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TGO Challenge 2015: Day 2

Falls of Glomach to Loch Affric

Distance: 17.8km
Ascent: 269m

Day 2Click to enlarge

The weather forecast for Saturday was for good weather and we weren’t disappointed. The main decision for me was whether to stick with my intended route over the north Affric ridge or take my FWA along Gleann Gaorsaic. There was still quite a lot of snow up high. It seemed a bit of a risk to attempt the ridge without an ice axe or crampons, so I decided to take the low road.

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The morning sunshine dried off our tents. Before leaving our pitch I wandered a hundred metres downstream to take a photo of a waterfall. We followed the Allt Coire lochain for about 500m then struck south down Gleann Gaorsaic.

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Gleann Gaorsaic has a bad reputation as a boggy hell. However, on a sunny day, it was no worse (or more boggy) than many other glens. Following the 400m contour and occasional faint tracks seemed to avoid the worst of the bogs. The glen itself is a picture of bleakness with the view to the south dominated by a snowy Beinn Fhada.

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Just before we turned into Gleann Gniomhaidh, we stopped for something to eat. We lazed for a bit in the sunshine. Later in the evening, I found a tick on my arm, which I guess I picked up here. After lunch, it was a wonderful walk down the glen and into Glen Affric.         DSC02305DSC02307DSC02309DSC02310DSC02311DSC02312DSC02313DSC02315DSC02316

When we reached Alltbeithe Youth Hostel, we decided to pop in for a cup of tea. Thank you to Hannah (?) the warden for your hospitality. In the kitchen, we met Rev. Dave and Croydon, together with a group of four other Challengers (whose names I’ve forgotten!).

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Leaving Alltbeithe, Croydon decided to join Emma and me to walk down Glen Affric. Again, it was a super walk down the glen in glorious sunshine.

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We passed some other Challengers who were camping at Athnamulloch, but we pushed on to Loch Affric. At the western end of Loch Affric there is a good expanse of fairly flat ground to camp on. Croydon and I decided to stop there, but Emma pushed on as she had a big day on the next day.

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It was a fabulous place to camp and even had a private beach! All in all, it had been a great day with wonderful scenery and weather. However, the evening sky gave a clue that the weather might change on the next day and how it did!

TGO Challenge 2015: Day 1

Dornie to Falls of Glomach

Distance: 17.3 km
Ascent: 740m

Day 1

click to enlarge

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After a good breakfast at the Dornie Hotel, our motley crew of Challengers gathered outside for a group photo. It was a beautiful day with barely a cloud in the sky and no breeze. This gave an opportunity for some lovely photos of Loch Long.

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After a short walk along the shore of Loch Long, our cavalcade turned east to walk up the River Glennan. Some people have been quite disparaging about the Glennan, but in good weather, I thought it was a lovely walk. After a stretch of mildly boggy ground in the lower reaches, there were attractive stands of dwarf birch, giving it a slightly Scandinavian feel. Higher up, the path wound through heather and boulders to reach an incongruous patch of grass near the bealach.

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Inevitably our group spread out as we climbed up the valley. Martin and Sue forged ahead. Emma and I followed some distance behind. Once over the bealach, we descended on an indistinct path above Camas-lunie. Part way down we met with Martin and Sue having a brew. As we were under no time pressure, Emma and I joined them for a spot of refreshment.

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Not long after, Jeremy and Greg caught up with us, but they decided to continue down to Glen Elchaig. At a distance, Jeremy amused us with a totally unnecessary climb over a deer fence, ignoring a gate only 50 metres away. All good things come to an end and we had to make a move. The farm track along Glen Elchaig was unpleasantly muddy. When we reached the bridge crossing the river, we spied John and Norma sunning themselves on pleasant grassy bank. It seemed rude not to join them!

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A few minutes later, Ian joined us for a bit of R&R. However, time was getting on and we had to get to the Falls of Glomach. We spent a pleasant hour or so walking with John, Norma and Ian before we had to turn south to the Falls.

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Emma and I said our goodbyes to the others, and crossed the bridge for the path to the Falls of Glomach. The path up the ravine has a bit of a reputation for being tricky. However, in good weather, it held no terrors. While there is an element of exposure and some minor scrambles, the path is well-defined and easy. The ravine and the Falls themselves were one of the highlights of the trip and I highly recommend visiting them if you can.

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At the top we followed the Allt a Ghlomaich for a while. I was a bit concerned that we might not find a suitable place to camp. However, just before a stream confluence we saw a reasonable spot. We had to go further upstream before we found a place to cross.

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We found a good patch of dry ground suitable for two tents. It was a wonderful place to camp. The icing on the cake was the setting sun set the flank of Creag nan Clachan Geala aglow with a wonderful orange and red light.

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A fitting end to a glorious start to the Challenge!

