Thursday, 13 April 2017

Preparation for The Great Outdoors Challenge 2017

I had no intention of applying for this year’s Challenge, or indeed for any future Challenge. It was just the decision I had reached. However, a week or so before the deadline for entries, I had a complete change of heart and with David’s agreement, entered. A couple of weeks later I heard that I had, yet again, been lucky and gained a place on the Challenge. Whoops!

As luck would have it, I did have a route planned that just required a bit of minor tweaking to be ready to submit and was fully vetted by the end of November. For the last four months, it would normally just have been a matter of research and details, but I had the added excitement of having found I’d developed an Inguinal Hernia. I saw my surgeon in January who hoped to be able to operate in time for me to go ‘on my holiday’ (…he really did not understand the concept of ‘backpacking’…) but the date came through for my repair as 23rd March. This meant I would be 7 weeks post-op at the start of the Challenge, cutting things a little fine I thought. However, I had left my name on the short notice cancellation list and as luck would have it, that was the phone call I received the day I was walking with Mick and Gayle. The new date for my operation was 9th March, meaning I am currently 5 weeks post-op and I will be 9 weeks post-op when I leave home for my start point. As the advised recovery period is 6 to 8 weeks, I should be fully recuperated and raring to go by then.

I am making a good, steady recovery. I now have no pain to speak of (if I poke the scar hard enough, I can still feel a little bruising, but I don’t tend to do that) the general swelling, of which there was more than I was expecting, has gone, with just a small amount remaining under the scar itself. I am beginning to gradually phase back into the things I haven’t been allowed to do, I am driving short journeys now, emptying the dishwasher a couple of plates at a time, taking smaller items from the shelf at the supermarket and contemplating doing a little light housework, although I wouldn’t hoover or cook a family meal for all six of us yet. I’m quite sure in four weeks time I’ll be ready to heft that 12.5kg rucksack…as I ever am.

I left the house for the first time nine days after the operation, just for a little trip to the supermarket, but built up from there and two weeks later I was back to my normal length walk, although not up to my usual speed. That doesn’t worry me, I’m walking at Challenge speed, so this is a good thing!

I have my Challenge main meals from as usual, the main snack items are stashed in the cupboard, I have all my maps, new socks and new Meindl Bhutan boots being gradually worn in (gradually ‘cos I don’t want to get them dirty, they don’t really need worn in!) I’ve done all my print outs, laminated my route sheet, booked the only B&B of the trip and booked my seat on the bus.

All I need to do is pack.

So, on the whole, preparation for the Challenge is going well, all things considered.

Friday, 3 March 2017

There has been walking, just not a lot…

Laura and I have enjoyed a couple of local walks lately that have been repeats of local walks. We were more focussed on the chatting and lunch than having adventures. We repeated a recent walk at Logie Steading before Christmas, then did a longer walk from my front door before she went on her travels again. Both walks were lovely, despite being somewhat familiar to us.


Logie’s rare breed cattle, feeling a little itchy


Happened across a stag!!




‘The Castle’



5.93 miles 711 ft total ascent

9.65 miles 647 ft total ascent

Mick and Gayle have been for a visit, primarily to introduce Bertie to us. He is very smart and I am quite smitten!

There was walking too, both from my front door. I have taken M&G onto Altyre Estate before, but not since we moved into town. I chose to take them on one of the longer walks that I do from my door, some parts of which they were vaguely familiar with but we had a lovely day and a good news phone call at lunch time, so we were all quite happy.


