The route for 2018’s TGO Challenge came back from the vetter yesterday unscathed in terms of significant changes. The route is basically ok, with a couple of recommendations in terms of better camp spots and places to cross rivers. Disturbingly our vetter seemed to want to up the difficulty level of our route by ADDING Munros – yes ADDING!! He must think we weren’t trying hard enough. And I thought that with 6 on the route already, I wasn’t doing that badly anyway.
Anyway, alert to the vetter’s devious attempt to make us exert ourselves more rather than finish each day without breaking a sweat and leaving plenty of time for whisky consumption, we swiftly rejected all of his extra bits and got the handful of minor updates made to the route sheet.
Warned by one particular shady character that TGO route planning is not a democracy and dictatorship is the only way forward, we promptly ignored that advice too and collaborated on the route. The result is a route I’m really looking forward to.
Even before applications opened this year, I’d chosen Oban as my most likely start place, and had already sketched out a rough idea of a route. Finding that Paul had also applied and was interested in teaming up, I did (momentarily) feel a bit guilty at basically presenting him with a fait accompli, but he seemed to take it well. We met up a couple of weeks ago in a Covent Garden pub to walk through the draft route and tweak it. It didn’t take long to get it written up, and the whole process of collaborating on the route was actually much faster than doing last year’s solo route by myself. I think it helps that Paul and I seem to have a pretty similar outlook on what we want from a long distance walk. So here it is.
Part 1 – Oban to Rannoch
We head out of Oban on Friday 11 May and cross onto the north shore of Loch Etive, hugging the lochside to get some easy miles under our belts. Then we’re looking up at the Buachaille before cutting across Rannoch Moor at the Kingshouse Hotel. This should get us until partway through day 4.
Part 2 – Rannoch to Braemar
We turn north(ish) to join Loch Ericht (only lochs beginning with “E” are allowed this year!!) and camp at Ben Alder Cottage. Then if conditions are favourable we’ll do our first hill – Beinn Bheoil. If it’s pants we’ll go through the bealach between there and Ben Alder instead. If it’s really pants, the loch will be our companion. Hopefully we should be rolling into Dalwhinnie on the Tuesday 15th.
From Dalwhinnie we head up for our second Munro – Carn na Cam. It’s here that we fought off the vetter’s suggestion of a 6km out and back trip to bag another. It’s not just the distance – we couldn’t pronounce the name of it either (something about Buddy Holly I think). We did however take onboard his suggestion of a camp spot below Meall Chuaich, although not his suggestion that the 1000ft of ascent to climb the Munro itself would be a good way of relaxing in the evening after making camp.
We drop into Glen Tromie and then cut across to Glen Feshie, picking up the Corbett of Carn Dearg Mor on the way. Then it’s the trade route down to Mar Lodge and Braemar. With potentially every night of the trip so far being a camp, we’ve decided to treat ourselves to a roof in Braemar, albeit a camping pod.
Part 3 – Braemar to Stonehaven
Suitably refreshed by the bright lights and fleshpots of Braemar, the plan is to roll gently up to Lochallater for elevensies on the middle Sunday and then take the opposite path to the one I took this year – heading to the east side of the glen to visit loads of high places with the word “Carn” as part of their names. Then we’ll drop into Glen Muick and head for Ballater. Next up is Mount Keen and Tarfside before leaving the National Park behind by way of Mount Buttocks and the Fetteresso. With a bit of luck we’ll hit the coast at Dunnottar late Thursday or early Friday, giving time for a deep fried Mars bar** in Stonehaven before getting the train to Montrose for dinner. And maybe a beer. Oh yes, and clean pants – I’ve learnt my lesson from last time.
Total distance is about 326km with 9,700m of ascent. It includes 6 (possibly 7) Munros and a couple of Corbetts. That’s about right. This compares with last year’s actual distance of 324km, 6,600m of ascent, 2 Munros and a Corbett. So a little bit harder, although we are taking an extra day to do it too.
**Actually no – I tried one once and it’s one of the vilest things I’ve ever eaten. Right down there with jellyfish. That won’t necessarily stop me trying to trick Paul into eating one though!!