Tuesday 26 February 2008

Wet and wild

Thursday 21st 02, GR OS LR34 382029 Blackburn bothy.
Did what is becoming a familiar shuffle, train up to Inverness, an overnight stay and
travel on in the morning. Took the bus down to fort Augustus. The weather was deteriorating all the while. By the time I got off the bus it was raining heavily. Made my way around to the start of the Corrieyairack track. Initially it was a steepish pull up the first bit. Stopped to admire two fine white bulls standing on the path; one limping a tad. If the weather had been good it would have meant fine views but that was not to be. One or two stiffish sections but otherwise a steady uphill plod. As I climbed higher it was in to the teeth of a gale and driving rain. Made the bothy ok, everything is streaming with water though. The blackburn itself is a foaming torrent and the water is up close to the bothy. Everything is at least damp and it was a case of getting the stove going pdq and getting hot fluids down me. The storm is still roaring outside and the bothy is creaking and groaning it also leaks a bit.
Friday camped gr OS LR35 584 930.
Quite a day. The storm had eased during the night. Sleet and hail was bouncing off the bothy roof but the water level had dropped a bit, as had the temperature. Dithered for a while, but there was little choice accept to push on. Yuch, dressing in cold, damp clothing is no fun. Spent some time trying to find somewhere to cross the blackburn. In the end I decided it had to be the ford or nothing. Took a deep breath and plunged in. The water was just over knee deep and the force of it meant I had to brace heavily with the trekking poles. Once across things where not too bad. A steady uphill walk for the next couple of hours. Sleet and snow showers coming and going. Made the bealach in poor visibility and a heavy snow shower. Comimg off the bealach the drop is much steeper and the zig-zags where banked in snow. Down in the corrie the track had gone completely, washed out and replaced by deep, water filled gullies and bog. A great pity, it would be good to see this ancient bit of history preserved. Just below Melgarve the track gives way to tarmac. All I can say is that it is a long plod down some seven miles of road. The strath is wide and open. probably doing it in company and with dry feet it will be easier. Mind, I am going to ensure some heavier shock absorbing insoles are in my footwear. Sleeting at present. Stopping at last light, I just pulled off the road on to the track I want tomorrow and camped under an old Scots pine. A good day, a lot of miles, hard, but ok.
Saturday. Gr OS LR35 712949. to the ridge
Wow, what a day. Followed the track I was camped on through to Achdruchil. My aim was to head up the forestry tracks opposite. So much for my plans. Working off the 1 50 000 map there was no indication that the wood had been sculpted by a myriad of cycle trails. Mountain bikers you will love it, steep swoops and banking curves for the adventures, gentler trailsfor those less inclined. it made the map reading extremely interesting though. Doable, ie, just keep following a succesion of trails that headed in the right direction. Came out on the ridge to be confronted by a deer fence. These things are eight feet tall and not easy to cross. From there dropped down towards the Alt na cubbhaige. That was a very unwise move. It was bog and water, even the climb back up to Creag Doire Duibhe was over boggy ground. What followed was worse. A steepish drop down and across toward loch Glas choire, meant some really nasty bog. At one point, teetering across wobbly tussocks I stepped on to a boulder; horror, the thing began to sink underneath me. To make things even more fun the whole area was intersperced with a further three separate deer fences. One thing I am not is some form of champion hurdler. It was obvious I was not prepared to tackle the third ridge across the other side of the road. Caked in mud, damp and a mite dispirited; I took to the road. Down to Catlodge and then down to Glen Truim. Followed the cycle trail that runs beside, but separate from the trunk road down to were a track runs up to Glen Fernisdale and the lodge. Again stopping late in the day. Pheasants are bred around where I camped and I have an evening chorus of mad pheasant cackling. Maybe they are laughing at me? Mind, some look as if they would make nice tasty eating??. There have been sleet showers on and off all day. Tonight though the temperature is rising, as is the wind. My concern is that I am well short of where I need to be tomorrow. People are expecting me over in the outdoor centre close to loch Morlich. That looks like a lot of miles to cover.

Sunday Badaguish outdoor centre.
Temperature dropped again in the early hours and I packed up and got underway with a blustery wind blowing and sleet and hail showers. The way on from where I had camped was a delight. Open, rolling moorland. No steep bits and a good track. my feet where a bit sore after a few days in wet socks and foot wear, that, and compiled with a lot of road walking meant achy feet. made good time over toward Kingussie. The map had to be checked to ensure that I stayed on the right track. Other tracks led off in differing directions and where not always marked on the map. had a mile of trunk road by Kingussie and then turned off toward Ruthven barracks. Stayed on the road to Tromie bridge. From there it meant constant map reading through the forestry trails to Feshiebridge. From there even more close map reading to Loch an Eilein. By then light was fast fading. Somewhere along the way a long walk had turned in to a hard route march. To be honest, I am not proud of that. there where miles to cover and cover them I did. My phone, which I had switched on that afternoon, rang; It was Jules, one of the people I was meeting. As soon as I spoke to her she insisted I made my way to a point where she could pick me up. A quick check of the map and I suggested Blackpark cottage. it was only a few miles further on and knowing the area meant I could make that last push to get there with no difficulty. As soon as I made the car in a steady, snow fall, Jules made drink some sugary soft drink. It seems I had sounded quite drunk on the phone; hypoglycaemia had been setting. my sugar levels had gone through the floor. Feet and ankles are quite swollen. (Checking later on, my mileage for the day works out on average 24 miles.)

One of the aims of this trip had been to check part of the route Darren and I are covering on the TGOc. The Corrieyairack and the section beyond had been niggling me. My concern had been both terrain and distance. Ok, lessons learned. Firstly, From Fort Augustus to the bothy is some 2/3 hours of uphill walking. From the bothy to the bealach is another 2 hours or so of uphill walking. These are conservative times, we may well cover the ground quicker than this. Over the bealach and down to the tarmac an hour or so. from there it means some 7 seven mile of road walking. There are few places to wild camp. Also, if we do we compound the problem. The following day is across country. Ok, I have a slightly different approach, having studied been there, the terrain and consulted a 1 25 000 map, we can swing around on higher ground. it does mean a lengthy day. Camping near, or a bit beyond where I stopped on Saturday means if put the miles in, Glen Feshie can be reached ok. A good point is that although we have a few miles to cover the terrain is good. Thus, on average, some three days from Blackburn to Glen Feshie. In all honesty I think they are going to be some of our hardest days but doable.

it is how difficult the weather has been over the last few months. There have few settled periods. Weather front after weather front. A constant succesion of storms and fluctuating temperatures. For me personally I find it tiring trying to adjust to these conditions. it becomes frustrating.


  1. Hi Dawn

    Sounds like you have had a bit of a walk here!

    The Challenge is supposed to be a holiday, so why not adjust the route to finish on the Thursday and make it a bit easier for yourself - make those three days into three and a half.

    No sense knackering yourself and spoiling what could be a great time.

    Good luck.

  2. you're putting the rest of us to shame with all these trips in 2008 Dawn

  3. Wow, Dawn. I'm impressed! I'll be covering much of that same territory in May, but plan to chop it up differently (and hope for slightly better weather :-) ).

    Mark Alvarez

  4. Wow, Dawn, I'm impressed. I'll be covering some of the same ground in May, but will be chopping it up differently...and hoping for slightly better weather :-) .

    Mark Alvarez