Sunday 29 May 2011

Something new to try from Icebreaker

I’ve been approached by the Nature Shop to do some reviews for them of Icebreaker garments. I’ve received two Icebreaker tops to take a look at, a Zephyr Hood in Blizzard and a Tech T Lite Petal in Pewter. They both arrived when I was on the Challenge and TTS brought them to Laggan for me to see before bringing them with him again to Braemar for me to take a closer look.

My first impressions are that they both arrived in good condition. When unwrapped, they both felt as I would expect, soft and cosy. I was able to put them both to good use, as the weather was a shade inclement and I felt cold, in need of something luxurious to make me feel better. I tried both independently before wearing them layered, along with my Icebreaker Infinity top. They were both smooth and easy to wear alone and when layered, I did not feel at all restricted or bundled, there was no bulkiness.

I have returned from my trip and I am now wearing both tops, alone and together as required, to test durability and odour resistance. They are both crease free and fresh in the morning and this is the third day of use, counting the one and a half in Braemar.

The trial continues and I will report further when they have been worn for longer and perhaps during exercise and after having being washed.

Final thoughts

My Challenge 2011 has been an extraordinary experience. There’s no one thing that could sum it all up.

The incredible kindness and support shown by complete strangers was astounding, new friendships born out of adversity. I learnt that I can push myself further than I’d ever imagined and I can probably push myself further still, I can achieve more. I met some lovely people, those that I knew ‘virtually’ and finally met in the flesh and those that were completely new to me. I also heard some interesting things about people, some about myself that took me by surprise. *

The weather was unusual and at times, extreme. I have witnessed extreme weather, I remember well being lashed by the tail end of a hurricane just a few years ago here in Scotland, but I didn’t venture out in it. The weather that particular Monday was quite extraordinary. By the time we reached Tarfside, I felt quite exhilarated by it, we survived our beating with style! And a little help from some kindly gentlemen that happened our way.

Certainly my choice of gear played a part in my experience and on the whole, I feel that what I chose suited me and performed well.

My tent, though basic and cheap, was solid and water tight. I know of others, far more expensive and well respected, that failed. The sleeping system worked for me. I love my Thermarest and Gayle’s Rab sleeping bag was just brilliant. Thanks again Gayle!

My various merino items were, as usual, the best thing since sliced bread. My beautiful, hand knitted flip flap mitts (Alan, they are beautiful) kept my hands mostly warm and functioning. Even on That Monday, my hands were still working despite being lumps of ice. I certainly didn’t have to resort to the handwarmers. My three Montane jackets, especially the Dynamo and Antifreeze, were brilliant. I may consider changing my Quattro for longer treks, but I think any waterproof jacket (except perhaps Paramo, which were highly praised) would have wetted out in those dire conditions and my baselayer did remain dry and warm regardless.

My boots got a good soaking, there’s no doubt and I did suffer a cracking blister on my right heel, but this is the heel with the dodgy lump on my Achilles, so I’ll reserve judgement.

I had little food left, a few hot drink and soup sachets, along with some trail mix and oatcake crumbs, so I’d managed my food well. I love my Jetboil Flash, there were a few people envious of that! It was easy and efficient .

What else is there to say? I’ve been asked so many times, during the Challenge and since, would I do it again? Initially, my response was '”Not on my own, I’d rather be with The Trusty Sidekick.” Having completed the Challenge in those exceptional conditions, I’ve come to realise that I could probably do it again, alone, so the answer now would be “Probably.” Maybe that application form will be finding it’s way into the post in a few months…

Thank you to anyone and everyone who helped and supported me with this, my Big Adventure, before and during the event. Your advice and encouragement has been invaluable and is greatly appreciated.


*Apparently, there was a chap I never met, proclaiming that I was an ‘irritating first-timer, latching on to unsuspecting Challengers’. This amused me as it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I may be irritating and a first-timer, but I didn’t ‘latch on to’ a single soul. Two solo walkers elected to keep me company, on separate occasions, and look after me as they felt I needed it (I was pleased to have company to ford a tricky burn in spate), a lovely couple asked me if I’d like to walk with them a while as they enjoyed my company and Laura, well we walk together anyway, so as she had to change her route and went my way, it would have been churlish not to! I didn’t appreciate the misrepresentation, but those that got to know me (and therefore matter) know better, so that’s that! (Of course said chap could have been misquoted…)

Saturday 28 May 2011

TGO Challenge The End

Friday 27th May, 2011

Today was the day to go home. Laura decided to join me on the train and so off we went to the station. There were many other Challengers, but they were going the other way.

