Distance: 22km (220m), total of 65km
On the trail: 8hrs
Planned route: map
We stopped about 3km short of Glenmallie last night. The walk into our camp was a horror compared to the nice trek out to Invermallie. It was raining hard when we woke so we decided to break camp and eat something cold in order to get on our way quickly. After leaving camp around 9am we picked up a nice LRT (landrover trail) and had a very fast walk to Glenmallie then out to Invermallie where we had a hot lunch sitting under a huge oak tree. The walking today was easy in comparison, mostly flat on nice trails or roads. The only surprising thing was the discovery of the ‘Gairlochy fairies’ in the woods (see pics below). We found them by following the Great Glen Way Trail from the end of Loch Arkaig to Gairlochy. Read more…
Distance: 20km (1000m climbed) – total: 45km
Time on the trail: 12 1/2 hrs
Planned route: map
Today started by trying to dry out socks and other wet soggy stuff from our late night yomp. The weather cleared and we hit the trail with Alan and John intending to hit our planned Monroe. After climbing the ridge with Alan (John has headed in another direction) the winds were whipping up and the climb to the summit looked like a real scramble. Truth be told we were all feeling a bit knackered so we opted for our bailout route which took us down Glen Mallie. Our route better describes the route as ‘a wonderful lush green valley with easy tracks’. Well I think he must have confused it with somewhere else. Ever heard of Lake Baikal in Russia? It supposedly has 1/3 of the worlds fresh water supply. Read more…
Distance: 25km (1100m climbed)
Time on the trail: 11 hrs
Planned route: map
We arrived into Mallaig around 5:30pm on what would appear to be the TGO express train. It was packed with challengers who jumped off at the different start points. We met several folks from our 2009 challenge and made many new ones. Overall challengers are quite a social bunch.
We had a great dinner in the local pub with fresh locally caught seafood and a pint or two if the local real ale.
Our challenge started at 9am by signing the start book. We then headed down to the Inverie ferry which left packed to the gills with the 47 challengers starting at Inverie. After landing a great deal of self control was exercised preventing a quick pint in the old forge inn. Read more…
I thoroughly enjoyed my 1st TGO challenge. There were many challenges along the way for us to face. The worst by far were Lynn’s blisters which caused her immense pain on many days. Compared to this, my challenge was a walk in the park – big kudos to Lynn for working through it.
In reflecting back over our route and gear choices, there are a few things that worked and several things that didn’t. I’d originally written our a long winded list and then decided it was pretty pointless – it comes down to three things:
- Get your footwear right – Lynn had horrible blisters caused by wet feet and lots of road walking. In future, she’ll be taking boots plus light weight running shoes. This was the year of the foot challenge; so many of the folks we talked with had horrible blisters caused by the wet conditions.
- Take care with long road walking days
Days 3 – 6 covered almost 90km of hard road/military road walking. This was brutal on our feet and totally exhausting. In retrospect continuing on past Cougie lodge on Day 2 would have made this easier.
- Get creative with food – our food was boringly similar each day (it didn’t help that I screwed up the packing). Still, think about variety and consider picking up more stuff “on the go” as you hike through.
All in all, a great experience and one I would like to repeat. Yes, even Lynn said she’s do it again too One thing that doesn’t come out in my trip report is the sheer camaraderie of Challengers. They are a fun bunch, very friendly and always eager to offer a hand. I really enjoyed the social aspects alongside the solitariness of many of our “solo couple” days.
In the end, the hiking was great, the personal challenge wonderful but the friendship on the trial is priceless.
Photos can’t do the event justice but sit back and enjoy a slideshow of our trip.
Back to TGOC 2009 Index
[Trail blog is here]
The next morning we woke early for a 7am breakfast. Had a lovely bowl of porridge and toast. We left the hotel and had a pretty uneventful walk into St Cyrus. Leaving Edzell you can cross the river on foot by taking a poorly marked path behind the petrol station. From there it’s a straight shot into Northwater Bridge. By the time we passed the campsite it was empty of challengers so we made a quick deposit in the loo and kept on trucking.
