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Saturday, 31 October 2015

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (19)

I pitched my tent and sorted my gear out. My rucksack was wet; but I wanted to keep my down sleeping bag dry. Not the easiest of tasks, when you have a three-quarters length sleep mat, and rest your feet on your rucksack to keep them off the ground at night. Still, I had learned the lesson of Glensulaig in 2013, and I took care to put my rucksack inside my survival bag. Once everything was sorted out, I admired the well-organized interior of my tent, and only then did I realize that my food was still in my rucksack, which was now inside my survival bag! I briefly contemplated the task of undoing all of that careful organization to get to my food, and then re-doing it all. And then I just thought, nah! I didn't feel all that hungry anyway. So I changed into some dry clothes (which I had taken out of my rucksack before putting it into the survival bag), took the compeeds off my feet to allow the air to get to them, and lay on top of my sleeping bag listening to the rain beating down against my tent. When I felt ready for sleep, I just slid into my sleeping bag, and was out like a light in next to no time.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (18)

The upper reaches of the Allt Odhar are pathless; but before long there was a track, and I was able to make good progress down to Dalbeg.

I reached Dalbeg by 6.30. Alas, it was a locked cottage, not a bothy. There was already a tent pitched in the lee of the cottage, occupied by another Challenger, Dave Williams. He kindly shared his Tobermory with me - a welcome dram at the end of a hard day.

It was raining, and I didn't fancy pitching my tent in the rain. So I sat in the lee of Dalbeg cottage for a while, waiting to see if the rain would abate. It showed no sign of doing so, however, and eventually I decided that I must pitch in the rain or sit out in the rain all night. When you put it like that, there's no real contest, is there?

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (17)

Well, whichever was higher, I'd been there. So that was two Corbetts so far this crossing. It was bitterly cold, windy, and wet. I didn't want to hang about there for too long. So I pointed myself East South East, and dropped into the valley of the upper Allt Odhar. I crossed over to the North East bank, and followed it down.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (16)

When I reached the fence, however, the cairn looked higher ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (15)

The SMC Corbetts book has this to say of Carn na Saobhaidhe: "There is a very small cairn which may or may not be on the summit, which is very flat." I reached this cairn before 5, and I looked about. I could see what they meant about it may or may not being at the summit. From the cairn, it looked to me as though a nearby fence line (pictured) was higher than I was ... so I made my way across to the fence.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (14)

I left the Diamond Jubilee Hut as I had found it at about 4. The final ascent of the Corbett was no complicated by snow fields obscuring the track. I wanted to avoid them as much as I could, and so much squelching through peat ensued. It was bitterly cold, and the higher I went, the stronger the wind became. Soon it was blowing too strong for my Havelock, so I took it off and changed into a fleece hat instead. It was still raining, but not too heavily, and I figured that the fleece wouldn't become sodden and lose its thermal efficiency before I was down out of the wind again and could change back into my Havelock.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (13)

At NH 608152 there is a hut, called the Diamond Jubilee Hut. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was unlocked (although it evidently can be locked) so I went in and rested a while. The hut is weatherproof, and is evidently intended for estate use. The windows look out over the grouse moor. There is a long table and benches running up the centre of the hut. At the farther end from the door there is an oil-burning stove, with clothes hangars on a rail above it. The floor was of concrete, and was crumbling a bit in places. It would make an admirable improvised bothy if needs be; and even if not needed for these purposes, it offered an excellent opportunity to get out of the weather for a bit. I was well ahead of schedule, so I spent a while in the hut examining my maps. I figured that if I pressed on from my planned wild camp to Dalbeg, then tomorrow I'd also be able to go beyond my planned wild camp, and make it down to Red Bothy on the River Dulnain. That would be welcome, to say the least. And if I was really lucky, well, who knows? Would it be too much to hope that Dalbeg might turn out to be a bothy, too?

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (12)

The track ran alongside the Aberchalder Burn. As I gained height, I began to encounter snow. It lay across the burn, and in places there were melt holes. At this altitude I was not too worried - it was clear where the track was, it was clear where the burn was, and there was no danger of accidentally blundering from one to the other and falling through the snow into the icy cold water beneath. Higher up, though? Now that could be a different matter altogether. Once the snow fields covered the track as well as the stream, there would be danger, and care would be necessary. I was not there yet, but I soon would be.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (11)

At NH 585179 there is a well-constructed bridge over the Aberchalder Burn, which isn't shown on the map. Immediately beyond is the start (or probably, I suppose, the finish) of the Landrover track shown on the map; and beyond this point the going was much better.

