while, before putting on our packs and heading up the Glen to Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy where we had planned to camp for the night.

Glen Feshie is one of my favourite glens and it was good to be walking through here on the challenge- one of the highlights!

We reached the Bothy about 2pm and it was good to see progress on the Bothy rebuild since the last time we were here.

It was still early in the afternoon and since it was such a gorgeous day, it seemed a shame to waste it a call it a day there.

I had a look at my map and decided it would be good to walk a further five miles up the glen towards Eidart Bridge where there is a nice area of flat ground for camping.

The next part of the walk was lovely, walking past all the old pines and along the path which in parts clings to the steep hillside dodging old landslides before opening out higher up.

We passed other challengers whom had manged to find suitable spots to camp, but we pressed on and not far from where I thought we would camp- there was a lovely grassy area just above the river which was far too inviting and I dropped down from the path and scoped out a area to put the tent up. No problem with getting my tent pegs in, infact the pegs went into the ground a little to easy, but I was happy enough with our evenings surroundings. If it had been windy, I would have been worrying about the pegs pulling out in high winds- but not tonight as it was fine and settled.

Frank decided to pitch up along side us with his Tarptent Notch, then Eddie and Alistair too had the same idea.

We had a nice evening sitting outside the tent and down by the river. This was a great location to camp for the night.

This day was probably my highlight of the trip- once again Glen Feshie did not disappoint and we had a great days walking.

TGOC 2017: Day 5- Garva Bridge to Newtonmore. Road Bashing!

Yet again we awoke to another cloudy start, but this did not last for too long and we were in for another good days weather.

This day was to be walking along quiet back roads most of the way to Newtonmore for a distance of 16 miles. Before the challenge I was beginning to regret planning a day of tarmac bashing which did not appeal to me, but it was too late by that time to change plan and we just had to get on with it.

The first few miles, I was enjoying the flat smooth surface but after a while the notion soon wore off as the day grew warmer and the surface of the roads seemed to get harder on the feet.

The walk down the Glen was quite nice and reasonably flat. A Gamekeeper in a Landrover waved at us as we moved onto the grass as he passed making his way up the Glen. Just as we nearer Spey Dam a couple of Kilometers further along, the same Gamekeeper in the Landrover was making his way back down the road but this time with a passenger- it was fellow challenger Rob. This was obviously bad news and learned later that he had not been too well and had to pull out of the challenge for health reasons.

Passing Spey Dam, we managed to get some foot relief by following another sort section of track which led us onto the main Laggan road near the Wolftrax Mountain Bike Centre. We crossed the road and walked along the Green mountain bike trail to save us about a kilometer of road bashing before heading onto the Dalwhinnie road.

We hadnt walked far until we saw the welcoming site of the Pottery Bunkhouse and Coffee shop. Here we stopped for Coffee, tea and a sandwich.

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This was a great little pitstop, but we had many miles of road walking to go and we were keen to get going. This part of the road was fairly busy and we were glad to soon reach the minor road to Glentrium which was much quiter. Here we met other challengers and it was good to catch up again with Freddie and Garry.

Luch was at the Centre of Scotland stone, then we carried on in the heat towards Glentrium. At this point, the combination of the heat and pounding the road were taking their effect on our poor feet! We were going strong and soon reached Glentrium and followed the cycle path to Newtonmore with Donna for company along the way.

On reaching Newtonmore, we managed to get a room for the night at the hostel and had a welcome shower. Fellow challengers Eddie and Alistair turned up whom were also staying at the hostel that night.

Late afternoon my parents drove up from Aberlour to meet us and I exchanged some old for new camera batteries for our trip.

In the evening we went to the Glen Hotel to a meal. It was busy with many a hungry challenger and workmen from the new monstrosity wind farm substation being built a couple kilometers west of Garva Bridge.

We enjoyed our meal and a couple of pints chatting with other challengers before retiring for the night back across the road at the hostel.

Day 6 was to be a rest day and we moved onto the Campsite on the outskirts of Newtonmore having a nice easy day!

 

TGOC 2017 Day 4: Fort Augustus to Garva Bridge over the Corrieyairack Pass.

The weather for the day was looking grim with high winds and rain forecast, but it started off fine enough.

We left the campsite around 8.15am and soon met up with fellow challenger Billy Liddel. We spoke for a few minutes and then Billy soon left us behind. Billy was eager to get moving as he was doing his walk on a shorter time scale than us. On that subject, myself and Lynn made up a few nicknames for a few challengers! Billy was named ‘Billy Whizz’ by Lynn after the cartoon character and in my eyes he was the ‘Flash’ That was the last we saw of Billy on the Challenge and he indeed finished the challenge a few days before we did!

