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TGO Challenge 2007 day 8 - 9

Rothiemurchus Forest

Saturday 20 May - day 8

distance 22km - ascent 780m

was filled with fast moving clouds. Why the hurry ? Going anywhere ? Because I was protected by the trees I couldn't feel any wind at all but I wasn't sure if it would be possible to go over Beinn Macduibh. The force of the wind increased as soon as I gained height although I was still in the forest. After 2,5km, coming out of Rothiemurchus Forest at an altitude of 470m, it was evident that it would be a VERY windy day. Beinn Macduibh was out of the question with this gailforce wind. At first the path winds its way gently up and down making the walk a joy despite the wind. To the south, over the Lairig Ghru, clouds were racing from west to east. As soon as the valley walls steepened and the ground underfoot got rockier it started to rain and the wind gained tremendously in force. The wind, unstoppable on the Cairngorm Plateau, dived into the Lairig Ghru, knocking me from my feet several times. I fell on myknees at the start of the boulderfield and knew it was going to be a hell of a fight to get to the other side.Having no other option then to move on I started my fight. And when the going gets tough, Theo gets going.I like fighting the elements and feel even more energetic doing so. I plodded forward with a steady pace, using my poles to stay upright whenever the wind was too strong tomove. The wet boulders were a nuisance, making it really important to watch your footing. Later in the Challenge I learned that fellow Challenger Lou LaBorwitt whom I'd met in the Monadhliath Hotel had broken his ankle this very same day in the Lairig Ghru and was helicoptered out to hospital. It showed how difficult the circumstances really where. Despite these circumstances, and much to my surprise, I was overtaken by another walker. He was more jogging than walking and in my opinion totally underdressed for the situation. I arrived at the top of the pass shortly after him and we had a little chat. He congratulated me and said I made a very good time.I walked 7.9km in 2hrs and 45mins. in very difficult circumstances. It made me feel very proud.It turned out he was going up as exercise and was about to return the way he came. I asked him to take a picture of me and gave him my camera. He got blown over at the first attempt and succeeded at the second during a lull in the wind. We said goodbye and while he turned north I started descending a short boulderfield in a southerly direction.Despite the slashing rain and gusts upto 70mph (110km/u) I still felt comfortable in my Paramo Alta Jacket. After passing the Pools of Dee a path made the walking much easier. On the westside of the Lairig Ghru the magnificant An Garbh Coire opened up. Braeriach, Sgor an Lochan Uaine and Cairn Toul were towering above this coire and created a huge and wild amphitheatre with clouds racing over the snow clad edges.After 2km the weather improved significantly and even the sun started to shine, a phenomena that often occurs in the Highlands of Scotland.In the hills a storm might be blowing with zero visibility while down in the glens people are sunbathing all day. I wanted to have lunch at Corrour Bothy, another one of those illustrious names, but the bog in front of the bridge across the River Dee was so horribly unattractive that I decided to keep going until the path started contouring around Sgurr a Mhaim. While I had lunch my eyes and brain were sucking in the scenery. The huge and shiny slopes of the Devil's Point, Glen Geusachan on the right, the wide and open Glen Dee in front of me, Glen Luibeg on the left and the conquered Lairig Ghru behind me. A view I will never forget. Having finished lunch I followed the path further east and crossed the Luibeg Burn at the footbridge and soon derelict Derry Lodge came in sight. It's no longer in use as a lodge but there's a nice field with short grass for camping beside the burn. Some tents had already been pitched but the owners turned out to be weekenders who were there for their weekend stroll and drinking wine. Alas, no Challengers and a noisy night.

This morning the sky

First attempt

Second attempt

Rothiemurchus Forest

Just out of the forest

Getting closer

The going gets tough

Pools of Dee

Braeriach

An Garbh Coire

Sunday 21 May - day 9

distance 15km - ascent 240m

stroll compared with yesterdays rufty tufty stuff, only 15km to Braemar with little ascent. Instead of going to the scenic falls of Dee, to be followed by a long roadwalk to Braemar, I opted for the shortcut via Mar Lodge and Victoria Bridge. A short distance to the southeast of Derry Lodge lies the Bobb Scot Memorial Hut, a bothy that can be used if the weather isn't suitable for camping. The weather was fine and the walk down to Mar Lodge is easy. Before you know it the first sign that points you to Mar Lodge comes in sight.Nowadays the National Trust owns the Lodge. It's also possible to book a bed for a reasonable prize but if you're an animal lover be aware that the ballroom contains over 2400 red deer skulls. Quite a sinistre confrontation.If you're just passing by during the Challenge pop in and use the kitchen facilities and catch up with fellow Challengers. As you can see in the picture it's an impressive building. Today I didn't stop for tea and sconesand crossed the River Dee at VictoriaBridge, opened by Queen Victoria (who else?) in 1857.After 2km of tarmac I followed a track through the woods for the last 3kmto Braemar through woodland and open hillside. From the Tomintoul viewpoint I took the path north into Braemar. Because I had booked a room in the Braemar YH, on the SE edge of Braemar, I had to walk through Braemar but I think it's impossible to pass the Five Arms without being dragged in by 'old acqaintances'. Wendy Olsen came out and dragged me in and once inside I saw a lot of familiar faces. Some of those faces looked like they hadn't left the Five Arms for the last 36 hours. I stayed for a while but had to move on to the YH after a few pints. I installed myself and my stuff and after a shower and a rest I went to the campsite opposite the YH to join Wendy Olsen and Terry Leyland at their barbeque. Later that evening we all went to the Five Arms again to enjoy the wonderfull friendly athmosphere amongst the Challengers.In darkness (the sun sets late in May :-) I went back to the YH and slept like a log.

Today a short

Near Derry Lodge

TGO Challenge 2007





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