SDC11728 Photograph wars

SDC11731 Then there were none

SDC11729 They went that way

TGO Challenge day 13

Thursday 26th May, 2011
The Park Hotel
Much milling about, eating, retail therapy, drinking and celebrating went on today, not least because it was my birthday! I don’t think there’s any need to go into great detail, but I was touched by people’s kindness, especially Gayle and Mick and Barbara and Hugh for their cards and bubbly and Laura for my beautiful TGO fleece. It’s purple and soft and cosy and I love it! Thank you all.
I went to the meal in the evening, delighted to be able to sit with Mick and Gayle, slightly worried to have been asked to present Roger with his handmade card as a representative of all first timers. Thanks so much Alan, what a treat, over 300 people sang Happy Birthday to me, not at all embarrassing.
SDC11720Cheers Roger
There was eating, drinking, clapping, cheering, speeches photographs. In fact, it’s all pretty much a blur. I finally met Martin Banfield in the bar, along with a few others, like Roger Boston. I’m sure there were others, but we’ve already established I’m rubbish with names. It was gone twelve before Laura and I made our way to bed.

TGO Challenge day 12

Wednesday 25th May, 2011
North Water Bridge to St Cyrus
8.21 miles 605 ft
We made a good getaway from the campsite, aided by the edge of a rain shower which saw all the tents disappear as one. Jon Hancock and Colin joined us and we wended our merry way along country lanes towards the sea. Colin took an alternative route as we headed over the Hill of Morphie, Mick was following his nose for a tea room. It failed him.
SDC11699How did that one sneak in?
SDC11702  On our way to the sea
SDC11703 Guess
When we reached the village, we headed for the beach, joined by Mervyn. First we climbed down the cliff face. We dipped toes, we congratulated one another, we hugged, shook hands and photographed.
SDC11707Toe dipping
SDC11709Think that hat is wearing me
SDC11710 Mervyn, Jon, Laura, Gayle and Mick
Then, we climbed up the cliff face. That took a while. On the way up, we met more Challengers. Mick was absolutely gutted to find the tea rooms he'd so looked forward to had closed down. Disaster! Instead, we joined an ever growing crowd of Challengers in the queue for the bus. The driver was not so happy to see so many single fares with £10 notes.
We made it to the Park, where we were greeted by Roger and handed our certificate, badge and t-shirt. Tea and biscuits were enjoyed before I decided to enquire after a room for an extra night. Success! Then Laura got one. Then there was a bit of bed juggling and Mick and Gayle had Laura’s room and I sub let my twin bed to Laura.
Many Challengers arrived, there were kisses and handshakes, tea, beers. The evening meal was arranged and after some ablutions, a group of nine went for a curry. We were joined in the restaurant by several other Challengers.
SDC11712There are rather a lot of bottles there
SDC11713Curry night
Upon our return to The Park, Laura and I retired to our beds, the excitement was just too much for us. I believe others may have indulged in more drinking.

TGO Challenge day 11

Tuesday 24th May, 2011
Tarfside to North Water Bridge
16.9 miles 682 ft
Surprisingly, the next morning, most of our kit was about dry. I was impressed, seeing as my rucksack had been soaked through and my boots were just ridiculously wet, again. I used David’s big woolly socks that were padding my collar bones to stuff my boots and they successfully sucked up a vast amount of water. My dry bags also appear to be excellent at their job and my borrowed sleeping bag had been dry when I’d climbed into it the night before.
It was a nice day today, all day. Even the breezy bits! We left Tarfside just before 8.30am, Mick and Gayle having already vacated the room and headed off about 7am. They like an early start. We soon reached the Retreat where we stopped for breakfast. Yet again, I just couldn’t quite manage to eat. Damn these nerves of mine! Colin joined us, but managed to finish and leave before us as we took a last moment to enjoy with porcelain. We were soon on our way and successfully found the track down to the bridge across the river. It was a very different river today.
SDC11693A great stop for breakfast
SDC11694Not so raging
 We made good progress all day, had the odd snack, water, gear faff and got to Edzell in time for a late lunch at the Tuck Inn, which was smashing. We bumped into lots of Challengers, Colin, Frank, Jim and all the boys whose names I have forgotten. It’s an age thing.
After lunch, we had to negotiate the Unsafe Bridge we’d heard tell of. Sure enough, there were barriers, but we soon scaled those and made our way across, oops! The loose board was right at the other end, I found out. There followed a bit of a road slog to North Water Bridge, but I didn’t really notice as I was behind Laura so wasn’t focussed on the long straight road.
SDC11696Well, we got to the other side
SDC11697Tent village
SDC11698Tent city
There were many Challengers at the site and yet another pleasant evening followed with showering, washing, dinner, chocolate, spectating table tennis (oh Mick, that was sooo close!) maps perused, plans made and route agreed. Me, Laura, Mick, Gayle and Jon would head out together to finish in St Cyrus, a day ahead of schedule for me. Amazing.