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From Fort Augustus we took tracks and back roads before picking up the start of the famous General Wade’s Corrieyairack Pass which climbs from Fort Augustus near sea level to a height of 770 meters above sea level.

The pass starts off by heading up a lovely hillside path with some overgrown gorse bushes for company to contend with, then picking up a hill track passing Culachy House.

After some short steep climbs, the weather did infact deteriate and we were glad to reach the small but cosy Blackburn Bothy where we stopped for a wee break where we met Rob and as we left we bumped into Donna and Willie again.

The Corrieyairack is a long steady climb which seemed to be never ending. To make matters worse or perhaps I should say to make the walking more difficult, we were faced by a strong headwind and Lynn walked on behind me using me as a windbreak!

Finally we made it to the top of the pass catching up with Rob and another challenger whom I shall call Mr Alpkit as he as adorned with Alpkit clothing- perhaps they had sponsered him?

This wasnt a spot to linger and we soon started our descent to Speyside to drop down out of the wind.

Mr Alpkit had stopped halfway down the hill to get a bru on with his Alpkit stove, as we continued to drop further down the pass. Next Rob decided to stop as his feet were giving him problems and shortly afterwards we found a sheltered spot by a burn to have lunch by and restock on water.

Soon we were on our way again and walked the final few kilometers to Melgarve Bothy at the Bottom of the pass in the company of Willie Todd.

At Melgarve we had a look inside the Bothy and I made the mistake of having a seat in the large sofa couch which I promptly sank into and wasnt that keen on getting up again to walk the five kilometers along the single track road to our camp spot for the night at Garva Bridge, but we were soon on our way eager to finish our days walk off and stop for the day.

I think the last five kilometers must of felt like ten to Lynn, but we got there and soon the tent was pitched amongst the five other tents already there.

Later on once we were settled in and fed for the evening, father and son challengers Eddie and Alistair turned up. They had walked from Spean Bridge that day via Glen Roy and past Luib Chonnal Bothy- a long day!

The shelter they were using for the challenge was a Mountian Laurel Designs Trailstar which I’ve been taking a keen interest in lately and this was the first time I had seen one in the flesh. Im still keen on buying one at some point. Lynn doesnt seem keen on the idea, but for solo camping trips- this shelter seems ideal for me.

Over the course of the challenge for here on, we would see a lot of Eddie and Alistair at various points whom were great company along the way.

By the end of the night I counted no fewer than ten tents dotted around the area by the bridge.

It had been a long day and we had a good sleep that night. I was a bit anxious about the next day as it was going to be mostly road bashing all the way to Newtonmore, but on reaching Garva Bridge, I felt I had reached the first milestone on the trip reaching the infant River Spey.

TGOC: Day 3- Glen Moriston to Fort Augustus.

We awoke to a slightly damp start on our third day of our adventure. We had both slept well and was as eager as ever to pack up and get going.

Like the previous morning, the cloud was low, but we were soon on our way walking along 4km or so of pleasant single track road to Torgyle Bridge to cross the River Moriston.

Just as we reached the bridge, Willie had caught up with us and walked with us along the 200 meters of the A887 road until we reached the forestry track which would lead us onto the Old Military road that climbs over the hill to Fort Augustus- our destination for the night.

This part of the route climbs up over the Inchnacardoch Forest and started with a moderate climb along a forestry track. We could have opted for a slightly shorter ascent by following the track straight up that follows the large pylons near to the summit of the pass, but this would have been less pleasant and not so scenic. We decided to stick to the old military road all the way up to the top of the pass which rejoins the track near the summit. This was a dog leg or and more like going round three sides of a square, but the walking was more pleasant.

The weather cleared up and the sun came out briefly, then a short heavy shower came along. Fifteen minutes later we had blue skies again and the weather improved as the day went on. I seem to recall, that no sooner than I had donned my waterproofs- the shower had died out and I kept my waterproofs on for a short while afterwards just in case, but the rain had ceased for sure and I was begining to over heat. Yet another stop to take the waterproofs off!

We were nearing the top of the pass and back onto large fresh bulldozed track country briefly following the towering Beauly- Denny Pylon line.

At this stage, we started meeting some people again- a couple bikepacking and more challenges congregating. we met Rob, Donna and Barbera and walked the last few kilometers down a lovely path which wound its way down through the woods into Fort Augustus.

