Sunday, 5 June 2022

Reflections of TGO22


Tarptent Notch

The major bit of new or largely untested gear is my tent, Netty Notch. I had only spent about 3 nights in her before this Challenge, and the main test had been whether the midges could get in last June/July. Which they didn't.

This year, midgies weren't going to be the biggest issue.

The inner of this tent is half solid, half mesh, so it was possible that I could be cold, but I never felt that there was a cold draught coming through the mesh, so that was good. We had plenty of rain overnight, but Netty was completely water tight, which was also reassuring. The main problem faced this year was high winds, so pitching the tent and remaining upright was the concern. Because of some of the decisions I made, based on the forecast, meant I was mostly pitched safely with shelter, unlike some other unfortunate Challengers who had to endure several difficult nights. The worst conditions I faced were on the Invernahavon Campsite, so I was at least in a safe place, but I was still pretty worried by the huge gusts of wind over a two or three hour period, the torrential rain at the time meant that if Netty had failed my gear would all be soaked, so when the rain had first woken me, I had packed everything away in my rucksack and had a plan to rescue my sleeping bag and mat to keep them as dry as possible. As it was, Netty was awesome, my walking poles, Black Diamond Carbon FLZ, also new, were absolutely solid and we survived in tact.

As well as being pitched with my walking poles, the other main difference with this tent is having two porches. I find this incredibly useful. When Netty is pitched, she is pointy end into the wind. because of the way the doors open, one will open into the wind, the other will be sheltered, so when emptied I keep my rucksack in the windy porch as I won't be opening that one again till I drop the tent. The other porch is where I will keep my boots and water and use my stove, with the door open. Unless it is raining, this works well. If it is raining, it really depends on how the rain is falling as to whether I use my stove or not, I usually have enough food with me that I can cope without having to light my stove if necessary.

I need more practice to pitch her nicely every time, but overall, I think I like Netty, and trust her.

MSR 9" Core Pegs

Yup, four teamed with four mini-ground hog pegs, did a great job.

MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe

I had a new stove this year, an MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe, and I had an Alpkit MyTi mug to go with it. I had debated what size gas canister to take as obviously I expected to use more gas than with my Jetboil Flash, but had no idea how much. I settled on taking a 230g cannister, and if needed I could collect a small can from Laura's front porch or buy one in Braemar or Ballater. I also knew I wouldn't be on my own in the second week, so if I badly miscalculated, there would be someone who had spare.

I found that I was comfortable with the stove after a few uses, it burned well and usually brought a half litre of water to the boil relatively quickly, unless it was catching a bit of wind. I did not use it in the porch without the door open, which I have done with my Flash in my Laser, but I don't think I would use the Flash in Netty's porch either.

I almost got across Scotland with the one canister, I just needed to borrow a small canister from Barry on the last morning for my coffee, so that gives me an idea of how much gas I might use in future, I did not have a hot meal and drink every night and sometimes no coffee in the morning, mainly due to mood, not weather.

The Alpit MyTi mug is also great, no issues with that except I am stupid and kept burning my fingers. I have made myself a pot grab to resolve this.

Buff Trek Bucket Hat

I love my Tilley hat, I have taken it on all but one of my Challenges thus far, but the brim catches on the top of my pack and gets irritating. So this year after a little bit of searching I found the Buff Trek Bucket Hat and I have loved it. It fits nicely, has a handy little bit of adjustable elastic cord at the back of the had, a big enough brim to give protection but not catch on my pack, it is light and comfortable to wear and takes up no space in the pack. A good buy.

The Crocs

Croc Literide. These are not a lightweight option, but they are a really comfortable shoe to wear when I take my boots off, which after suffering Plantar Fasciitis for nearly two years and recently resolving the issue, I wanted something with support and comfort, so this was my choice. I decided to pack them in the parcel I would collect at Newtonmore, this was an illogical decision given the river crossings I was due to make on days One and Seven, but in the event, I made no river crossings that required a change of footwear and got away with the decision. I would also say that, once I had my Crocs, I was glad of them when I took my boots off at the end of the day. They may be heavy, but are likely to be high on the list next time.

Rab Borealis Jacket and Montane Primino Hoody

I wore the Borealis every day, either under my waterproofs, or as my top layer. I also wore it as a thin layer in bed over my Montane Primino Hoody. I love it. It is light and comfortable, very effective as a windproof and doesn't make me hot underneath my waterproofs. Love it. The Primino Hoody is super comfortable, surprisingly cosy for such a thin layer and the hood was fantastic instead a hat in my sleeping bag. I also wore this as my social top, as it is largely merino, it stays odour free for days, brilliant top.

