Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

TGO 15 ticked.

Well that’s the TGO Challenge 2015 completed and written up (before the memory banks are erased). My final route pretty much stuck to the ‘Route Sheets’ submitted back in December 2014, apart from the section from Loch Ossian to Dalwhinnie where due to the miserable weather I decided to omit a few tops. The completed route turned out at 314km (195mls) with 7800m (25,500ft) ascent, according to Routebuddy software.  I had planned to complete the route in 14 days but ended up shortening this by two days. The weather wasn’t unusual for Scottish springtime; rain, hail, snow, high winds, sunshine…oh & some more rain.

Kick off minus 1, Thursday

There’s nothing like being well prepared for the kick off; I was running a bit behind the curve.  But I’d been out at the weekend with a D of E group so the gear was still in a handy pile, there were dehydrated meals in the freezer & I’d prepared my route maps.  I finally got it gear around 10am, plenty of time for the midday train.  Jumped on the bathroom scales before I left, pack weight 10.7kg all up (my spreadsheet came up with 10.6kg).  I had hoped to be ~10kg but some extra bits & bobs & the umbrella pushed it up a bit; for those who are interested  here a complete listing – TGO15 Kit List

I finally arrived at Lochaillort ~6:30pm on the last bus from Fort William, find a campsite or beer?  I ran into a couple of Challengers outside the hotel who were heading off to pitch up so I tagged along & soon was established on a reasonable spot on the north bank of the river below the hotel; well easy staggering distance.  The hotel bar seemed to have attracted the bulk of the 30+ Challengers setting off the next day; nice company for the evening & a few beers before a reasonably early night.

Day 1 Friday – 25km ascent 1290m

TGO15 D1 map

Awoke to a sharp frost & was glad I’d kept the fleece on to go to bed, people were on the go with some heading to the hotel for breakfast while others like myself were packing to hit the trail.  Finally got away from the hotel on time with a handful of Challengers having got away before me; I passed three on the path up to the bealach overlooking Loch Beoraid, this proved quite a reasonable path if a little difficult to follow at times but once over the bealach the view up the loch was quite pretty.

TGO15 P1

I quickly lost the ‘path’ on the descent past ‘Prince Charlie’s Cave’ so just kept heading north eventually picking up a vague trail down to the loch outlet, the footbridge definitely looked in no fit condition to cross with one of the main supports broken.

TGO15 P2

I bypassed the FB by crossing at a sluice gate about 20m upstream.  The path along the north side of Loch Beoraid was quite intermittent & rougher going than expected; it took 2hrs to travel the length of the loch, perhaps 6km; pretty scenery though.  I was only 1pm as I stopped for a snack outside the locked & very scruffy looking Kinlochbeoraid.

TGO15 P3

I contemplated options: if I continued as planned up Gleann Donn & over into Glen Finnan I’d be pitched up far too early.  So Plan B; I forded the Allt a’ Choire then headed straight uphill, a pathless 750m climb up to the summit of Sgurr an Utha, which despite the seemingly  gathering clouds provided a nice view back down the loch.

TGO15 P4

I didn’t fancy returning my down my ascent route or the lumpy, bumpy looking descent to the NE so set off SW towards a marked LRT, the normal ascent route, the descent was a bit rough going but straight forward navigation.  The downside was that I ended up with a 3km walk down the busy A830 to Glenfinnan, on the plus side I did manage to pick up a decent pee bottle (very useful when the rain is lashing down at night) from the prolific roadside detritus.

I finally ended up at the Callop carpark, finding a nice grassy pitch amongst the birch trees; Gayle (one of the TGO support personnel out doing a bit of walking) was already in residence in her camper van so I had the unexpected & much appreciated luxury of being provided with a brew as I set up.

Day 2 Saturday – 24km ascent 1070m

TGO15 D2 map

The clouds of yesterday had dispersed, blue skies & a light breeze, a good day for a yomp.  I only got a couple of km up the muddy path beyond the end of the LRT before I got fed up with it & headed off uphill, steep but a lot drier going up to the ridge from where it was a quick hop to the summit of Sgurr Craobh a’Chaorainn with the ridge west beckoning.