It was now a lovely warm day and being Sunday afternoon- Fort Augustus was teeming with people and challengers too! We stopped at a shop for something to eat and drink before heading to the campsite to set up camp. The campsite itself was fantastic- an area the size of a football pitch for and cyclists only which was flat as a bowling green!

There was plenty of sun and a fresh breeze, so we set up tent right in the middle to dry it out, being damp from the previous nights light showers.

In no time at all, it was soon dry. The rest of the afternoon was spent meeting up with some of the family whom had driven to Fort Augustus to meet us and we went for a late lunch at one of the Pubs by the Locks in the centre of Fort Augustus.

We were still on fine form and it was good to reach civilisation and have some proper food, a good shower and get our clothes properly washed for the next leg of our trip.

TGOC 2017: Day 2- Glen Affric to Glen Moriston.

Day 2 arrived and in typical Scottish fashion- it started of dull and driech. We were up early and cooked breakfast- cant beat a bacon roll. Lynn being a vegetarian, had to make do with an egg roll- she doesnt know what she is missing!

We packed up and followed the track east above the south shore of Loch Affric. I’ve read on several occasions that this track is called the Yellow Brick road and we discussed which characters we could be from the Wizard of Oz- apparently I was the Tin Man as Lynn joked that I had no heart! Lynn said she was the Scarecrow in need of a brain!

Soon we left the track to climb south initally up the path and over the hill to Cougie. There was a short diversion at the start of this, with a small Hydro scheme in progress of being built, but with other challengers, we soon picked up the path climbing steadily past old pine trees and small waterfalls.

 

 

 

We walked up the hill with other challengers emerging onto a track and had a short break, before deciding which was the correct path to take to Cougie- yet more short but steep climbs in the mist!

The path turned into a track which joined a forestry track that drops down to Cougie. Lynn got talking to Donna Bairstow- a challenger from the Isle of Man whilst i plodded on ahead and sometimes lagged behind looking to find spots to take decent photos.

The track to Cougie seemed to go on forever, but eventually we found the sign for Cougie Lodge and discovered they were laying on refreshments for challengers- I had a bacon roll (again), a bowl of soup and a coffee which was well needed as I was beginning to tire on the last few kilometers of that track.

 

I felt refreshed after all that and we were ready to tackle another climb over the Bealach Feith Na Gamhna to Glen Moriston which was new territory to me.

Off we went with Donna and Rob accompanying us up the hill. We found the lovely old track which was steep but very scenic as it wound its way through the old trees.

We made good progress up the hill emerging out of the trees high on the hillside where the track soon stopped becoming a good path to start off with. The weather was on our side and we could clearly see the way ahead.

From what I had heard the top of this bealach was a walkers nightmare of peat hags, but the path continued to wind its way around the hags although faint in places, we managed to follow it without much of a problem.

The path did run out as we started the long descent to Glen Moriston and it was boggy, but we kept close to the river and followed deer tracks most of the way as it wound its way down to the Glen. We took a path down between the forest and the river which made for good going, but as the path went further down, blown down trees made progress harder.

Eventually we emerged onto an opening above the single track road on the north side of Glen Morriston. I think all of us had enough for one day and we looked for suitable places to pitch up for the evening.

Our camping spot was only 15 meters from the roadside on a lovely grassy spot and only one car passed during our night there.

 

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Showers of rain were coming in, so tent was pitched quickly and stove was soon on the go for a cup of coffee and our evening meal.

Rob and Donna had set up camp higher up than us on smaller patches of grassy areas and Willie turned up later in the evening having taken a different route over to Glen Moriston- he had been looking for a spot further up the Glen but to no avail and was glad when he had spotted us whilst walking down the road.

Our pitch was nearer the roadside than what we would have prefered, but it was the flatest spot I could find for our larger tent.

 

It was a quiet evening and we all slept well.

2017 The Great Outdoors Challenge: Day 1- Shiel Bridge to Loch Affric

The first day of the challenge was finally upon us. As usual I woke up at silly O clock feeling eager to get those first steps under way.

We had stayed in the Trekkers Lodge at the Kintail Lodge Hotel. It was a basic bunkhouse type affair, but clean, tidy and we had a room to ourselves rather than dorm type accomodation.

Checking out at the challenge check point wasnt due till 9am, and we took our time getting packed and had a decent breakfast.

I was starting to get itchy feet and was keen to get going on our walk. We grabbed our gear and went to have a seat outside in the morning sun to see if there were any other challengers on the go. As it was, there were people milling about and I found out that we didnt have to wait till 9 to check out.

The time had come and we donned our packs, had our photos taken before setting off on the path down by Loch Duich where we dipped our feet in the water.

