Sunday, 2 September 2018

TGOC 2018 Days 0 to 3 Dornie to Corrimony


Another year another Challenge- well it was our second one at that and I couldnt believe how fast time had went from Janruary to the Start of the Challenge. One minute it seemed like the beginning of the year and next minute here I was all packed up loading the car ready to drive across the country to Dornie- it all felt rather unreal!

This year we a threesome- I had managed to persuade my friend and partner in crime Stuart aka Schooner to accompany us on our stravaig across the country and put up with me and Lynn's bickering!

All loaded up and ready to go, we set off from Buckie in the morning and head reports that a Bus had caught fire on the A82 road just outside Inverness which had closed the road- pity as I like the drive along the lochside and through Glen Shiel, so we took the alternative road via Achnashellach and Strathcarron.

This isnt a advertisment for VW, but I got to drive andrew's Golf GTD on the Journey and was most impressed how it never complained nor struggled with three challengers, three HEAVY packs and Naithan whom was driving back from Dornie once we got all our gear out at the campsite.

Our Scarp 2 and Schooners Force 10 Helium Carbon 2



Once the initial usual agonizing decision of where to pitch the tents was over and we were settled down at the campsite we had a walk down to the shore taking photos etc, then the urge to check out the local watering holes became too much and we soon headed to the Pub.





Arrving at the Pub late afternoon, a few pints were called for- Lynn and Schooner had a couple games of Pool whilst I sat in the comfy chair reading the Press & Journal enjoying my pint. 
Only one other Challenger appeared - Bernie Clark. I had a good natter with him until it time to order our evening meal.

Sometime afterwards we decided to head back to our tents and have an early evening- no other Challengers appeared at the Pub. Perhaps word had got round we were in Dornie and they were hiding in the other Pub!

Day One: Dornie to Loch Gaorsaic

At last, day one had arrived and we were all up at a reasonable time having breakfast, teas and coffee's. Soon we were on our way taking our first steps walking coast to coast....




Looking across to Dornie Castle whilst wetting our boots in the West Coast waters, it was onto the Hotel to sign out and do some walking.

Our first days route took us up a small glen following the small winding River Glennan up over the bealach and down to Glen Elchaing.




The walk along Glen Elchaing was along a fine Landrover track passing by some friendly Highland Cattle. A few miles later we crossed the footbridge heading south east up past the Falls of Glomach.
Now this was on walk that I had never done, and after looking for pictures and reports about the path up past the falls- I wasnt sure what to expect. Judging by one photo- there seemed to be some pretty bad exposure near the falls!

The truth of the matter is, that the only real exposre on the path is long before you actually get to the falls- Lower down where the glen narrows the path climbs above the river and goes round the side of a crag which is mostly straight forward walking apart from a couple of sections where its hands on to climb over a couple of rock steps.

Today though, to make things a little more interesting- the wind was gusting and that didnt inspire confidence!

Soon all three of us still present, the path briefly tops of at a flat point before climbing a steep grassy flank. At the top we had our first view of the falls. After that the path keeps away over to the right and cuts across a steep grassy bank- Nothing technical whatsover.




Once at the top, the path is gone and we followed the river course as it headed east from its outflow at Loch Gaorsaic. The going was hard going even although things were pretty dry- there were still some peathags to circumnavigate and boggy pools to avoid.

Before the challenge, doing some research I had found a flat grassy spot beside a ruined cottage just past the outflow of the Loch and even better- I saw that there were stepping stones across the outflow which should have made it a doddle to cross. Yes there was stepping stones, but at various spread out uneven lengths sitting at least 45 degree angles- the crossing was more challenging than I thought it might be- still we made it across and found a decent spot to pitch our tents.

The shelters were quickly up as the weather was taking a turn for the worse and we just managed to get inside the tent as the wind rose and rain started coming down.






Day two- Onwards to Loch Beinn a' Mheadion

The wind and raind continued off and on during the evening, but this place was a great wild camping spot with great views and nobody else in sight!

In the morning we awoke to a fresh clear dry morning which motivated me to get out of bed take some pictures and get a brew on the go.

