My route has been vetted and approved. My vetter, Bert Hendrikse made some helpful suggestions and my route was adjusted accordingly. Bert also did my route in 2012, so many thanks to him. For someone like myself with a limited knowledge of Scotland, it is very helpful to have a route vetted.
I’ve decided to start at Strathcarron. Strathcarron is an attractive place to start because it’s easy to get to by train and you are into the hills immediately with no faffing around. I have booked a room at the Strathcarron Hotel, which is also the sign out point, so I can get a relatively early start. Last Challenge there were 37 starters from Strathcarron, so I expect some company, at least until lunchtime!
Rather than give you my route sheet (which I might publish nearer the time), here’s a summary of where I’m going. There is only one picture as I’ve not been this way before except for a short stretch after Aviemore.
Day 1: Strathcarron to Loch Monar (19km). I’m following the trade route to Bendronaig Lodge (lunch?), but then I’m heading north to Loch an Laoigh, then east to the head of Loch Monar.
Day 2: Loch Monar to Strathfarrar (22km). I’m following the north shore of Loch Monar, which I’m told is quite tough! From the dam onwards, it’s a minor road until just before Ardchuilk, where I’ll find somewhere to camp.
Day 3: Strathfarrar to Cannich (18km). I head up the Allt Innis Larach to east of Llatrie and then down Glen Cannich to the camp site at Cannich.
Day 4: Cannich to Drumnadrochit (22km). Road and forest tracks to Drumnadrochit and staying at a B&B.
Day 5: Drumnadrochit to Glen Mazeran (27km). Up early to get the ferry across Loch Ness, then minor roads to near Abrerarder House. Then I follow the Allt Mor and over the ridge to Glen Mazeran. Glen Mazeran is supposed to be a good place to camp and hopefully I’ll bump into Mike Knipe who will be manning a temporary catering establishment, Cafe Akto.
Day 6: Glen Mazeran to the Red Bothy (18km). I decided not to push on to Aviemore so I can savour the Monadhliath before they get trashed. I’m following the well established route over Carn Ruighe down to the River Dulnain to camp somewhere near the Red Bothy.
Day 7: Red Bothy to Glenmore (23km). Up and over the Burma Road to Aviemore, where I can re-supply, then onto Glenmore camp site via the cycle track.
Day 8: Glenmore to Glen Loin (23km). Forest tracks to Bynack Stable, skirt Bynack More and then follow the Water of Caiplich to just before the “Castle”, turning east into Glen Loin. I’m told this could be quite a tough day with the Water of Caiplich being trackless, but it looks good!
Water of Caiplich from Bynack More
Day 9: Glen Loin to Lochbuilg Lodge (23km). Into Glen Avon, then climb Ben Avon, descending south to the River Gairn to Lochbuilg Lodge to camp. FWA is follow Glen Builg on western side.
Day 10: Lochbuilg Lodge to Ballater (24km). Follow the River Gairn into Ballater. I’ve booked a hotel in Ballater for a bit of luxury.
Day 11: Ballater to Glen Tanar (11km). A short day gives me the chance to resupply in the morning, perhaps with lunch before a relatively easy walk to Glen Tanar.
Day 12: Glen Tanar to Tarfside (17km). From Gelen Tanar it’s up and over Mount Keen (my second Munro on the Challenge) and down to Glen Mark, then Tarfside for a bacon butty.
Day 13: Tarfside to North Water Bridge (28km). Just follow the crowd down the Esk to North Water Bridge. I’m taking ear plugs to fend off the noise from the road and snoring Challengers.
Day 14: North Water Bridge to St Cyrus (14km). Again, just follow the crowd to the beach at St Cyrus.
I’m rather pleased with the route. Although it’s not startlingly original, it does have a reasonably remote feel to it. I was careful to make sure that it wasn’t too stretching in the early stages, otherwise I would have gone higher. I really DO want to finish this one!
Challenge planning goes into the freezer now as there’s not much else I can do. The next step is a fitness regime for the New Year!