About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

TGO Challenge 2013. Day 2: Gerry's Hostel to Loch na Caoidhe

 The "Goddess" had suffered a less than heavenly sleep.
Apparently there had been much snoring during the night emanating from various bunks.
I was accused of being one of the culprits. I never heard anything myself, maybe she had been dreaming...

There was no rush for me this morning thankfully, as it was not pleasant outside.
Richard and Charlie were not due to arrive at the station in Achnashellach until 10:40 and then they had an hour's walk along the road to meet up with me at the hostel.
After the other Challengers had stepped out into the rain, I spent a lazy morning mainly drinking coffee and eating.
Gerry made a brief, scary appearance wearing dressing gown and slippers and asked me to "spread the word", he didn't say what the word was though and I still haven't figured it out.

The weather began to brighten up as I packed and I observed the Kyle of Lochalsh train passing by, sure enough an hour later I met Richard and Charlie beside the road at Gerry's.
Charlie and yours truly                              photo courtesy of Richard.Wood
Pleasantries were exchanged, much fussing of Charlie ensued, and then we were off, on our way off up the track towards Pollan Buidhe.

Richard brought news of impending bad weather, moving in from the west around midday tomorrow. Plans of a high walk on the Moruisg ridge were abandoned and we decided to push on as far as we could today to try to get ahead of the forthcoming crappy weather.

Richard and Charlie
I first met Richard on the Challenge in 2007. We had both started out in Mallaig that year and our routes had crossed several times. We ended up finishing as part of a good sized group on St Cyrus beach and have stayed in touch ever since.
Last year Richard completed his Munro round and I was pleased to be with him, his partner Becky and his friends when he achieved this.
Richard and Becky had kindly offered to put me up for the night in Beauly and he had joined me as part of his training for a forthcoming Pennine Way walk. I was happy to have both Richard and Charlie along to join me for a few days.

Heading out into the wilds
 The miles always tend to pass by quickly when in company, and soon enough we arrived at Glenuaig Lodge where we stopped off for a brew and a bite to eat in what could be loosely described as a "bothy". We figured that this shed, including bunk bed and electricity! had been built to prevent emergency break-ins to the lodge. Good idea.

Glenuaig Lodge shed              photo courtesy of Richard.Wood       
We then headed out along boggy country for a few miles before crossing the River Meig about 1km west of the lovely path up the Coire Mhoraigeinn.
Rough walking
The route up the high pass was wonderful, full of sparkling waterfalls and views back to the hills of the far north west. The sun made an appearance as we neared the top of the pass, but energy levels were low now and our thoughts turned to finding a good pitch for the night.

Nearing the top of the pass
Once over the top of the high pass, views opened up of the Strathfarrar Munros to the south, maybe these hills were achievable tomorrow, before the weather closed in?

The Strathfarrar Munros
 It was a fine descent to Loch na Caoidhe. Easy going along a good path with a choice of great camping spots ahead.
Heading down to Loch na Caoidhe

Idyllic camp at Loch na Caoidhe
It had all been too much for poor old Charlie though, and he collapsed into a deep sleep before the tents were pitched...soon to be revived by the smell of food cooking on our stoves.
Dog tired.                                          photo courtesy of Richard.Wood        
Another brilliant day...Is there any wonder I am addicted to the Challenge?

TGO Challenge 2013. Day 1: Torridon to Gerry's Hostel

Torridon is a special place.
It had been 20 year's since my last visit on the second of two wonderful walking holidays in the Torridon area so imagine my delight to find myself back in the Torridon Inn, this time with a group of happy Challengers on the eve of The Great Outdoors Challenge 2013.

A few pints and a good meal were consumed and I left the pub in good company for the walk around the head of the loch back to the camping ground as the sun set over Ben Allligin.
Torridon Sunset
Following an unsettled night in the tent, due to an altercation with a bumble bee deep inside my sleeping bag in the early hours, I emerged from the tent to a glorious Torridon morning.
*Tip. Always check the inside of your sleeping bag for bees after airing out on the washing line.

I signed out at the Youth Hostel at 09:30 and made my way slowly back around the head of Loch Torridon to join the wonderful path from Annat to Achnashellach. The views over the Loch and down Glen Torridon are simply breathtaking. I was already having a good feeling about this crossing and the route I had planned.

Leaving Torridon on a glorious morning.

Liatach and Beinn Eighe

Before too long, I caught up with a few other Challenge walkers as height was gained towards Loch an Eion and the massive bulk of Moel Chean Dearg dominated the view ahead.

