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Thursday, 27 July 2017

TGOC2017 Days 4 & 5: Glen Orrin to Drumnadrochit


Day 4, Monday: Glen Orrin to Cnoc Hotel, Struy

I'm wide awake at quarter past five. Trinnie is bathed in an orange glow. In one balletic leap I'm standing admiring a glorious sunrise to the northeast and I snap away for ten minutes trying to capture Trinnie, the River Orrin and the sun's rays cracking through the ridge line. This involves holding the camera at thigh height, having set the exposure time manually and guessing the framing of the shot as I can't make it out on the screen. About two dozen attempts - all trial and error.

SUNRISE. GLEN ORRIN

Of course, all this could be avoided if I just kneel down and shuffle around on my knees for a while, but the ground is soaking after the rain in the night and I'm a wuss. Whatever happened to the old cameras that you held at waist level and looked at the view on the top of the camera? My Dad had one of those...

On every walk I try to pitch Trinnie where she'll catch the morning sunshine. It provides a huge lift to the morning, melts the ice on the shelters and generally makes life bloody marvelous.

Even with all this sunshine it's still bloomin cold at this early hour and so I snuggle back into my bed and put the kettle on for some coffee, Horlicks and hot orange. I'm as thirsty as hell - I really must make more of an effort to drink more when I'm walking.

COFFEE & A LIE-IN

The forecast of a few days ago, of course virtually meaningless today in the Western Highlands of Scotland, had been for a day of heavy showers for today. As you'll see from the notes on my maps, the choice we face today is either to go for it and head south and clamber over the ridge across rough pathless ground for a day of just 14km to the hotel at Struy, or take the much longer but lower route around the high ground, involving off-piste stuff for the first 4km and then easy tracks. 

The first option would mean an early arrival at the hotel with time to sort out our washing and a few beers before dinner. It could also mean a hefty battering from the weather. Option two would mean walking in slightly less rough weather but for longer and arriving at the hotel with no time for beers.

Well, that's a simple choice to make. Over the top it is, with time for beers. 

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE: SHOWING OUR STORMY WEATHER ROUTE ALTERNATIVE.

Humphrey's due to head off eastwards so we leave him with a nice stroll down the glen as we brace ourselves for our trip south. We were right; it is very hard work heading up the hillside and a fair few rests are taken. The clouds are building and the temperature's dropping. We're following deer tracks, as the herd knows the best way over a bealach. 

HANDRAILING THE ALLT NA CRICHE. ROUGH GROUND. HARD WORK

The ridge to the north of Glen Orrin is quite low and our view back reaches a long way north. The cloud is now building quickly and light showers are coming in. Jackets, but not enough for overtrousers.

LOOKING BACK OVER THE TOP OF GLEN ORRIN

Once again we make the top ahead of both our optimistic forecasts. We must be right hard bastards. David's Jelly-Legs are holding up superbly and at last there seems to be a bit of room in the rucsacs as the food bags are now of manageable proportions. However, they feel just as heavy as they did on the first day.  

RUFTY-TUFTY DAVID

Pleased as punch we positively gambol down the other side on nibbled turf. The first quarter of an hour is fabulous, following a bubbly caochan downhill until it becomes the Neaty Burn proper. Then it all goes to rat-shit for a while with stumbly heavy heather, awkward clambers up and over the burn bluffs. It's still cold and showers are now coming at us from the west down Glen Strathfarrar. It's all quite knackering. 

And then we see a big new road, dead ahead, following the burn downhill. 

ANOTHER HYDRO SCHEME WITH ASSOCIATED ROAD HIGH UP ON THE NEATY BURN

Of course, it's yet another Mini Hydro Power scheme. The actual works themselves are not wildly intrusive, tucked away at the bottom of the little gorges that they are placed within but the roads that enable the schemes to be built and maintained are horribly so. And they're appearing all over the Highlands because there are massive subsidies to be farmed by the already wealthy landowners. The amount of power they produce is miniscule and all at a terrible cost to wild land.

PEEKING ROUND THE CORNER TO LOOK UP GLEN STRATHFARRAR SHOWERS

The old stalkers path down the Neaty Burn has been obliterated by the new road and so we plod somewhat disconsolately down the dirt road wide enough for two trucks to pass each other. The old path chose a line with gentle gradients. This new road dives straight down the hill which is tough on my dodgy left knee. All the wild qualities of this old route have now gone. We're now on a road, heading down to the new housing for the generators - a modern pitched roof construction, not unlike a large house in appearance, surrounded by a large concrete apron and heavy river pebbles.