I was feeling a bit weary, so I stopped for a nap in a grouse butt. There is always something wonderful, I think, about snoozing in the outdoors, in your waterproofs, with the rain pitter-pattering onto you but not really bothering you. I was in no hurry. I had planned this day upon the assumption that I might not get across Loch Ness until noon. The plan was to get to the top of Carn na Saobhaidhe, then drop down to the south east and camp by the upper reaches of the Allt Odhar. But it was early afternoon, and I only had 5 km or so to go - so no hurry here at all.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (10)

The construction track took me to the confluence of the Allt a' Choire Bhuidhe and the Aberchalder Burn. From there I continued on deer tracks up the Aberchalder Burn, stopping for lunch at a little spot which might actually have been the venue for last year's cheese & wine party. There was no cheese and wine there this year.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (9)

At Easter Aberchalder, there is an artist who has a little studio. I stopped and admired some of his work - which is really rather impressive - before continuing on my way. The track swings round a long, sweeping curve to the left and heads into Conaglenn; but there is a new track now, which heads off to the right and through the woods, which has been put in to assist with the wind farm construction. I guessed that this would link up with the tracks that I was aiming for higher up, and as long as it was safe to use, I figured I might be able to save a bit of time and effort by following it. So I turned onto this new track, and when I found a construction compound with some construction workers, I asked if I would be safe following the track up. They assured me that I would, and so on I went.

Now construction tracks are laid with plenty of aggregate to give a hard footing for the construction vehicles, but the top surface tends to get chewed up a bit by those very vehicles and is not all that walker-friendly. The vehicles also tend to put down a lot of mud and clay, which makes it a little slithery at times. With care, however, I was able to make good progress.

As I gained height I was able to stop and take this photograph looking into Conaglenn, with Creag a' Chliabhain to the left. Shortly after I took it, a land rover came up the track, and the construction worker who had assured me I was fine to use the track stopped and asked if I'd like a lift up to the top. I smiled and told him that no, that was fine, I needed to walk the whole way, and off he went. Then I resumed my steady trudge, onwards and upwards.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (8)

I passed the war memorial at NH 546207, and then turned left and crossed the bridge over Loch Mhor (pictured). At Wester Aberchalder I encountered a farmer who was interested to know my route, so I showed him my maps and explained by intention to follow the track to the Allt an Rathain Ruaidh, then turn more or less due East and ascend the ridge to the south of the Aberchalder Burn, finally turning in over Meall a' Bhuailt and Beinn Bhuraich to Carn na Saobhaidhe - the second Corbett on my route card. The farmer politely asked me not to go onto the open hillside, because of ground-nesting birds.

Now, if the farmer had tried telling me where I could and couldn't go, then I should have told him about the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. But he didn't. He asked: and that makes all the difference, as far as I am concerned. I am not into messing with anybody's livelihood, and those ground nesting birds are important to him. So I agreed to go via Easter Aberchalder. This was my FWA in any event - through Conaglen and on the track up the Allt Uisg an-t Sidhein. It was a few kilometres further, but the going would be easier, and I had oodles of time in hand as I had had to take the early morning boat. So I turned around and headed to Easter Aberchalder.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (7)

Our routes diverged at Errogie. Louise and the Keohanes turned left, whereas I turned right. We bade one another farewell, and I was on my own again.

The road along Loch Mhor is small and narrow - but it is the only road available to the contruction crews building the two new wind farms in this corner of the Monadhliath. As I headed away from Errogie, I was passed by a convoy of vehicles including an enormous lorry carrying a single wind turbine blade. There's going to have to be a lot of those convoys to get all the turbine blades into place!

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (6)

We waved Gordon Menzies goodbye, and he returned to Drumnadrochit for the next load of Challengers. We turned inland, and the first port of call was the visitor centre with its very acceptable public toilets; then we headed up through the Pass of Inverfarigaig.