TGO Challenge day 10

Monday 23rd May, 2011
Allt-na-giubhsaich to Tarfside
15.4 miles 1837 ft
We could hear the wind during the night, but the woods were very sheltered and we had been able to enjoy the conversation between a pair of Tawny Owls as we’d nodded off to sleep. It began to rain lightly before we got up, but it was nothing compared to what we could see along the exposed track towards the Loch Muick visitor centre. Ah.
We broke camp in good time and made our way along the windswept track by 8am, only to take a break at the visitor centre. We enjoyed the use of the temporary loos and a hot orange drink before persuading ourselves we really had to get on with it and made our way up Allt Darrarie.
Oh my, talk about in spate, it was wild. There was much wet and plenty of bog. And there’s that flimsy, side-less bridge to cross. Deep joy. Onwards.
We knew we followed the stream until it split, then follow the right hand stream, negotiating the end of it (bog) through the gap and left again to find the Shielin of Mark. There it was! It was a bit wild getting there, the river was full to bursting and the rain came sideways. As we approached the bothy, there was a group of chaps across the river. They shouted to us, offering help to cross the raging torrent. This was a sensible option, but we needed shelter for lunch, of which there would be none until much further on and we needed to eat. It was before midday and we felt sure others would be along to help and if not, we would shelter at the bothy. We thanked them and reluctantly, they left us there.
We took shelter and had lunch. The bothy was dark and cold, not a place to linger. Soup was on the menu for both of us, along with oatcakes and anything else I could find! I took my jackets off and put on my down, bit daft but a sure way to warm up. We were soon joined by two chaps, Lee and Tony, who also brewed up, then Emily, John, Carrie and Dominique.
After a bit more faffing, we were outside, with Lee and Tony, pondering the raging torrent in front of us. After first going upstream heading in to the gales, we turned downstream to find a crossing point. I admitted my nerves, I’d never done a crossing like this before, but the boys were brilliant, finding a place they thought we could all cross, Laura and I with their help. They went first, followed by Laura, then me, fully dressed, no point in deploying the sandals this time. They encouraged my every step, constantly reassuring me. When I reached the opposite bank, there was one step into deep water, then I was hauled out by our heroes.
Laura and I poured water from our boots and wrung out our socks before continuing on.
Tony and Lee went on ahead, waving in the distance from time to time to show us the way. I carried on quite happily, even though it was uphill bogginess. Laura was flagging a little, but having a ball nevertheless. The weather was fun, apparently!
When we eventually caught up, we urged them to carry on at their own pace, but they refused to leave us until we had crossed the next burn at Stables of Lee. As we continued on up Muckle Cairn, the winds just got ridiculous. I have never been outside in anything like these conditions and I will never forget them. Laura was blown over, but managed to right herself and we continued up and then down the hill, being buffeted and blown and rained and hailed upon.
We reached the LRT and continued down the hill where we found the boys were right. We did indeed need help to cross the burn, but it was easier this time, narrower, so over more quickly and maybe not quite so deep. Confident we were safe, they left us and we had a brief break in the Stables. When we carried on, the wind was worse. It came from all directions, stopping us in our tracks, throwing us around, pushing us forward. We were soaked, had faces stinging from hail and were beginning to tire. I was glad to get to the road after Kirkton and the decision was made not take the footpath, despite being a mile shorter, as the road seemed to offer more shelter.
It felt like a long road to Tarfside. I began to worry about our condition and situation, we needed to find shelter and soon, but I did at least feel sure that if we just kept going, we could get there.
When we did, oh the relief. No matter that St Drostan’s was full, no matter there was no power, there was still hot food and friendly faces. Mike Knipe met us at the roadside and guided us inside, Mick, Gayle and Colin were soon at our sides, helping to unclip, remove gloves, coats, boots. A mug of hot soup was soon pressed into my hands by Gayle, horrified to find my hands replaced by lumps of ice. They’d also decided to share their tiny room with us, although in the end, Laura shared with Pat and Frank and I with Gayle and Mick.
The Fabulous Ladies of St Drostan’s conjured food and everyone that wanted was fed. We were reminded to be extra careful as the hostel was overfull, but there was an easy, friendly, relaxed atmosphere as we were all safe and well. There was some anxiety for others that we knew were still in the hills, we hoped they all had shelter.
Today was strangely exhilarating. The conditions and the way it affected the landscape was extraordinary. I’ve never been in such punishing conditions before and at times, I’m not afraid to admit, I was frightened, but at others, we laughed, “Pah to the wind!” we said. You had to laugh or you’d spend the whole day sobbing and distraught.
We took a risk and survived.
Surprisingly, there are no photographs of the days events…