TGO15 P5

Immediately west of the summit a nasty looking drop off seemed to block the route ahead so being a cautious individual I headed off SE down easier looking ground before rejoining the main ridgeline.  The drop off was steeper & higher (~30m) than it looked from above, would be a bit scary in the mist.

TGO15 P6

Once across to Sgurr Ghiubhsachain I was quite tempted to deviate from my route a little & continue west down the delightful looking ridge over to Druim Tarsuinn & Meall Mor.

TGO15 P7

I didn’t circum to temptation though, I think the added mileage & 4-500m ascent clinched it; it’ll be there for another day.

I found the track down Cona Glen a little boring but the scenery’s good & splendid pitches on the river bank around Doire Driseach (~NN 008697) were plentiful.

TGO15 P8

Day 3 Sunday – 33km ascent 580m

TGO15 D3 map

It rained throughout the night…..raining in the morning……as forecasted the weather had gone downhill.  It was up with the umbrella (a last minute addition to the kit after a good look at the forecast) from the get go & all the way down the 6-7km of tarmac to the Corran ferry.

I met up with Challengers Peter & Charles from Holland at Inchree & we headed off up into the forests of Gleann Righ together.  Beyond the forest track heading towards Lundavra we parted company; I pulled up for lunch amongst the pines alongside the WHW & watched the hoards as they headed north towards Fort William; Peter & Charles didn’t catch up (I guess they stopped a little earlier).  The WHW track east was a pretty monotonous trudge in the rain.

TGO15 P9

I had planned to stop the night at Lairigmor but the persistent rain & the proximity of Kinlochleven provided a little impetus to keep me going, arriving 1/2 a day ahead of schedule.  I did manage to get a bunk in the Blackwater hostel enjoying the hot shower & a bar meal in the pub opposite which was a bonus.

Day 4 Monday – 22km ascent 640m

TGO15 D4 map

The weather hadn’t changed much with the new day, intermittent rain & the forecast showed no improvement for tomorrow.

I met up with another Challenger, Stan, on the Ciaran Path heading towards the Blackwater dam; another day with trail company.  The rain had swollen the stream crossings so most of the normal simple boulder hops needing wading.

TGO15 P10

The old drove north from the Blackwater dam to Loch Treig proved to have been pre-visited by the Scottish Six Day Trial, how they can justify this kind of annual wanton vandalism is beyond me, the track was 50m wide slurry at some points.

TGO15 P11

We pulled up for lunch at the Loch Chiarain bothy; there was 3 smelly, rotting deer carcases within a few metres of the door, not pleasant.  Stan set off ahead leaving me doing some trail laundry, washing the mud out of the shoes & socks, bit of a waste of time really since the track ahead over to Loch Treig had lots of unavoidable gloop.

I was headed towards a pitch in the woods along the north shore of Loch Ossian but I guess the weather & sludge had got me down a bit so I ended up pitching up a few km’s short, just  off the track near railway bridge, ~NN342681, a nice enough spot & whatever trains came past they didn’t disturb me.

Day 5 Tuesday – 38km 630m

TGO15 D5 map

It was raining once again, seems like the forecast was unfortunately correct, not too windy so up with the umbrella for the trudge up to & along the north shore of Loch Ossian.

My planned route was to head north over to the An Lairig & some tops but after mulling it over the last night & during the trudge along Loch Ossian I decided on a change of plan; shoot direct for Dalwhinnie.

At Corrour Lodge I followed the new Hydro project track to its terminus, then the familiar heather & bog (hardly a path) following the Uisge Labhair upstream in the rain.

TGO15 P12

The feeder streams were well swollen from the recent rain with most needing wading rather than a simple hop across; I can’t image having to swap boots for river shoes at every one of the crossings, a real pain in the butt.

I passed a couple of Challengers just before Bealach Dubh (apologise for not remembering names; put it down to senility) who’d spent the last night camped somewhere near the Lodge having been stopped at one of the stream crossings the day before.

I called unto the Culra bothy for a late lunch out of the rain; guess the MBA/ Estate message is pretty clear.

