Monday, 27 May 2013

TGOC 2013 Day 2: The Joys of the Challenge

Ready for the off on Day 2
Well, I left no trace but previous campers had done so

I was awake by 5.00am, and lay in the tent, brewing up and eating my comfort breakfast of Ready Brek.  I mix it with sugar and dried milk in a plastic food bag before leaving home and then add boiling water to the bag, giving a hot breakfast with no washing up and minimal use of gas. The torrential rain of the previous day and night had stopped.  Now it was simply showery.  This makes such a difference to the ease and comfort of wild camping, what with the need for cat hole ablutions and packing stuff away.  Deer were grazing on the shingle beach near the bothy as I sorted out my kit.  A couple of bothy dwellers emerged and headed towards the ruins of Finiskaig.  I set off on my day’s walk a few minutes behind them, the skies dark and menacing giving the area around the head of this sea loch a very desolate and heavy atmosphere.
I caught the two walkers in front up after 30 minutes or so, when they were stopped for some reason.  It was Colin Crawford, an extremely experienced Challenger from Glasgow, and his first time Challenger companion from Edinburgh, John Boyce.  I wasn’t certain of Challenge etiquette now.  I fancied some walking companions in the oppressive atmosphere of this grey early morning.  Whilst the general direction was clear, the path was indeterminate and wet and boggy, and walking with others would be a distraction and help prevent nagging worries developing.  They were clearly faster walkers than me, but with a bit of extra effort I kept up and tagged along and this didn’t seem a problem for them, although I suspect Colin at least could have walked much faster if he had not had me there.  But both were delightfully kind, helpful and friendly.
Colin and John at the Finiskaig River crossing

An easy first river crossing: safely over
We followed the path, such as it was, along by the Finiskaig River and up to Lochain a Mhaim.  The rain was coming down again now.  We missed the ford shown on the map and after some minor scrambling and boulder hopping came to the outflow from the Lochain, where we crossed the stream.  This was my first proper fording of a river in over 30 years and it was thankfully a very simple one.  My trail shoes now came into their own.  Trouser legs rolled up and straight across.  No faffing with boots or crocs.  Then it was on and up to the watershed.  This was further than I had anticipated.  Although I think I read maps pretty well, I was not used to navigating with a 1:50000 map, having used 1:25000 for so many decades.  You seem to cover ground very slowly on a 1:50k map!
We headed down towards Glen Dessarry and the Allt Coire nan Uth.  This stream wasn’t wide but it was in a steep little valley and there was a lot of white water in it.  Alone I would have hesitated and faffed.  Was it safe to cross?  I would have been going back and forwards for ages to pick a spot to ford.  It was good to have Colin’s reassuring presence here as he guided me across, then John, then a few seconds later returned to help two walkers coming up the valley who were also somewhat hesitant.
Glendessary opened in front of us.  There was a hint of sunlight and lighter skies.  We were joined by Matt Little as we stopped for some lunch.  And then it was solo walking for me again.  The others headed towards Kinbreack Bothy; I down to Loch Arkaig, for mine was planned as a low level crossing.
Camp Spot by Loch Arkaig

 A few km along the road at Caonich I found a small, semi-wild camp spot almost on the loch shore and was joined by two fellow Challengers, John from Northampton and Frederick from the Loire Valley.  The sun was out now.  Suddenly, Frederick was tearing his Trail Star down muttering “Teeks, teeks, hundreds of teeks”.  He hung his shelter from a tree.  It was covered in a myriad of tiny black spots and he spent the next hour or more with a tissue, meticulously killing them one by one, explaining that one of his friends had had Lyme’s Disease.  He then re-erected the Trail Star on the shingle beach of the Loch.  John and I watched bemused and amused.  John had not come across ticks before.  I had, often on the dog and once, after walking through a lot of bracken on Gowbarrow Fell, on me.  I explained to John that ticks liked nothing better than to head for the warmth of the groin area before latching on, and from then on he giggled hysterically between bouts of furious, precautionary scratching of his nether regions.  But we could see no ticks on our own shelters and surely Frederick’s behaviour was OTT?  Well, as it happened the answer is no.  24 hours later and both John and I would be sitting in our respective B and Bs removing numbers of ticks from ourselves.  Nasty little blighters, ticks.  I would have them all strung up I would, if I had my way.
Tick Killing The French Way

