Friday, 20 June 2014

TGO Challenge Day 10: Masterchef at the Hard Rock Cafe

29 kilometres walked, 1036 metres climbed 8 hours
Weather: Fair to middling to very pleasant

Day 10 Route: Part 1

I had arranged to depart with Ian Sommerville for today’s walk, and we set off out of Braemar as soon as we were able to get through breakfasts at our respective B and Bs. It is absolutely untrue to suggest that we took a slightly wrong turn soon after, and started to head up Creag Choinnich by accident rather than taking the direct path to the Lion’s Face. Oh no. We both had an instinctive feeling that if we took that path we would meet Martin Banfield coming down and could walk back with him for a while and, do you know, that’s exactly what happened. In any case, walking directly to the Lion’s Face from Braemar is so over rated.

The three of us then headed off through the Balmoral Estate. Despite the fact that I was jogging to keep up with Ian and Martin, we were still overhauled by John Sanderson and the Chuckle Brothers, Dave and Graham, just as we were returning from our exploration of a very nice small path that had not, strictly speaking, been on our route plan. But as I always say, it is important not to be a slave to the route plan. 

We stopped at Connachat Cottage for a break, as this is where our routes diverged.  Martin, Dave and Graham were heading for Ballater; John, Ian and I to Gelder Shiel, then on to the Spittal of Glenmuick and the Shielin of Mark. Dave Wishart looked wistfully at us as we stood up to go.  I think his words were:

“I shall forget, to have thee still stand there, remembering how I love thy company”.  He said this in a Geordie accent, obviously.  I replied on all our behalves “and I’ll still stay, to have thee still forget, forgetting any other home but this”. Now Graham, overcome with it all, added “I would have thee gone, and yet no further than a wanton’s bird, that lets it hop a little from his hand”.  Parting is indeed such sweet sorrow, as an old Elizabethan poet and playwright might once have said.

Well this wasn’t getting us anywhere, so with tears in all our eyes through the emotion of it all, and with white handkerchiefs fluttering a symbolic good bye, the three of us headed onwards and slightly upwards.
Seb Coe and Steve Ovett

We then proceeded to walk quite a long way. I say “walk”. What I mean is John and Ian walked; I ran at my top speed and managed generally to keep up with them. We by-passed Gelder Shiel and had lunch soon after. Ian produced some very fine extra mature Cheddar from a small dairy on the Isle of Mull. I out did him with my tube of Primula with Ham. He looked longingly at it but I pointed out that he had the chance to buy his own  in Braemar, but had not done so, and that he could go whistle.  It is dangerous to get between a man and his Primula.
Lochnagar in clag

Day 10 Route: Part 2

The sun appeared as we started down towards the Spittal of Glen Muick. I have always been fascinated by geology and, being interested in the rock formations on the path, I decided to have a closer look.  Despite the cheese rage incident at lunchtime, Ian was very kind and got his first aid kit out, and helped me clean the blood off my head afterwards, and after a bit of a sit down for the old crock to recover we got ourselves to the Spittal, and the drinks machine in the Visitor Centre without further mishap.  
Towards the Spittal of Glenmuick
 All that was left of the walking was to follow the Allt Darrarie up to near the Shielin. I had read that navigation can be tricky at the top. Well, I have to admit that it was a nice clear day, but it did seem to be a piece of piss to find the bothy, it being hand railed by streams for all but a few metres.  No doubt if I ever go again I will get hideously lost.

The Allt Darrarie

After we got our tents up we were joined by other Challengers – Mervyn, Alan Rayner and JJ, and also by Richard. As this blog hasn’t got an 18 rating I cannot repeat almost anything that Richard had to say.  Suffice to say, that although the letter “e” is the most frequently used in the English language, Richard is a Scot and a soldier, and the letter he uses most is “f”.  I did learn that the correct name for the grassy tussocks that can make your sleep so uncomfortable on wild camps is “babies' heeds”.  More accurately, “f…ing babies’ heeds”. Hills are "cheeky" or " cheeky" depending on their degree of steepness.   Richard proceeded to pitch his Scarp just upwind of the rest of us, as he was going to fry steak for dinner and sausages for breakfast, and he wanted to make sure we could all smell it. That’s what I call thoughtful.

Camping on small babies' heeds at the Shielin of Mark

Most of us cooked in the bothy that evening. Ian knows a thing or two about food and even has a food blog in which he writes about it.  He watched with a kind of transfixed horror as I ate my commercial dehydrated meal out of the bag and later I made up some instant custard in a plastic food bag to save washing up. Alan, who has forgotten more about bag cookery than I will ever know, then proceeded to pour hot water into an Alkosac to rehydrate his meal. Poor Ian came close to hyperventilating at this point, but I suspect it will not be long before he, too, is downing tubes of Primula and eating Oats so Simple from a Tesco sandwich bag. It certainly saves on the Fairy Liquid

It had been a long day. I had fallen and bumped my poor head. But the company had been superb. Thanks guys.


  1. You have me welling up here, remembering those two paths diverging in a wood. None of us took one remotely less travelled by, but you still managed to trip over and give a Glasgow kiss to a passing rock.

    1. It was an emotional farewell and I never saw Graham again. my eyes are welling up now..

      The Glasgow Kiss was all part of the experience. It is good to use the First Aid kit every so often so you do not think it was a waste carrying it.

  2. I remember that night well. My homemade meat and potato served with soup and vegetables sauted in a tesco pot and store bag. Shame you had already hit the plastic bag custard. I've just read Ian's food blog and not a word about dehydrated gaumet delights or plastic bags. He has a lot to learn. Ja.

    1. Ian simply has no style when it comes to backpacking food, Alan. He seems to feel that what is good for the bright lights of Aberdeen and Edinburgh is good for the low lights of a bothy or condensation filled tent. At least he sings the praises of Sainsbury's noodles. When he starts bulk buying Tesco food bags we will have a true convert. Yes, he has a lot to learn. He ought to prostrate himself at your feet and say "please teach me master".

      I've bought a new meths stove and am going to give it another go, by the way.

  3. Meths stoves are ace. I'm back to using them. Nice account David of your holiday. I'm enjoying this.

    1. Thanks Martin. I think it's the smell of meths that appeals. It reminds me of childhood chemistry sets and the labs at school. I hope to have a little play with my meths stove in the Lakes next week for a couple of nights or so.