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TGO Challenge 2007 day 0 - 1

Friday, 11 may 2007 - day 0

At the moment

I'm sitting in the lounge of the Ratagan Youth Hostel after a long and tiring journey. Two days ago I arrived at Newcastle by ferry from IJmuiden, The Netherlands. My first goal was Aboyne where I had to buy a Paramo jacket, my old TNF All Weather jacket wasn't so 'all weather' anymore. I'd read good reviews about Paramo but there wasn't a Paramo reseller based in The Netherlands. After a long drive without problems - just a heavy shower on the Scottish border - I arrived in Aboyne in the afternoon. "Hilltrek" turned out to be an excellent little shop, specialising in Paramo. After buying a nice, blue Paramo Alta jacket I moved on to Montrose, a town on the Scottish eastcoast and base of Challenge Control. After having spent the night in the car, with little sleep, I rose early to catch the eight o'clock train to Inverness. At Inverness I took the bus to Shiel Bridge, arriving at 15.30 hrs.. On my way up I didn't see a single Challenger and in the hostel were none either. Perhaps I'll meet some Challengers when I sign out at the Kintail Lodge Hotel tomorrow. At least I'm not lonely, you're hardly ever without conversation in a Scottish YH.

Saturday, 12 may 2007 - day 1

distance 21 km - ascent 2050m

What an exhilirating

and exhausting day. You vertainly don't want too much of those. I got up early this morning because I had to sign out at the Kintail Lodge Hotel at the other side of Loch Duich, adding 5km to my planned route. At 8am I was standing outside the hostel in a good mood and fully packed. The sun was shining but almost all summits of the Five Sisters of Kintail, with a slight dusting of fresh snow, were obscured by clouds. There was no wind and the temperature was pleasant.45 minutes later I arrived at the Kintail Lodge Hotel where I met my first Challengers, Margaret Finney and companion. They weren't going in the same direction as me. I went back along the A87 and at Shiel Bridge I turned south into Gleann Undulain. The ridges leading to The Saddle were covered with clouds but with every step I made the clouds seemed to rise a little higher.The path followed the Allt Undulain, first on the eastside then onthe westside and eventually turning west to reach the bealach.At Loch Coire nan Crogachan I left the path an went up the ridge to climb Sgurr a Gharg Gharaidh. The terrain was very undulatingand the air was warm and humid which didn't make the ascent an easy stroll. After Sgurr a Gharg Gharaidh I ascended Sgurr Leac nan Each. I expected a little breeze at this altitude but there was still no wind at all. After Spidean Dhomhuill Bhric, and ascendingthe ridge that leads towards The Saddle, I reached the cloudbase.I decided to put on my jacket. While doing this I turned around andsaw dark clouds directly behind and below me. Seconds later sleet and snow were slashing down on me.The ridge narrowed and became very slippery. The winding path was blocked by rocks several times and at a certain point I had to make a big step up. To make this easier I used both my walking poles to push me up. That was a stupid mistake ! My weight was devided over three points but two were unreliable. My poles slipped and I fell backwards. At instinct I turned and used my hands to stop me falling. There I was, hanging upside down with a 12 foot drop beneath me. If I hadn't been able to grab some rocks at the last moment I would have bounced down the ridge with most probably fatal consequences. It wasn't easy to get back on my feet again with an 18kg pack pushing in my neck. Strangely enough I didn't have any injuries but I was furious at myself for making such a mistake. I moved on towards the summit, slipping several times and wounding my elbow. It was bleeding. My energylevel was dropping dramatically and it was a true relief to reach the summit. I took off my rucksack and had a little rest and a snack. I descended in a southeasterly direction heading for the bealach between The Saddle and Sgurr na Sgine. A few months ago I'd made plans to spend the night here but someone assured me there there was a good spot for camping on the eastside of Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais. So I moved on and ascended Sgurr na Sgine, my second Munro of the day. To get to the summit wasn't difficult, to get down from themountain turned out to be less easy. The 1:50k map didn'tshow it but my intended route of descend southeast of thesummit was blocked by a huge rockface and the eastsidelooked impenetrable too. To the southwest the angle ofthe slope looked more walkerfriendly. Moving down this gentler slope I saw a screegully on the lefthand side leading towards the col I wanted to reach. From the top I could see a big boulder blocking the gully halfway down. I decided to descend to see if I could pass it. The gully consisted of loose rock and red gravel and was obviously used before. A good sign, so I thought. I was able to pass the boulder and carefully manoeuvred further down, slipping and sliding. Almost at thebottom of the gully and just a few minutes away from the col there was a sloping slab with few and little handholds. It was too slippery to take the risk and fall into the gap beneath the slab. I had to go back all the way to the top of the gully.Devastating. It took me almost an hour to get back up again.Moving further southwest from the top of the gully I reached a drystone wall which eventually led to the col between Sgurr na Sgine and Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais. I ascended Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais and gave up walking at 8pm. I pitched my tent on a flat piece of grass - just big enough for my Akto - 20 meters below the summit of this Corbett. Luckily there was no wind at all otherwise it would have been the stupidest place to camp.

Trigpoint on The Saddle

Bad screegully

Sgurr na Sgine's huge rockface

Sgurr a Bhac Chaolais

Gleann Undulain

TGO Challenge 2007


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