According to my route card, I was supposed to turn right onto the Gleann Liath road; but Louise and the Keohanes were heading up to Errogie, and so I decided to stick with them and turn right there. As we passed Ault-na-goire, we met some Challengers who had taken the late afternoon boat the day before and spent the night there. They were full of tales of venison stew the night before, and a wonderful cooked breakfast this morning. Compared to my donner and chips in the Drum takeaway, and cereal with powdered goat's milk sitting in the rain at Temple Pier, I think they had definitely found the better alternative. On the other hand, though, nobody MADE me have donner and chips for supper ... I COULD have walked straight on by and had a much better supper at the Loch Ness Inn. And booking onto an afternoon boat means guaranteeing that you'll be there in time to catch it ... which might have been an interesting challenge, given the fun and games that Alan and I had had coming down through the woods into Drumnadrochit. All things considered, therefore, I think that the morning boat, which gives you the freedom to arrive in Drum as late as you like (or circumstances dictate) has much to be said for it.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (5)

Disembarking at Inverfarigaig pier was something of an adventure - especially with the weather making everything slippery; but we all made it safely to dry(ish) land.

The 2015 Challegne, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (4)

The boat crossing of Loch Ness from Drumnadrochit to Inverfarigaig takes you past Strone Point and Urquhart Castle. On a bright, clear day with good light it must be possible to get fabulous pictures of the castle from the boat. This was not a bright, clear day and the light was anything but good. I took some pictures of the castle from the boat, but they were not fabulous.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (3)

Gordon Menzies arrived, and we all piled into the boat. Four of my fellow passengers were people I had already met on this Challenge (Greg, Ian Cotterill, and John & Norma Keohane). Others were new acquaintances. The young lady in the cap at the left of this picture is "I'm Going For A Scuttle" Louise - a fellow Challenge blogger whose words I have often read, but whose acquaintance I had never made until this day.

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (2)

Slowly, one by one, a motley crew of other Challengers gathered. They all wore waterproofs. This may have had something to do with the amount of water that was dropping out of the sky. Did I mention the weather yet?

The 2015 Challenge, day 5: Drumnadrochit to Dalbeg (1)

Being booked onto the early boat meant an early alarm call; and an early alarm call meant that I didn't get to enjoy the Loch Ness Inn's breakfast. Still, at least my gear was all dry.

I packed everything away and headed out to the pier. On the way, I encountered Greg again. He too was on the early boat, and so we walked together. We were the first to arrive at the pier, and we settled down to wait. I pulled out a breakfast pack, mixed up some powdered goat's milk, and had some cereal (I'd rather have had kippers ... ). Then we poked around a bit, and got to debating the purpose of this gate (pictured).

Well, after a while, we concluded that as gates of this kind are usually used to keep livestock in (or out), it was obviously necessary to close the gate after using the slipway, in order that the monster shouldn't escape ...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (8)

I walked through Drumnadrochit in heavy rain. So heavy, in fact, that anyone would think RunRig were in town. At 5 to 6 I was trudging past the Drum Takeaway, and I was seized by a sudden urge to have a can of Irn Bru. So I went in and bought one. Well, I tried to have just one ... but I ended up having two. And the smell of the donner cooking was so enticing that I just had to order some donner and chips. That would keep me going until supper, I thought. Only ... they didn't ask if I wanted large or small donner. They just served large. And so I stood in the Drum takeaway eating my donner and chips and drinking my Irn Bru (so I guess they should have accounted for VAT on that sale ... except I guess their VATable turnover would still be below the threshold, so they should be OK) and by the time I stepped out to walk the last half kilometer or so to my hotel, I really didn't feel like having anything else for supper.

On reaching the Loch Ness Inn (pictured) I was shown to my room, and I phoned Gordon Menzies to confirm my place on the boat for tomorrow. I spoke to his wife, who told me to be there for the 8 o'clock boat. Curses! I had been hoping for the second boat of the day, not the first, as I was hoping to have a decent breakfast first. Oh well !

I then phoned Challenge Control, and asked what the weather forecast was looking like. They said not good for tomorrow, but getting better thereafter. That was sounding promising. My main concern was whether the weather would be good enough for tackling the Lairig Ghru, or whether I was going to be linking the Feshie and the Geldie yet again!

I examined my feet. I had some small blisters under my toes, and a little bit of raw skin on top of a couple of my toes, but nothing too bad. This was OK. I hung all my wet things to dry, booked a 6 a.m. alarm call for the following day, and then went and paid a short visit to the bar. Before turning in for the night I paid my bill, and told them that I would be away before breakfast.

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (7)

I didn't take many photos along the trail (what would have been the point? They'd all have looked about the same!) - but here is one that I did take, looking back along the trail. As I say, it was good going ... but a little dull. All that was about to change, however ...

On the map, the way we were to take was perfectly clear. Follow the track round a long sweeping right-hand curve, then take a path off to the left and down to the back end of Lewiston, then into Drum (or not, in fact, in my case - as I had a room for the night at the Loch Ness Inn in Lewsiton). The problem was, the paths didn't actually do what is shown on the map! Or they might ... but if they do, we didn't find the right paths!

