If truth be told, it was neither of the above, which is probably why it had taken so long.
Far too much detail of wet and windy days, miserable recollections of hill days missed, mourning the loss of a mobile phone and generally loosing the will to live.
So, rather than put myself (and any readers) through the pain of it all over again, I have decided to just tell the story of the walk in bullet point fashion with lots of photographs, instead of boring and not very well written text.
So here goes...
The journey to my sign out point at Acharacle involved 2 trains, 2 ferry's, 2 buses and an overnight stop in Tobermory with fellow Challenger, Caburn (Caburns website) .
I took the 12.20 Glasgow to Oban train and hopped on a ferry over to Mull
|Leaving Oban on the ferry to Mull|
|View from Tobermory ferry terminal|
Laga Bay to Resipole Campsite
|View from Laga Bay|
|Looking West from Ben Laga|
Walked along the road to Salen where I enjoyed a lazy lunch at the Salen Hotel, (Salen Hotel link) before strolling along the road to the campsite at Resipole.
Distance 21km Ascent 780m
Resipole Campsite to Glen Scaddle
It was raining when I packed up, so followed my FWA along the road to Strontian, calling in at the Nature hide overlooking Garbh Eilean on the way.
|Garbh Eilean observation hide|
The weather was holding off for now so I decided to take in the Corbett, Sgurr Dhomhnuill which is the highest point in the area.
|Looking towards Glen Gour from the ridge to Sgurr Dhomhnuill|
|Approaching Sgurr Dhomhnuill|
|The Ardgour Hills|
|Taking shelter at the summit of Sgurr Dhomhnuill|
|In Glenn Scaddle chased along by frequent squally showers|
|Camp by the River Scaddle|
Glen Scaddle to Corran Bunkhouse
Rained most of the night and was continuing to do so as I left my campsite.The river level had risen quite considerably and the walk to meet the A861 was a boggy affair.
|Swollen River Scaddle|
Caught the ferry across the Corran Narrows and decided to end the day here at the bunkhouse, which I recommend. (Corran Bunkhouse)
Distance 14km Ascent 150m
Corran Bunkhouse to Kinlochleven
Pissed it down all day. Took the kop-out option and walked to Kinlochleven along the road. Today was not a highlight of the walk.
Stayed in the Blackwater Hostel, which is OK I suppose.
|Sheltered bay on Loch Leven|
Kinlochleven to Loch Ossian
Gave up hopes of the Mamores when I saw the low cloud and instead walked to Blackwater Reservoir where I picked up the path to Loch Chiarain and had lunch in the splendid bothy there.
The afternoon walk was via Loch Treig and Corrour Station (Venison Burger and strong ale) to Loch Ossian.
Camped about halfway along the North side of the Loch sheltered in the trees.
|Loch Ossian camp|
Loch Ossian to Dalwhinney
Rain and strong winds virtually all night, lazy start hoping in vain that conditions would ease.
Trudged past the Shooting Lodge and picked up and then lost the path beside the Uisge Labhair. Eventually I came upon a blue Karrimore tent flapping in the wind beside the river. The inhabitant of the tent was none other than Mike "the pie man" Knipe, who was taking a year off from the Challenge having completed his 10th crossing the previous year. Mike just couldn't stay away though and was hunkered down here offering hot drinks to any passing Challengers. Very welcome it was too, as was the conversation and usual humour offered up by master blogger Mike. (Mike Knipes Blog)
Whilst chatting to Mike, it stopped raining and the sun briefly made an appearance, short lived though and the rain would soon return with a vengeance as I pushed on up and over the Bealach Dubh to Culra bothy for a late lunch. Tempted to stay the night here but decided to push on to Dalwhinney to see if I could catch up with other Challengers.
|Water Water Everywhere|
I had half an hour to pitch the tent as a mini bus had been booked to transfer us all to Newtonmore for a meet up with the Challengers staying there.
A great night ensued in the Glen Hotel (The Glen Hotel, Newtonmore) where I met friends old and new.
Dalwhinney to Glen Feshie
Slept like a baby and was last to pack up and leave the campsite behind the hotel.
Spurred on by the first blue sky since day 2, I made good progress on the track to Loch Cuaich, following a brief rest I decided to take in Meall Chuaich, my first Munro of the trip.
Forded the River Tromie which was knee deep and freezing cold then picked up the familiar route over to Glen Feshie. Another River crossing over the Feshie ended a good day's walking.
