Ben Aigan

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This year I should have been off for two weeks in May walking coast to coast on the Great Outdoors Challenge but problems with my Achillies Tendons put a stop to that. I withdrew my entry and was gutted. My physio said I was allowed to cycle as much as I wanted- so I did and have been!

Next plan was to cycle the Hebridean way- the planning halted rather abruptly with the unforseen Covid 19 virus, so I canceled my two weeks holiday in May- I didn’t see the point spending two weeks at home with the odd bike ride here and there local from the house.

Recently I thought that perhaps taking using my holidays should be done before the busy time at my work from late August to Mid October, so I’ve had this week off just for a break and have booked a week off beginning of August.

Yesterday I headed inland and cycled to the top of a local hill called Ben Aigan at 471 meters above sea level.

I had done variations of this before, and there is quite a large amount of ascent starting from sea level with a fair number of ups and downs on the way.

I loaded up the bike with all the usual requirements for a day out and left the house at a half decent time of 9am.

From the house I cycled along the sea front for a couple of miles on a section of the Speyside Way. I had a welcoming light breeze to keep me cool. Plenty of wildlife on the coast- seals up on the rocks, a heron looking for it’s next meal not to mention plenty of Gulls.

I soon started heading inland and briefly onto the old railway line before joining a short section of road heading south inland.

Next up was a cycle along the quiet back roads by the Farm land at Enzie and Tynet. Hardly and traffice for a couple of miles and some flat roads before the first big climb up the hill through Fochabers woods.

The first major climb of the day wasn’t really steep or anything, but it does go on for some time, but rather a forestry track than a road. No wildlife count today- I sometimes see the odd Deer here, but nothing today apart from bird song.

The temperature was warming up and I was glad I decided to wear my light short sleeve top and lightweight cycling shorts. I never saw anyone during the whole climb up through the woods until I reached the car park at the other end- the way I like it, nice and quiet!

The next part of the ride was a short section of road to link my ride into the next forest. Again this was quiet- meeting only one car. At one side of the road the forest has been felled a couple of years back and there are large swathes of abundant Cotton Grass.

Shortly I was back in the forest- this time it was Ordiequish Woods. To get south through this forest, I had to link up some forest tracks and a short section of easy mountain bike trail which is great to ride on.

Shortly later I emerged on the small road between Mulben and Cairnty- this next section was less than a couple of miles long with a short steep drop and of course a short steep climb back up!

The next section was a gradual climb up a delightful single track path which links the tracks to the hill of Knockmore and Ben Aigen.

The big climbs were to follow after this- firstly was the inital climb to the summit of Knockmore which house the old T.V Mast and is now used for telecommunications.

Knockmore is an ajoining hill to Ben Aigan, so a short brief descent before one last grind up to the top of Ben Aigan. I passed quite a number of walkers heading up the hill.

There was still a welcome breeze, but it was warmer inland and on the final push on the climb to the summit of Ben Aigan, sweat was dripping into my eye and it was stinging, but I made it all the way up the final path without pushing.

First thing I though when I had reached the top was to put my windproof top on as I was intending on taking a fine long break. I did put my top on, but this didn’t last long as it was very warm- even with a breeze!

I unpacked my lightweight stove and proceeded to get a brew on the go. Whilst I was waiting for the stove to boil the water, I walked around the summit area taking pictures and looking for a suitable camping spot for my next return visit.

Water boiling, I poured my first cup of coffee. Such a fine a day- i sat at the summit taking in the views and speaking to a few walkers arriving at the top. such a fine day in fact, I decided to have another brew shortly afterwards!

Eventually I decided to pack the stove and hit the trail. From the summit I headed north down the steep path which joins the Speyside Way high above the river Spey. This track countours all the way round the side of the hill with good views where recent forest works have been taking place.

All too soon, I was back at the link up path which I had joined the forestry track previously and it was a case of retracing my steps for the first couple of miles or so.

I took a slightly different way back from here and took tracks through Ordiequish forest before descending to the town of Fochabers, where I stopped for a well deserved Ice Cream!

After that was the seven mile fairly flat run home through some more forest track and the final few miles along the coast road.

A fine day out was had and i was taking it slightly easier than usual, due to the fact that I knew there was a fair amount of ascent involved. All in all it was around 42 miles.

How I became a Bikepacker

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Four years ago i was in Inverness doing some shopping- probably buying some hillwalking/backpacking related gear from ‘Tiso’ Whilst I was in town, I decided to have a quick look in ‘Highland Bikes’ to see what was new in the bike world.

At this point my cycling had taken a back burner and my interest for the hills and bagging Munros had been rekindled. I was also getting into backpacking too, so lots of weekends away and holidays trying to get those remote Munros done.

Previously to this, I had a big interest in Mountain Biking- A lot of cross country riding and some technical trail centre riding too. I had even done a couple of races on the bike- Ten Under the Ben and the unforgettable MacAvalanche in Glencoe.

