TGO Challenge 2018: Day 11 – Ballater to Fungle Road

Yesterday’s company got me through the day I know would otherwise have broken me, but today I have low expectations for accompaniment. The original plan was to attempt to get to Tarfside in a single day, including an ascent of Mount Keen which would have made today the hardest day of all on this year’s Challenge. It doesn’t take much thought to jettison this plan and dust off the FWA. In fact, I’ve pretty much already decided it’s FWA all the way now.

River Dee at Ballater

I pop into the Co-op for a few supplies and then cross the Dee to follow the road towards Deecastle. Going through my head are various thoughts about today’s route – mainly how to make it as easy as possible. I look at various options for sticking with the road longer before tackling Glentanar Forest, and am still pondering as I take my first (“boots off”) rest stop at Deecastle. Graham Taylor catches me shortly before this, we exchange a few words, and he then heads off on the path up into the forest from Deecastle – the one my FWA as planned takes. After a bit of umming and ahhing, I follow, having a bit of “fun” working out which of the path options before me is the right one. Ultimately I make the choice by using the gate that’s not locked, and this proves to be correct.

Road-walking

I head up a grassy rake through the forest to emerge on a heathery hillside. A bit of heather bashing later and I catch-up on Graham who’s taking a break.

Heading up into Glentanar Forest

At this point we team up as our routes largely coincide – his planned camp spot for tonight is about a kilometre away from mine.

We walk through the forest, chatting about gear mainly.

Then our plans are thwarted by a capercaillie. We can’t work out whether this is an old sign or he’s starting early for next winter, but decide to avoid the path. This adds a bit of extra distance to our walk as we now head away from our target and towards Glentanar House instead. Here, around a bend just after we’ve started climbing, we come upon Emma and Louise. I know they’re aiming for a spot close to me from conversation last night, but as we meet they are quite coy about their plans for the rest of the day. There’s clearly some top secret luxurious lair ahead that they want to themselves!

Graham and I haul ourselves up the track that will eventually put us onto open moorland without much hope of decent water, so we stop at the first opportunity and fill up.

We emerge onto the moor and Graham decides to stop at the first semi-decent spot. Me I want to get the next bit of heather bashing over tonight rather than first thing tomorrow. I at least want to get in sight of the Fungle Road. I plough on, it’s slow and frustrating work, but Graham’s tarp gets smaller in the distance behind me, and I eventually round the hillside enough to spot the hut on the Fungle Road ahead of me.

The final pull through heather

It’s a bit breezy though, and I decide that my planned spot up near the hut may be a bit exposed for comfort, so set my eye on a rather lush green patch a short distance before. It turns out to be flattish and dry and there’s even a bit of a stream, albeit a pretty dirty looking one, close by. I put the tent up and collapse into it. Apparently, Louise and Emma pass by a little later and call out to me, inviting me to join them by the hut. I don’t hear them, and actually am quite happy where I am anyway. I’m sure they’re more than happy not to have me coughing right by them.

Night 11 camp just before the Fungle Road
Day 11: Monday 21 May – 26.58km, 548m ascent [planned route in black, actual route in red]

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