Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

TGO Challenge 2013, Day 9 – 12

Day 9: Braemar to Glen Muick: 23km

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A dull head, a full sack and fast traffic don’t go together but that was my Sunday morning as I headed out of Braemar at around 10:30 and joined the trickle of Challengers heading east.

I must admit that having passed through Braemar I felt the trip was ticked, done!  I was on home territory and had probably walked 90% of the route to Stonehaven at one time or another, a lot of it multiple times.  Looking back this probably explains the lack of photographs, I was traveling through the landscape on auto-pilot.

It was good to finally wave bye-bye to the A93 at Invercauld, head off into the Ballochbuie Forest and amble down to Connachat Cottage before heading off uphill towards Glen Gelder.

Cloud still clung to the top of Lochnagar as scattered groups of Challengers made their way up through the glen but towards the bealach over into Glen Muick the cloud seemed to magically disappear giving some nice views of Lochnagar.

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I pitched up in the trees above Glen Muick, a bit damp but the best pitch available; I was joined later by another Challenger (Craig) with the same idea.

Day 10: Glen Muick to Braid Cairn: 20km

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Another 8am start, Craig and I wandered over to the Spital of Glenmuick and then up the footpath following the Allt Darrarie before cutting across country to the Shielin of Mark.

The bothy looked as though it had been recent flooded, the ground around the bothy was very soggy, peat hags/ grass sods on the river bank and everything inside seemed dripping wet, even the Bothy book was sodden.

We lunched in the sunshine outside the bothy before Craig headed over Muckle Cairn to Glen Lee and the ‘Cappuccino Trail’ (not my words) while I set off following the Water of Mark downstream towards Mount Keen.  The feet were wet though from the ascent up the Allt Darrarie so following the Water of Mark downstream was easy; I just waded across the river to which ever bank looked like the easier ground.  After a few kms I turned off up the Burn of Fasheilach from where it was a relatively short bog trot to the west flank of Mount Keen, I decided that straight up into the clag was the simplest option.  I literally crossed paths more Challengers heading south for Tarfside in the summit clag and buffeting wind before saying bye-bye and descending east into the mist.

I quick bog trot across the bealach soon led to my camp spot on the summit plateau of Braid Cairn, quite exposed but probably the only flat grassy spot in miles.  I pitched the Trailstar lower than usual to counter the 25+mph wind and once inside it was quite peaceful just laying there watching the cloud whistle by the entrance.

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Day 11: Braid Cairn to Glen Dye: 30.7km

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The passage over Hill of Gairney, Cock Cairn, Hill of Cat, Tampie to the Fungle road was pretty straight forward, a reasonable but sometimes faint trail goes all the way.

Heading east from the Fungle I was now in a section unfamiliar territory but I picked up a faint trail over Mudlee Bracks to join a LRT which led me to within 2 – 3 km of Mount Battock.  Peat hags and bog followed, real character building stuff, even the 45 deg slope up Mount Battock was bog; but at least it wasn’t raining.

Once over Mount Battock it was an easy roller coaster stroll over the plateau on the LRT before descending into Glen Dye to the Charr bothy.  A few Challengers were already in residence.  After a brief chat I set off down the glen in the company of Humphrey. I stopped just short of Spital Cottage and set up camp by the river while Humphrey continued into Fetteresso.

Day 12:  Glen Dye to Stonehaven: 37.1km

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A 7am start and into the Fetteresso Forest!

I don’t know whether it’s just me but if I’m going to get ‘lost’ it’s going to be in a forest, tracks not on the map, missing tracks, only land marks being trees, I un-ashamedly made full use of the GPS for the first time on the trip!  Forestry is also boring, the pace always quickens and stops become infrequent.

The ongoing construction work building yet another wind farm and logging activities made for some interesting navigation at times and I had to keep the ears pricked up for the trucks well exceeding the 15 mph speed limit.

I reached my planned campsite near Stonehouse just after midday, well ahead of schedule, and had just settled down for lunch when a large vibro-compactor arrived and started running up and down the track opposite.  I couldn’t take this so I head off in the direction of Stonehaven, following Humphrey’s suggested route and this soon diverged from all the construction traffic, eventually leading to a pleasant meander along old farm lanes right into the outskirts of Stonehaven. 

It was a quick march down to the harbour, down the slipway to dip the toes and then into the Marine Hotel for a pint (or two), a day earlier than planned!

All that was left to do was to wander into the Park Hotel in Montrose the next day to ‘sign out’ and join the festivities.  The first dram was in the car park, a nice drop of 16 yrs old malt, courtesy of Stuart, straight from the bottle!  Followed lots of beer, wine, the Park served up quite a reasonable meal, more beer, the odd dram and lots of conversation with familiar faces from the past 2 weeks….a dull head the next day!

Reflections:

Was it worth it?  Yes; I’d enjoyed a good yomp across Scotland even though I was a bit disappointed at having to change my planned route; met a whole bunch of nice people.

The people, a very diverse bunch; 18 – 80 years old from around the globe; first timers to 20+ crossing veterans; solo backpackers to groups; very experienced ultra-lightweight backpackers to relative novices.  The level of camaraderie across the event was very noticeable.

Would I do it again?  The application form for 2014 is already in!

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2 comments on “TGO Challenge 2013, Day 9 – 12

  1. ness64
    October 25, 2013

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for a very entertaining Challenge report, I really enjoyed reading it!

    Good luck in the draw for 2014, it would be nice to meet again somewhere along the way (in case I’m lucky as well)!

  2. Pingback: TGO Challenge 2013 Day 5 – 8 | Whiteburn's Wanderings

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2013 by in TGO Challenge 2013, Trip Reports.
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