We sit against the wall for a little shelter from the rain and it's all rather depressing. Dear God. What were they thinking of? They've already screwed huge swathes of Scotland with bloody wind farms and now they're destroying havens of sylvan bliss with houses, concrete and roads. All in the name (and only the name) of supposedly 'green' policies. Had these idiots actually done the maths they would realise they are pissing in the wind and their tokenism is fucking Scotland to the hilt. 

Bastards.

We collect the track to the old HEP station, where the power source is piped, deep under the mountain. This place produces real worthwhile power, available on demand and in useful quantities.

THE CNOC HOTEL

Then it's a charming stroll down the old Glen Strathfarrar road into Struy and the Cnoc Hotel. After sorting out a mix up with our bookings we settle in for a few pints before the hotel grind of sorting out four days of dirty socks, pants and shirts, before dinner.

We receive some excellent news by text from Phil. He's on his way to Drumnadrochit! Apparently Miss Whiplash allowed a day or so recuperation back at Lord Elpus Hall before coming up with "Do you know what you need? You need a couple of weeks in Scotland with your mates. That'll sort you out..."

As we dine, Lord Elpus is barreling northwards up the autobahns in his German war machine.



Day 5, Tuesday: Struy to Drumnadrochit

At the appointed hour David taps on my door on his way down to Breakfast. I'm in my shreddies trying to stuff an enormous pile of hiking paraphernalia into my rucsac. 

An hour later we check out of the hotel. With two deep baths and a well prepared Full British Breakfast under my belt the world looks a better place. My socks are sweet-smelling and fluffy once again. My hair is no longer sticking to my scalp and my armpits are fragrant. 

Hullo birds, hullo sky...

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

We set off into the Great Beyond, heading south west along Strathglass. You will notice from the top map that we are due to head up into the wild places in a little over a mile at Maud. However we bowl along and miss our turning entirely. Blimey the conversation must be good. So we turn around and walk back the couple of hundred yards of overshoot to be totally stumped. We stare at the entrance to the hill track in disbelief. 

And there it was... Gone. 

Unbelievably, whoever owns this little chunk of Scotland has completely blocked off the entrance to the track. The turnout lined by rock retaining walls is still there. But right across the entrance is a substantial deer fence. Behind this, completely filling the width of the track (which is in a cutting) are impenetrable, very closely planted trees, I would say planted at nine inch centres and about four deep. They're close enough to the fence to make climbing it out of the question as you would be tangled in tree branches at the top of the fence. 

We investigate climbing over the fence to either side of the entrance. Here the fence is mounted atop a three foot wall, and again there are trees planted very close to the deer fence making climbing over impossible. There is certainly no way through here. At all.

I remember that access here was problematic back in 1998, when Richard White and I had to clamber over a locked gate to gain the track. I also recall that quite a few years ago (I'm guessing about ten) this access issue was discussed at a Highland Council meeting. I had assumed that in all this time the problem would have been sorted, the owners reprimanded and, hopefully, fined and the situation resolved.

But it is not so. These arrogant shits have deliberately flouted the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and blocked a legitimate route up onto the moor. This is outrageous. I've searched on the Mountaineering Council of Scotland's, the John Muir Trust's and Ramblers Scotland's websites for any mention of access difficulties at Mauld and there is nothing. At all.

We walk around to the house. The only vehicle on the drive belongs to a couple of gardening contractors. The place looks closed up. There is certainly no access to the track from the house. 

We're stumped. 

This means our walk today has been totally screwed. We are now faced with a very long detour. We decide to follow Strathglass southwest for another 4km or so then cut up the side of the hill on a track to cut across the gorge of Alt a' Chrais and then on through the Mellness Forest and join the Affric Way at the A831 at Millness. I had been this way before with Mick Coady years and years ago in torrential rain. Of course, this means we are now facing a very lengthy walk to get to Drumnadrochit.

BENCH IN THE MIDDLE OF SOD ALL, LOOKING OVER STRATHGLASS

To add further complication we have arranged to meet up with Phil on the Eskadale Triangle. He is walking towards us from Drumnadrochit. I leave a garbled message of our rearranged route on his message service hoping against hope that he picks it up.