There was lots of road walking into St Cyrus with no other real options. After passing through Mains of Gallery we were a little peckish and thought about trying to find a pub in Marykirk. Rather than backtracking, we found a new set of stairs up and over the railway bridge. Not sure if this is intended for foot traffic but it was pretty cool with great views of the fields. Lots of arable land here with tons of rapeseed growing (yellow). Unfortunately the pub was closed so it was onto Morphie and more road walking into St Cyrus.
The weather was much better today with blue skies and nice sunshine. A fitting end to some of the worst weather the challenge has seen. On entering St Cyrus, we passed a small café which had lots of rucksacks outside (as sure sign of a Challenger’s “trade route”). From there it was on to the cliffs and a surprising descent down to the beach. We left our packs at the cliff top so it felt like nothing to climb down and back up after nice pictures snapped on the beach.
Off back to the café and then a bus ride into town on the "challenger express" before signing out at the Park Hotel. A nice welcome from Uncle Rodger, certificates, biscuits and tea before heading out to our B&B at the south end of town.
We were sore, tired, glad it was over but pleased to have finished our 1st TGO challenge.
Distance today was 18km making a total of 262km
On to final thoughts
[Trail blog is here]
Today was once again very wet with breaks of sun trying to shine through the torrential rain clouds. We left Tarfside at 8:20 powered by a gallon of tea and a bunch of bacon butties. Rather than following our planned route which would cross a bridge at NO533782, we crossed the river directly from Tarfside at NO492790 using a sketchy footbridge. This turned out to be a very good choice since our planned bridge crossing at NO533782 had a padlock on it!
The rain was brutal today and we were getting pretty cold and soggy by the time we made it into Edzell. Lynn’s blisters were playing up again so she made an executive decision that we’d stay in Edzell rather than pushing on the extra 6km to the campsite at Northwater Bridge. After checking in at the Panmure Arms Hotel, we walked down to the "Tuckin" to find lots of challengers eating huge plates of food. Richard and Andy were just leaving and heading out to camp so we said our goodbyes (they were planning on finishing early and pushing off for home).
Our stay there was bittersweet; we’d been looking forward to socializing with other challengers in camp and we were on our lonesome (with Bill) in the hotel for dinner. Fortune shined on us though when a mini-bus load of challengers (organized by Andy and Richard!) showed up and out pop Andy, Richard, Gordon, John (Manning) and Alistair. An outstanding dinner was had – don’t think we’ve laughed so much in ages.
Distance today was 20km making 244km to date
On to day 13 (the final day!)
[Trail blog is here]
We woke around 7:30am and were off by 8:30am. The prior night’s slog up through the peat hags to Shielin of Mark was exhausting but we were very pleased to have gotten it over with. From the bothy we headed up over Muckle Cairn and got a little lost on the top by following the wrong path. We ended up traversing Muckle Cairn and finding the path down to Stables of Lee. This is rustic bothy but very dry with a fireplace that could be used if you’re super cold.
From Stables of Lee, we continued on to Loch Lee and ran into a bunch of Landrovers hauling folks in shirt and ties up the hill (?). We passed by a small castle (N0442804) which looked like it was in danger of falling down at any moment. From there it was once again over the hill to reach Tarfside where we were pleased to be able to get a spot on the floor out of the rain.
Lots of beer, cookies and bacon butties later (and showers too!) we had a great time socializing with other challengers. Most of the usual crowd were there including Andy, Richard, Gordon, Des, Andy Howell, John Manning, Alistair, etc. Good times!
Distance today was 18km making 224km to date
On to day 12
[Trail blog is here]
We had a long walk today through "the peat hags of despair" aka. The route into Shielin of Mark. The walking from Braemar through the Balmoral estate was very pretty. Lots of meandering trails through open forest with running rivers.
We had a nice lunch stop at Gelder Shiel Bothy (Queen’s bothy) – running water and toilets (again!)
