Pages

Monday, 14 August 2017

TGOC2017 Day 12: Fee Burn to Airlie Memorial Tower


or... A tougher day than expected

Overnight our moor has been scrubbed clean and then hurled back inside an industrial washer for an extra rinse cycle. It's morning and we wake to air that brushes silently along flysheets, the kettle's steam slips across the porch to freedom. Everywhere is complete silence.

THE FEE BURN THE MORNING AFTER A WILD NIGHT 

FABULOUS MORNING FRESHNESS 

Our storm-filled mossy mattress is slowly draining into the now bubbling caochan. It is a perfect Highland morning. Clean sunshine warms my chilled fingers as I fail to capture the feel of this place with my camera. I could happily spend the day right here, letting this place seep into my bones.



But the Challenge, our challenge to ourselves, insists that we move on. The route sheet states very simply that today is 24km with 750m of RouteBuddy ascent. We are to finish the day 450m lower down along this ridge, so that sounds good to me. It's all down hill...

FEE BURN CAMPSITE, BOTTOM RIGHT. [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

CLICK TO ENLARGE

AIRLIE TOWER CAMPSITE TOP CENTRE [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

You'll notice that David is wrapped up warm. Underneath all that black clothing he's wearing his beautifully soft, cream Liberty Bodice. It helps with his posture.

MR WILLIAMS, FACING AWAY FROM THE FEE BURN. 

Strolling up Mayar - it really is a stroll - we have a spring in our step. Compared to some of the monster days we've had on this trip, this day looks to be comfortable. I have visions of lazing around the Airlie Memorial Tower mid to late afternoon. I'm in a very happy place.

ZOOMING INTO LOCHNAGAR

All around the views are fabulous. This is what the TGO Challenge is about. This is why I come back year after year. This is backpacking heaven. David is also grinning; I've never seen him so grinny! We're on top of Mayar, our first Munro of the day, before 8:30 in the morning. We have the place to ourselves. In the far, far distance, at the very end of our ridge, we can just make out the needle that is our destination - the Airlie Memorial Tower.

RUFTY TUFTY ON MAYAR [928M]  1ST MUNRO OF THE DAY AT 8:30AM 

ZOOMING TO MT KEEN

We take lots of pictures. I have a strange flashback to my first TGO Challenge, back to 1995 with my tiny Pentax compact film camera with one spare roll of 36 pictures. That worked out at about five pictures a day.

CAIRN, MAYER

The video, below, was taken on Mayar. It's simply a 360 degree pan from the cairn. I've watched it a few times since I've been home; It makes me smile every time.


VIDEO FROM MAYAR


It's a fine stroll of just a couple of miles over to our next Munro, Driesh and the views to either side of our ridge are uplifting. The pull up to Driesh actually feels good - my legs want to push, they want the effort as the rewards are so splendid.

LOOKING INTO COIRE KILBO & GLEN DOLL

We take a leisurely second breakfast sheltered from the cold wind. A vacant perusal of the map throws up an oddity; To the south of us is Glenclova Forest, which is mildly confusing, as it is actually in Glen Prosen. Glen Clova is to the north of us. I wonder to myself if this is one of those deliberate Ordnance Survey cartographic cock-ups, designed to take out opposition map makers in court?

Any knowledgeable types who feel they have the answer, please leave a message in the comments section. Thank you!

SHELTER ATOP MUNRO DRIESH [947M] @ 10AM

Before setting off, we make out the Airlie Tower once again. Strangely, it seems no nearer. The going hereabouts is good to firm and we positively canter, to start with, down the eastern slopes of Driesh to the bealach above Corrie of Farchal. Then it becomes a very careful step by step lowering down very steep slopes. All quite unnecessarily so, if you ask my knees.

LOOKING EAST ACROSS CORRIE OF FARCHAL INTO GLEN CLOVA

Of course, this very steep slope down is immediately followed by an equally unnecessarily steep grind back up hill to gain the Hill of Strone. This, surely, is not what we ordered! Someone should take it back immediately and return with more gentler inclines. This is a beastly five hundred foot grind.

LOCHNAGAR ON FAR SKYLINE, AND ACHARN IN GLEN DOLL TO THE RIGHT

I resort to the old hillman's trick of taking photographs of the view to regain composure and wipe the sweat from my brow. The faint path misses out the cairn atop Hill of Strone but I can tell that David needs it (He's done all the Wainwrights, you know, almost twice...) and so we walk to the very top and touch the cairn. It's what Baggers do. From the picture below you can see that he is delighted. It must be on some list or other. In fact, we go to every single cairn today on this ridge.

HILL OF STRONE [850M]

The views from this ridge are far reaching, with May's donkey-brown hills stretching in every direction. However, beneath our feet there's a riot of colour that makes for soft footfalls. My skull cinema plays a loop of David Bellamy on his knees, burying his fingers up to his knuckles in the mat.

