|This water near Strathcarron is a tidal inlet of Loch Carron and the Atlantic Ocean - honest|
I remember being born. That might sound fanciful but it's true. I'm not going to explain further here. If you want to know more you will need to read my autobiography. I shall be writing that once greatness is thrust upon me. But given the fact that I can remember my earliest moments in this world it may be all the more surprising that I cannot for the life of me remember much of the detail about my walk across Scotland last month. This is partly the fault of my excellent walking companion, Alan Sloman .
My three previous TGO Challenges, in 2013, 2014 and 2015, were undertaken solo. I planned those routes completely by myself, and was entirely responsible for navigating successfully from west coast to east coast. In 2017 Alan and Phil Lambert did almost all the route planning, and on the walk, I am afraid to say, I let Alan take the lion’s share of studying the map every few minutes. Thus, I was less involved with the thinking that goes into such a walk, both before and during. In addition, having Alan as company every step of the way meant that a good deal of chatting took place. When you walk solo you are possibly more aware of your surroundings, although Alan frequently reminded me of the importance of enjoying the Challenge. This means regular pauses to stop, take in the views, the shape of the land and so on, both that under and around your feet, and also that which stretches to the distant horizons. So for these reasons I recall less of the walk. Alternatively, it may just be that my brain has finally become completely addled.
As my recollection of events is hazy I am not planning a day-by-day account in a succession of blog posts. Instead I will provide a jumble of random thoughts and memories about the 2017 experience. This approach means that I will not have to embellish or make up any interesting anecdotes to pad out my posts. Every word that I write will be true. Every word, mind. Every single one.
The next day Alan, Phil and I headed off. Phil was feeling well below par and decided to go back. Al and I continued. By mid afternoon we came to this ridgy thing we were supposed to follow. It was called Creag a Chaorainn. Indeed, it probably still is called this. The topography is complex. The ridge is divided by a series of seemingly deep valleys coming in at odd angles. Overall route finding was easy. The day was sunny and it was obvious where we were heading; but we constantly had to tweek our direction to minimise the myriad of uppy and downy bits. Well Al tweeked, with me usually in front on this last part of our first day. Al was just behind. “Left a bit”, “right a bit”, “head towards that boulder”, “go to the left of the lochan” and so on. He was Sandy Shaw. I was the puppet on a string. It could have been irritating. But it wasn’t. I’ve been hill walking now for the best part of fifty years. I like to think I have some skill based on those years of experience. Yet it soon became apparent that Al has a sort of sixth sense when it comes to picking out the best line to take. A sixth sense, together with the experience of twenty-two Challenges as well as a walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats under his belt.
We camped by a lochan on a bealach in the sun. We woke to clag and rain. We abandoned the planned Corbett and did our foul weather route. No soft touch as it involved several trackless kilometres and a steep pull up to the Bhearnais Bealach and then a long trudge by the River Meig to a super camp spot with lovely Emma already in residence, smiling away and brewing up for us. Soon after, lovely Humphrey also arrived and then spent the evening doing his impression of the most chilled and relaxed man on the planet.
|Not a bad spot to make dinner. On the shores of the lochan at our first night camp spot|
|The first wild camp of the 2017 Challenge|
|Having been forewarned about my snoring, Al pitches his trail star at the minimum safe distance to my Scarp|