Montane Dart LS top

A great t-shirt, worn every day to walk and only washed twice I think during the trip, just wish it was slightly longer.


Back to the drawing board with these, I took two pairs of Sloggi knickers, Wow Comfort and Sensual Fresh, neither of which were comfortable to walk in, one was better than the other thankfully. Merino is definitely better for freshness, just need to find a comfortable pair that don't have an awkwardly placed seam that rubs on my hips. I had sore, rubbed hips again this year, I like the rucksack, it carries well, but there is conflict between my rucksack belt and knickers that causes the rubbing which I need to resolve. I put clear film waterproof dressings on this year, the kind used on a canular or new tattoo, they definitely helped, but it was still sore enough that I had to take painkillers towards the end of the longer days, so I need to sort this.

Hoka One One Sky Kaha boots

I love these boots, no rubs, no blisters, no sore toes, all day comfort. I will buy them again.

Kula Cloth

Hmm. Saved my carrying much toilet paper, needs much more sunlight to work at its best. Enough said.

Panda Bamboo Dry Wipes

Yup, work fine, will take again.

Salt of the Earth Deodourant Crystal

Brilliant, I felt much better than I usually do, I had a wipe down at night using the Panda wipes and then applied the crystal. I use the bigger version every day at home and for me, it is amazing. Love it.

Aluminium mat cut off

Next time, don't forget it. I could definitely feel the cold coming up through my mat from the ground, just enough to notice it, if the weather had been colder, I would have been miserable. Take the mat!

At this moment in time, I think that was all my major new kit.


Clearly, I had a bit of a crisis before the start of the Challenge this year. There was a combination of issues which ganged up on me, but Ciara's advice of step by step, go to the start, was crucial. Once there, I was able to focus on each decision, one at a time, and once walking, I relaxed and had no further issues.

I did not eat brilliantly for a few days before setting off which did not help, and the first few days on the Challenge I wasn't brilliant either. The evening meal I had at the Prince's House Hotel definitely helped, once I got to Newtonmore, my food problems resolved.

I felt as though I didn't sleep well, but I think in reality, I was often asleep much earlier than normal, and even if I was awake several times in the night, it was mainly for very short periods of time, and on the whole I got a good amount of sleep. This probably helped with my mood and with my decision making.

The most important thing was meeting friends in the second week. It gives an enormous boost to be able to discus your adventures and to have them put into perspective by hearing theirs. Don't underestimate the power of your friends!

Friday, 22 April 2022

Little Conval and Meikle Conval

Another opportunity for a walk, so we decided to bag a couple of local hills, one of which had a trig. The weather was fine and quite warm.

We parked in Dufftown and walked along the road out of town, heading roughly SW. There is a path on the verge for most of the way, before we crossed the road and them headed uphill. I found this to be hard work and quite demoralising at the time, but I have since decided that I am so used to running now that walking felt slow and hard work. It felt like an age before we reached the top of Little Conval and bagged the trig. There is a track all the way. We had a bite to eat and a drink before turning around and heading downhill. I also change my jacket, it was breezy and quite cool at the top. After returning to the bealach, we headed uphill once more, this time on a small, boggy path heading up through the heather and boggy patches. I found this bit easier. There is no logic to this. It did not take too long to reach the top, just a brief stop as it was still breezy and cool, we took a quick bearing to find the track down heading E. Instead of taking the slightly longer route on a minor road back to the town centre, we returned on our outward route.

Roughly 12.82km and 609m ascent

Thoroughly enjoyed myself in lovely company.

We may have found a coffee shop...

Ben Rinnes

Ben Rinnes

Berryburn Anti-clockwise Circuit with David

We had a rare opportunity for a walk the day after Boxing Day, but stayed quite local and chose a circuit at one of the nearby windfarms. Not an ideal location, but half decent tracks and convenient. The weather was cold with a chance of rain, which of course it did, but not torrentially. My phone was in the Aquapac case I got for Christmas, it may have affected the quality of my photographs.