Shiel Bridge is certainly one of the more popular starting points and many a challenger seemed to be taking the path by the shore.

One of the first people we met and got talking to was Willie Todd- I was quite impressed by his small pack size and the fact that he was wearing trail shoes. Willie was starting his day on a high by traversing Beinn Fhada and camping at the same spot as us- Loch Affric, whilst we took the easier option by walking up the scenic Glen Lichd and over the pass to Glen Affric. This is a spectacular walk where the path goes up the Glen and climbs up past a gorge winding its way through crags before opening up again as you head into Glen Affric.

Eventually we reached Camban Bothy and stopped for a break. It seemed wrong to sit for long in the Bothy as it was a lovely warm day outside, so didnt linger for long. I went to fill my water bottle by the stream near the Bothy, but with all the dry weather lately, it had almost dried up but I still managed to fill it up. I was quite disgusted my all the rubbish which had been left outside one of the Bothy walls- four large bags of rubbish containing items such as gas cannisters to frying pans. There is no refuse collection at Bothies! If you carry it in- you carry it out!

We carried on and the path now became a good track to Alltbeithe Youth Hostel- one of the most remote hostels in Scotland- the only way to get there is by foot or bike. The warden was offering drinks and snacks to challengers and I didnt say no to a cup of coffee.

We were soon on our way again on the track to Loch Affric where we would camp for the night.

Almost 17 miles later we were nearing our destination for the night- the Western shore of Loch Affric, and so were  a large number of other challengers. This is a cracking spot for wild camping, one of the best camp spots I’ve had so far.

We soon pitched our Scarp 2 tent and as the evening went on, many our challengers turned up for their first nights camp of the challenge.

We met Billy Liddel who had set up camp about fifty meters away and chatted away, then Willie turned up also setting up camp. All in all I had lost count of how many people whom had chosen to camp there that evening!

It was a beautiful eveing and I wasnt in a hurry to bed down for the night. I took many pictures and had conversations with many people- only problem was that with so many other people in the vicinity, it was hard to find privacy for going to the toilet!

Remarkably after such a long day I was still full of energy late on in the evening and eventually I did get into my sleeping bag to get a good nights sleep.

Luib Chonnal Bothy

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Some time ago I wanted to visit Luib Chonnal Bothy, Glen Roy with Lynn, so on one October Saturday afternoon we drove past Aviemore then along the Loch Laggan road turning up the six mile long single track road to Braeroy- that last six mile drive was a slow one- narrow windy single track road with big drops to one side and sheep on the road after blind summits!

It was a walk of over two hours to the Bothy on a track up a beautiful Glen. The track itself had a few short but steep sections and a few stream crossings.

We arrived at the Bothy to find a work party of about seven people in the midst of doing various repairs etc. We didnt know about a work party at the Bothy as it was organized at the last minute, but we were made very welcome.

We had a cracking evening with everyone- making new friends, enjoying a drink and chat in front of the Bothy stove. It was an evening I will remember for a long time!

Recently Derrick the Bothy  M.O. (Maintenance Officer) whom we had met that night got in contact with me asking if I was interested in become a joint M.O. with him for Luib Chonnal, so I thought briefly about this, and of course I said yes.

Further to that, not only have I been roped into being an M.O. for the Bothy, so has my partner Lynn.

Last weekend the forecast didnt look to great for hillwalking or so it seemed. We decided that a trip to Luib Chonnal Bothy was called for. After finishing work late on Saturday morning we set of on the 120 mile drive to Braeroy. The forecast was for rain for both Saturday and Sunday and we were expecting a waterproof clad walk into the Bothy.

We arrived at the road end at Braeroy about 1.30pm. It had stopped raining, but we donned our waterproofs as there were a few dark clouds in the sky.

After about fifteen minutes of faffing and sorting our gear out and getting our waterproofs on, we set of on our walk. Funnily enough the dark clouds vanished whilst the sun and blue skies emerged with rising temperatures!

We were soon overheating and were soon stopped to strip off a few layers. This was our fourth trip to the Bothy and first thing I noticed was the lack of water in the river Roy- this was the lowest I had seen it and we had to walk over many a normally submerges stone and boulder to fill up our water bottles.

After our short break, we were soon on our way making our way along the track up the little climbs in this lovely Glen.

The next hour’s walking was delightful in the warm sunny weather and many of the puddles on the track and small stream crossing were dried up, but all this was about to change with a sudden change to the weather with dark clouds rolling in, and ten minutes or so before we got to the Bothy, the thunder started- Ive never seen Lynn walk so fast with a heavy pack on. Luckily no lightning came!