The Airlie Memorial Tower is still a very long way off. It seems to be walking at the same speed as us, away from us.

CARPET OF FLOWERS 

It's another very steep drop down from Cairn Inks to the bealach above the Clova Hotel. If you ask me, this is a very poorly arranged ridge. It's not yet midday but here we take a break. As you can see from the picture below, the Clova Hotel is within touching distance. In just half an hour and a gentle stroll down a soft hillside, instead of chewing slightly stale pita bread we could be enjoying a fine lunch and a few thirst-quenching pints. If Lord Elpus was here right now, there would be no more of this fierce up and down nastinesses...

LOOKING TO CLOVA HOTEL

However, David has the bit between his teeth. He's in Rufty-Tufty Bastard mode and I can see he wants this ridge. As we begin the three hundred foot clamber up Cairn of Barns, I look back wistfully to the hotel.

CAIRN OF BARNS [651M]

The next four kilometres are very hard work. The path peters out and we're forcing our way through heather, alongside wire fencing. We're tiring and just in time David stops me from heading down a wrong spur. At Coremachy, our vetter has suggested we head towards Elf Hillock to collect the path rising from Glen Clova. On the ground we don't like the look of this advice as the ground to be covered looks as rough as hell. We have an aerial view of the ground between us and the path junction we need a mile or so distant and so in preference we head down steep ground to collect the stream that heads to our destination. This is better. We're trackless and picking our way along a break of slope and stream bank to stay on drier ground. I love this stuff, but it is knackering. Driesh, a long way behind us now, seems like a colossal lump. She's an imposing hill.

On reaching the path we take a break. We're both tired and looking at my watch I realise that we have still over five miles to go with about 250m of ascent and so my dream of an early finish has evaporated. We also have to drop from the ridge quite a way to collect water for tonight's camp. Thankfully we're now back on good paths.

It's time to knuckle down and get it done. This last section isn't fun, which is a shame as I'm sure the walking is fine at any other time of the day. It's a long way down the side of the hill to collect tonight's water from the small trickle and a longer trudge back up to our rucsacs.
 
AIRLIE MEMORIAL TOWER. SMALL, OR FAR AWAY?

How David remains so cheerful is a mystery. He's a strong chap and I coattail him to the Airlie Memorial Tower. I'm just about all-in when we get here. We pitch in as good a place as possible. It's been a ten hour day and much tougher than I had expected.

AIRLIE MEMORIAL TOWER AT THE END OF A LONG DAY

But this is no time to be down-hearted! I empty my food bag and scavenge for happy food; chocolate and tasty things, and wash it down with a few glugs of Bowmore lung-inflator. That's considerably better. In fact, things aren't bad at all. I set about making dinner, a Real Turmat job. Happiness.

It's been an interesting day. This morning we were in the heart of mountainous country, camped up in a glorious spot, away from everything and everyone. Now, we're camped at the very edge of the coastal plain. This is dog-walking country and a place for family picnics.

Drifting off to sleep I spool back through the day. 'Bloody well done, Al', I think to myself. And 'I'm bloody glad that's over!'

6 comments:

  1. People often ask about such days "have you enjoyed it." You obviously have but it is difficult to explain to others why you know the pain and fatigue are worth bearing - I don't think we really know the full answer to that. That was a particularly splendid tract of the Highlands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you had asked me if I was enjoying it around five o'clock you would probably have received a polite grunt as an answer...
      But you're right, of course. Looking back at the day, it really was magnificent.
      😊

      Delete
  2. Is that silver tent one of those ultra light Terra Nova Competitions? If so I would be interested to hear a review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David's silver tent is the bomb-proof Scarp 1.
      From memory it comes in at about 1.5kg in the arrangement shown here.
      I'm sure David can provide more detail Conrad.
      😊

      Delete
  3. Spot on description of the day Alan! All was lovely over Mayer and Dreish. Then that tower just never seemed to get any closer. I certainly didn't notice you hanging on my coat tails - I thought it was the other way round. I guess we were both completely done in.

    A word of warning to others who may follow. The flat ground suggested by the map north of the Airlie Memorial is very uneven and tufty for camping and would make for a horrid night: the tiny spot in front of the memorial that we used proved very rocky and peg placement was pretty difficult. Unless we were just too tired to sort it.

    Conrad. The Tarptent Scarp 1 is an absolutely first rate shelter. We know that all tents are a compromise. However, in my opinion the Scarp 1 is the best all rounder there is - well at least it's the best of the several I have used. Others, of course will dispute this but I know many who agree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you said in an earlier comment, with the benefit of four months' hindsight this day now appears to be a cracker...
      Thanks for getting back to Conrad.
      :-)

      Delete

Hi.
Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!