Gayle, taking advantage of my Photograph Rock…

9.28 miles 602 ft total ascent

And it was all lovely!!! Thank you.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

So, That Was 2016…

Well, there was some walking this year, totalling around 1,201.84 miles 88,478.12 feet ascent, but I didn’t walk with Laura until February. We also went to a family wedding in February, which was a lovely social for us in Glasgow.
March saw some walking with Laura and our three young athletes were competing in the Scottish Air Pistol Championships in Edinburgh.
April saw more Challenge preparation with Laura on the Fishwives Walk.
And then there was May, when I backpacked across Scotland with my world on my back to for two weeks, this time crossing from Oban to Stonehaven. I had a fabulous time.
More local strolling for me around Altyre Estate during June, with a little DofE thrown in for fun.
July saw us venture to York for a few days of leisure.
August was a bit busier, we took the athletes to Surrey to compete in the Junior International Championships, we did some more DofE, we had a wonderful time with visitors Mick and Gayle and Rhiannon and Ciara moved into the flat they’re sharing in Aberdeen whilst they are both at University there.
A fab walk with Mick and Gayle
In September, as well as finally seeing our Silver Group pass their Expedition, I also found ‘Harry Houdini, the Disappearing Hernia’, hopefully he should be sorted in the next couple of months…
October, November and December saw me enjoying lots of local walks and some with Laura too. Aedan was still competing and performing well at two competitions at Cardiff.
The Lovely Laura
All in all, we’ve had a busy year, all good fun and hopefully there’ll be more to come in the New Year, who knows!
SlĂ inte mhor!!
PS I apologise for the lack of photographs, I’ll come back and add some over the next few days!!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Missing Walks

Updating my photograph folder, I realised I have not documented the last three walks I’ve enjoyed with Laura, silly me!

The first Missing Walk was back on the 19th of October.

It wasn’t an exciting walk, it should have been productive, had we not both forgotten to do what we’d intended! Still, we had a lovely stroll to Aberlour and back via the Speyside Way and might have squeezed in a coffee and a scone at a local cafe while we there. Rude not to.

It was a cool day, and a bit damp at time requiring a waterproof faff, but pleasant enough and we enjoyed ourselves.


Lots of berries


Lovely tree


Lots of weather


Bouncy bridge on the way there…


…and on the way back.

Roughly 8.14 miles and Viewranger is currently telling me a total of 1063 ft of ascent, but I would dispute this…

So, the second Missing Walk took place on 26th October and should have been one walk, but we chopped it in half. Ouch!

We started this and the next walk from Logie Steading, because then we could finish each walk with coffee and cake, or similar.

Done as a whole, the walk would see me on ground I know rather well, but put together with some vague and unfamiliar bits, including a path near the start of the walk that I’ve known about for a while but never found. Once on it, all became clear and I was quite chuffed to be using it at last! We wandered along some tracks eventually that I have been on before, but heading the other way, which makes things look very different, and in very wet weather. I admit to feeling quite uncomfortable around the Dunphail Estate, the people I met before did not seem overly pleased to see this group of damp, giggly girls, so this time with Laura I was a tad jumpy until we left the estate, crossed the Grantown Road and gained the Dava Way, much better, and the bit that I don’t mind walking.

*Harry the Hernia started to nag a bit before we got back to the Steading, but after we’d eaten our sandwiches in the car, I felt well enough to venture into the steading for coffee and a scone.


Not so hidden path once found


Gorgeous autumn colours




Novelty Gnomes at the estate work sheds


This and the surrounding estates are full of fabulous trees


Laura and I practiced our Latin translation…


Information board on the Dava Way, just after Dunphail

Roughly 6.16 miles and 707 ft total ascent.

Third of the Missing Walks was on 3rd November and was the northern half of the circuit, again, we set out from Logie Steading, retracing our steps to Peathillock before setting off along the Dava Way. I’d planned an interesting route to shorten the circuit slightly, firstly because otherwise we’d be tired and secondly, to avoid the shoot, I don’t like bumping into them if I can avoid it. So, we left the Way and headed for Drumine, with the attention of taking another track. However, there was a bit of a livestock issue in the shape of a herd of cattle and a flock of stupid sheep. The gate that lead in to the field was open, but we decided to follow the fence line instead in the hope we’d be able to cross the fence further down and get straight in to the woodland, then regain the track. Easier said than down. We found a gate in a handy place, but it had to be climbed as we couldn’t open it. As we followed the fence across the bottom of the field, the cows started to show little too much interest in us and we decided to cross the fence sooner rather than later to allow a controlled exit rather than a hurried one. But this happened.