What we DID find, however, was a path junction with a great big sign pointing off to the left and saying "Drumnadrochit". This didn't look like the path junction on the map, but it did look like a newly built path. So we thought "how kind of them - they've built a new path to make our lives easier". And so we followed that sign.

The signposted path went down, and down, and down. Quite steeply down, in fact, and we had to take care in the descent. And as it descended, it seemed to swing away from Drumnadrochit, not towards it. And then we came to a junction where there were no signs at all to indicate which way we should go for Drumnadrochit. I suppose we could have taken a GPS fix, and taken the bearings of the paths, and used that to make a (semi-) intelligent guess. But we opted for the straightforward option - downhill. Wes this a wise choice, or a poor choice? I don't really know! What I do know is that we ended up on a path which seemed to lead us allround the houses (well, OK, trees) and back uphill again and allsorts (not, alas, liquorice) until we finally found a way down to the road below the fort, and we followed this to the main road. At the main road junction Alan turned left, and I turned right. So we wished one another well for the rest of the crossing, and went our separate ways.

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (6)

The rain eased off, but never totally departed, so we were always keeping our waterproofs on but hoping to be able to take them off "soon". The photograph shows Alan on the bridge at Shenval, during one of the brighter interludes of the day. After this, there was 9 kilometres or so of forest track which was pleasant enough, but all very samey. Walking it alone would not have been the highlight of the crossing. Walking it in good company, however, was a different matter. Alan told me many hilarious anecdotes; but I will not spoil his stories for him. If you wish to hear them, you will need to seek him out yourself.

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (5)

From the bothy, our route took us on good tracks North North East to Corrimony, and then more or less Due East all the way to Drum. My route vetter had said "be sure not to miss the chambered cairn at Corrimony" but, to be honest, I am not sure I understand how anybody following this route CAN miss the chambered cairn at Corrimony. Even with the rain pelting down, and full weatherproofs (including hoods or hats) being worn, it is very prominently signposted, and just at the side of the road. And, it has to be said, it IS very impressive. On a fair day, I should probably have dropped my pack and crawled through the narrow (and low!) entrance passageway to have a good look around inside. Today, however, I was not going to do that, as there was a big muddy puddle in the passageway and I was not going to go crawling through that (what a difference 40 odd years makes to one's attitudes to such things!!)

Beyond Corrimony, we came to the "bus shelter" where we stopped for lunch. The sun came out as we sat there eating, so we took our waterproofs off; but the rain returned just as we were ready to depart, so we put them back on again. Between here and Shenval, an otter ran across the track and disappeared into the woods again. It was too quick for me to deploy my camera and get a photograph of it; but at least I saw it. Alan, who had not been looking ahead at the time, saw only the movement as it disappeared into the woods, but professed that he had been unable to identify what manner of creature it was. There was no doubt in my mind, however, that this was an otter - only the second I have seen in the wild. My first otter (which, again, was too quick for me to photograph) had been in Shetland the previous summer. (Ah! The summer of 2014: when we took holidays at opposite extremes of the British isles: the Shetland Islands, and the Isles of Scilly!)

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (4)

About half way through the woods I came upon another couple of Challengers, who were making slow progress. I paused to chat for a couple of minutes, but they did not seem intent on company so I wished them a good crossing and pressed on.

As I descended from the woods to the River Enrick, I saw another solo Challenger ahead of me, and I quickened my pace a little to catch up with him at the bridge over the Abhainn na Ruighe Duibhe (or perhaps, by then, it has become the River Enrick: the map is completely unspecific as to where the watercourse changes its name). The map shows it as a ford: but it is definitely a bridge! I hailed him, he turned, and we immediately recognized one another: it was Alan Wormald. Solo this year, of course, because Lucy was off doing her teacher training. He too was heading for Drumnadrochit by essentially the same route as me; and as we had discovered last year that our paces are well matched, and we each find the other's company congenial, we decided to walk together for the rest of the day.

When I mentioned the bothy ahead, Alan cursed! He had not know of its existence (I wonder why his route vetter hadn't mentioned it?? Mine did!) and he had just spent a none-too-comfortable night bivouacked in the woods. Had he known of the bothy, he would certainly have headed for it.