TGO Challenge day 9

Sunday 22nd May, 2011
Braemar to Allt-na-giubhsaich
14 miles 2207 ft
Today, I set off with Laura, because this is her neck of the woods and she knows the way! Actually, more because I enjoy her company, but I wasn’t going to let on.
It was another funny day, sunny, showery, breezy, warm turning to quite chilly. Actually, the breezy became more like really windy at times. We bumped into lots of people and Colin walked with us for a while.
SDC11688Invercauld House
The woodlands of Braemar estate are jolly fine and we took a lovely break amongst the trees, followed by a bit of a gear faff by me. Soon, we struck out into the open to find a shed for another break, having decided we would bypass Gelder Shiel. It was quite a long slog up the hill before turning a corner and making our way down the other side, which included a river crossing where sandals were deployed. It was really quite gusty in the late afternoon and we were beginning to have difficulty at times.
SDC11689Lunch stop
SDC11690 Sometimes it was nice
 SDC11691 An unusual view of a rainbow
We came upon a tent village at Allt-na-giubhsaich and after much milling and discussion, decided that we would also camp in this naughty place. By this time, it was obvious any other shelter would be hard to come by. Although it was quite early, at 4 o’clock, it would probably have taken at least another two hours to find alternative shelter and given the worsening conditions, this could have been quite exhausting. Little did we know…
We were in bed by 7pm, maybe a little extreme, but there was little to do and we hoped for a good sleep. My heel was feeling much better since David had doctored it the night before. This was the only night I felt a little chilly in Millicent, but not for long.

TGO Challenge day 8

Friday 20th May, 2011
Mar Lodge to Braemar
4.79 miles 458 ft
I was right, I spent a lot of the night fretting about my heel. It was throbbing, hot and disturbed me numerous times, but that could have been my over active imagination!
When I got up and ventured downstairs, we were all up, but plans were again being slightly altered. The weather was miserable, it even appeared to be snowing from time to time. Mick and Gayle delayed their departure so that they could ‘pop up’ Morrone, some of us decided on a more sedate plod to Braemar, Pat left early regardless of the weather, doing a fine impression of Nanuke of the North! Much tea and coffee was consumed in the meantime.
We were soon all on our way, although more Challengers were discovered enjoying the pleasures of the kitchen before we left, including Stan.SDC11679
Mar Lodge, from the front
As Robert and I strolled along the road, chatting, we caught up with a slow moving, green rucksack cover with legs. When, for a brief moment, the rucksack cover turned to the side, I recognised the profile. “Laura!” “Who’s that?” “It’s Louise!” “Hello!”
 SDC11680 Quite a nice day
So the three of us chatted and strolled into Braemar in search of coffee and cake, which we found after Pat sent us on a wild goose chase. Then we found Mick and Gayle, then egg and chips followed by the outdoor shop. We decided it was time to make for the campsite and I got such grief for wanting two pitches.
SDC11682 How dare I want two pitches?
SDC11685 Hardly stuffed to the gunwales. Yet.
We made our way back into the village and ended up in the Fife Arms only for David and the children to arrive mid drink. We retired to the campsite to pitch both tents and consume chicken curry. I didn’t fancy much wine, I was too cold and ended up going to bed, tired but happy.

