The noise of a vehicle on the track alerts me to a possible interruption. They’re clearly checking me out as the noise is not moving. Then all of a sudden they’re gone. Panic over.
I pack up and continue to the bottom of the track, making my way to Loch Cuaich. The track takes me to the far end of the loch, and then the real work of the day begins. It’s around 6km to Bhran Cottage and it’s all pathless. The navigation is easy, I simply hug Meall Chuaich on my right, but the footing is energy-sapping. I follow hopefully each little trodden route through the heather in the hope that’s it’s something more than a random sheep/deer track. None of them are.
I reach the small wood shown on the map, and which I’d had a slight concern about its passability without a climb. I needn’t have worried – it’s delightful, if a little soft underfoot in places. There’s several crossings and re-crossings of the stream, and a lot of weaving around and ducking under fallen trees. Quite a few beasts have chosen here to spend their last moments too. I wish I could stay longer – this is just the sort of place you could pitch up in and see no one for a day or more. But I’ve got too much distance still to cover.
I emerge and descend into Glen Tromie, looking for a crossing of the river. Optimistically I follow a path which leads to the collapsed bridge, and then retreat to the latter of the two fords I passed already. Boots off, strung around neck, wade the river. It’s ice cold, but at least it’s refreshing.
I sit awhile by Bhran Cottage letting my feet dry and they feel better for it. I’m faffing about with my pack when I’m startled by a voice right by me. The Challenger Whose Name I Never Knew stops to talk for a few moments and then heads deeper into the glen. Me, I’ve decided to take a shortcut. having ditched the Corbett that was on my main route, there’s no reason to go that far out of my way. A “simple” climb up to the saddle opposite, a “simple” walk across a couple of km of pathless ground and then I’ll be at the foot of a track that will take me safely all the way to Glen Feshie. Or at least that’s the idea.
The reality is another long, slow slog across heather, coupled with a bit of climbing down and back out of peat groughs, and a struggle to find where the Feshie path is. A lot of zigzagging takes place, as does a lot of swearing, and, yes you guessed it, a lot more heather bashing too. Eventually a meagre sheep track becomes a recognisable path and then a track, and I’m at least safe and on the yellow brick road. Or so I think…
The day is well advanced and I’m starting to descend into Glen Feshie when the track stops looking like it does on the map. Specifically, it’s heading south east instead of north east. This is Not Good. But none of the other options look any better. It seems I’m destined to have to walk further up the glen for a camp rather than stop at my planned spot. Extra distance at the very end of the day is the last thing I want or need. Then a surprising thing happens – I reach the road and the map changes. Now I see I’m in the right place – ie a few km north of where the map, ahem, “said” I was minutes ago. I just need to cross the Feshie and walk about a km and I’ll be at the bothy. I reach the river, see no sign of a bridge, and not wanting to prolong the day any more, don’t investigate any further. Boots strung around the neck again, and another ice foot bath. I keep my water shoes on for the last bit of the walk to Ruigh Aiteachain.
Here I’m greeted by the sight of more Challengers in a single glance than I’ve seen in total on the Challenge so far. Some of them are even familiar faces. It’s a little overwhelming. I let the banter wash over me as I treat myself to a makeshift thai chicken curry – the last of the cooked chicken from the Kingussie resupply, an Uncle Bens rice, some powdered coconut milk, a dash of chilli and some dehydrated veg. Ok, it’s not terribly authentic, but hits the spot. This is one of those moments that I praise my wisdom in bringing a collection of dehydrated raw ingredients rather than already made up meals.
The conversation around me gradually dies down and I turn in too. I’m shattered, but at least satisfied I’m back on schedule.