TGO Challenge 2018: Day 10 – Braemar to Ballater

Any thought I had yesterday of a better night’s sleep in a proper bed, was proven to be spectacularly wrong overnight. Not only did I struggle to get to sleep, but to say asleep, and was up in the middle of the night with a massive coughing fit. Perhaps it was also the fact that not being in a tent with others close alongside, I could really go for it. Whatever, it was an awful night.

Unsurprisingly, I’m feeling rather grim when I get up. So grim, in fact, that I seriously consider whether my Challenge is done. All that makes me go through the motions of getting ready for a day’s hike is (a) the fact that I usually feel better walking than I am overnight, and (b) the fact that to bail out I’ll need to head towards Ballater anyway, so I might as well at least make an attempt to start the journey on foot. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 10 – Braemar to Ballater”

TGO Challenge 2018: Day 7 – Not Far Past Dalwhinnie to Glen Feshie

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. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 7 – Not Far Past Dalwhinnie to Glen Feshie”

TGO Challenge 2018: Day 6 – Dalwhinnie to Not Far Past Dalwhinnie

I’m not enjoying the Challenge. There I’ve said it. Something is lacking. I’ve seen very few people, and it feels like a lonely one this year, and that’s even before taking account of my missing walking partner. We’d have eaten up the miles on the walk if there’d been the two of us, but solo it’s a much different proposition. Of course it’s lacking the novelty and excitement of my first Challenge last year. But now I look back and reflect on how good a route I put together last year. It had everything – sensible daily chunks (well mostly), plenty of other Challengers, scenery I actually got excited by, and better re-supply options. This year has none of them. I’ve screwed up. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 6 – Dalwhinnie to Not Far Past Dalwhinnie”

TGO Challenge 2018: Day 3 – Glen Etive to the Black Corries

A bit of light rain is falling, timed to coincide exactly with me packing away the tent. It’s that infuriating sort of rain that’s too light for the warmth of the jacket, but too heavy to go without. A few hundred metres up the road I switch to my windproof which is a relief. The day is grey and after yesterday doesn’t hold much promise. The murk doesn’t entice me to climb up to the Lairig Gartain that I was at one point last night so keen to do. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 3 – Glen Etive to the Black Corries”

TGO Challenge 2018: Day 2 – Loch Etive to Glen Etive

A lovely fine and warm day greets me, accompanied by the sound of water gently lapping close by. Six feet away there’s a bit of loch that wasn’t there last night. I soon see, though, that it’s retreating, although this does beg the question how close it actually got to me during the night! Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 2 – Loch Etive to Glen Etive”

TGO Challenge 2018: Day 1 – Oban to Loch Etive

This year, not having been bullied into signing out early, I’m downstairs in Oban youth hostel just a few minutes before 9am, and sign out for that time. I then linger a few minutes and find myself talking to David from Dartmoor. About Dartmoor, of course.

Traditional Dutch customs…

The pair of us cross the road to the “beach” and head to the water’s edge for the feet dipping ceremony, where we are joined by Willem and Leendert. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 1 – Oban to Loch Etive”

TGO Challenge 2018: Getting to the Start

It’s two weeks before the Challenge, and I’m at work when a ping on my phone heralds a message from Paul. It’s a message I expected, just a bit sooner than anticipated: he’s pulling out of the Challenge. He was going to give it until the weekend, but clearly he could see the writing on the wall – the illness which has prevented him training, has now returned and prevented him from even making the attempt. It’s now a solo trip.

Challenge Control are told, and in the process I simplify a couple of sections of the route, promoting Foul Weather Alternatives (FWAs) to now be the main route on certain days. This gives me more flexibility with timings, which I feel I’ll need if it’s just me to do all the motivating. Ultimately, this proves to be A Very Good Decision (but more about that later on in this series).

Paul arranges for the accommodation bookings he’s made in Braemar and Montrose to be transferred over to my name, and the deed is done. The new route card is submitted, sans Paul.

Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Getting to the Start”

The Secret Achipelago Expedition

As a kid, I was engrossed by Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of books, and must admit to having re-read them as an adult too. The same goes for Cath too, and she’s been trying to get her son into them (I gave up on this with my offspring years ago after being constantly called a “muggle” by them – it was a forlorn hope). Now every time I’ve mentioned to Cath about the walks I’m doing in the top right-hand bit of Essex, she has been reminding me of Secret Water and, basically, pestering me for us to arrange a suitable Expedition.

And so it was, that nearing the end of the Essex Way, and mentioning that it goes within a mile or two of “Secret Water”, a plan was hatched to attempt the audacious combination of a circumnavigation of that area and the completion of the Way. I think she sees herself as a bit of a Nancy Blackett (really ? Peggy maybe, as she’s a bit of a galoot). For this trip, as the local guide, I would take the role of the Mastadon (albeit sans splatchers). Continue reading “The Secret Achipelago Expedition”

Dartmoor: Not Quite as Forecast

Last weekend was the first trip to Dartmoor of the year, as a combination of illness and uninspiring forecasts made me decide to forego the now traditional Dartmoor New Year. Consequently I was itching to get out to camp somewhere I didn’t have to hide, both overnighters so far this year having been in lowly Essex.

I arrived at Paul’s midday Thursday, dumped the car and headed up onto the moor by way of the East Okement and the Tarka Trail. Not having come this way before, it proved to be a pleasant way up onto the moor. Continue reading “Dartmoor: Not Quite as Forecast”