There I was browsing through the clothing etc, then I noticed this rigid bike with plus size tyres and all the rack mounting points your could wish for! Straight away I thought that this would be a great bike for combining my love of camping and camping- I could do some trips through some glens and have some remote camps. This would be great! I thought- one day I will get a ‘Genesis Longitude’ and go bikepacking.

Last year I got Achilles Tendonitis in both ankles- I was ordered to stop walking straight away, but the Physio said I could cycle as much as I liked. I soon dusted off the cobwebs of my Specualized Crave hardtail MTB bike and was soon out doing evening winter rides trying to get my fitness back up. I was told that it could take up to ten months for my Achilles to heal, so I thought if I get after work at nights slowly getting up the miles in the winter months- the hard work would pay off when it came to spring, and I would be fit to enjoy longer rides once spring arrived.

After getting many rides under my belt- the inital cycling fitness was coming back. I had also dropped out of this years TGO Challenge as I was worried I would not be ready to walk by May. This is when my attention turned to the idea of Bikepacking. I started looking at other bikes in the beginning, but then thought I would just use the bike I have.

Over the next couple of months, I stated investing in bags for the bike, but it was still winter and the snow kept coming and going.

About a month ago I was looking at bikes again- I was quite keen on the ‘Surly Krampus’ bike and a few others. I looked at the ‘Genesis Longtitude’ again and found a new one for sale at a mouth watering price- so I struck while the Anvil was still hot and bought it. That was four years after setting my eyes on that one in the shop in Inverness. They havent changed the bike much in four years- just the colour on the newer ones.

My dark blue Longitude.

There have only been two overnight trips so far, one short trip into the foothills of the Cairngorms which was just to try out all my kit etc which I really enjoyed even although it was only four miles from the car!

This trip did have one pitfall- when I awoke in the morning, the wind had changed direction and was hitting my ‘Trailstar’ shelter side on. I thought that I should get up and retighten the guylines. Just then a big gust hit the side and one of the carbon fibre poles snapped- I quickly got dressed and thought if I could find a stick of similair length, this would get me out of my prediciment rather thant just rush to pack up. Luckily it wasnt long before a found a stick about the same length as the carbon well. It worked at treat and I was able to get back into my sleeping bag and get a brew going on the jetboil.

An hour or so later I was packed up and on my way. All my bags stayed secure on the bike, so all in all it was a success. The bike handled well loaded up and cycling with that extra weight wasnt too bad!

The next trip was to Luib Chonnal Bothy just before the Lockdown, so I was glad I got once last trip in at the last minute.

So at the moment we are in Lockdown- I cant go on any overnight trips anywhere, but I can still head out for day rides along some the miles of quiet forestry tracks a few miles from my doorstep. I suspect this lockdown could be for a long time yet- I just hope they dont ban the exercise once a day rule or I will be climbing the walls.

At the moment I am still going to work- although my working day has dramaticly been shortened to a few hours in the morning. I work for a Maltings company and most of the distilleries are shut down with a select few still open, so we are still getting orders for Malt Barley from a very select few. I am wondering why these Distilleries are allowed to remain open as I would have thought they would have been forced to shut down as they are not essential, but perhaps Whisky is an essential product!! I dont think so. Perhaps in the next few days that could change. I havent asked too much at work, but I know they are preparing for a shutdown just incase.

As long as I can still get out on my bike in the afternoons after work- I will remain sane.

Bothies and Bikes

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Last week I had some time off work and I was starting to get itchy feet being stuck at home. The forecoast looked good for Thursday and Friday- I had been wanting to head up to Luib Chonnal Bothy for some time as I received two different reports that required attention.

The first report back I had, was that the Bothy Book was almost finished and need replacing. The second report was reference to the Carbon Monoxide Detector which had stopped working. I had been meaning to do this for this past month or so, but due to other commitments and bad weather- I had never got round to it.

There was a slight apprehension about going away with the Cornona Virus Panademic, but I checked the Mountian Bothies Websites and various other sources about heading out to the hills and at that point there was nothing about staying away. The drive west is about 120 miles from my home on the North East Coast. I had everything I needed for the trip, fuel in the car, so it would be a journey with minimal social contact. It was also during the week and the chance of sharing the Bothy with other people would be minimal.

The end of the public road at Braeroy.

It was a fine Drive up Strathspey and along Loch Laggan- the high tops still had a fair amount of snow on the tops. The weather could’nt be better and I noticed that many of the carparks along the A86 were quite busy- the hills must have been quite busy!

After a slow drive up the winding singletrack road to Braeroy, I was relieved to find the carpark at the road end empty. After some last minute packing and faffing with my bike bags, I was on my way slowly pedaling up the Glen enjoying the crisp clear day.

