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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The 2009 Challenge, day 2: Glen Shiel to Tomdoun

Day 2, Monday, dawned even brighter and hotter than day 1; and my day's walking began with a stiff ascent to the Bealach Duibh Leac. It took far longer than I had expected, and required far more water than I had ever imagined to keep hydrated. I had told my route vetter that if I felt like it, I might bimble along the ridge and tick Creag nan Damh off my list of Munros before dropping down to the Wester Glen Quoich burn ... but by the time I reached the Bealach I was pretty certain that I didn't feel like it!

The descent from the Bealach into Wester Glen Quoich is steep. VERY steep in the upper reaches. And the path, which is very apparent on the map, is very much less apparent on the ground. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that there is no real path. It is just a case of descending the near-vertical head of a glacial valley. Which has to be done carefully. And slowly. VERY slowly!

Eventually I reached the valley floor. Still no sign of a path, so I just headed vaguely downstream, assuming that I'd find something to follow sooner or later. Before I did so, however, I met four young Dutch walkers coming the other way. They seemed to be looking for the path ... so I told them that from here there was no path to speak of, and they should just aim up towards the lowest point on the skyline. They thanked me, and their group leader asked if I was doing "this East-West walk". I said no, I was doing this West - East walk. His companions laughed, and he grinned. No language problem there!

Progress down the glen was painfully slow, and I still do not understand why. After a while, a path became apparent; and then it became a track. But it was 2pm before I reached Alltbeithe, and some reappraisal was obviously going to be necessary here. I had told my route vetter that I would continue up the Easter Glen Quoiche Burn and down the River Loyne, the intention being to reach Tomdoun that evening. I hadn't booked a room at the hotel, but I was intending to have a meal in the restaurant and pitch my tent somewhere nearby. However, at my present rate of progress I wasn't going to make it to Tomdoun in time for dinner. So there was only one thing for it ...

Abandoning the idea of continuing up Easter Glen Quoich, I turned south along the well-made track, and yomped my way to the road along the north shore of Glen Quoich. Then I turned East and started to make some serious progress. Striding out, I was glad to be in approach shoes rather than boots ... but my feet were beginning to feel hot. This wasn't an experience I had had before. OK, so they were new approach shoes which I'd only bought a few weeks previously, when I knew I had a place and realised that my old ones were in danger of falling apart half way across if I asked them to do another crossing. They'd felt absolutely wonderful in the shop. But ... well, I'd not had a real chance to test them in earnest; and I certainly hadn't had a chance to test the shoe / sock combination which I was using.

After a long, painful grind along the road - during which I turned down two very tempting offers of lifts and one to drive my rucksack to the hotal, I made it to Tomdoun. I was tired. Very tired. And I liked the idea of a soft bed and a hot bath (althoguh not necessarily in that order) - but there was no room at the inn! The hotel was, however, quite happy for me to pitch my tent on their lawn; and after a satisfying meal and a fine malt or two, I settled down for a good night's sleep.

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