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 "f...ing 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.