Camped by the bothy as I have done on 2 previous Challenges.
|Rest stop at the locked bothy|
|A Munro at last!|
|Lochan an t-Sluic|
Glen Feshie to Linn of Dee
It rained in the night, and above about 600m it snowed in the night.
Stayed in the tent hoping the rain would ease, which on this occasion it did.
Decided to head up on to the Glen Feshie hills and see how conditions were up there. If it was bad I could always come back down the way I went up as I was now ahead of schedule so no need to rush.
|Beautiful Glen Feshie.|
|The Eastern Cairngorms from Mullach Clach a' Bhlair|
|On Moine Mhor before the cloud blew in and snow started falling|
|Bail out descent via the River Eidart.|
|Geldie burn, bright but breezy|
|Nice pitch in the trees just short of Linn of Dee|
Distance 36km Ascent 900m
Linn of Dee to Braemar Campsite
Early start, walked through the grounds of Mar Lodge to join the road into Braemar, where a full Scottish breakfast had my name on it.
Ambled up to the campsite and booked a pitch for 2 nights.
|The River Dee from Victoria Bridge|
- Washing clothes
- Hungry Highlander
- Fife Arms
- Moorfield Hotel
- More socialising
- Bingo Wings
- Pissed as a fart.
- Stagger back to campsite in the rain.
Distance 12km Ascent 200m
Braemar Campsite to...Braemar Campsite
Woke up feeling rather sprightly...considering.
The weather forecast for the next couple of days was pretty awful, threatening very high winds and yet more rain, so I decided to make the best of the calm before the storm and bagged the Corbett, Morven, which stands proud over this part of Deeside.
A good decision as I enjoved a nice mornings walk ,with great views all around.
|Looking down to Braemar|
|Loch Callater and the Lochnagar Hills|
|Looking back over the landscape I had walked through|
Distance 13.5km Ascent 600m
Braemar Campsite to Ballater
The day of the storm.
I was off route at this stage and the only option I had was a low level walk to Ballater where I had pre-booked accomodation at Habitat Hostel, a parcel and replacement mobile phone were waiting for me there.
The camp ground was all but deserted when I set off walking with David, first time challenger and fellow Yokshireman.
We walked together as far as Connachat Cottage in pretty poor weather, where David left me to head on towards Gelder Shiel.
The wind was really picking up now and the walk was a pretty dire affair, apart from seeing Roe Deer and Red Squirrels in the Balmoral Forest.
Arrived in Ballater mid afternoon with the storm in full force. Two large trees had blown down on the campsite, and the site was closed on safety grounds. Challengers intending to pitch there had been accommodated in a utility room behind the camp site reception, hotel rooms and B&B's in the town were full to bursting as Challenge walkers abandoned high level routes and re-routed into Ballater seeking shelter from the storm.
Distance 29km Ascent 400m
Ballater to Feughside Inn
Last night in the pub, I decided I'd had enough of the rough stuff and hatched a plan to walk to the coast in two days, staying low level.
There was interest from some other Challengers and it turned out that I would walk the final two days as part of a group.
Following breakfast, I set off on the cycle route out of Ballater along with David Poole, Ray Johnson. John Enoch and Dave Wishart.
|Challengers on the cycle track to Aboyne|
|Welcome pint in Aboyne with Ray Johnson, Judith Barnes Dave Wishart, Dave Poole and John Enoch|
|Crossing the Dee|
Enjoyed a meal and a few pints in the pub and met a few other Challengers in there.
Distance 33km Ascent 300m
Feughside Inn to Stonehaven
We left the campsite at about 08.30 for another long walk out to the East coast, which took us through the village of Strachan to pick up a track through the Fetteresso Forest.
Some dubious group navigation involving 2 maps and various GPS devices eventually saw us emerge from the Forest at Mergie for the final few miles of lane walking to Stonehaven.
We stopped of at a tea room in the garden centre just outside town to meet up with Dave Skipp who had waited for us to arrive so that he could finish his 10th Challenge with us on Stonehaven Beach.
Time for the usual celebrations, involving handshakes, back slapping and a bottle of whiskey on the beach.
Once the contents of the bottle had been consumed, we walked through town to the campsite and pitched our tents.
|On Stonehaven Beach|
And there you have it...Another Challenge completed, my 5th and by far the toughest in terms of the weather conditions.
It was a walk of two contrasting half's with the first week spent almost entirely walking alone in pretty dreadful weather and the second week being a much more sociable affair culminating in a great final couple of days walking with friends to the beach at Stonehaven.