TGO Challenge day 7

Thursday 19th May, 2011
Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy to Mar Lodge
18.7 miles 1991 ft
We left the bothy before 9 am, after Pat and Steve?, but before Bill, Mary, Fiona, Ann and Alvar, (they’d stopped further along the Feshie). We made our way along the glen, which is really pretty, but there are some slightly tricky landslips. We saw a golden eagle above the skyline opposite and ‘wild’ horses across the river. Emma wasn’t for stopping and we stepped along for quite a while, burns were forded, bridges crosssed and bogs hopped, (not too many of those really). It was a nice day mostly, but breezy and occasionally showery. On and on we went, until eventually I decided I was stopping for a ‘late’ lunch and Emma stopped too.
SDC11671Looking back along the Feshie
SDC11673Feshie rushing by
SDC11675 Some of these bridges are such fun
A lady Challenger appeared out of nowhere, “Is it one of you ladies that had a new pack?” “Er, yes!?” “Can I have a photograph?” What? How on earth?
Ann and Alvar caught up with us and we all walked together as a loose group for a while. Alvar and I chatted at quite some length. Alvar tried to be the gentleman and pull me up out of the peat when I slipped. Emma and Ann laughed and took photographs that will be published, apparently. Kind. We saw an adder, my first.
Onwards until, surprisingly, the temperature suddenly dropped. We reached the dangerous building at NO 002 869 where we found Bill had already pitched. Ann, Alvar and Emma all decided to pitch, but after so much mincing, my legs were glad to be stretching on the LRT, so I elected to continue. I’d already decided that I was unlikely to stop at White Bridge as planned, which was lucky as I totally missed it when I crossed it! I continued on. I almost leapt off the hillside as a chap on a bike approached me from behind and spoke, but managed to regain my composure for a brief chat when he told me we weren’t far from Linn of Dee. Mar Lodge was within reach, so on I went.
I used the GPS for the first time on this trip to check the GR of the turn off, as I do not know this neck of the woods at all. I soon found myself approaching the impressive Mar Lodge and was then in a quandary. How do you get in? As I pondered this dilemma, another likely looking Challenger approached from behind and he seemed to know the way, I fell into stride along side him and we chatted. As a second time Challenger, he recognised my inexperience and was happy to steer me in the right direction to the rear of the building where there was the door to my shelter for the night.SDC11678
Approaching Mar Lodge from behind
Our approach must have been observed, as a chap soon appeared through the glass door to our left. A chap I recognised. As he opened the door, I exclaimed “I know you!” “Louise!” “Mick!” What an absolute treat! Gayle duly appeared by his side and an enjoyable evening began. My companion turned out to be Robert and when we went into the kitchen with the promise of tea, I found Pat was already enjoying his evening meal.
We were soon both allocated a room and both took time for a kit explosion before revisiting the kitchen to make the most of an electric kettle to boil water to rehydrate our evening meals. Tea, coffee and chocolate were all enjoyed with much chat and catching up. Gayle gave her approval of my recently purchased (and now received) PHD bag which I was grateful for.
 I sent Robert off for his bath/shower so that I could then have mine before retiring straight to bed. The shoulder had been much better. However, by now, my heel was not pretty and in fact, during the course of the evening I had become aware of an unpleasant odour emanating from it’s general direction. Before bed, I’d had a closer look, trimmed the current Compeed and applied more where necessary. All I needed to do was get into Braemar, then the heel could have a rest and TTS could give his valued opinion.
I knew it wouldn’t lead to a good night though.