No sign of life as I made my way past the Head Keeper’s house, and before I knew it, I was soon at the start of the first short steep climb. Suprisingly with a loaded up bike- I managed to cycle most of the way griding my way slowly and steadily up the Glen. I’ve never seen so many Deer in Glen Roy- perhaps they are staying lower with all the snow higher up.

This was the first time I had Bikepacked into a Bothy- my ongoing problem with my Achilles Tendonitis has forced me to switch from Backpacking to Bikepacking. This has been only my second overnight trip out on the bike and I have thoroughly enjoyed the trips so far- its given me a new sense of freedom too. I thought it might just be a hard slog cycling loaded up with the bike, but its quite similair to hillwalking/backpacking- yes you can cover more ground and its a bit easier getting up hills just wearing a daypack, but put on a fully loaded backpack and it slows you down on the hills, but you just adapt, slow the pace and take in more things. The same applies to bikepacking- I just cycle at a comfortable pace, taking in more of my suroundings.

I’d been looking at the Genesis Longitude bike for some and it hasnt dissapointed- It rolls well with the plus size tyres and so far I’m not missing the lack of any suspension. It has all the mounting points you could ask for if you want to put racks on or add extra water bottle cages. I find that it rides very well fully laden. Genesis knew what they were doing when they brought out this bike!

Around 45 minutes later or so, I was almost at the Bothy- I had packed some firelighters, fire log and some wood to get a fire going in the stove. I didnt pack too much as the estate nornally leaves a supply at the Bothy. I was looking forward to a fine evening in front of the stove.

Opening the the door of the Bothy, I propped my bike against the wall and looked at what wood supply was left- it was non existant! I headed up the stairs to the main room where the stove was. Relief! The previous visitor had chopped up a large amount of wood and left it by the stove. Also, someone had left coal- It was going to be a fine warm evening in the Bothy after all.

I went back downstairs and fished out from my small rucksack my two Platypus water bottles and headed out to the stream to fill them with water, then back inside to take the rest up my kit off the back and proceded to make myself at home. First thing first though was the mouse droppings on the Kitchen worktop units- I found some wipes in the cupboard, so the units got a good clean down, then I prepared the fire for later- I didnt want to start it too early as it wasnt too cold at that time and it didnt want to burn wood just for the sake of it.

About an hour an a hald later the sun was going down and so was the temperature- nobody else had turned up. I lit the fire and unpacked the jetboil as I felt I had earned a cup of coffee. The next few hours were spent tending to the stove, having some food, reading the Bothy book and just enjoying my evening of soliutde. I was a bit miffed that I had left my I-Pod in the car!

Next morning I awoke as daylight was creeping in. First thing I noticed was the frost on the Velux windows- I looked outside and it was a beautiful cold clear crisp frosty morning. It wasnt that cold inside the Bothy. I soon got dressed out headed outside to get some pictures, then it was back inside to fire up the Jetboil for a warning coffee.

After breakfast I tidied and swept up. I put the first new entry into the new Bothy Book and replaced the Carbon Monixide Detector. By the time I was all packed up ready to go, the sun was out and things were warming up.

I was soon on my way back down the Glen and looking forward to the descent. Never saw a soul all the way back- apart from more Deer. It was a lovely still morning and I just soaked up my surroundings on the way back.

I was soon back to the car. Mission acomplished- new Bothy Book and Carbon Monoxide Detector in place.

A short trip, but enjoyable one. The following evening at home I noticed it was then that all the posts were appearing on social media and different websites reference the Corona Virus- Pubs, cafes, cinema’s were to be closing their doors. Also there were various posts telling people to stay away from the highlands and posts telling people to keep of the hills as the emergency services were already at straining point. So I can imagine this will be my last trip out away from home for a while. I had a feeling this was going to happen and it was a case of go while I can.

I will still be going out on my bike on day rides,, but it will be all local, and I might even have the odd night in the tent along the coast from where I live. Lets hope this Pandemic blows over soon and stay safe!

2020- The Year Ahead.

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January has came and gone- now we are at the start of Febuary and I’m noticing the days are slowly getting longer, but we still face the dark mornings and evening for a while yet!

I used to hate the long short day light hours of winter from an early age and used to absolutely hate getting up in the dark mornings and finishing work in the dark- I probably still do, well to some extent anyway, but not like I used to.

it hasn’t been a great week for me- last Thursday, I woke with with a nasty headache and a couple of hours later at work- the true extent of what was wrong reared its ugly head as a nasty Migraine. I started to get muddled up with things and made a few minor school boy mistakes at work, so early afternoon I decided to call it a day and went home ill and also took next day off. The same thing happend a week later, but not so severe- for me, migraines always seem to come in two’s!

To top everything- my depression has also been hanging around in the background, but that has been it- I’ve just been aware of it, but it hasn’t hit me hard or anything. I stopped taking my tablets as one of the side effects was making me forgetful, but I’ve been coping fine so far.

