Wednesday, 6 November 2013
The 2013 Challenge, day 4: Glensulaig to the Old Pines (8)
From Torness, it was less than two kilometres of easy (if uphill) road walking to the Old Pines Hotel. I collected my resupply parcel and settled into my room. I unpacked my sleeping bag and put it over the heated towel rail to dry out; and then I considered the map, the weather and the recent snowfall. My intended route for day 5 was to follow the old tramway to Fersit, and then ascend for a high level wild camp by the Lochan Coire and Lochan; with a day at high level day 6 ending at Culra Bothy. The snowfall seemed to rule out both my day 5 camp site, and my plans for day 6. So I rang Challenge Control and told them I was minded to stay low and follow the South side of the River Spean, cross the Monessie bridge and make my way by road to the Tulloch Station bunk house. They checked a number of sources for me and confirmed that the Monessie bridge appeared to be there and viable, and found me a number for Tulloch bunkhouse which enabled me to phone ahead and book a place. I also learned from Challenge Control that the number of withdrawals was now up to 18.
There are certain advantages to taking the occasional night in a hotel during the course of a Challenge. One is, of course, that Highland hotels are accustomed to walkers, and do not mind in the least if you turn up wet, muddy and smelly. Another is that they often have a variety of hospitality items beyond the obligatory tea tray; and at the Old Pines, one of the items you find in your room is a little sewing repair kit. This was, of course, just what I needed to make running repairs to the tear in my waterproof trousers. It wasn't the best bit of sewing I have ever done, that's for sure, and old Mrs Finch would probably have been horrified; but it was sufficient for my purpose, and that was good enough. I then went for supper.
Now, I had been looking forward to my supper. You see, on the way through to the West Coast before the start of the Challenge, we had spent a night there. And we had left them some goat's butter, so that when I arrived after four days' walking I could have a good three course meal with a proper, pre-planned dessert. So the meal I was to enjoy was carrot and lentil soup, followed by duck breast, followed by a baked banana in butterscotch sauce, with wines and whisky to complement the food. Only, enjoying it was made rather difficult by my fellow diners. There was a large group of young ladies in their twenties, who were evidently walking the Great Glen Way and having their luggage sent on ahead of them, dining at a nearby table. And one of their number insisted on telling her companions - in a voice which could probably be heard at the Commando memorial - the story (complete with sound effects) of how she had been taken short due to an unsettled stomach on a country walk; how she had nipped behind a hedge to defacate; and how while she was still crouched down behind the hedge a large dog had appeared and jumped up at her, knocking her over backwards into ... well, I'm sure you can guess what! And the really peculiar thing is that, no sooner had she finished telling this story, than she immediately launched into ... a retelling of EXACTLY the same story, practically word for word! Well, let us just say, it did rather spoil my enjoyment of my meal!