Moel Chean Dearg
An early lunch was taken overlooking Loch an Eion with Peter Mollenar, Pete Varley and Mark Williams as the temperature dropped sharply and clouds quickly replaced the early morning blue sky.
Then it was off again, over Bealach na Lice and Bealach Ban to the magnificent natural amphitheater of Coire Granda. 
Rain started falling steadily and so waterproofs were donned before the climb to the col between Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mhor. 

Heading to Coire Granda
I had planned to do the full ridge of Beinn Liath Mhor but due to the worsening weather conditions I wasn't sure that was a good idea. I decided to compromise, and dropped the pack at a lochan at around 700m and in a wanton act of Munro bagging, I climbed the craggy path to the boulder strewn Munro on the northernmost edge of the ridge.                                                                                          

Beinn Liath Mhor

Beinn Liath Mhor ridgeline
On the way back down to the pack I passed Ali Ogden and Sue Oxley who were heading up with full packs to tackle the ridge.These two ladies are obviously made of sterner stuff than me.

Eventually, I rejoined the path and continued along Coire Lair, pausing regularly to soak up the stunning views all around.

Coire Lair
I had planned to camp here but couldn't find an attractive enough pitch in the rain, so I continued through the forestry to Achnashellach and pushed on along the road for 5km to Gerry's Hostel.

The last time I stayed here, back in the 90's Gerry had been away, so I had not had the dubious pleasure of meeting him until now. I had heard a few stories about his eccentricity and was not to be disappointed.
Gerry greeted me at the door and assured me there was room in the Hostel as I walked in to find Pete Varley, Peter Mollenar and a lady challenger who I know only as "Goddess" already making themselves at home beside a roaring fire in Gerry's front room.
I think Gerry took a shine to me when I mentioned I had stayed there previously, and as I was cooking dinner, he whispered that he had a limited amount of alcohol for sale...cans of Caffreys at £2 a can and I was not to tell the other guests about this.
I promptly bought a tenners worth and when Gerry had retired upstairs for the night, I shared my secret supply of alcohol with the others.
The hostel had not changed one bit in the 20 or so year's since my last visit, including the freezing cold bunk room, dodgy showers, ridiculous decor and ornaments. It's a quirky place and Gerry is an eccentric but the place does provide a service to hill walkers and backpackers in an area that is not well served for budget accommodation.
Everyone passing this way really should stay there at least once before it is no more, I fear when Gerry finally decides he cannot keep going that this place will not function as a hostel and that would be a shame.

Gerry's Hostel
All in all, a wonderful first day's walking to kick off my 2013 Challenge adventure. 
Tomorrow I was to be joined by a friend and former Challenger, Richard Wood and his dog Charlie, who were to walk with me to for the next few day's to Richard's home in Beauly. 
Despite the cold bunk room, I fell to sleep contented with the journey so far and looking forward to the journey ahead.

Berghaus Freeflow 20 Rucksack review

Here goes with my first  (and probably last) attempt of a gear review.

Quite some time ago I had been contacted and sent a Berghaus day-sack to review. It seems I am not the only one and there appears to have been a concerted marketing drive recently to use blogs as a way of advertising Berghaus products. If you Google "Berghaus Freeflow 20 Rucksack review" the results will bring up several reviews of this product. Most, or all of which will probably be better written and more informative than this effort.
It has took me a long time to go to the trouble of writing up a review, mainly because I have rarely used the bag, other than on a couple of day trips in the Peak District and also because I have not posted on here for ages and don't seem to find the spare time to do so lately.

The quality of Berghaus rucksack's has always been very good, the first one I owned was a 35 litre Dart, which is still as good as new although I never use it now, preferring my more modern Vaude Gallery Air 30+5.
There's no doubt that the Freeflow 20 is packed with features for such a small bag including the Freeflow back system and hydration pack compatibility, it looks OK (apart from the garish green one I have been sent) and carries well. There should be a shower proof rain cover included, although this is not present on the bag I have been sent.

I suppose the key question is, would I spend up to £60 on a day-pack when I already own a very similar one?
The answer would have to be no.
There is nothing essentially wrong with the bag, but I tend to do most of my walking outside of the summer months and for that reason alone, I am more than happy with the larger Vaude bag, which has all the features that the Freeflow 20 possesses and more besides.
I prefer the larger capacity Vaude and find the Berghaus bag to be too small for my needs. I would probably use it for other activities such as bird watching as it is large enough to carry binoculars and a few necessities, but for long day walks in cool conditions where waterproofs, spare clothing as well as food and drink and other essentials are to be carried, then I would leave it at home and take the Vaude.

Freeflow back system

Hydration system compatible

Small side pockets.

Front pocket, just about large enough for a map.
And there you have it. My one and only gear review.