My Achillies Tendonitis has slowly been getting better, but I dont intend to much walking until I am fully healed- I was accepted for this years Great Outdoors Challenge, but promptly cancelled after being diagnosed.

One good thing to come out of this, is that it has prompted me to get out on the bike again which was lying dormant in the shed for the past couple of years whilst I was galavanting around the hills and Glens on my weekends off and my holidays.

The summit of the Day Way- walking/cycling route.

The days out on the bike and evening rides after work have slowly been getting longer, building up the bike fitness and miles which I’m really starting to enjoy again. The talk of going bikepacking over the past year or so is now becoming reality, and I have pretty much got all the bags and gear I need to head away up a Glen on the bike camping somewhere- all I need now is some decent weather.

My photography has taken a bit of a backseat for the moment being- yep due to all the biking I’ve been doing, but I’m sure I’ll get back out snapping some good shots as the nights get longer.

Last year I had a fair few number of days out taking pictures and even had a short break to Skye just to take photo’s and of course soak up the scenery.

Looking East over the Sea from the Storr.
The Old Man Of Storr.
The Old man of Storr,Skye.
The Trotternish Ridge, Staffin.
Neist Point Lighthouse.
Coral Beach, Dunvegan.

The past three years in May- I have always taken off two weeks for the TGO Challenge, so this year I have booked two weeks off in May again. This time off year in Scotland is great as the Midges aren’t out in force, so if I’m camping, I can lie inside my tent in the evenings to soak up the views and hopefully not the rain, but we have been pretty lucky with the weather the past three years in May.

This years adventure in May hasn’t been fully decided yet, but I fancy cycling the Hebridean Way- there is a walking route and a cycling route. The cycling route does stick to the roads, but I think the scenery will make up for that. It should take about a week to do, but I have thought about spreading it over the two weeks to do plenty of exploring and go off the beaten track if so inclinded.

The other option would be to finish off my Munros- five left to do. Three on Skye and two on the mainland. It would be good to finally nail them on the head and complete them, but I’m still a little wary with my Achilles Tendonitis- the problem being is that I will have to book a guide soon for a certain peak on Skye! I would probably start off with An Socach and walk in from the Dornie end up Glen Elchaig with an overnight camp, then drive over to Skye for the three left to do there and after that perhaps get the Ferry over to Mallaig, then the passenger ferry to Inverie on Knoydart and finish my final Munro on Ladhar Bheinn. I started my Munros back in 1991 and the tender age of 19, so I’m in no hurry to finish them or start another round, but it would be good to finish them all sooner than later!

2019- More Cycling and Less Walking?

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It’s been a while since I have posted any blogs, although I briefly started using the blogger site, but that came to a sudden end a few weeks back when I was halfway through writing a really good article about last years Great Outdoors Challenge, then suddenly I lost everything! I wont be using that site again.

On the Old Logging Trail, Glenmore, Cairngorms.

Last year in April was the begining of pain in both ankles- I backpacking across Scotland in May on the Great Outdoors Challenge walk no problem, but after that the pain slowly and progressively grew worse. At the time I didn’t know anything about Achillies Tendonitis and in early September walking was becoming very painful indeed, so I started guessing what was wrong and done some research and was certain it was my Achilles. This was also clarified when I decided to book an appointment with the Physio.

What caused the problem wasnt all the backpacking that I was doing, but Im sure it wasnt helping, but Im pretty sure the root cause of the problem was ill fitting cheap work boots. The physio told me to stop doing all the walking, but I could cycle as much as I liked. Now in the past two to three years I’ve hardly been on the bike due to my love of camping up some remote glen or on top of a hill somewhere trying to capture some morning sunrise or bagging one of the last few remote Munros that I have to do.

At first I was down in the dumps- not being able to head off with a pack on my back and enjoy the solitude of the Scottish hills, but after a while I have come to accept my current prediciment and I have swung a leg over the bike and started to slowly put in the miles again.

In the past I have done a few cycle tours around Scotland and six or seven years ago I was doing mountain bike races, so its actually been good to be back in the saddle. This past six weeks I have been steadily getting my bike fitness back up- I did 26 miles off road yesterday no problem and thats with a cold!

Drakes Bothy, Cairngorms.

This past couple of years, I’ve been saying that I want to combine my love of backpacking and cycling and start Bikepacking and over the past couple of months I have been graudually building up my collection of luggage/bags for the bike. Perhaps by the end of this month, I might manage an overnight trip somewhere in the flanks of the Cairngorms, then as the days get longer and fitness improves- more trips will be on the horizon!

Me and Oor Willie in Fochabers Square.

As my Achillies Tendonistis heals, hopefully I will also get to complete all my Munros this year- only five to go. Here’s to another year!

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.

 

 

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.