TGO Challenge 2018 Day 7

Day 7- All Alone

Waking up early again and getting going by 7:30. Lynsey and Paul were already up and getting packed up as well as both had really long days ahead. Lynsey was planning to make it all the way to the Struan Inn by the end of the day, (20 mile s)which I won't be at until about noon tomorrow. (Day 8). Last night Alan did offer to let me tag along with their route today, but I have to be in Blair Atholl by tomorrow afternoon to rejoin Vicky in Aviemore as she doesn't have anyway to further follow me across Scotland without a lot of effort, so I needed to go further east than they would go today. Alan, Phil, Andy, Robin were all not out of their tents yet but I did manage to thank them for the W&C party last night and wish them all a good day. 

You can see today' route. (below) The original route was the one that meandered up and down the first half of the day as it stayed on better paths with Vicky being along. However since I was alone I choose to set off cross country and go a bit higher and more direct without any path to follow. 

Actually navigation today was quite easy as you can see I basically just pointed myself east and stayed that way for the first half of the days walk 
The Sun rises in the East, just go that way.

In about 30 minutes I caught up to Lynsey and Paul 

At some point in the past the residents of this area tried to drain the moors. There are man made canals running up and down the hills in an effort to dry them out enough to plant crops. I don't think that really worked! 

I walked with Lynsey and Paul for about another hour until our paths diverged. They were following the land rover tracks and I was setting off on more trackless land (below) 

Getting to about the highest point of the day, I stopped to just appreciate my surrounds and enjoy being here in Scotland and having this opportunity. The scenery just takes your breath away.

The next section was just a matter of pointing myself toward the peak with the point! 

I must be going in the right direction, it is getting bigger

I had wondered why there was some dual tire tracks in the otherwise trackless terrain and then I came upon a small hydro dam seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but I could make out the water pipes leaving this small dam on the way to a village or estate.

Some fairly boggy bits followed as I pointed myself toward Saunich Bothy.  I planned to spend my lunch here and dry out my tent in the sun. 

Who every planned the location of these old bothy's sure did have an eye for the aesthetic beauty of their location. I am sure they served a practical purpose as well, they are all by running water and have views to keep an eye on sheep, but their locations are just stunning! 
I stayed here about an hour enjoying lunch, drying out gear and generally just looking at the landscape. I had been playing leap frog with a herd of deer (about 20-25 animals) since the hydro dam and the only draw back to this spot was it was covered in deer droppings and it made it hard to find a spot to sit and if they wind changed the smell was mighty strong! 

After lunch I headed down into the valley and walked the ridge between the two sides towards Loch Errochty, my destination for today has a Bothy just at beginning called Ruighe nan Saorach.

The herd of deer that has been my only company

A reminder that the wilds, while beautiful, can be a harsh place
First view of the Loch

My day of navigation comes to an end as I reach the loch I also pick up a land rover track that runs the length of the loch. If you look just in the upper right of the photo below you can see the bothy that is end of my day.

Ruighe nan Saorach

I am reaching the bothy really too early to stop walking for the day. The mileage was originally designed for Vicky and I to have a nice fun day, but solo I am covering the distance in half the time, but in this case I decide not to stay here tonight as there is a freshly dead deer in the bothy ruin and you can smell it everywhere around the bothy.

I am on a schedule as I have to reach Blair Atholl by tomorrow, which is an easy day walk tomorrow, so I decide I will walk on more today, but I do sit down (up wind) from the bothy and take my shoes off to rest, drink some water, and admire the great view. 
After about 30 minutes I decide to move on and look for a nice spot along the loch to camp for the night. 

The loch is beautiful and the midges think so too. I change the name of this loch to Midge Loch as they are thick along the path. No matter where I find that might look good to stop there are too many of the tiny flying insects to make it a pleasant experience to stop, so I just walk on 

The loch comes to an end at the beginning of forested area so I am resigned to camp in the forest tonight 

A last look back at the loch and the cross country route of today
The forest track is really nice and an easy walk. The Scots grow these forest with the trees really tightly packed together with no room under the canopy at all. 