THE FULL BENCH

It's a pleasant enough ramble up the steep forestry track with the added bonus of a surprise bench overlooking the Allt a' Chrais and Strathglass. There are a few deer fences to negotiate but fortunately they are gated or have good ladder styles. However this particular gate is locked tightly shut. As David is scaling the monster, still laden with his rucsac, I notice that there's a hole in the mesh in the bottom corner of the gate. I persuade him not to break his neck clambering over the very tall gate, unbalanced with his pack and instead we should climb through the gap, passing our rucsacs through to each other.

IT'LL GO... OR MAYBE NOT

I haven't laughed so much in ages. I take quite a few pictures but only this one is free of terrible camera shake. The Rufty-Tufty Bastard is firmly wedged, unable to move, caught on the fence like a stranded yacht on the Goodwin Sands. Oddly, he doesn't seem to see the funny side of the situation.

Before too long we are strolling beneath the new hateful Beauly-Denny Powerline and join the Affric Way. How on earth they decided that a very busy 'A' road should be a suitable route for a National Trail just beggars belief.

After a scamper down this road we are on forestry tracks again, when all of a sudden a dodgy looking individual springs from beneath the trees! Packs are dropped to the earth and a rest is called. 

LORD ELPUS! LIKE A ST BERNARD, BRINGING LIFE-SAVING REFRESHMENT TO THE AFFRIC WAY

Phil had received my text message when he was at the very top of the climb up onto the moor... And so he had redoubled his efforts and dived back down to the bottom of the hill and set off heading east along the Affric Way to meet us. He's walked further than we have, and had carried life-saving beers all the way to boot! What an absolute diamond geezer!

STRIPPING OFF TO ENJOY HIS BEER, PHIL IS ALMOST NAKED WHEN HE GETS TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CAN

The rest of the walk to Drum is largely uneventful, but in exceptional company. We decide to hoof it down the road for the last few miles in order to get to the hotel in time for more clothes washing. Cleverley, Phil books ahead for the restaurant as he knows from last night that it is likely to be very busy.

GOOD FOOD, GREAT COMPANY. DRUMNADROCHIT

There's a great slew of Challengers in for dinner tonight. Here's a snap of Gerard and Natascha from Holland, both in fine form. No, the picture below. The one above is the Rufty-Tufty David and Lord Elpus.

CHALLENGERS GERARD & NATASCHA IN THE PUB, DRUMNADROCHIT

We leave content, knowing that the first leg of our trip is complete. Tomorrow is a very early start to catch Gordon Menzie's boat across Loch Ness at 8:00am, followed by 30km of an awful lot of Monadh Liath...

Sunday, 23 July 2017

TGO Challenge 2017 Day 3: River Meig to Glen Orrin

As a rule, I don't bang on a lot about gear here. These days I buy new stuff when the old tried and trusted stuff falls to bits. But I will take a moment to tell of the wonders of Trinnie Trailstar. This is Trinnie's fourth TGO Challenge.

First, the bad stuff.

  • She takes a while to put up. Not Trinnie herself; no, you are under cover quite quickly but the combined package of Trinnie, my wonderful Oooknest and my porch groundsheet. 
  • Occasionally the wind can shift a hundred and eighty degrees but I've never found that a problem as the porch is so huge no weather makes its way to the inner. If a big storm's coming you'll know all about it when you're pitching, so you won't make a mistake with her orientation.
LOOKING BACK UP GLEANN FHIODHAIG AFTER BREAKFAST

  • Then of course there's the infamous 'Trailstar crawl' that can result in wet knees and condensation on your back. I've never found this a problem, but perhaps I'm more agile than most and more tolerant of minor inconveniences.

However, the good stuff far outweighs any of these niggles:
  • Trinnie can comfortably accommodate party-goers. 
  • She's a great place to discuss the day's plans when it's peeing down with rain, or pass whisky flasks to each other. 
  • Sopping gear can be dumped in the cavernous porch out of the way to be dealt with after you're all dry and snugly after dinner. 
  • There's so much room in my Oookstar (that's an inner-tent designed specifically for the Trailstar) that organisation is a piece of cake. 
  • There are no zips to get iced up, and she is incredibly stable in ferocious wind and rain. You're guaranteed a good night's sleep. 
  • In the morning, when it's chucking it down outside it's an absolute doddle to pack away all your gear apart from Trinie herself, undercover. There's loads of room to put on your boots, change into your waterproofs in a dry spacious interior.

****

This morning Trinnie is soaking from overnight rain but I pack away a virtually dry Trailstar. I fly her, rather like a kite, and shake and shake and shake all the water from her flanks until she's virtually dry. Then it's simply a case of bundling her into her stuff sack and popping her under the lid of my rucsac. 