We arrived at the Bothy just before the heavens openend and was pleased to see the Bothy looking clean and tidy.

Recently we had been copied in on two Bothy reports- one about mice droppings and one about a water coming in at one of the windows.

Now, you are always going to get mice in a Bothy- these old buildings make a great home for a mouse and there really isnt too much you can do about this- its a fact of Bothy Life! Yes there was some mice droppings, but I wouldnt say that there was a mouse infestation- probably the work of one lone mouse perhaps. We had a good clean up and got rid of what few mouse droppings that there was.

One thing I would say is, that what was attracting the mouse in the first place? Answer- people leaving behind food is the most likely cause, and yes there was food left behind by previous visitors- Porridge oats, bottles of sauce etc… Of course that will attract the little fellows, so I got to work and bagged up all the left behind food to carry out next day.

We also noted that the leak was not coming in through the window, but infact through the roof as several slates have worked their way lose and will have to be replaced before winter sets in.

Shortly after doing some cleaning, I looked out the window and could see somebody with a bike heading towards the Bothy. This was Peter who turned out to be the Bothy M.O. for Kinbreak Bothy. I had the stove on, and we sat down with a brew and chatted. Peter had got soaked on the way in, but was in good spirits despite this!

It was early evening and the sun had came back out. Lynn and I went for a short walk to the White falls not to far from the Bothy. In normal conditions, the rivers would have been to high to cross over to get anywhere near the falls, but with dry condition over the past couple of months, we crossed them with ease and got some close up pictures of the falls.

We headed back to the Bothy and I fired up the stove to boil some water for our evening meals, then proceded to get the Bothy stove going for a good heat- I had carried in a small bag of coal, so I wasnt going to waste going to all the effort of lugging that weight in on my back! It wasnt cold, but its always nice to sit in front of the Bothy stove chatting away over a nice heat.

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I awoke early next moring and headed outside for some pictures, whilst Lynn had a lie in.

Peter had suggested the previous evening, that the Bothy stove was perhaps due a new coat of paint, so on our next visit at some point within the next eight weeks we will return to get this job done- I’m looking forward to my return visit already.

The Great Outdoors Challenge 2017- Prologue

It seems such a long time ago now since I bought last October’s edition of TGO magazine.

In the magazine was the entry form for this years challenge walk across Scotland. Lynn was glancing through the magazine and the article for the challenge caught her attention, and it was suggested to me that perhaps we should enter. I quickly agreed to this and the rest, you could say is history!

Some years ago, I think back in 1998, I applied and got accepted for the challenge- I started looking at routes, but it all seemed a little to daunting back then and although I had many years of hillwalking under my belt even back then, I decided not to go ahead with it.

So last year when Lynn showed an interested in the challenge and with our ever growing interest and love in backpacking, it only seemed right that we should apply.

In November we received the email to tell us that we had been accepted- we were both very happy that we were now going to be taking part in this event. My longest walk had been the West Highland Way many years ago and recently both of us had been on many short overnight trips to the hills and Glens which we loved doing whether it was staying in Bothies or camping.

Two weeks of walking carrying a pack with all our gear seemed a little daunting, but it was an exciting feeling and we were confident that we could do this- I did have a niggling worry about my ankle which can play up after a few days of walking, but still this did not put me off.

The idea of the Challenge is fairly simple- you get a choice of thirteen starting points on the West Coast and you can finish anywhere on the East between Fraserburgh and Arbroath.

We picked Shiel Bridge as our start point and Kinnaber links on the east just a couple miles north of Montrose as our finish point.

For our first challenge, I picked a route that was fairly easy which was to take us through Glens and over a few passes. Camping most of the way with the odd night spent in a hostel. The route came in at 190 miles in total and when I was happy with the route I had chosen, I then had to submit the route to our vetter- Roger Smith.

The route was accepted back in December. Luckily it was a mild winter and we spent a number of weekends doing some long walks with overnight camps getting used to our big packs.

We already had all the right gear for the trip- it was just a case of what would be right for this length of trip and trying not to take too much, as after all, we were going to be carrying everything for two weeks almost!

The morning of 11th of May came and Dan turned up at the house at 9.30 promt. He was there to give us a lift across to Kintail Lodge in the west where we would spend our night previous to start day of the challenge.

We arrived there early afternoon in glorious weather, and as the afternoon went on, other challenges slowly started arriving.

We talked briefly to other challengers that evening in the bar, but decided to have an early night so we would be fresh for next morning!