The dam at creates Loch Errochty. It looked like a good place to camp but I couldn't get down to it because of a tall fence and a locked gate.

I finally settled for a forest access path just off the main path about 3.5 miles further on. I must have been close to some houses as two sets of people walking their dogs came by during the evening. 

I had thought that I would see Lynsey later in the day as she has to come this same direction, but as it turned out she probably past me down in the valley below Saunich bothy while I was having lunch and drying my tent, so she was in fact now ahead of me.
So I settled in to eat my homemade beef stroganoff alone after about 16 miles today. 

TGO Challenge 2018 Day 6

Day 6- "Who let the dogs out, who, who"

Grampian Mountains in the morning of Day 6
Beinn a' Chreachain (with the snow) 1081 meters = 3340 feet and all the surrounding peaks

We woke up early and had a fantastic hot Scottish breakfast and went over the plans again. Vicky was going to Aviemore via Inverness and I was going to walk a few days on my own to Blair Atholl and then I would meet up with her at Aviemore. 

I got packed up and said goodbye to our hosts and Vicky and I was off. To be honest it felt like I was shot out of a cannon!

no chance of getting lost on the first part of today (below)

The route for today (Rannoch Moor to Wine and Cheese Party)
There are two parts to the walk today. The first is a quiet road walk down the B road from the Hotel. It is almost 8 miles and I made it in 2 1/2 hours! 

It was a fantastic day for walking, a cool breeze and plenty of sunshine. The road leads by Loch Eigheach (above) and the power station (below)

The River Gaur

A few very lovely estates

The sheep and lambs have the best all day views

Then into Loch Rannoch with more great views 

 At 11:30 I used the last of my cell service, for the day, to text Vicky as she was getting ready to get on the train back to Fort William to say I was off the road and heading into the hills. The path that leads into the hills is on an estate but has a walkers gate so no climbing over fences required. 

Going through the gate you head up into the hills. On the right you can see a very ornate pumping house for the hydroelectric system on this Loch.

 Later on, more great engineering as you can see some of the water lines as they snake mostly underground between the Lochs and Dams.

Another Dam that creates the huge Loch Ericht that goes all the way up to the village of Dalwhinnie 

In a just another mile or so from the dam I reach the end of my day. Ruighe Ghlas, an old bothy that will be the site of this year's wine and cheese party. It is 12:30 and I have made the last section of 4.2 miles in 60 minutes (up hill) Did I mention I was excited to get out and walk today? 

The old Bothy sits in a absolute ideal spot for water and mountain views. 

Now only the sheep and the deer enjoy the views on most days. 

So what is the wine and cheese party? The event has been going on for years and has become a tradition during the challenge. It is the brain child of challenge "legends" (I can see their faces turning red at this point) Alan Sloman, Phil Lambert and Andrew Walker. It is held annually at a location to be determined by their route. A gathering for an evening of "well behaved" camaraderie in the hills. Always on the first Wednesday of the Challenge

Since I am here obscenely early the only thing to do is relax and have a bit of lunch. My pack is now back to normal for a couple of days walking. I had been carrying 8 days of food (4 for me, and 4 for Vicky) now I am down to just 2 days food which I am sure helped with my pace today. I did however have the hard salami (my favorite trail lunch) and a couple of fresh rolls I got in the bakery in Fort William, so I made a real deli style sandwich with some string cheese as well.

After Lunch it was time for a nap in the sun. The breeze was enough to keep the midges away but warm enough that the tent was too hot, so outside was perfect. 

 This afternoon was everything that I love about being outside.

It was about 5:30 to 6 pm when everyone started to show up, greetings were exchanged and their tents went up.

No two tents were the same, as everyone has their own style and preferences

 In the early evening sun it was time to spread out a blanket and get down to the business of the wine and cheese. A badge of honor for our American side as I had compliments on the good beer, whiskey and cheese I contributed to the party!

Alan, Phil, Andrew, Lynsey, Robin, Paul and myself. 

A delightful time. Appreciation of whiskey still eludes me, but maybe some day.

In the evening me and my tent, below, which seemed very big without Vicky
(picture lifted from Andrew Walker's Blog 

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