DAVID

And so to today's route. It's Sunday and Mrs May is apparently living in 10 Downing Street. 

It promises to be a very good day indeed, following 'FWA1' on the maps below, with just a 20km stroll and 430 RouteBuddy metres of ascent. That's about 800 of your MemoryMap or Anquet metres... As you can see from the first map, designing all the foul weather alternatives for this section proved to be an interesting experience. Having taken our FWA yesterday it means that today we continue on FWA1 until we rejoin our fine weather route at Luipmaldrig.

MORNING MAP. CLICK TO ENLARGE: FOLLOWING ROUTE FWA1

We are walking together today and surprisingly for a large-ish group we set off more or less on time. I would be hard pressed to find lovelier people to spend a day in the hills with.
   
AFTERNOON MAP. CLICK TO ENLARGE. FOLLOWING ROUTE FWA1 TO 'FINE CAMP'

It looks to be one of those open and shut days - lovely warm sunshine followed by brisk frisky showers, repeated at hourly intervals. I adore this sort of hill weather. Photographs are infinitely more interesting with huge piles of dramatic cloud, showers draping themselves across layers of hills and freshening wind heralding another brief downpour. It makes you feel alive again. 

THE RIVER MEIG

The Meig rewards with every twist and turn, and then the glen gradually opens as Scardroy approaches.

PASSING SHOWER, GLEANN FHIODHAIG


DAVID, HMP3 & EMMA, HEADING FOR SCARDROY

SCARDROY

Scardroy must rank as one of the most beautiful locations for a house in Scotland. This is my second visit - Lord Elpus had sent me this way years ago when he was recovering from having the first set of innards removed - and I would happily come this way again and again. The grass and wall just past the red rhododendrons make a wonderful spot for elevenses in the sunshine.

HMP3 & EMMA

EMMA.

Neither David nor I realise that at this point Emma is feeling quite unwell, and after our very relaxed stop, we scamper along the road together, with HMP3 and Emma walking as a pair behind us. We reach the farmstead at Inverchoran just as a very feisty shower hits, with some menace. David and I are in our base layers and make a dash for the shelter of the trees where the track begins to take us up through the wood. We stooge about for a while, but there's no sign of Humph or Emma, so we carry on up the hill, thinking they'll catch us when we stop for lunch at the top.

LOOKING BACK TOWARDS SCARDROY ALONG LOCH BEANNACHARAIN

I remember this track from last time. It's a grunty swine. About 750 Imperial Feet of up, in very steep indeed sections that make my legs go to jelly. I've no idea how David's jellylegs are coping with this, but the Bounder seems to be doing well enough. You really have to squint at the map with a very hard squint to see all the stacked brown squiggly lines hiding in the pretty green colouring of the woodland. 

LOOKING BACK TO SCARDROY AFTER A GRUNTY CLIMB UP A TRACK IN THE WOODS IN THE RAIN

Eventually, gasping for oxygen, we break the shelter of the trees and the sun is belting down once again. We struggle along up the track, promising ourselves that at the next rise we'll stop for a spot of lunch, until at that rise we see another better looking spot a few hundred yards further on. And then the same again. 

RUFTY-TUFTY DAVID AT OUR LUNCH SPOT

I determine to make savage inroads into my still gargantuan food bag. Pork pies are despatched with the last of the mustard. Three Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewells are swallowed whole. The honey-roasted cashews and cranberries are devoured. Just as I am about to start on my Lion Bars the wind freshens alarmingly and we look up to see the view in the picture below.

'How far do you think that is away?' asks the VeryVeryNiceMan.

In a frenzy I'm stuffing away my food bag and pulling out all my waterproofs and  reply 'About thirty seconds' as the first penny size drops bounce smartly and very wetly on my bald patch. 

-An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy jackets just in time
But David was still yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man on fire or in lime...

INCOMING! VIRTUALLY NO SOONER THAN WE HAD SAT DOWN...

It's a belter of a shower, lasting quite some time. If you were of a pedantic nature you may wish to call it a summer storm, but this is the Western Highlands of Scotland, so it's just a passing shower. Either way, it great to have some real weather chucked in our general direction. This is not the time to wait for Emma and Humph and so we carry on in the fabulous downpour. On a happy note it's coming ever so slightly from behind as we follow the delightful hill path over the top of the bealach and then down towards Glen Orrin.

