Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

TGO Challenge 2013, Day 1 – 4

Dornie to Coire an Sgairne :  24km


Dornie at 08:30 on a rainy Saturday morning was dead!  At least I’d enjoyed a good breakfast and I didn’t have to pack up in the rain, the umbrella went up!

First target of the day was Camas-luinie in Glen Elchaig about 8km away, 10mins of road walking along the south side of Loch Long saw the trail shoes completely soaked, run off down the over trousers as well as the puddles.  The foot path following the very swollen River Glennan up the glen proved ‘entertaining’, numerous fords (I think I counted 11) over boot depth didn’t slow me up much in trail shoes but it did mean I’d quite cold feet by the time I reached the bealach overlooking Glen Elchaig.  At least the rain had slacked off and the cloud seemed to be rising.


Once in the glen the rain had stopped, the path up the glen to the bridge at Coille-righ was very soggy.  I was glad to finally reach the LRT and have a break; I rinsed the mud out of the socks in a stream and stuck them on the poles in the vain hope that they’d dry a little while I snacked and slapped some Gehwol on the feet.

The path up to the Falls of Glomach was more straight forward than expected, even with a full pack and wet going, there was a couple of tasty bits where you could easily commit suicide.   The crossing of the Allt na Laoidhre was a bit ‘interesting’ with a fair amount of water roaring down it, no way to boulder hop across today, it was up to the knees.  Glomach Falls looked quite impressive but I resisted the urge to go down to the ideal photo spot and pushed on to the top of the falls for an overdue lunch stop, in the rain.


I had planned quite a gentle first day (18-19km) with camp at lochan just south of Meall Dubh, NH 012241, but on getting there high winds made me dismiss the idea and I pressed on.  After crossing over A’ Ghlas bheinn in thick clag and a howling westerly I descended to the relative calm of Bealach an Sgairne.  Descending west I picked up the trail into Coire an Sgairne, the path up to Ben Fhada, and I soon found a fairly sheltered and dry spot below the path next to the Allt Coire an Sgairne (~ NH 006204).

It was one of them days to get the Trailstar up, the sack thrown inside and get out of the weather for 12 hours; I hadn’t seen anyone all day.

Coire an Sgairne to Falls of Plodda –  34.2km


I hit the trail around 8am after a good night’s kip, despite being woken around 3am by what sounded like torrential rain hammering down on the tarp.

Ben Fhada was still cloaked in clag and the wind picked up the higher I ascended, underfoot overnight snow (50 – 70mm) was now a slushy mess making for very chilly wet feet.  The summit was cloaked in thick mist and I hid from the wind behind the trig point to download the latest MWIS forecast; not good, winds of 45mph+ across the summits later in the day and the same for tomorrow.  I pondered the forecast as I descended down the ridge east towards Glen Affric, I finally deciding to forgo my planned high camp and traverse of Sail Chaorainn – Sgurr nan Conbhairean – Carn Ghluasaid the next day in favour of my Foul Weather Alternative (FWA) down Glen Affric.  The descent wasn’t without incident about half way down I skidded down a steep bit twisting a knee in the process, it didn’t seem significant at the time but it proved delicate for several days.

Even in the afternoon Ben Fhada still cloaked in low cloud (from below Alltbeithe)


I walked down Glen Affric in intermittent rain before following the Right of Way over to Cougie Lodge.  I’d read about the legendary hospitality of Cougie in blogs and was quite looking forward to a cuppa, I also thought I’d see if I could get a bed or camp there.  Cougie was like Mary Celeste; cars around; lights on, dogs barking but no one at home.  I plodded on down the road to the Falls of Plodda in the rain feeling a little dejected.

It was around 6:30pm when I reached Plodda and I really didn’t want to walk a 100m further.  The car park didn’t have any suitable spots so I pitched up in a forestry turning area a short distance back up the track, the few Vargo ‘Titanium Nails’ I was carrying came in very useful to hammer into the compacted gravel and get the tarp pitched, by 8:30 I was kicking out the Z’s.

Falls of Plodda to Fort Augustus – 28.1km


Another 8am start with the day looking quite overcast, again!  After only 1km I met up with two other Challengers (Rob and Frederick) pitched up in the woods above Hilton, they’d managed to find a ‘nicer’ spot than me and after a few minutes chat I set off again towards the Guisachan Forest, the electricity pylons guiding the way.  Not paying attention I managed to ‘miss’ the turning and only realised after about 1km.

The ongoing work on the power lines (Beally – Denny) has meant that the track has recently been ‘improved’; this did make for easy going underfoot (apart from the snow drifts).  The weather wasn’t that co-operative with quite heavy snow squalls on occasions, big fluffy wet stuff that hit, stuck and then slowly melted.


Torgyle Bridge was reached in time for lunch sheltering from the wind in the trees before heading off up through the forestry to gain the military road through the Inchnacardoch Forest and a straight forward trudge over to Fort Augustus, a day ahead of schedule.

Fort Augustus: chips; hostel; wash socks; food shopping; shower; ‘The Bothy’ for more food……..luxury!  Lots of Challengers about, it seems like I’d caught up a whole bunch that had set off the day before me and like me had been funnelled towards Fort Augustus by the poor weather…but hey that’s Scotland!

Fort Augustus to Garve Bridge –  27km


High winds in the forecast again so I abandoned plans for camping high and a cross country traverse over the Monadhliath in favour of continuing my FWA over the Corrieyairack pass.

Despite the power lines and the ongoing construction work it proved more of a pleasant walk than I anticipated, even the sun was shining by the afternoon and the winds weren’t as severe as forecast.  Quite a few Challengers had chosen to cross the Corrieyairack so there was plenty of folk to chat with.  The improving weather made me a bit annoyed about missing crossing the Monadhliath but on the steep descent the knee ready started to act up and I had to slow the pace considerably.  By Melgarve Bothy the knee had eased a lot but still took the opportunity to call in have a seat for a while and chat to other Challengers.

By the time I arrived at Garve Bridge a tent village was growing alongside the river and in the trees a little further downstream, the Trailstar seemed to be a popular choice.

Photo 901



Go to Part 2


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This entry was posted on October 6, 2013 by in TGO Challenge 2013, Trip Reports and tagged , .

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