After a bit of rough ground through the trees, we regained the main track, but only for a short while as I’d planned to take another little track. It soon appeared and looked good. It got a big vague after a while, then disappeared, but we didn’t have far to go to meet the road, so plunged on through the woods over somewhat interesting ground until we eventually popped out onto the road, almost exactly as planned. Another unknown track was then taken, but it didn’t lead us too far astray and we soon crossed the Grantown Road, again.

At,Sluie we had a little fumble to find our way, it is a long time since I walked these paths and I was entering from a different point, which is a bit off putting, but eventually we were on the ‘interesting’ path by the side of the River Findhorn. Fabulous river, but much underestimated and one of Britain’s most dangerous rivers. The banks on both sides are overlooked by some amazing trees looking absolutely wonderful in their autumn colour.

At one point, just as I remembered, we skipped around a barrier that looks like a fence and I failed to point this out to Laura, who was a little perturbed when the path somewhat disappeared down the precipitously sloping bank. Sorry Laura! I’m so used to the little scrambly bit I’d forgotten it was there.

Still, we survived the slippery, slidey mud and the interesting set of steps and made it back to the steading in time for a delicious bowl of soup, a pot of tea and a scone (…the seems to be a theme developing…)


On the other side of the fence




Nice looking track


Laura popping out onto the road, all innocent like


River Findhorn, through the trees










Logie House

Roughly 7.06 miles and 744 ft total ascent.

A fab three walks in excellent company, has to be said!

*Harry the Hernia is the Femoral Hernia I am currently waiting for surgery for. Keeps disappearing…

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Playing Catch Up

During Mick and Gayle’s visit the other week, Gayle had ticked off a couple of Marilyns that actually feature on mine and Laura’s Trigpointing list that we have been putting off for a while, so, they had to be done, tout suite.

We were both a little short of free time, but an opportunity arose on Thursday morning and arrangements were made to meet at a suitable place to abandon a car and a van at the Hill of the Wangie. It was perfect walking weather to start, slightly cloudy, cool but not cold. We had some great views on the way up.


The tracks always head uphill


Ben Rinnes, through the trees


Ben Rinnes to the left, the Cromdale Hills right of centre


And without the trees in the way

Having abandoned the vehicles, we set off round the gate and uphill at rather a pace. We soon settled down to a much better speed and made our way steadily up, up and yet further up. We were able to take a mix of forestry tracks and mountain bike routes, then we took a suitable looking firebreak with one or two blow-downs to negotiate before we had to take the plunge and weave our way through the trees in the general direction of the trig (using GPS at this point). It was not difficult to locate and we soon had this one ticked off.



Following mountain bike tracks uphill


In the middle of nowhere, an abandoned wheel barrow!




Weaving through the trees


The elusive trig

We decided to continue on along the firebreak we were now in until we met the forestry track further along than where we’d left it and made our way down from there.

We managed to stretch this one out to 2.57 miles and 478 ft roughly and it was really good fun to boot!

Having returned to the vehicles, we decided to move them to the next parking spot before having lunch, so off we went to Burgiehill, parked up and then I joined Laura in the van for a sandwich and a spot of Fly Flapping.


Another view of Ben Rinnes and the Cromdale Hills


Fighting through the bushes


The trig is hidden in the trees and bushes on the left, with the large pylon behind…

We eventually set off to follow forestry tracks virtually all the way to the trig, with me recognising the tracks and realising, I’ve been here before, although several years ago and before I’d started ticking them off. Having found and found the trig, hidden in bushes next to a pylon, we initially decided on a more direct route out to meet the original track. After a short time, stumbling over heather, tussocks and the odd vicious fallen tree, we decided to cut down the next fire break instead, as we are lazy trigpointers and this was becoming less fun. And it started to rain.

There was no hanging about when we got back to the vehicles as I had washing on the line that needed to be rescued, so I shot off PDQ.

We stretched this one to 2.3 miles and 224 ft. We had quite a giggle, has to be said! Great fun Laura, thanks for the company and the laugh, on to the next!