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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Preparing for the 2016 Challenge

In the late summer and autumn of 2015, I spent a lot of time thinking about my future; and I reached the conclusion that I did not wish to spend of my working life doing what I do now. I am therefore going to take early retirement, draw my pension (with actuarial reduction, unfortunately) at 50, and return to college to retrain for a second career as a teacher. This will, of course, have profound implications for my future as a Challenger, since teaching and the Challenge don't mix. At the moment I do not know for sure whether or not I shall be able to do the 2017 Challenge (assuming I get a place), and I am therefore proceeding upon the assumption that 2016 will be my last chance to do the Challenge for a very long time. Accordingly, I want it to be a good one!

The first obstacle to be overcome was, of course, that as a 2015 Leg End, my entry would go straight to the standby list rather than into the main draw; however, the gods of fortune smiled upon me, and for some reason which I am still not sure I understand all of us in this situation were told that our entries had been accepted and we had a place. And so I set to work designing the most outrageously ambitious route I have ever submitted. I just hope the snow melts and the weather holds! I have only three start points which I have not used (Oban, Plockton and Torridon); and so I decided it was time I went from Oban. My route is as follows:

Friday 13 May. South out of Oban on the A816 and the track through the woods and round Cnoc Mor and past Loch Nell to reach Glen Lonan, then through Glen Lonan to Taynuilt.

Saturday 14 May. Through Brochroy, across the bridge to the smoker, through the woods to Loch Etive and along the shore path as far as Glennoe, then over Beinn a' Chochuill (Munro #1) and Beinn Eunaich (Munro #2), descend by the South ridge and on the orange road through Stronmilchan to Dalmally (this last bit of road walking being a stretch I have previously traversed on the Challenge in the opposite direction).

Sunday 15 May. East on the main road as far as Corryghoil then track through the woods past Succoth Lodge and follow the power lines up to the edge of the woods; then ascend Beinn a' Chleibh (Munro #3) and Ben Lui (Munro #4), descend NE, cross the Allt an Rund, follow the track down to Auchtertyre and wild camp at the shielings at the confluence of the Allt a' Chaol Ghlinne and the Allt Gleann a' Chlachain.

Monday 16 May. Ascend Beinn Chaorach (Corbett #1) and ridge walk Cam Chreag (Corbett #2), Stob nan Clach, Creag Mhor (Munro #5) and descend SE over Sron nan Eun to track. Follow track to Kenknock and road down Glen Lochay to Killin.

Tuesday 17 May. Take main A827 as far as the pipeline; ascend beside the pipeline and follow the track to the Ben Lawers car parks. Ascend Beinn Ghlas (Munro #6) and ridge walk Ben Lawers (Munro #7), An Stuc (Munro #8), Meall Garbh (Munro #9), Meall Greigh (Munro #10) and descend E to the shielings in grid square 6944, then track through the woods and road to Fortingall. If I have managed all my hills so far, this route will already be a High Level crossing after 5 days.

Wednesday 18 May. Yellow road to Keltneyburn and orange road NW / N, then track past Creag Odhar. Ascend Sliabh Fada and Creag Chean, then Meall Tairneachan (Corbett #3). Use the track then open hillside (yeah right ... there will be a path!) to reach Farragon Hill (Corbett #4) then track past Beinn Eagagach and down to Netherton, yellow road E as far as FB over River Tummel at NN 903602 and cross; paths to Garry Bridge, cross the Garry and riverside path into Killiecrankie.

Thursday 19 May. Reluctantly bypass Ben Vrackie (it would just have made the day too big!) and head up Glen Girnaig then past Tomnabroilach and paths / tracks to ridge walk Carn Liath (Munro #11), Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain (Munro #12) and Carn nan Gabhar (Munro #13), dewscending by N ridge and crossing An Lachain to make bamp at the old shielings.

Friday 20 May. Over Meall na Spionaig to Allt a' Ghlinne Mor, then Carn an Righ (Munro #14), Mam nan Carn, Beinn Iutharn Mhor (Munro #15) and return down Allt an Ghlinne Mhor to the cocktail party. Camp wherever seems appropriate.

Saturday 21 May. Back up the Allt and past Loch nan Eun, then ridge walk An Socach (Munro #15), Sgor Mor, Creag a' Mhadaidh, Carn na Drochaide, Morrone (Corbett #5) and descend to Braemar.

Sunday 22 May. South to Auchallater then Creag nan Gabhar (Corbett #6), descend to Lochallater Lodge, Ascend Carn an Tuirc (Munro #16) and continue to Cairn of Claise (Munro #17), Glas Maol (Munro #18) and Creag Leacach (Munro #19), returning to make wild camp at high level between Glas Maol and Little Glas Maol.

Monday 23 May. Reascend Cairn of Claise then descend ENE. Cross over Tolmount (Munro #20) and ridge walk Knaps of Fafernie, Fafernie, Carn an t-Sagairt Mor (Munro #21), Carn cac Beag of Lochnagar (Munro #22), then return to Carn a' Choire Bhoidheach (Munro #23), Carn Bannoch (Munro #24), over Broad Cairn (Munro #25) and descend to pony stable which I will use as an improvised bothy.

Tuesday 24 May. Return over Broad Cairn; head SW from Cairn of Gowal to pass between Knaps of Fafernie and Crow Craigies, skirt SE fland of Tolmount and ascent Ca Whims then Tom Buidhe (Munro #27) and ridge walk LIttle Kilrannoch, Dun Hillocks, Mayar (Munro #28), Driesh (Munro #29), return to the pass and descend Shank of Drumfollowto Acharn then road to Clova.

Wednesday 25 May. Path up past Loch Brandy to Green Hill and ridge walk White hill, The Goet of Ben Tirran (Corbett #7), Cairn Trench, White Hill, Finbracks, Manywee (dare you fill your water bottles from a stream running off this one??), Craigthran and descend S ridge. Path and raod down Glen Moyto Cortachy.

Thursday 26 May. Road walking day, heading basically SE, skirting Forfar to the North (unless I should decide I fancy a hot towel shave again ... ) through Dunnichen and into Letham.

Friday 27 May. Roads and paths SE into Arbroath.

And that, my friends, is how I plan finally to achieve my High Level crossing. With 29 Munros and 7 Corbetts on my car, I only actually have to manage to get up one in three ... and with only three days on which I don't go high (the first day, and the final two in the Angus agricultural belt) the weather will need to be pretty dire to keep me down so consistently that I cannot even manage one in three. Still, stranger things have been known ...


  1. Hi Jeremy, Looks like you have planned a great route. I've come down Shank of Drumfollow and it's not the greatest of fun, especially with the road to the Hotel. I've also gone broadly south-east from Driesh - roughly parallel to Glen Clova - to the dip below Cairn Inks. From here to the Hotel it's relatively easy. On balance I'd much prefer this route. It's a fine walk especially if the weather is good (which is was for me).
    Either way, enjoy this year. May meet you at some point.

  2. Thanks for that, Gordon. The thing is, I've walked that ridge before, but I've never done Shank of Drumfollow. So in the interests of doing things I've never done before, I'll do what's on my route card. (I think it's possible to take that comment in more ways than one ... ). I don't mind that road too much; I'll change into my Teva sandals and it will soon fly past.

  3. I must admit I came down Shank of Drumfollow in high winds (the day before stormy Monday in 2011) and I was near to exhaustion. The road all but finished me off. I hope you have a better experience.
    Enjoy your crossing.