Daunder 2015 part three

DSC00139Although it rained a bit overnight, the next day dawned sunny and bright. By around 8:30 we were all packed and ready for the off.

DSC00140We picked up the Swan’s Way and headed along a broad track past fields …

DSC00142..and cheap council houses.

DSC00143At Swyncombe Downs, we paused for a rest, making use of some cross country jumps for horses as seats.

DSC00144So far, it had been a very pleasant morning’s walk. However, soon, we emerged onto the minor road that led back to the camp site at Crowmarsh Gifford. Unfortunately, it was very busy with traffic including heavy lorries.

DSC00145It was an unavoidable trudge until we picked up a footpath just outside Crowmarsh.

DSC00146Not long after, we were back at the camp site. Phil decided that he should get home, but the rest of us went to the pub for lunch. I had some very fine sausages. All too soon, it was time to say our farewells. All in all, it was a very pleasant two and half days walking, in good company. Thanks to Alan for organising it. Below is a map of the route we took.

PWD 2015 OVERVIEW MAP

Daunder 2015 part two

Henley has one big draw back as a place to camp: it’s under the Heathrow flight path. At around six o’clock in the morning, the planes start coming in. While not deafening, they are certainly noticeable. After an hour or so of trying to ignore the aircraft noise, I gave up and got out of my sleeping bag.

DSC00077Swiss Farm camp site has a restaurant, so it would have been rude not to have breakfast there! I was sorely tempted to have a second plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. We really know how to rough it. Suitably fortified, we had to resume this horrible walking nonsense.

DSC00079A group of us left Phil back at the camp site on his phone to sort out some problems with his impending house move. After a short pull up the hill, through a stretch of woods, we emerged into some open parkland.

DSC00081At the end of the grassy track there was a huge cedar tree.

DSC00085Mick decided it was so lovely, he gave it a hug.

DSC00086Further on, we saw a rather lovely house.

DSC00090And a spooky tree.

DSC00091We also saw some fine-looking horses.

DSC00092Soon, the views began to look like the Shire in Lord of the Rings.

DSC00094Amazingly, Alan and Phil were dissuaded from going into a pub (it was only 10:30).

DSC00097This road sign caused much hilarity.

DSC00099After a rest break at a derelict church, it was onward and upward for a serious climb, accompanied by yet more moaning by Phil.

DSC00101Soon we were walking through a field of yellow rape.

DSC00104Over some rolling downland.

DSC00110Past a pretty church.

DSC00113To a pub in the amusingly named village of Pishill.

DSC00118Food and drink was consumed. After an hour or so, it was time to heft our packs again to resume our journey through some delightful woods with a floor of bluebells.

DSC00122We wended our way through more fields.

DSC00123And woods.

DSC00124To the next pub. Some of us had a cream tea, others didn’t.

DSC00126After sheltering from a spot of rain, we walked to Watlington Hill for a fine view over Watlington and beyond.

DSC00132At the bottom of the hill was our camp site for the night.

DSC00137We had a fine meal in The Chequers in Watlington (our third pub of the day). To round off a perfect day, the rain held off until we were safely tucked up in our tents.

Daunder 2015 part one

Well that was fun! The 2015 Pre-Walk Daunder was successfully completed with no mishaps, revolutions or tantrums. The weather was fine and a jolly time was had by all. Thanks to Alan Sloman for his impeccable organisation.

DSC00040The intrepid Daunderers gathered in dribs an drabs at the appointed camp site in Crowmarsh Gifford. The camp site authorities had obviously been warned that we are a bunch of hooligans because we had a discrete area of the camp site all to ourselves, well away from the more genteel caravanners.

DSC00042Despite a night of debauchery at one of Wallingford’s less salubrious hostelries, the merry band was up bright and early to face the daunting route that Alan had planned for the day. Phil was a bit photo shy and pretended to adjust his hip belt every time someone tried to take a group photo.

DSC00043After a bit of coaxing, we were off through some fields with the promise of lunch at a pub somewhere.

DSC00045Soon, we turned east to follow the Ridgeway along Grim’s Ditch.

DSC00047Along the way there was some lovely woodland with a carpet of bluebells.

DSC00049Before long, Gerry decided that we were going too fast and that we needed a break to reduce our average speed to a more sensible level. JJ decided to entertain us with his Larry Grayson impersonation (well, maybe not).

DSC00052It was all going terribly well, until we encountered some uphill bits. This precipitated a bout of extended moaning from Phil about Alan’s route planning abilities.

DSC00055As we climbed higher, splendid views opened up, including one of Didcot power station, which will soon be required to export electricity to Scotland to keep their lights on when they get rid of their last coal-fired power station. DSC00059All around we  were surrounded by picture postcard loveliness.

DSC00061Before we could reach our lunch time oasis, there was a killer hill to climb.