Roughly 13.62km and 224m ascent

Lovely company

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Adventures with Ellie - NE Scotland 28th August 2021

After a night at home and a quick turnaround, we headed off with Ellie again, this time to Sutherland and Caithness to continue exploring this fascinating area like tourists. We had a vague plan and headed over the Kessock Bridge then on towards Struie Hill viewpoint for a lunch stop. It is a popular stop for tourists and there was a coach there when we arrived. As I popped the roof and started to gather lunch making materials, David went outside to turn on the gas in order to make coffee. A German tourist asked if we were stopping the night, to which David responded "No, it's lunch time". "Ah yes, I see the chef at work now."


After lunch, we carried on our way north to Shin Falls where we stopped to investigate the recently upgraded facillities. We used the toilets whilst we were there (people do have trouble following simple instructions *sigh*) took a walk to see if any salmon were leaping (we saw one and something smaller) and then had a look at the black and grey water waste dumps. They are good! But too close to the fresh water tap for our liking. We rarely need to top up with water, so this won't cause us an issue.

Then we were on our way again, just a short distance to Lairg for a short but interesting walk to the remains of a broch and then a chambered cairn. The Walk Highland instructions for this walk were a tad vague, as usual, but we managed never the less and enjoyed a pleasant stroll with good views. There were quite a few people around, a mix of locals walking dogs and one or two other tourists.

After returning to Ellie, we continued north to our planned stop, making notes of other possible stopping places on the way. I was somewhat concerned we might be beaten to it, this spot was maybe too obvious, but when we arrived at the car park by Cnoc Craggie, noone else was there, so we made ourselves at home. There is a very short walk to a viewpoint which we decided to stroll up before dinner. As we left Ellie, another van arrived, the occupants of which asked if we minded sharing, which we didn't, but it was nice to be asked.

The walk was very short.

On returning to Ellie, we prepared dinner and then relaxed with a beer.

Roughly 5.18km and 99.2m ascent

In the morning we needed to head to Bettyhill to get more milk and beer, there was a walk we wanted to do on the way at Borgie Forest. Another Walk Highlands magical mystery walk, we ended up doing the walk in reverse, but it was still pleasant if very short. This was good, as it meant we arrived at Bettyhill in good time to buy alcohol (Sunday licensing hours in Scotland) While we were there, we found a lovely coffee shop and as we were being tourists, it was the perfect excuse to have coffee and cake. The lady who served us was so friendly and welcoming, I would highly recommend stopping at The Store Cafe. The cake she recommended us was delicious.

After our coffee, David headed uphill to another shop in search of coffee, whilst I returned to Ellie to make sandwiches. When David returned, we opted not to take our lunch with us on our short walk around Ard Mor and set off towards the viewpoint.

This walk follows the edge of the cliffs quite closely, there are wonderful views and lots of seabirds nesting. Also, precipitous drops.

I managed just fine, taking my own route slightly further in land at times.

Towards Glaisgeo

Looking back to sandy Farr Bay

Looking ahead to Torrisdale Bay

Abandoned salmon fishing station

On returning to Ellie, we decided to move off and find somewhere to eat our lunch, we drove passed several view points and laybys before stopping by an old bridge with a picnic bench and a spectacular view of a bank of gorse in full flower.

Our next planned port of call was at Forsinard, at the RSPB reserve where a viewing tower has been built and the vastness Flow Country can really be appreciated. A short but thoroughly enjoyable walk, with lots of information and just those views!

After this little stroll, we decided we would head off and find our last overnight stop. We were travelling a really quiet, single track road with views free from pylons, masts and turbines, it was truly wild. We happened upon a parking area just off the road overlooking a small lochan, there was space for another vehicle if someone had been wanting to fish, the views were beautiful and we decided it was perfect for us.

There were midges, but I popped down to the lochan to take a few photographs before they got annoying, while David put the gas on to light the fridge and ready to cook dinner. Before we lost all daylight, we were able to work out what all the distant lumps and bumps were, including Ben Klibreck and Ben Loyal. There was a mast just off to the right, we were able to pick up enough signal to watch television in bed.

This has to be one of the best stops yet.

Borgie Forest Walk

Roughly 1.82km and 38.4m ascent

Ard Mor

Roughly 3.13km and 126m ascent

We had an exceptionally quiet night. After breakfast, we waited for a good breeze before David went out to turn off the gas and collect the grey water containers which I stash in the rear doorwell whilst we travel. We were heading back via our outward route so that we could call in by Falls of Shin and use the facillities, thus supporting the community that have provided them. We stopped for lunch at a laybe the other side of Struie Hill this time, it was more level and quieter.

And then, we were home again.