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Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Second Crossing: Introduction

For various reasons I did not take part in the 2001 demi-Challenge (the full crossing being impractical due to Foot & Mouth restrictions) nor the 2002 or 2003 Challenges, and my second crossing had to wait until 2004. I had plenty of time to prepare for it, and had planned many different routes. I chose what I considered to be the finest of them - from Shiel Bridge to Newtonhill.

In the intervening period I had also taken and passed my ML assessment, and had my knees sorted out. The two were not unconnected. At a mock ML assessment I had been warned that my knees might cause me to fail on mountain fitness and was recommended to see a physio to get them sorted. It turned out that I had, essentially, exactly the same over-pronation problem as Zola Budd; but whereas the treatment was world class ground-breaking stuff back in 1985, it was now common or garden routine which any high street physio could deal with. So I was referred to a podiatrist, who sorted me out with some rather impressive orthotics, and bingo! No more knee trouble.

I did, however, have boot trouble. Two weeks before the Challenge, the welt of my boot opened up and water started pouring in, leaving me with something of a dilemma. I could not reasonably break in a new pair of boots in just two weeks; and my reserve boots, while good enough for a single day's walking, would not be nearly comfortable enough for two weeks' sustained walking. I couldn't possibly do the crossing in a pair of boots which refused to keep the water out. But what alternative did I have?

The answer lay in an old pair of fell running shoes. They had good vibram soles, and took the orthotics easily. I did some trial walking and found them fine; and they were also a lot lighter than my boots. So that was it: they would have to do!

I travelled to Scotland on the Inverness Sleeper on the night of 5 May, and took the morning train to Kyle of Lochalsh. An afternoon in Kyle gave me the chance to take a wildlife cruise in a glass-bottomed boat, and a late afternoon bus took me to Shiel Bridge and the Kintail Lodge hotel. After a pleasant meal in the hotel I donned my pack, walked out onto the beach, and symbolically dipped my walking pole into the waters of Loch Duich. All I had to do now was to carry my pack all the way across ...

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