Distance: 20km, ascent 566m
Overnight I had an acute attack of anxiety and found it difficult to sleep. I knew the weather forecast was not good, so I worried about the weather. I worried about my wife’s health and whether I’d have to go back home when I reached Fort Augustus. I worried about whether I’d brought the right gear. In fact, I worried about virtually everything. No amount of rationalisation could stop my anxiety.
After a restless and sleep deprived night I got up reasonably early to find that Callum was already leaving. Although overhead was thick cloud, it wasn’t raining. However, cloud covered the hill tops, so I decided I’d take my Foul Weather Alternative to Cougie and then to Corrie Dho. Having made that decision, I felt a bit happier. I was ready to leave at 7:30. The weather was still OK.
I tootled along the track for a while before it started to spot with light rain. Uh-oh, here comes the heavy rain that was forecast, I thought. Reluctantly, I put on my overtrousers in anticpation of a tough day in the rain. However, it was only spotting when I reached the Allt Garbh.
It was a huge shock to see the hydro works. I was glad that I hadn’t continued the day before with a view to camping there. Despite all the warning signs, I continued along the track, allowing some heavy plant to pass. The turn off to Cougie was hardly obvious. There was no sign and I had to check on my GPS for the exact exit.
It was a relief to get away from the carnage. Hopefully once the work is done, it will be returned to the way it was when I passed here two years ago. Before long I reached the turn off to Cougie. The rain was still only spotting, so I was keen to push on as quickly as I could manage. I’d heard bad things about the track to Cougie, but apart from a couple of muddy sections, it was pretty good.
I reached the lochan before Cougie in good time. The clouds were thick and glowering, but still the rain was very light. Just after the lochan I had to climb a deer fence as the stile had been removed, which was a bit irritating. The track in the forest was nicely graded, so progress was quick.By mid morning I was at Cougie. Tempted though I was to call in and experience the hospitality, I wanted to get to Corrie Dho as quickly as I could, not trusting the weather, which was still looking a bit ominous. By this time, I felt my anxiety start to abate. Even if it got really gnarly, I wasn’t more than three hours from my destination.
As I got into the shelter of the forest, I looked for a place to stop and have a quick bite to eat. I found a convenient stone to sit on under a tree for a bit of shelter. I decided to have an early lunch so I wouldn’t need to eat again before I finished the day. Conscious of the weather, which was still ok, I was soon on my way again. The forest track was nicely sheltered. Every so often I’d catch a glimpse of the Allt Riabhach below. Soon I emerged from the forest into the open. I was surprised to see a number of horses roaming free. Fortunately they didn’t seem too interested in me.
As I climbed up to the bealach, the path deteriorated but I noted with interest there were several good places to camp along the way. At the bealach, I decided to see whether I could get a phone signal. Success! I phoned Challenge Control to let them know that everything was on course. Then I phoned my wife to see how she was. Not too bad came the reply. At last I felt I could relax, the chances of having to abort the Challenge early seemed to be receeding.
Reaching the slopes above Corrie Dho, I was taken aback by seeing two shed-like structures by the bridge where I had intended to camp. As I descended, it was obvious there was another hydro scheme being developed.
I investigated whether I could camp somewhere along the stream leading into the River Doe, but it wasn’t very promising so I decided to make for the meadow below. Beyond a stand of trees, there were some decent patches of flat grass, so I decided to stop for the day and pitch there. Although it was only 2 o’clock, I knew that beyond here decent places to camp weren’t easy to find. The weather was also holding off, so I could pitch virtually dry.
It proved to be a good decision as part way through the afternoon there was some heavy rain. I felt snug and smug sipping tea in my tent as the rain beat a tattoo on the tent fly. Finally, I felt properly relaxed and happy.