John grimaces as another tick takes hold
It had been a good day.  The walking had been enjoyable; I had found a decent camp spot.  The weather appeared to have changed for the better; and the reassuring, calm presence of Colin and John at the river crossings had been a real confidence booster....



  1. Ticks are evil little ba***rds, causing much discomfort - and in recent years, worry. Lymes Disease is becoming a more serious problem of late.
    You seem to be easing yourself into Challenge life nicely.
    I'm looking forward to the next episode.

  2. Reading Challenge accounts over breakfast. Nothing beats it!

    Heading into unknown hill country under threatening skies takes a bit of pluck at times, so it can be good to buddy-up. Early days on the Challenge make that possible for the lone first-timer.

    Keep up the good work - This is all great fun!

  3. Got me scratching again Dave! Great stuff, really enjoying your account. Picture of Frederic still brings a grin though. Lesson learnt ;-)

  4. Thanks for the comments all.

    Alan - I am awaiting your detailed write up with interest. We bloggers kneel at the feet of the master!

    John W - great to hear from you. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your Challenge after you headed off into the clag towards Corrour Lodge.

  5. I have the opposite problem to you with map scales. I'm so used to 1:50k that I really struggle to get to grips with the 1:25k scale on the rare occasions when we use them.

    I'm enjoying the serialisation of the your write up. Eagerly awaiting the next installment :-)

  6. Hi Gayle

    I can see the value of 1:50k for multi-day treks but, to me, they are simply not detailed enough for reliable navigation - but each to his or her own of course. When I first started to hill walk as a teenager I used 1 inch to the mile ie 1:63,360. No wonder I used to get lost!

    Thanks for positive feedback re my write up.

  7. That looked another good day out in the wilds of the Rough Bounds David. You can never take ticks too seriously in my opinion but I am from now on going to cry "teeks, teeks!" whenever I spot them. I saw three in Ardgour two weeks before the Challenge but happily didn't spot a single one whilst actually crossing the Scotland. Good job on the river crossings and keeping up with fellow Challengers!

    1. Nick

      The Scottish teeks, like the meedges, are much smaller than their cousins in England so harder to spot. Cunning little sods.

  8. Great stuff. Enjoyed that, apart from the Teeks.
    I'm with you on the maps but it is just what you get used to. Suggest going back to the 1:50000 and trying again.
    i had a go with Harvey maps. Lots of peeps think they are better than OS but i beg to differ.

  9. Hi Alan

    I do use Harvey's 1:25k sometimes in the Lakes. I am not keen on them visually but the lightweight waterproof paper is good and for Cumbria the area coverage has more logic than the 4 OS 1:25k sheets. Less likely to need 2 or even 3 maps on day walks. On the Challenge weight is an issue so I used 1:50k. Otherwise it would always be the 1:25k because of the level of detail.

  10. Hi!
    Found your blog thanks to Ian list on TGO forum.
    The night after i was at Laggan Locks, of course drinking a few(lots of!!) beers at the eagle barge, but also checking myself for ticks and using the hostel internet to check on them :
    Of the few hundreds i had on my trailstar most of them were larva ( that are supposed to prefer small animals so maybe TGOers dont fit...
    But i also spotted a few nymph.
    I got lucky only had 2 to remove.


  11. Don't know if you realise, but dogs can get Lyme Disease too. Our Labrador was very poorly with it about 3 years ago - picked it up in the Cairngorms..... we Frontline them once a month now!

  12. Ticks. Wasps, Horseflies.
    What is the ****ing point?

    Now rivers.

    With your legs I would have thought you just step over them!