TGO15 P13

Stay the night or a 16km trudge to Dalwhinnie with the possibility of a bed, shower, food & beer?  A trudge is was…..no contest really!

Maybe a dozen Challengers in residence at the bunkhouse (the couple I’d passed at Bealach Dubh arriving a couple of hours later) with a few tents in the carpark; Ron and Marilyn did a great job in making everyone feel very welcome & supplying them with good food & beer…….highly recommended!

Day 6 Wednesday – 23km 870m

TGO15 D6 map

Being 2 days ahead of schedule I didn’t need to bus up to Newtonmore to resupply, I just had to buy a few sandwiches.  So after enjoying one of Ron’s Scottish breakfasts I was on my way around 8am followed the LRT alongside the aquaduct, up into Coire Chuaich & then the old stalkers path up into the slopes of Bogha-cloiche.  I skipped the summit & headed more directly for Sgorr Dearg, a fine spot offering nice views up the Gaick.

TGO15 P14

….& down.

TGO15 P15

The descent down to the river was quite steep but the zigzagging stalkers path certainly spared the knees.  The river crossing by the site of the old bridge was easier than expected, fairly wide but maybe only 25cm deep.

TGO15 P16

Having a break by Gaick Lodge enjoying the afternoon sunshine I was quite impressed by the construction of the stalkers path I’d just descended clearly visible across the glen; the 50k mapping doesn’t do justice to the number of zigzags, quite an undertaking with just a pick & shovel.

TGO15 P17 Markup

The walk up the track & then the stalkers path following the Allt Gharbh Ghaig east was very pleasant on this sunny afternoon especially since the old path was relatively easy to follow.  I finally pitched up above the waterfalls at ~NN 795817, a really comfortable spot with a meandering stream providing ample fairly sheltered spots to pitch up.

TGO15 P18

Day 7 Thursday – 23km 250m

TGO15 D7 map

Another sunny day, once again the forecast seems to have been correct.  No path for a couple of km’s but the going was fairly easy following the stream up to & across the watershed then down to pick up another stalkers path down into the head of Glen Bruar.

TGO15 P19

I soon caught up with another Challenger, Mervyn, who’d pitched up a couple of hundred metres upstream from me having arrived a couple of hours later & somehow walked straight past; we travelled together the rest of the day.

Our route east from Glen Bruar was a pathless trek following the Allt a’Chuil up to the watershed.  We tackled the first km on the south bank before crossing to the north at a ford & ruins of a sheiling.

TGO15 P20

From here a good deer trail or perhaps an old footpath led more easily upstream for a couple of km’s before disappearing amongst the heather.  It was an easy hop across the watershed to the upper reaches of the Water of Tarf, from here to down past the Tarf Hotel it was a really pleasant day’s stroll along the grassy river bank with only the odd deviation into the heather being necessary where the river had eroded the bank away.

TGO15 P21

We finally pitched up by the Falls of Tarf, other better sites a little further up the glen having already been occupied by other Challengers.

TGO15 P22

Day 8 Friday – 24km 1080m

TGO15 D8 map

The forecast had been poor but the morning still looked good with blue skies & fluffy clouds as I set off, 3 more Challengers were embarking along my route from their pitch further up the glen as I passed but they soon lagged behind as I headed over the path to Fealar Lodge.  Beyond Fealar the path is quite vague at times but being on familiar territory it didn’t slow me up much.  Once across the Allt a’ Ghlinne Bhig the well defined stalkers path around Beinn lutharn Mhor was easily picked up.

TGO15 P23

By the time I reached Loch nan Eun, the wind had stepped up a lot & it was feeling decidedly chilly, I had a quick lunch stop huddled in a small stream bed before heading up to Carn a’ Chlarsaich & the ridgeline east. The bealach before Carn a’Gheoidh looked a bit of a nightmare from above, a tangled web of peat hags & bog.

TGO15 P24

It turned out to be a straightforward crossing with the peat surprisingly dry & firm making it easy to walk almost directly across.