DSC00063Fortunately no one was injured or lost on the arduous ascent of Witheridge Hill. Miraculously, just over the brow of the hill, The Rising Sun pub came into view.

DSC00065The pub appeared just in time to quell a mutiny amongst the troops. Food and drink calmed tempers and soothed discontent.

DSC00066Suitably refreshed, it was onward and upward, with Captain Sloman leading from the rear.

DSC00068Our path led us through some beautiful woodland. Navigator Sloman decided that the arrows painted on the trees were misleading, so we followed a more novel and circuitous route.

DSC00072There was considerable confusion when a breakaway group decided to take a different route. However, order was restored with another tea break when the rebels re-joined the main party.

DSC00073Alan’s tactic of leading from the rear backfired on the outskirts of Henley. Instead of descending along a ridge, the leading group continued along a path which opened onto the roughest part of Henley. We barely survived.

DSC00075Fortunately, it wasn’t far to the camp site. For some reason, Mick decided that he wanted to follow JJ’s lead and do a Larry Grayson impersonation. Most of the group decided to go on the razzle in Henley, but I was suffering from a heat induced migraine and had an early night.

Fail

Last week’s trip to the Lakes was a bit of a failure. I guess it was a bit optimistic to expect to concoct a trip where two of the three days were forecast to have severe storms. On Wednesday, it was very stormy and we had torrential rain and high winds. After a period of comparative calm, on Thursday, midday, it started raining and didn’t stop until sixteen hours later. On Friday, it was overcast and drizzly, but overnight, the storm had dumped snow down to about 350m. I decided to give up and go home a day early rather than have a miserable trudge around the fells.

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I did get a bit of wild camping and walking done. On Tuesday evening I walked to Rigg Beck for a wild camp. It got very windy early morning. I discovered that my Fizan trekking pole which was supporting the Tramplite shelter wouldn’t lock properly. The pressure on the pole meant it kept shortening leading to a very flappy shelter. I should have taken my flick lock poles. I bailed out just as it started to get light.

I went back to the camp site at Braithwaite where I’d left my car and base camp tent. After meeting David, we quickly popped into Keswick to get a flick lock pole. We knew the weather forecast was bad, so we decided that a modest bimble along Borrowdale to Langstrath was probably our best option.

Not long after we started, it began to rain, well ahead of the forecast. It took us about two hours to reach Grange. Although we were mainly sheltered by the trees, the rain and wind was pretty ferocious. At one point I fell and bruised my thigh. At Grange we decided lunch in the cafe was a good idea.

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We had a pleasant lunch, while outside the storm intensified. We had a bit of a discussion about what to do next. My concern was the camping spot I’d chosen in Langstrath was rough pasture and might be waterlogged. So we decided to walk back to Braithwaite. At least the wind would be at our back rather than in our faces.

After negotiating some seriously flooded roads, we made the path below Cat Bells, where the rain relented. The rest of the walk back to Braithwaite was quite pleasant. David decided to camp at the camp site and we went down to the pub later in the evening. You can find David’s account here.

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On Thursday, David decided he wanted to do a bit of a walk in the morning. However, I knew that rain was forecast for midday and would continue well into Friday morning. I didn’t particularly want to get wet, so I decided to stay put, with a view to possibly doing a walk next day.

Well, the rain arrived and pretty soon, the camp site was saturated with water standing in many places. Fortunately, I had repositioned my tent on a small rise the previous evening. It rained and rained and rained. Not very exciting, but at least I was dry.

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The rain had been forecast to continue until lunchtime on Friday, but around 5 a.m. it petered out. When I got out of the tent, I was a bit surprised to see that higher up it had snowed, with snow capping Stile End and the higher fells. As it wasn’t actually raining but the fells looked cold and miserable under clag, I thought it best to pack and go home.  As I passed Keswick, it started to rain again and didn’t let up until Birmingham.

Looking on the bright side, at least on Wednesday, including the early morning walk back to the camp site, I’d done a 21km day and felt pretty fit (admittedly with not much up). I also discovered you need a strong pole with the Tramplite, so a valuable lesson had been learnt. I’ve only got one more trip left before the Challenge.

I’m going anyway!



Weather! Why does it conspire against me? I booked next week off ages ago to go to the Lake District. I’m meeting with David Williams for a bit of training for the TGO Challenge. The original plan was a circuit of the Nortern Fells, but I decided it would be more interesting to do the High Stile ridge. 

Until a few days ago, the forecast looked pretty decent, then WHAM! It changed to high winds and heavy rain. Well, stuff it, I’m going anyway. We’ll probably do a lower route, especially on Wednesday, which looks gnarly. 

This may be the second time High Stile has baulked me, as I wanted to do it back in September 2013, when high winds foiled me. Oh well, it will be a good chance to stretch my legs and test a few things to take on the Challenge. I’ll report back in a week’s time.