We paused a while at the bothy. Alan made a brew, I think, and I changed my socks. I also noted another problem. When selecting my gear for this crossing, I had decided that warmth was going to be a key consideration. I normally only bring two micro-fellces on Challenge, but this year I had also packed my big thick C25 fleece. And I decided to revert to an older, thicker Berghaus coat which I had retired from regular use several years ago. I was now reminded exactly WHY I had retired it: the sleeves were no longer terribly waterproof, and the sleeves of my walking fleece were now decidedly damp! Oh well ... nothing much I could do about it now. My arms would stay warm, at least, and I had hard shelter tonight. So I should be able to dry it overnight, and start off tomorrow with three dry fleeces. I then had three days to Aviemore, and with three fleeces, even if my walking fleece got soaked every day, I should never have to put on a cold, wet fleece in the morning. I could live with this, and if needs be I could always buy myself a new waterproof coat in Aviemore. It's what credit cards were invented for, after all ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrichit (3)

Just before I entered the woods, my route took me past Loch na Beinne Mhor; and on a bright sunny day I am sure that this would have been a wonderful place to linger a while. On an overcast day such as today, however, I just wanted to scurry on past it.

Now, down in Tomich, the "local intelligence" had been that with all the rain they'd had of late, the track through the woods was looking to be a problem. Nearly three kilometres of probolematic forest track can seriously slow you down, and I was anxious to put this part of the day's walk behind me. When I got there, however, I found that it was no real problem at all - just a bit wet underfoot. However, this was easily remedied. The Tomich hotel had done my laundry for me, so when I got down to the bothy I would change into a dry pair of socks.

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (2)

Up on the moor, before the path enters the woods, there are two monuments shown on the map: one by Loch a' Ghreidlein, the other on top of Beinn Mhor. I didn't divert to take a look at either of them, so I cannot tell you what they are about. Maybe if it had been a fine day, I would have done. But as it was, I was only really interested in grinding out the miles and getting to Drumnadrochit. However, when a rather impressive rainbow appeared in the West, I paused to take a photograph - even though, with all its modern electrickery, I knew that my camera would over expose it and leave it somewhat washed out, as it would be incapable of working out that it was the rainbow I was interested it, and would assume instead that I wanted it to set a correct exposure for all that mass of tedious heather ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 4: through Glen Urquhart to Drumnadrochit (1)

The Tomich hotel gave me a wonderful kipper for breakfast (well, actually, they sold it to me ... but you know what I mean!) and I was on the road by 10 past 9. My route took me through Guisechan, past Kirkfield, and up through the woods to the River Enrick. I started out in hope, with my waterproofs in my pack ... but by the time I was passing Kirkfield I was wearing them, and I was destined to wear them all day. This phgotograph shows the agricultural country just beyond Kirkfield, which was soon to give way to open moorland.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (10)

The Tomich hotel was a welcome sight!

I arrived just before 4.30, and in normal circumstances I should probably have wanted to go and sit in the garden. Possibly even have gone to the very bottom of the garden, where you can cool your feet in the icy waters of the Abhainn Deabhag. But today it was raining, and neither of those seemed particularly attractive options. So I signed in and went to my room, where my resupply parcel was waiting for me. I attempted to take a bath, but there was no hot water (a bit disappointing, that, considering how expensive this hotel is ... ) so I took a shower instead. Then I phoned Challenge Control, phoned home, had a shave to make myself presentable, and wandered down to explore the bar and have my evening meal.

There were a number of Challengers in the bar that evening. I remember Sloman stumbling in, looking like a drowned rat, only to stumble out again and continue to Cannich. And I remember Judith (how can anyone forget Judith??). And there were others, whose names I did not record and cannot now recall. If any of them were hoping for a mention in my blog, I'm sorry ... Supper was Lamb casserole, and very fine it was too. Accompanied, no doubt, by one or more pints of cider, and probably chased down by a dram or two. As for the details, however ... well, just use your collective imaginations ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (9)

Shortly after entering Tomich, I encountered this sign ... and I promptly laughed my socks off. What's so funny Iabout this sign, you may ask. Well, nothing really if you take it by itself, I suppose. But you have to take these things in context. And the context was that I had just walked the 5 kilomtres from Cannich, and there had been no footway anywhere in that entire distance.

