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Saturday, 31 May 2014

The 2014 Challenge, day 3: All the way to Ardgour (2)

When I have a lot of ground to cover, I try to adopt a rhythm of 55 minutes walking followed by 5 minutes rest; and I try not to take any glug stops other than at the scheduled rest stops. Waterproofs are another matter, however - you must stop to put them on or take them off as circumstances dictate. There is also the matter of timekeeping. The 55 / 5 routine allows a regular check to be kept on rate of progress. I had 40 km to cover and if I could achieve an average progress of 4 km/h then this would mean ten hours of walking. Factor in an hour for lunch and that would mean arriving at Ardgour at 7pm. That was acceptable; but a sustained 4 km/h is actually quite a big ask with an expedition pack, even on roads with very little ascent to worry about. However, 3 km/h would be way too slow: that would mean over 13 hours of walking, and even if I took no lunch break at all, I would not be arriving at Ardgour until after 9 at night. There would still be daylight at that time, of course; but at the end of today I wanted a decent rest, because tomorrow was the first day I would be going high, and I was going to need all my strength and energy for that.

My first progress check came at Achagavel, the site of my originally intended overnight stop. Achagavel is a little over 5 km from Crosben cottage, and I reached it at 9.30 - so my pace was not everything I needed it to be; but on the other hand, this was following a difficult and broken path up Gleann Dubh. I would soon be on the roads; and then I would be able to make better progress. I was not, therefore, too dismayed. Besides, had I camped in this vicinity, I might not have got away until about 9, so I wasn't really all that far behind schedule!

My route vetter had suggested that Achagavel would probably turn out to be an occupied residence, and so it proved. The path made a stiff little ascent up the side of the garden fence, and then there was a well made track, with wire fences either side, and precious little in the way of viable camping pitches. Stopping at Crosben was surely the right thing to have done!

Beyond Achagavel, the track climbs up the hillside in a North Easterly direction, which wasn't the direction I ideally wished to be travelling in; but it was the way the track went. After a short distance, however, there was a trail bike path off to the right, which appeared to be contouring pretty much the 200m contour line, and I figured that it would probably meet with the road a little to the South of the main track. Perfect! So I turned off the track and followed the trail bike path.

Hmmmmm ... the main track was well surfaced, and passable by motor vehicles. It probably bridges all the side streams. The trail bike path was churned-up peat, and made difficult crossings of the streams, of which there were several. I was right in my surmise that it led to the road - right at the corner of the woods - but I suspect it may have been a slower way of reaching that point that following the main track. Nevertheless, I had reached the road by the time I sat down for my 9.55 rest stop (a little over 1 km covered in 25 minutes ... not good progress!). In theory I ought to have changed into my walking sandals at this point; but my feet were feeling good in my boots, so I decided to continue as I was for the time being.

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