TGO Challenge day 6

Wednesday 18th May, 2011
Newtonmore to Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy
14 miles 1174 ft
This started as a very positive, bright day. I tried, yet again to eat breakfast, but as had happened at the Kintail Lodge and Cougie, it appeared I was finding this tricky. Nerves, I think, although not the sort that was going to cause trouble, just a little natural anxiety. Doesn’t help much with the eating bit though.
When I’d stuffed all that kit back where it belonged, I settled my bill and set off for Glen Feshie. I was going to enjoy today, my first day alone again, I had hoped.
SDC11642The cyclepath
Not far out of Newtonmore, my heal was giving my grief. I had to have a Compeed faff, which was a bit of a pain and during the delay, Emma caught me up. We sped along the cycle path to Kingussie and to my dismay, took the right turn to Ruthven Barracks without first visiting the High Street to find tea and cake. Oh dear.
Onwards, over Tromie Bridge and to Drumguish before entering the woodland which had been snowbound when TTS and I were last here. The forest track was much improved and Emma and I eventually stopped for lunch in exactly the same place as the TTS and I had before, before turning the corner into the wind.
SDC11645 Ruthven Barracks
SDC11651 From Tromie Bridge
SDC11653Looking north
SDC11657 Looking south along the Feshie
Another Challenger passed us by, cutting the corner and continuing without stopping to say hello. We were soon battling with the wind as we followed the clear, narrow, exposed path along the Feshie. We crossed the burn with ease that had bothered me before and soon, Ruigh-aiteachain Bothy hove into view. A man stood at the door, disappeared and reappeared as we got closer. It was Pat! “Water’s just boiled, help yourselves to tea!” was his cheery welcome as he manly battled to chop wood with a handleless axe.
The tea was most welcome before we explored our new surroundings. I’d heard tell of the ‘toilet’ and it was duly explored. The bothy itself had two rooms. Pat was in the second room, with a sleeping bench and the wood burning stove. We took the first room, after Emma had eventually decided not to camp outside. This had a wall of sleeping platforms and plenty of space.
SDC11660 The bothy
The facilities
SDC11665 The instructions for the facilities
SDC11666Enough said
SDC11659Unusual place for a beautiful door
Pat’s roomSDC11668 Our sleeping platforms.
We had a jolly pleasant evening, during which others arrived, all of which decided to camp. Mary and Fiona popped in to say hello, as did Bill, but, yet again, I’ve forgotten a name as there was another chap too. Oops.
The shoulder was much better today, still some pain and discomfort, but a definite improvement.

TGO Challenge day 5

Tuesday 17th May, 2011

Melgarve Bothy to Newtonmore

18.4 miles 1136ft ascent

What an odd day!

I knew I’d have a big day as I hadn’t made it to Garva Bridge, but it should have been quite easy as it was a mostly level and even surface, but as I walked on, my shoulder, neck and back became more and more painful, shooting pains into my spine at times, others times just achy and horrid. It was seriously getting me down as the day went on.

SDC11634 The Spey from Garva Bridge

The walk itself was actually quite nice. I don’t mind road walking as I do quite a bit of it on a daily basis and I find my feet quite comfortable. Except the blister, but I’ll come to that. It was quite a nice day too, not too cold and I don’t remember many showers.

Soon, David hove into view and I cried. TTS had come to my rescue. We said goodbye to Barbara and Hugh as they were staying at the Monadhliath Hotel and made our way to Laggan and the infamous Laggan Stores. I plopped down onto a bench further up the hill and continued to blub, like the pathetic heap that I am. David’s response? He force fed me. Mushroom soup, more oatcakces, Babybel, Jaffa Cakes, fruit salad and painkillers. What a star. He nagged me into emptying my Wildcat and filling his Panther and once I had it on my back, I discovered I was in much less pain. My plan of escape was disintegrating. Another Challenger stopped and offered painkillers before giving some really useful advice. I was to happen across him several times and I’m not sure, but he may have been Andrew Wright. Sorry if you weren’t!

At the Stores, we bumped into Ann and Alvar again, and Hugh and The Cowboy. After picking up a few supplies, I agreed to walk to Newtonmore to give the rucksack a far trial, David would drive ahead then walk back to meet me so that I could decide. It was really nice, even though I was strolling along a busy road, and it was even better when I met up with David and we chatted. Soon, Newtonmore came into view. I made my way to the campsite and upon arrival, decided it wasn’t for me. I collected my parcel and the lovely lady was very understanding when I decided to seek a comfy bed to rest my shoulder again.

SDC11637On my way again

We found the Glen Hotel and enquired after a room. The chap was a little puzzled as to why a single was required for a two people, but we explained and acquired a room. David waited whilst a kit explosion and change of clothes ensued, so that he could join me at the bar for a pint as I ate before he left me to my fate once me. My hero.

SDC11639Another kit explosion

SDC11640 Using an old trick to dry washing

I wasn’t alone for long as Emma appeared out of nowhere and joined me. When we’d both eaten, I had to take my leave. I was suddenly overwhelmed by tiredness and had a desire for a warm, relaxing bath before bed. Bliss. My blister needed attention and I was quite concerned by the condition of my heal, so photographs were taken on the mobile and sent to TTS, Compeed were applied and I did my best to put them out of my mind as I tried to watch the news to get the weather, but had to give up to sleep. The best night’s sleep I’d had for quite a while, although still somewhat fitful.