ANOTHER PASSING SHOWER. LOOKING SOUTH ACROSS GLEN ORRIN

Even in this weather of fierce stormlets followed by blazing sunshine this walk is utterly fabulous. We follow the wonderful little gorge, swapping banks occasionally, down to Luipmaldrig and fall inside, grateful to be out of the hot sunshine.

A BELTER OF A PASSING SHOWER AT LUIPMALDRIG, LOOKING EAST DOWN GLEN ORRIN

Chairs. Tables. Civilization. A settling cup of Horlicks with a large dash of Bowmore. Criminal, I know, but quite perfect with shortcake and a slice of fruitcake. But I don't have any shortcake, or fruitcake for that matter, and so I'm making do with Tuna-with-a-Twist in pitta bread, followed by six slices of Leerdammer in pitta bread. And another Horlicks with a larger slug of Bowmore.

This is life as it should be lived.

As we're packing up to leave, who should stumble through the door than our old mate Humphrey. We stare at him quizzically. 

'Ah. Yes... I didn't burn her!' the Brute blurts...

Where is she? What have you done with Emma?

And so Humph explains that poor Emma had been feeling ghastly for days, if not weeks and had come to the end of her tether at Inverchoran and decided to walk down the public road to civilisation, call Challenge Control and go home to bed.

We're stunned. We honestly had no idea. From my overview maps I know it's a long walk down that road. 

DAVID, LEAVING LUIPMALDRIG

Seeing as we're Rufty-Tufties and Well 'Ard, we forsake the luxury of the bridge back upstream and David walks through in his plimmies and I tip-toe across the very low River Orrin dry-shod. Pleased as punch to have saved all of half a mile, at best, we saunter down the right bank of the River Orrin in gorgeous sunshine.

DAVID CROSSING RIVER ORRIN, SAVING A PLOD BAG UP TO THE FOOTBRIDGE

DAVID'S PICTURE OF ME CROSSING THE ORRIN

DAVID, HEADING DOWNSTREAM, EAST ALONG THE ORRIN 

If you take the trouble to scroll up to the second map in this post you'll notice that according to the Ordnance Survey we're due to camp alongside the Orrin Reservoir. But it is not to be so. In fact, walking down Glen Orrin, you will not find the reservoir for quite another few miles further on than those Cartographic Cads would have you believe. Quite why they show the reservoir where it is I do not know! If any readers can cast any light on this mystery, perhaps they could pen a reply in the comments section. As it is, we saunter through some lovely grassland, apparently deep under water.

DAY 3: CAMP. CLICK TO ENLARGE

You'll see, if you look closely at the picture above, that hefty little showers continue their games after we have flipped up our shelters. 

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves for a while. They're all taken at our perfect campsite.

BEASTIE HEADING FOR MY OOOKNEST

LONG ZOOM BACK TO LUIPMALDRIG, SOMEONE HAS THE FIRE GOING

HMP3 MAKING HIS WAY TO MEET UP WITH US

LOOKING SW FROM OUR CAMP

HMP3'S LASER COMP, DAVID'S SCARP 1 & TRINNIE TRAILSTAR, BETWEEN SHOWERS

Today has been another belter of a day. I adore this weather. Scotland becomes a live beast, the air is cleaner, fresher and the hills have structure and strength as sunlight streaks and slices through ragged skies. This is the TGO Challenge at its glorious best.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

TGOC2017 Day 2: Baobh-bhacan Dubha to River Meig

What does our VeryVeryNiceMan Mr Williams and the Leaderene have in common? (I do like Leaderene. The term was invented by Norman Singeing Sideburns) As I can hear David choking on his kedgeree, I'll supply the answer immediately. Both enjoy/enjoyed perishingly few hours of nighttime sleep.

With this valuable knowledge stored away, just before lights out last night, I asked David to call me at a quarter to six so that we can be away by eight. This routine is normally performed by Lord Elpus who is also an early riser but now the blighter has absconded this duty has transferred to my remaining companion, along with opening plastic packaging and letting me know the name of the present incumbent of Number Ten, just in case of accidents. I wouldn't want them to think I had lost my marbles.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

David is no slouch in matters mathematical and within a split-second came back with 'That's two and a quarter hours!' and  'David Cameron.'

But this is a holiday! I enjoy a lazy stretch, two or three drinks and a decent breakfast by the pool in the sunshine. I suppose the morning routine could be performed at a slicker pace, and on occasion it has, but that way the day gets off to a poor start.

However, this morning doesn't start well. I wake to rain spattering on Trinnie's flanks and a decidedly cool brisk breeze. Of our yesterday evening's sparklingly clear blue pool, barely twenty yards away, there is no sign. We are in the clouds.

