TGO Challenge 2018: Day 4 – Black Corries to Loch Ericht

I’m awake early, with the knowledge that I’ve got quite a distance to cover today, and am walking for 8am. Gerry is camped up a couple of hundred metres down the track and we chat for a while before I crack on.

The track itself fizzles out and I find myself following the line of telephone poles, undulating my way across the moor. It’s slow progress and I’m marking off every kilometre to try to create some feeling of getting through the distance. It’s only 12km to Rannoch by my calculations, but it feels like more. The distant forest seems to stay distant.

And then it’s upon me and impatiently I weave my way around boggy patches to gain the solidity of a proper forest track. Now it’s just the simple matter of following the track to bacon.

I get to Rannoch station around 11:30 and am just in time to catch the tail end of breakfast. A bacon bap is devoured. Then as the lunchtime crowd are coming in, I join them and roll straight into a bowl of vegetable and bacon soup. To hell with it, I go for dessert too and a big wedge of Victoria sponge disappears. Just as I’m about to pack up, Gerry arrives, and I’d love to linger a while, but I’ve still got over half my distance to do. So I crack on heading initially along the road before cutting off left to climb over Sron Smeur.

Not a particularly spectacular hill, or one of any notable bagging distinction, but my route passes high enough over its flank, that I might as well bag the thing. It is a Marilyn after all. This proves to involve a lot of trudging over heather, then a hop from peat hag to peat hag and some more heather before I’m at the top. But I can at least see the rest of the walk. It’s cost me a lot of time though.

Below stretches out a large expanse of what my vetter referred to as “bog”, with a sodding great lochan in the middle. Of course I could have taken the suggested detour along the road and the safety of a nice track, adding a mere 8km to the 27km I’m already doing. Sod that. How bad can the bog be ?

I negotiate a precipitous descent from Sron Smeur and pick my way carefully across some soft ground. It’s not that bad. In fact, I’m composing an open letter to my vetter explaining that if he considers this to be a bog, then he really needs to come to Dartmoor, where I’ll introduce him to a real bog. Of course, this is the point at which the soft ground becomes actual bog. I follow a rough path up the hillside to gain a track. I’m struggling, and I’m low on water (although I do have plenty of it in my shoes). I really just want to camp now.

I make myself persevere through a wood and to the loch. My feet are soaked and not liking the hard surface of the track I’m now on. It’s still some distance to Ben Alder Cottage, and I realise I’m not going to make it. So I look for a nice spot next to the loch, finding one on a slight rise. it’s a bit pine-coney, but bearable.

My feet don’t look, or feel, good. They need quite a bit of attention. Somehow, my feet, in socks, in boots, under trousers and gaitors, have also acquired a tick. Talk about making things difficult – why didn’t the little sod pick someone easier to access ? I’m so tired (and arguably a bit full from my breakfast/lunch/afternoon tea combo), that dinner is foregone in favour of tea and custard. Only then do I feel human enough to have a mooch about on the “beach”, inspecting the dead trees on the foreshore. I’m still feeling wrecked and mentally drained from the day’s concentration on where I’ve been putting my feet. A night “in” is called for, which means a film and some whisky.

Day 4: Monday 14 May – 28.01km, 585m ascent

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