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Saturday, 2 January 2010

The 2004 Challenge, Day 2: In The Floor Of Glen Affric

8 May 2004, the second day of my second Challenge, was an easy day spent sauntering down Glen Affric, admiring the sheer desolate beauty of the place. My plan HAD been to go high and do the ridge to the immediate North of the glen; but I'd been able to sight it from the summit of Ciste Dubh the previous day, and it was clear that there was still a LOT of snow up there. Narrow ridge + snow + expedition pack - ice axe = not good. So I stayed low and walked my Foul Weather Alternative route instead.

I spent much of the time walking with some other Challengers. Their names escape me now; their courage doesn't. The group patriarch was an elderly gentleman (and I mean elderly by Challenge standards - so comfortably into his 70s) on his 10th crossing, desperate to collect his award for completing 10 crossings despite cripplingly painful arthritis and knowing that there was unlilkely to be another chance. The de facto group leader was his son, in his late 30s or early 40s, carrying far more than his fair share of the load, and doing much to keep up morale with his eternally cheery demeanour. A family friend completed the threesome. The father was a geologist, and was constantly pointing out all manner of things as we walked. It probably helped to distract him from the pain. Certainly, he had a lively and an active mind, and I learned much from him.

We followed the path down past Athnamulloch, and to the south of Loch Affric, only finally saying our farewells after crossing the footbridge at NH180225. They were heading up the Allt Gabh, as they planned an overnight stop at Cougie. I stayed in the floor of the glen, diverting from my route to take advantage of the public conveniences at NH200233 (as I try to avoid toileting in the wilderness wherever possible - for both environmental reasons and reasons of personal comfort) before continuing on round the southern end of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin.

A steady drizzle was now falling, and I had no great need to press on, so I made an early stop and camped by the Allt an Laghair after crossing the bridge at NH210228. Doubtless I would not have been making camp until much later if I had gone high. But the following day was not particularly gruelling, and I saw no reason to make it shorter still by pressing on today.

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