TGO Challenge day 4

Monday 16th May, 2011
Fort Augustus to Melgarve Bothy
12.3 miles 3046 feet
(Some really rubbish photographs!)
I was in some pain in the morning, so a few pills were popped, but I got off to a good start, getting packed up in time to dry the tent out draped over the rope by the toilet block. I also met Ian Shiel by my tent that is green (I’d briefly seen him in The Bothy) and we spoke. I think.
SDC11619Kit explosion
It was a breezy, damp day, which did not improve. We made our way to the Corrieyairack Pass, which started the way it meant to go on, a stoney, unpleasant path, quite steep on the way up. Steep on the way down too.
SDC11620The last view of Fort Augustus
We enjoyed a break at Blackburn Bothy, quite a pleasant place, or maybe it was just the shelter it provided at the time. Colin dropped in too and we bumped into him several times during the day.
SDC11621 Blackburn Bothy, quite sweet
Barbara and I toiled up the hill and Hugh waited and encouraged us. He was very gentle with us. It was quite a long day that became more miserable and it became apparent that Barbara was struggling more than previously. The wind was strong and gusty and threw rain at us from the side most of the way. There were burns to cross and boulders to sidestep.
As we got closer to Melgarve Bothy, I became suddenly freezing cold. I was ahead of both Hugh and Barbara at this point and I desperately needed to carry on to warm up or get into shelter. I had to go on, but felt bad not waiting to tell them. I also had Allt a Mhil Ghairbh to cross by myself. There was a bridge with a few missing planks which I’m sure others would have strolled across, but I preferred to ford. I picked my route and struck out. I made a really good job of it, until the last step. Whether my pole or foot slipped first, I’m not sure, but I suddenly sat down hard (ahem) on the rocks behind me and watched as my right foot floated in the river in front of me. Pants.
Turned out it wasn’t just a wet foot and a bruised ego, I later discovered a fist sized bruise on my bottom. I also upset my already sore shoulder, so I wasn’t a happy bunny. My soggy foot and I soon found ourselves outside Melgarve Bothy and Colin was a welcome sight, shepherding me to the back door of the bothy with the promise of a fire and hot water for tea. What a star!
Inside, I found others, sheltering from the dire weather. Pat Deane, Peter Molenar and John and Helen Dixie were enjoying tea and hot food, and I whipped my jacket off and waterproof trousers round my ankles to I warm myself by the fire. Bliss. Colin kindly kept an eye out for Hugh and Barbara, I was worried they may not realise the bothy was open, as the door at the front was padlocked. In between times, he helped me sort my kit and find somewhere to sleep, as I decided Garva Bridge was no longer beckoning me. He also ventured out into the elements to find fire wood, without suitable tools. He was a real star.
SDC11624 Pat, Hugh and the Dixies
SDC11626 Peter
SDC11632John, Alvar and Colin
SDC11628I rather liked the rainbow with the table and accoutrements silhouetted, although you don’t really get it in this photograph
SDC11627 Natasha, Jayme with drying clothes and a pile of wood
SDC11622The roaring fire
When the others arrived, Barbara was evidently exhausted and unwell. She managed a little to eat and drink, but was soon tucked up in a warm sleeping bag, sleeping.
Soon, we were joined by Jayme Morgan and Natasha Gahoojamanian and another couple, and I believe Emily Rodway’s team stayed close by, although I think only John Chivall popped into the bothy and did some extremely useful wood collecting aswell. It was a while before the names of the other couple were mentioned and I suddenly realised they were my vetters, Ann and Alvar Thorn, who weren’t supposed to be at the bothy either, but at least I was on my route, if a little short of my proposed stop. All such lovely people! This was beginning to become a bit of a theme.
A very pleasant and relaxing evening ensued, before I retired to my bed. It’s been a long time since I shared a room with an older man other than my husband.
I had discovered earlier that, if I hung far enough out of the window upstairs, I had a signal. I phoned David and asked him to meet me at Laggan with rucksacks, on the pretext of changing mine to help my shoulder. I intended to ask to go home…
So, my first ever night in a bothy!