The summit of Carn a’Gheoidh was passed in a second, the wind was definitely making it unfriendly on the tops, it was head down & make for the ski centre, I called into the cafe for an overpriced but welcome cuppa.

I had planned to pitch up close to the ski centre but the high winds made me reconsider & I eventually descended into Glen Clunie finally ending up a couple of km north by the footbridge for Monega Drove road (~NO 149799).

TGO15 P25

Day 9 Saturday – 26km 1100m

TGO15 D9 map

Got RAT’ed in the night! The little b#####d chewed up the CCF mat I had my feet on & I had a hole in my food bag, luckily ratty only managed to chew up a few grams of Chorizo, not a good start to the day.  The weather forecast for the day I’d downloaded the night before didn’t look good either; windy with the possibility of snow.

The route up the broad ridge followed by the Monega Drove road only has a vague path but it wasn’t an issue & soon the well trodden Munroe’ist path from Glas Maol to Cairn of Claise was picked up.

TGO15 P26

Not pleasant weather up on the summit with increasingly strong winds & hail/ snow showers; I only stopped long enough to hide behind a wall & don full outer shell before continuing the easterly passage.

Tolmount got the same treatment as Cairn of Claise, straight over the summit in a millisecond & onward down towards Jock’s Road; I didn’t stop until down in the shelter of the forest in Glen Doll.

The difference in the weather down in the glen Vs the tops was like night & day, the warm sunshine even making the 5km road walk down to the Clova Hotel feel pleasant.

TGO15 P27

I resisted the beer magnet, walked straight past the hotel & climbed up to Loch Brandy.  I decided against a spot near the loch’s outlet that I’d camped on previously in favour of what looked like a more sheltered spot to the SW of the loch.

TGO15 P28

Day 10 Sunday – 21km 460m

TGO15 D10 map

I’d a bad night’s sleep thanks to the high winds; had to get out of bed 3 times to adjust guys etc as the Duomid flapped ominously.  Finally worked out what was going wrong, the pole handle was being driven into the soft’ish ground so I deployed the trowel under the handle to spread the pressure.  This worked well but I really should have got out of bed for the fourth time & completed a proper sort out; lesson learned!

Once up on the plateau I took a small diversion from the path over to Glen Esk to visit Ben Tirran, not much more than a bump on the plateau but at least the deer fences had stiles.

TGO15 P29

It’s the first time I’d walked the route over to Glen Esk & found the path difficult to find at times particularly around Wester Skuiley, though further on I did find some small cairns in the heather marking the faint path down to Inchgrundle.

I bumped into another Challenger, Ken, having a stop alongside Loch Lee before strolling down into Tarfside where after getting pitched up I headed to St Drostan’s for tiffin…..the scones were good.

Day 11 Monday – 32km 750m

TGO15 D11 map

I didn’t enjoy the early morning 6km road walk down the glen to Millden, especially when some 4*4 driver very narrowly missed clipping me with the wing mirror & had the cheek to give me a blast of the horn; I don’t know what they expected, maybe I was supposed to dive over the roadside fence every time I heard a car coming?

From the end of the estate track above Millden the path shown on the map proved invisible so it was an hour’s trek across the heather down into Glen Dye.

TGO15 P30

Met the stalker near the head of the glen excruciating a large rat from a Fenn trap on a pole across a stream……one b#####d that’ll never chew a food bag.

The Charr bothy proved quite welcome for a lunch stop as the rain started again. I was quite impressed at the face lift the bothy has received since I last visited.

It didn’t take long to enter the deepest, darkest Fesseresso & be trudging towards the Midhill windfarm…….in the rain.

TGO15 P31

From the end of the forestry track I’d planned to swing north along the Builg road then over Kerloch but then it came to me;  perhaps there was a quicker route through the windfarm.  It turned out to be a simple little deviation; south on the Builg 150m to the windfarm track then I just headed to the furthest NE pylon, dropped me straight onto another forestry track leading me straight down into North Dennetys & my chosen camping spot, probably saved the best part of an hour.

After getting home took the opportunity to download a map of Midhill from the Planning application & marked the through route (red dotted line).