As we left the bothy, we bumped into lots of people hiking down from Lochnagar which looked like a full on hike. We were already knackered and I was glad we’d taken the "low level route". We passed through Spittal of Glenmuick (pronounced Glen-mick) and stopped for a cup of soup from the vending machine in the visitors centre. From there we headed up the valley towards Shielin of Mark. By this point I was extremely tired and would have stopped if we’d found a good campsite. Fortunately we pressed on and joined Andy and Richard who were looking a their GPS trying to find the bothy. We literally stumbled over it as it’s very well hidden in the peat hags. The cheers of joy were shared by all.
We had a good time in the Bothy. John Handcock (camping with a tarp) had made himself a nice "nest" in the bothy; it was small but nice and dry so we cooked up dinner. Richard had extra Chicken Tikka from Expedition foods so we tried one and it was fantastic! Scarfed down dinner and then headed off to bed for a well earned rest.
Today was very wet and I noticed my sil-nylon pack cover from ULA pools water at the base getting the pack wet. I think a grommet hole in the bottom would help to fix the problem.
Distance today was 27km making 206km to date
On to day 11
[Trail blog is here]
We had a nice lie in this morning since we only have a short hike into Braemar. Breakfast was "self service" bacon, sausage and eggs. Lovely. Packed up our stuff and moved out for a short road walk into Braemar. Lots of folks on this route today with enthusiasm building for what promises to be a very social affair. While walking along to road we passed by a huge herd of deer on the upper ridge.
We entered the town and soon passed by the Fife Arms which seems like a gathering point for challengers. It’s very hard to pass by the huge bar windows and not be drawn in by folks waving and drinking. Had quite a few jars there and met many other challengers.
Also visited the Hungry Highlander for a lovely lunch of fish and chips. The fish was so large, I think I could have sailed it across the pacific back to Seattle.
We stayed at the Callater Lodge B&B which was wonderful. The rooms were large with very comfy bed and sofa so we could spread out with all our stuff. This was also the spot for food parcel #3 which also made it safe and sound.
We had lots of time free in Braemar so headed into the local hiking store (Braemar Mountain Sports) to see if we could do anything for Lynn’s footwear problems. Lynn left with a nice shiny pair of TNF Hedgehogs. The store is wonderful and well worth the visit if you’re passing through. It was hilarious to see all the Challengers in there replacing broken and worn out kit. Many kit upgrades were purchased. The shop owners were pretty smart too, offering free shipping back home for your purchases. Many challengers took advantage of this to ship back old gear in exchange for new stuff.
Dinner was great at a local cafe I can’t recall the name of. We also headed out to watch the Bingo Wings play. Great night overall, lots of catching up with folks we’d seen in the first few days of Challenge including Hamish!
Distance today was a record 6km making 179km to date
On to day 10
[Trail blog is here]
The weather this morning was extremely poor; rain started pouring at around 6:30am and the winds were blowing. There’d been some discussion last night of Mar Lodge and accommodation there including a big supper. Since we were already well ahead of schedule (8km) we decided we’d make a run for Mar Lodge to get somewhere warm and dry for the night.
We got a later start this morning, needing to spend a while dressing poor Lynn’s blisters. We soon caught up with Russ and Des at the waterfalls at the head of the valley. It’s definitely worth the trip up and over the falls rather than attempting to fjord the river. From here it’s a wet slog across the watershed. Rain was pelting down at this point with driving rain and we were starting to get soggy and cold. My Goretex paclite jacket was starting to fail and we needed to get out of the weather and warm up. We found a Bothy that was being renovated at NO002869. It was open, warm and dry so we ducked in and cranked up the stove to make some hot food. We were soon joined by Des, Russ and Adrian who all had the same idea.
From the "bothy" we hoofed it on to Mars Lodge. The trail up to Linn of Dee was pretty nice but soon made way for yet more road walking for the remaining 4km to Mar Lodge. The folks are Mar Lodge were wonderful – despite being "full", they made space for us in a set of rooms called "base camp" which had a lovely set of bunk beds and what seemed like an endless supply of piping hot water.
There was a huge crowd of folks staying here (26); had a lovely venison stew dinner and retired to the shooting room for a few drinks and socializing. Great time had by all; if I pass through Braemar again, I’ll definitely plan on booking in to get a room in the main lodge. The rooms are supposedly fantastic.
Distance today was 23km making 173km to date
On to day 9