Friday, 6 July 2012

TGO Challenge 2012: Day 6 - The plan unravels

The day didn't start well. A car drove past the tents at around 5 in the morning and the driver decided to give us a wake up call with the horn.  (Tit!).  And then another (or maybe the same one coming back) did it again an hour later (oh how we larfed at these japes).

But the weather wasn't bad : a bit cool, a bit of a breeze, a bit of moisture in the air and the tent not too wet.  Having been blown off course by Jean's invitation to join her on The Trail of the 7 Lochs (I am so easily led at times), the obvious line to a crossing point on the R Findhorn, and thence to Aviemore was to continue a few more miles with her by a new track above Loch Ceo Glais and then by road round the southern end of Loch Duntelchaig and along the north side of Loch Ruthven.  After that, Jean was heading north to Culloden and I had 13 miles of road walking to reach the Findhorn at Dalmigavie Lodge.

Trail of the 7 Lochs near Loch Ceo Glais

This section of the T7L which runs above Loch Ceo Glais is, what shall we say... 'undeveloped'.  It starts off as heather bashing and continues over what appears to be some heather bashed cynically into a poor excuse for a path. 

Cynically bashed heather on the T7L

 Having said that, it does have some nice views.

Loch Ceo Glais and Loch Duntelchaig from TL7

After a couple of km of this, the T7L crossed the stream linking the two lochs.  There was no bridge.  We pondered what the Sunday afternoon strollers would make of this.

The stream - no bridge

and once across, our efforts were rewarded by this sign...

So we'd thrashed through heather and got wet feet to be told we couldn't go any further.  Grrr. We still had two thirds of Scotland to walk across and someone had put up a bloody sign telling us we couldn't go any further!!!  We made a beeline up the hill to the road, climbed over a barbed wire fence and got back to the main event, having taken about 1.5 hrs to traverse 2km. Jean had a very nicely produced A4 leaflet about the trail but sadly the product (or at least our expectations of it, as informed by the brochure) did not live up to the marketing*.

Looking back on the T7L

Putting that debacle behind us (or at least to our right hand side), we romped (hah) along the B862 and headed east (about bloody time) along the north edge of Loch Ruthven to where Jean turned towards Culloden to re-enact the sword through the heart of the Jacobite uprising at a quarter to six (ok, 1745). 

Meanwhile, the pain in my left big toe was competing with the pain in my right knee and it started to rain (a lot) and I was feeling miserable.  I carried on manfully (!) for another 5 miles, at which point I started to clutch at straws and wasted half an hour trying to cut off a corner to save half a mile.  It was futile.

Loch Ruthven

Then I unpacked the first aid kit and gave my big toe nail some further attention but it was a lost cause really.  Another couple of increasingly slow miles and I sat on a rock by the roadside, ate some chocolate, looked at the map and considered my options.  I was 25 miles from Aviemore, it was already 2pm and I was limping along at about 1mph.  I didn't know what damage I might be doing to my knee.  If I carried on this route I was pretty much committed to getting to Aviemore.  If I got that far I would be at least half a day behind schedule and would  have lost my planned rest day.  If things carried on getting worse, I could be stuck in the back of beyond, away from any roads or in a forest. Sometimes you just have to recognise when a plan is beyond salvaging.

I turned towards Inverness and walked back along the road.  After about 10 minutes, I heard a car and stuck my thumb out.  The driver stopped.  He was an ornitholoigist surveying birds nesting sites up on one of the wind farms.  He gave me a lift to Inverness where we stopped in Tescos and while he did some shopping, I had a mug of tea and a plate of chips.  Then he drove me to the centre of Aviemore and I checked into the Cairngorm Hotel because it was closest.  I looked a mess but the girl on reception found me a room and in no time at all, I was lying on a comfy bed in a warm room and feeling very pissed off.  I called John Manning to give him the news.  It was little comfort to learn that there had already been a higher than usual number of folk dropping out.
The next morning I got the first train home.  I didn't feel like hanging around to meet other Challengers coming off the Burma road.  There was snow on cars and the hills were white.  It would have been a cold night up where I'd planned to camp and I would have given anything to have spent it there rather than in the hotel.

I'd walked 66 miles from Strathcarron.  Before I set off, unsure how the shin pains would go, I'd said that if I made it to Drum I would be happy.  So on one level it was a success.  And I'd met and walked with some great people on the way.  But it's just wasn't enough - I didn't get to Johnshaven.  Oh well, next year.

 * I've been onto the website since and there are some caveats about  long heather and sections closed for lambing/calving.  This is sort of fair enough but it would be more useful if this information was in the trail brochure.  Also I get the impression that it's a trail that's been set up by horse riders primarilly for riding along on a horse.


Mike Knipe said...

I thought I'd say something soothing at this point....


I thangyou

Tony Bennett said...

Someone, throw that man another pie

John J said...

What a damned shame - but you did the right thing dropping out when you did.

I hope you're going to give it a go next year.



Tony Bennett said...

Thanks John. Yes, I'll be back - once I've checked out some ultra-lightweight bionic toe nails.

Alan Sloman said...

Bit of a mess, that. You must have felt pretty miserable.
Will you be applying for next year's jolly?
Knees & toenails will be fixed by then...

Tony Bennett said...

Alan; yes, I intend to camp outside the newsagents from the end of August to make sure I get the application form for next year as soon as it comes out :-)

Louise said...

It must be such a hard decision to make. I was one of those coming off the Burma Road and it was a bit, er, grim. I've just renewed my subscription to be sure of my application form, good luck!

Tony Bennett said...

Louise: Yes, hope to see you on the Chellenge next year. I've already started planning my route :)