The weather forecast of a couple of days ago has turned out to be correct. This morning is supposed to be 'Cloudy, Windy and Heavy Showers' and we have a very steep descent from Sgurr na Feartaig to contend with on a very long wet grassy slope to Bealach Bhearnais. A few years back, a very experienced Challenger had taken a life-flashing-before-his-eyes hurtle down such a grassy slope, resulting in substantial injury. He was wearing trail shoes. His experience has lodged in my grey matter. David's in shoes. You can't dig your heels in to get bite in grass, wearing shoes.

David and I talk today's route through and happily we agree quickly to continue on our lower Foul Weather Alternative. Same distance, less ascent, no steep descents on wet grass but a lot more off-piste rambling up to Bealach Bhearnais. Our Fine Weather Route, over the top of Sgurr na Feartaig would actually be a far less demanding day. Choosing our FWA today also means the next day's route is a less onerous walk. But you'll gather this from the maps when you take a look.

We start the day heading west, not the natural bearing for Challengers, before dropping down to the bothy to have a nose-about. Then it's a delightful stroll following the Abhainn Bhearnais upstream to the bealach. Occasional rest stops are taken where food bags are nibbled, to no apparent reduction in their size.  

VIEW FROM BEALACH BHEARNAIS, BACK TO YESTERDAY'S CREAG A' CHACRAINN

The bealach arrives in surprisingly good time and we pause in the decidedly nippy wind to look back and congratulate ourselves on progress to date. On the climb up we had spotted a couple of backpackers in the distance. We amble over the top for some shelter and come across them - a young couple from Austria. They are flying a small drone with a camera to record their walk. It is very light and with the charger they also carry it has enough juice for over an hour's flight - plenty enough between stops where it can be recharged, It isn't noisy and folds away to a small size. The whole caboodle weighs a couple of pounds at most.

AUSTRIAN COUPLE ON THE CAPE WRATH TRAIL

The rivers are very low so we follow the path all the way down to the wire bridge as it looks considerably easier walking than the route we had mapped out for ourselves. We watch as the first, and then the second Austrian attempts the wires, Both now have wet backsides. We rock-hop across the very low water, dryshod and wave goodbye as they are heading west.

It's a dull four km on a track to Glenuiag Lodge (a holiday home) and the hut, but a milestone is reached as we cross Scotland's East-West watershed. This means, surely, it's all downhill from here? 

HUGE RUFTY-TUFTY DAVID AT THE TINY GLENUIAG HUT

More inroads are made into the still gargantuan food bags, still to no apparent effect. Ahead of us is a distant lone walker, in pale blue strolling at a leisurely pace. The walk down Gleann Fhiodhaig is a delight, following the River Meig. Occasional smartish showers sweep through to keep us on our toes.

VIEW EAST FROM THE GLENUAIG HUT DOWN GLEANN FHIODHAIG

The path, sketchy at times, is a delight and we are overhauling the pale blue lone walker remarkably quickly.

TWO RUINS: BORED WITH POSING FOR PHOTOS, THE BOUNDER ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE FROM THE PICTURE

It's Humphrey in his pale blue cashmere sweater, of course. He tells us of a 'difficult' morning on the tops in tricky crosswinds, very little visibility, heavy rain and alarming drops. He gave it up as a bad job and dropped down to the glens. I'm sure he won't mind me saying this, but he looks about done in. So, with true Challenge Camaraderie, we leave him for dust when he makes the mistake of telling us that Emma can only be a few steps ahead. Emma or Humphrey? Humphrey or Emma? I mean... Come on!

A few steps? We bump into Wonderful Emma. Her tent is pitched, she's finishing a brew and yes, she's been here ages. She is a darling and in the matter of a moment she's made us cups of tea before we even start putting up our shelters.  

RUFTY-TUFTY BOUNDER NOW HAPPY TO POSE WITH A PERFECT MODEL AT OUR CAMP SPOT

And now, a few campsite pictures. 

HMP3, SETTLING INTO HIS OVERNIGHT ACCOMMODATION

TWO IDLERS WITH NOTHING TO DO WHILST EMMA DINES

HMP3 TALKS PROUST. EMMA POLITELY FEIGNS INTEREST

We're here at a very reasonable hour. I feel in great shape and it's been a cracking day. That's two bloody good days on the trot. Some showers rake the glen as I drift off to sleep, a happy chap.

THE VIEW BACK WEST