Midhill markup

My pitch alongside the Burn of Dennetys (NO 722876) was quite good but did suffer a little from background noise from the windfarm 1km away, despite only a light wind it sounded like having a main road full of traffic in the diastance.

Day 12 Tuesday – 24km 320m + 2.5km

TGO15 D12 map

I awoke at 3:39am really cold, ice coated the inside & outside of the Duomid; I donned the fleece & down jacket & snuggled back down under the quilt for another few hour’s kip finally emerging about 6:30am. The temperature had risen to above freezing but the Duomid was still coated in ice & a heavy frost coated the grass.

I’d a lazy start to let the rising sun defrost the Duomid before setting off just before 8am for the long trek down the forest roads finally arriving at Dunnotar Castle at midday.

TGO15 P32

A quick descent down to the beach, dip the toe in the ogin, back up the hill & then the 2.5km trot down to the real finish; the Marine hotel on Stonehaven harbour for a good lunch & beer before the bus ride down to Montrose to sign out……..the end of another little adventure.

The best bit of the Challenge?  Undoubtedly it’s the trail encounters with other Challengers whether for 1 minute or 1 day, it really makes the Challenge what it is.  In terms of walking I’d say I enjoyed the Dalwhinnie to Falls of Tarf section the most, OK the weather was good which helps & the walking wasn’t that tough but it was the real feeling of remoteness & the rugged beauty that ticked my box.

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16 comments on “TGO 15 ticked.

  1. JohnBoy
    May 25, 2015

    Another great aspect of the TGO is the diversity of routes. We started and ended at the same spots and yet didn’t bump into each other once. Coast to coast by completely different routes.

    • JohnBoy
      May 25, 2015

      I’m going senile….we did meet again, at the hostel in Kinlochleven. After my camera had decided to take a bath and cease to exist.

      • Paul Atkinson
        May 25, 2015

        Yup……did you ever get the camera back to life?

      • JohnBoy
        May 25, 2015

        No, it defied all attempts to bring it back to life. My wife posted a spare onto Bridge of Balgie which I picked up 5 days later. Rest of the crossing went really well though. I remember that second Monday night/Tuesday morning. I was camped at Loch Brandy while you were in the Fetteresso and I shivered all night.

      • Paul Atkinson
        May 25, 2015

        Mon/ Tues night was definitely a bit chilly under a +2C rated quilt.

  2. Kirsten
    May 25, 2015

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your excellent write-up. Sorry we didn’t meet at Tarfside; I was camped on the green with about 35 others and left the Mason’s early. I’m still busy writing up having just labelled all my photos. Biggest disappointment – the Bervie Chipper was closed till 16.30 so I had to make do with coffee and cake, otherwise a lovely trip again.

    • Paul Atkinson
      May 25, 2015

      Hi Kirsten, reckon I missed a few folk I expected to see along the way thanks to my accelerated pace, glad you had a good trip.

  3. Robin
    May 25, 2015

    Speedy Gonzalez 😂

    • Paul Atkinson
      May 25, 2015

      It’s a bad habit; when the weather poor I’ll just keep plodding along, no stops to admire the lack of scenery or long lunches in the sun…….soon eats the miles.

  4. Martin Rye
    May 25, 2015

    Well done and a fine route that one.

    • Paul Atkinson
      May 25, 2015

      Thanks…..guess your report is in the pipeline?

      • Martin Rye
        May 25, 2015

        I have stopped blogging Paul, but I will share photos and snippets on Google and Facebook. Also a video is in the making.

  5. André
    July 13, 2015

    Nice report! I’m curious about the guy line that comes of the top of your Duomid, why do you use it?

    • Paul Atkinson
      July 18, 2015

      When sleeping with the door(s) open it keeps the Duomid taut. On occasions I’ve run the line upwind to take some of the strain off the pegs.

      • André
        July 22, 2015

        Thanks, just finished my trip on Iceland and used it on multiple occasions.

  6. Pingback: TGOC 2015: Some Challenger blogs « Daunerin' Aboot

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This entry was posted on May 25, 2015 by in TGO Challenge 2015, Trip Reports and tagged , , .
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