And then, at the end of the 300 metres with no footway, I had to laugh even more. Because what do you suppose you find after 300 metres without a footway? A footway, perhaps?? Well, you might suppose that ... but no. After 300 metres without a footway, you come to ANOTHER sign, saying "No Footway For 350 Metres". Hmmmmmm ... perhaps they had a sign writer who was good at painting 3s and 5s, but struggled with 6s ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (8)

They certainly don't leave you in any doubt that you have reached Tomich ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (7)

As I trudged the road from Cannich to Tomich, I passed some Challengers going the other way - it being one of those roads which so delight me, where perfectly legitimate Challegne routes may traverse them in either direction. Their route may be thought to be the more natural, since they were heading North East whereas I was heading South West. But the difficulty with arriving in Cannich from the South West, as it seems to me, is that you run out of places to go which don't involve walking on a main A road, unless you take the back road up the Western edge of Eskdale Moor; and as we all know, there are current and ongoing access difficulties with Eskdale Moor, the owners of which seem to think that the Land Reform (Scotland) Act does not apply to their little bit of it Scotland ...

At the junction with the road coming out of Glen Affric, I met JJ. He, like me, was on his tenth crossing; so we naturally stopped for a bit of a blether and to share a nip from my hip flask, and to take one another's photographs. I was rather tickled by the banner in the background, which will I am sure strike a chord with many Challengers. Then we both continued on our respective and differing ways - he to Cannich, I to Tomich.

The 2015 Chellange, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (6)

I ordered my lunch from the Specials board - always a good idea in the Highlands, because whatever is on the Specials board will be fresh, local, and better than anything you will be able to buy down South (because the local chefs buy all the best bits, leaving the rest to be shipped down to England). On this occasion, the Specials board included trout - and what an impressive looking brown trout I got for my money! It was absolutely delicious, and I drank a couple of pints of cider with it. Or was it three? Or maybe four? You know what - I really can't remember.

I only had another five kilometres or so to walk today, and it was raining, so I really wasn't in any hurry to leave the warm embrace of the Slater's Arms. But eventually, at 2.30, I figured I ought to hit the road once more. SO I put my waterproofs back on, and stepped out into the weather ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (5)

In the woods above Cannich, as I stopped for a quick glug, I was caught up by Ian Cotterill and we walked together as far as the Slater's Arms, where we took lunch. Ian introduced himself to me as "the photographer" - and I have to say that at first I thought his appropriation of the definite article to be, perhaps, a little presumptuous. However, when he expanded this proposition by explaining that it was his landscape photographs which appeared on the Challenge Certificates each year, I relented, and decided that he was entitled to his definite article. We arrived at the Slater's Arms on the dot of 1 o'clock, and went in out of the rain. As we waited for our meals, I thought that a photograph of the photographer was surely worth having, and he willingly consented to my taking it. Believe it or not, we talked about camera a fair bit ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (4)

You don't tend to see much wildlife walking on the roads ... but I did spot a dead adder! Just about sums up the day, really ...

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullarcoch to Tomich (3)

Road walking in the rain. What fun! But, at least Glen Cannich retains its charms, even under these conditions. As I walked, though, I brooded. I had set myself a whole bunch of things I wanted to achieve on this, my tenth crossing. I had had to give up on a Torridon start at the route planning stage, and now on day 3 I had given up on a High Level crossing. So that was two crosses already and not a single tick. This was definitely not where I wanted to be.

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (2)

After crossing the Allt Mullardoch, the going was fair (if wet) all the way to the dam. We took a break at Benula Lodge, where George (or Martin) took a picture of me in my weather gear, and when we started on the road they suggested that I press on as I was clearly faster than them on the tarmac.

The cloud was low, and this meant I was not going to be going high today. My intended route had been to head South, and then back West a bit to pick up Toll Creagach before dropping down into Glen Affric and out to Tomich. My FWA was just to follow the road to Cannich. This was unfortunate, because having missed all four of yesterday's Munros, I now needed every single mountain on my card to make it a High Level crossing. Without Toll Creagach, I was going to be one mountain short. So as I walked that road, I really began to rue the decision not to take the one Munro I thought would be viable on my second day!

The 2015 Challenge, day 3: Mullardoch to Tomich (1)

It rained during the night, and was still raining when I woke in the morning. I took breakfast in my tent, and was away from my camp by quarter past 8. It was a full weather gear day - including my new gaiters. After following the loch shore for a little way, I gained the path and met up with two more Challengers - George and Martin. We arrived together at the Allt Mullardoch, flowing through a steep little ravine, and looked for a place to cross. It was a rather difficult crossing, with a steep little scramble to get back out of the ravine on the other side. I wondered whet it would have been like with the allt in spate. North shore of Loch Mullardoch as a FWA??? Hmmmm ......