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Monday, 11 January 2010

The 2004 Challenge, Day 6: Inverness to Moy Burn / Allt na Beinne

I headed out of Inverness on General Wade's military road, and quickly fell in with the same threesome who had shared my journey through Glen Affric on Day 2. I wish I could remember their names ... but, alas, I cannot. I've never been much good at remembering names, though, so it's not their fault ...

Past Milton of Leys the road started off in good shape, and the walk through the woods was pleasant enough. The way was blocked by a new house at Faillie but we found our way around; and the back road by Scatraig was all dusty with the lorries going up and down to the gravel pit.

After Auchbain, the route began to get a bit monotonous ... kilometre after kilometre of track through pine woods. But at least the going underfoot was good. Which is more than can be said for the stretch after Aultnaslanach which was ... well, let's just say that it went squelch with every step.

At Lynemore, our paths separated for the last time this Crossing. They pressed on to Tomatin, where the pub offered a bed and shelter for the night ... not to mention something other than water to drink. I, on the other hand, headed down across the A9 and the railway, and into Moy.

My planned route took me past Moy Hall and on the track through the woods, over Beinn an Uain and to a wild camp by the Allt Odhar round about NH 798367. However, when I got to Moy Hall I looked at the hill and thought "bugger this ... why should I go over that hill when I can go round it?" I was in no hill-climbing mood; and I ought perhaps to explain as well that this Challenge was something of a proving exercise for me.

I had had a terrible shock on my ML assessment in September 2001 when I suffered an asthma attack 3000 feet up in Snowdonia. It was a scary moment. I had never had an asthma attack before, so I had no medication; we were miles from anywhere (it was between 4 and 5 kilometres even to the nearest road) ... it is self-evident from the fact that I am here writing this blog that I survived the experience: but although I passed the assessment, I declared myself unfit actually to lead anyone anywhere until I was sure I was not going to suffer a repeat performance. By 2004 I was feeling pretty sure I was OK. I'd not had any more attacks, and I wanted to do a Challenge to prove that I could now push myself physically without triggering another one. But I wasn't in any mood to take unnecessary chances. I'd deliberately chosen a fairly sedate crossing; and even then, if I didn't feel like doing what I'd put down on my route card, well, I always think you should follow your feelings.

So I followed the track round the north end of the woods, where sheep were grazing peacefully in the rough pasture to my left, and headed up the Moy Burn. I decided that if the little building shown on the map at NH 794369 was a bothy, I might just stop there for the night rather than pressing on to my planned overnight stop. However, it wasn't a bothy. Oh no. It was a rather impressive and well-appointed shooting estate lunch hut ... with steps up to a nice verandah. I climbed the steps and tried the door ... which was unlocked!

I looked around inside. Well-appointed benches around the walls. A good, substantial table or two. Coat hooks just about everywhere you looked. A four-ring calor gas hob. A well-stocked supply of canned beer and gin for the next shooting party. Yes ... this'd do alright!

I unpacked my rucksack and spread my sleeping mat and sleeping bag on the floor; cooked supper on my MSR stove; made myself a nice mug of coffee and went out onto the verandah to drink it. As I was finishing, the keepers came down the track in their 4x4, so I waved to them and they stopped. I asked if it would be OK to spend the night in the hut and they had no problems with that. Apparently they'd had a couple of other Challengers the night before; and such is the reputation of the Challenge that they had not the slightest concern for their stocks of beer and gin. Needless to say, I didn't touch them either.

It was a very pleasant place to stop for the night, and as I headed off the next morning you would never know I'd been there. That's what low impact camping is about, right?

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