As we packed up, we saw one Challenger higher up on the opposite of the Glen setting a good morning pace.
The first part walk the walk was zig-zagging round small bogs, but soon the faint path from Glen Affric was picked up and it gradually improved the further we walked down towards the Glen.

The Hostel soon came into view and so did a lone figure in front of us. This must have been the person I saw earlier. A few minutes later, Lynn quirped up- 'Is that Byron?' To which I replied 'Im not sure but its the same pack as he wears and wait a minute...its the same cap!'

I moved up a gear and started running with my laden pack down the path to catch up with this person. Finally I caught up, and indeed- yes it was Byron, a fellow Challenger whom we made friends with from last years Challenge. We stopped briefly to chat at the Hostel, before parting ways again as Byron pushed on and we took advantage of the snacks and coffee at the Hostel.







The Glen Affric Youstel is like a little osasis in the middle of nowhere offering backpackers a bed for a night using it as an excellent base to explore these beautiful hills and Glens.

We took advantange of the basic shop, coffee's and teas whilst Lynn took bigger advantage of the stop to let her feet breath for a while- after all the weather was treating us well.

The break was well earned after the bog bashing and zig zagging of the first part of our day. Think I must have drank to coffee's and an Irn Bru whilst I was there.

We had a look at the map again, and after considering what distance we would do- it was agree that we would head for a camp spot by Loch Beinn a' Mheadion which I had found on a previous walking trip.

We followed the track east along Glen Affric which never bores me, although that first time many years ago, the walk from the Hostel to the car park seemed to go on an on especially the track on the South side of Loch Affric, but not now as i appreicate more and more of my surroundings.






A few hours later, here we were at our days destination- as always I took an age to work out the best spot/orentation for the tent, but soon tents were up and we had a brew on getting our gear sorted out for the evening and eventually sat  by the small sandy cove drinking our coffees taking in the view.








It was a beautiful evening as the sun was out and the wind had died down- no midges at this time of year here, so it was great to sit out and enjoy.


Day 3 To Corrimony.

Day three and we had an incentive for the day- there was a Hotel in Tomich where we could get lunch and a pint or two!

The weather had turned yet again and it was a dull damp start to the day- infact this was the only day I used my waterproof trousers on the Chanllenge. A Whole two hours! We continued along the Lochside track before climbing up over a small hill over to Tomich.


We arrived in good time, infact the Pub wasnt even open for another hour.
Across the road is the Old Post office which is a qaint little Cafe run by friendly welcoming host- we had cofee and small snacks. They even do luches too- but I will get back to that one!

Eventually the Pub was open- a pint for starters which digesting the menu seeing what was on offer.
This Beer and the food were... well okay- similair to the staff. I wont be going back unless I really have to, meaning that if The Old Post Office is closed then the Tomich Inn it will have to be.

I recommend the Old Post Office and urge future challenges to go there and try the food- Im sure you wont regret it.

The next part of the route was a steep climb out of Tomich which eventually flattenend out to a degree up on the moor before following a right of way which ran though a break in a dense forest to the River Enrick.




Were were out of the woods and now heading down to the river- I was interest to have a look at the Bothy which was pretty basic and our tents seemed more appealing to sleep in.
The field outside the bothy was one spot I had in mind to camp at, but there had been cattle here and everywhere the ground was pitted with the hooves of the cattle.
We decided to walk further down the Glen to Corriemony for a place to pitch our tents.

We had past several large houses, and a farm. By this time we were on the small singletrack road which leads to the Drumnadrochit to Cannich road. Fields with sheep and cattle- not looking good, but at a corner in the road was a fenced off strip of grassy wild land by the river. We went through the gate and walked down this strip of land finding a decent flat spot for the two tents by the river.
This time on the afternoon, the weather had changed again and it was sunshine and blue skies- just perfect for getting our tents up and relaxing.




Overall it had been a great first few days of the Challenge- no blisters or any other problems- packs were heavy at the start, food being the killer weight. I think that is one item I need to take a serious look at for longer backpacking trips. Ok, breakfast and evening meals are light dehydrated meals, but I think I need to look at what I eat during the day.

Tomorrow we would be following tracks and paths along the Affric- Kintal way to Drumnadrochit.





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