Saturday, 22 December 2012
Route vetters' comments
My route for 2013 was vetted by Ali Ogden and Sue Oxley, who are new to the vetting team this year, and they have sent me some lovely comments which I shall set out in full. They write:
Welcome to the 34th TGO Challenge. It's a select bunch on number 8 this year as Ali will be on her eighth as well. This is a fine route which at times taking you into rough, remote and relatively unfrequented territory. Some of you days are long and arduous but after seven Challenges you will know your capabilities and limitations.
The route is very well written but is unfortunately on an old route sheet. John has re-designed it this year mainly to give more space for FWA.
Bearing in mind your adventures last year we hardly need remind you of the potential risk of burns in spate. Your foul weather alternatives are very well thought-out in this respect. We also remind Challengers of the risk of late (and sometimes fresh!) lying snow on high ground in May. If you are not carrying suitable winter equipment we presume you are willing to modify your route or use your FWA where appropriate. Distances and ascent are accurately calculated - though we assume the "59km" on Friday 17th is a typo! [It was indeed!!]
We know you are an experienced Challenger and you route appears very well researched so many of the comments below might already be known to you though we hope some snippets may be of use.
This is really an Arisaig route in disguise so I guess it's a shame for you it is no longer a start point. Although tarmac underfoot, the walk along the coast will be beautiful and there are plenty of white beaches where you can dip your boots in the Atlantic. Neither of us are familiar with the path up from Scamdale but from "Where's the path" and "Geograph" it might be not always evident on the ground. Your campsite looks idyllic.
A wonderfully remote day initially through pathless and rough territory. We don't know if either of the bridges near Rifern are useable but the one at NM 799866 was there and in good condition when Ali passed by in 2008. The path along Loch Beoraid is somewhat intermittent. Do you know a specific campsite south of the river or are you taking precautions in case the river comes up overnight?
We think you know this area well - didnt' you come up Loch Shiel from Acharacle in the past? Therefore you will know the track from Corryhully is tarmacked and that there is a bridge over the Callop that isn't marked on the 1:50,000 maps.
FWA: if you listen to Bob's podcasts you'll know the ascent of Gleann Don is pretty tough going.
A fine ridge walk after an initially bouldery descent from Gulvain. You can use the Great Glen Way as an alternative to the tarmac on the way to Gairloch.
The "bridges" on the old tramway are just girders across burns which can be in deep ravines and if in spate may require diversions to cross if, like us, your gymnastic talents are limited. In 2008 we walked further along the Spean and ascended by the track spur at NN 291801, thus avoiding the deepest ravines - see Geograph for photos of the trestle-bridge crossing the Allt Beinn Chlianaig. Another idyllic looking campsite.
FWA: distance and ascent not included. [Oops! I calculated them ... ]
Another fine ridge walk. You might want to rethink your descent unless you are a keen scrambler, as the Lancet Edge on Sgor Iutharn is quite exposed and will be tricky as a down climb with a full pack. It might be better to descend to the top of the Bealach Dubh.
FWA: a good alternative to the mire that is the route via the Uisge Labhair but we still doubt your feet will stay entirely dry!
If you want an early shower you can take the firebreak SE of the Fara to the track by Loch Ericht.
These are much maligned hills but personally we love the sense of space and on a good day the plateau is a fine place to be. If you want to descend sooner the Allt na Craoibhe runs through a beautiful little glen. You might want to revise your distances - hopefully you won't be walking 59 km!
FWA: can you specify whether you are "contouring" south of Meall Cuaich or going by the tracks to the north? Ali took the route to the south and by the Allt na Fearna in 2000 and, though pathless over the col, it was easy going on short heather.
A long day over predominantly pathless terrain but if you get a good day it will be a wonderful high-level traverse. If the Geldie is likely to be high you could descend the N ridge of Carn Ealar and cross the water near its source.
An imaginative solution to the Geldie being unfordable though, if the weather is excessively foul, you might have to trudge up the Geldie once you have found a place to cross the Allt an t-Seilich. We presume you know the route through Morrone Birkwood, which can spare you a bit of tarmac.
Today's hills have been regulars on our Challenges. We have tended to go to Tolmount first then descend E from Tom Buidhe to join Jock's Road W of Cairn Lunkard
FWA: the road walk won't be pleasant but there really isn't an alternative. The path now diverts south of Tomb on the well-signposted Cateran Trail. We found the tracks around Westerton of Runavey did not seem to tally with the map and ended up trudging across an unpleasant fiels of as Sue put it "slurification".
An alternative start (and slightly shorter) would be to take the well-made path through the impressive Coire Fee which is a beautiful natural amphitheatre and alpine meadow - complete with information leaflets as you exit the forest. If you have the legs for an extra few km on the previous day it would make a fine campsite. You should be able to find somewhere to pitch by the burn in upper Glen Quharity.
FWA from main route: ideally only features recognisable on the 1:50,000 maps should be used on the route sheet and the Minister's path isn't noted on the map [neither is the Lancet Edge, nor Coire Fee, both of which were referred to by the vetters ... I may just have to twist their tails a little about that one]. There are actually two recognised starts to it - the path via Elf Hillock, which is not very clear on the ground but might be the original route, and the now-signposted route via the track south of Wester Eggie. Glen Uig is a lovely narrow glen with a few delightfully sheltered pitches.
FWA from previous day FWA: We went this way in 2011 when we were literally blown off-course by the big Monday storm, although we took the road up the Blackwater Reservoir. Craig of Balloch is a gem of a place, narrow and rocky but with a neat little path and a natural spring.
These hills are worth it for the names alone - Clinking Cauldron sounds rather magical! There appears to be a track up the W side of the Prosen Water from Bykenhillock but we don't know of a bridge across the Prosen. Do you know otherwise? While in Glenuig we bumped into the local farmer who told us of the bridge at NO 342629 (not marked on earlier OS maps) and a track running north then up through the wood to a field crossed E to the road. It's good to see you plotting a route that avoids roads where possible. So many Challengers just stick to the road. The route via Cortachy Castle and Tufachie is unobstructed but we don't have experience of the other tracks you plan to use.
Sue finished last year at Needle E which is an interesting feature.
Once again it's a well thought-out and interesting route from start to finish and we have thoroughly enjoyed following it. Feel free to contact us directly on [e-mail address] if you have any queries and particularly if you want to clarify the points in italics [which were the remarks about the Lancet Edge on the 15th, the distance on the 17th, and whether the FWA on the 17th passed north or south of Meall Cuaich]
Well, those are a very pleasing set of Vetters' notes (although I bet once the bulk of the routes start arriving, Ali and Sue won't be able to afford the luxury of writing two and a half sides of A4 in respect of each of them!!) The invitation to "feel free to contact" them, "particularly if you want to clarify the points in italics" is actually an order to do so. A very polite order ... but an order none the less.
I shall revise my route to the use the suggested alternative descent from Sgor Iutharn; but apart from that I shall leave it as it stands. If the bridge over the Prosen (which is shown on the maps) turns out not to be there, it is only a very short out-and-back detour and there are other roads which can be followed to take me past Prosen Bridge, through Inverquharity and on to Forfar.