I started at Strathcarron a few minutes after the main group. That was a good thing. No one knew I made a “navigation error” in the first 300 meters and ended up in someone’s front yard. A quick backtrack and I was on my way to Montrose, or so I thought!
After Achintee it was a constant climb to Bealach Alltan Ruairidh and then a track to the Bothy at Bendronaig. I joined Kate and Andy for lunch and a short rest. We passed Loch Calavie and camped about 2Km further on. The weather was good and we did 18Km which is what I planned to do. It is wise to plan a short first day.
On Day 2 I went around Lochan Gobhlach to join the Allt Coire nan Each. This is shorter than going via Pait Lodge. The going was tough and I was constantly having to change direction to get around bogs. Sometimes there was no way other than just take a bearing and walk through. There was no rain overnight and I am not sure if this would be a viable option if it was wet. It was a good experience and the views with the sun rising over the hills were stunning.
After Loch Mhoicean I went over the small hill to Gleann a Choilich and camped just after Bealch Corie Ghaidheil. I had a fall descending as I was hurrying and realized I needed a rest so camped earlier than planned.
This is one of my favourite Glens and I was not disappointed. I moved at a leisurely pace and camped at a small Loch before Cougie. Another very enjoyable camp.
The walk up Allt Garbh is very muddy and at times the path disappears. I used a combination of map reading, common sense and luck. Maybe luck played the most important part! After a while it joined a wide construction road for the Hydro Plant. These roads make walking faster but destroy the land. They are wider than most country roads in Scotland and are not tarred. When it rains they contribute to erosion. A real eyesore that devastates the pristine country.
I had an early leisurely early lunch at the Post Office at Tomich after passing Cougie and Plodda Falls. Camped later at the Bothy on the River Enrick. This Bothy requires a bit of repairs and I only went in to sign the visitor’s book.
It was an easy stroll with time to inspect the Chambered Carin and have lunch at Drummadrochit before getting the evening ferry to Inverfarigaig. Another perfect camp at Ault-na-goire.
The day started with a long road walk, and a long climb up Allt Mor to the locked shooting hut. Then down to camp in Glen Mazeran. So far I was enjoying every step of the walk. The weather was good, I was able to walk at a comfortable pace and camped for 6 nights with good views and good water supply. The only problem was that my right ankle was feeling a bit sore but nothing serious at his stage.
However next morning as I was climbing over An Socach on the way to the Red Bothy it became more painful and a bit swollen. I decided to go back and take the road to Carrbridge. It was a long, painful, boring and very slow road walk.
I checked into the Carrbridge Hotel had a long shower, washed clothes and had a good meal. I also had a few pints of Ale.
Barbara and Judith gave me good advice on possible re-routes so I would not have to go into remote areas. My new plan was to head east, stay away from bogs and take each day one at a time. You can read Judith’s account here.
I met Humphrey Weightman next morning before each of us went our separate ways.
When I walked into The Boat Country Inn and Restaurant at Boat of Garten for refreshments I saw a few backpacks lying around and knew I was in good company. The social part of the TGOC had started.
Later Humphrey caught up with me and gave me some cream to rub on which helped until I was near to Nethy Bridge where I stayed at The Nethy House. It has been recently refurbished and has clean and modern rooms. The large and enticing selection of cakes and tea will delay anyone who visits their cafe.
Next morning I continued on but when I reached a main road I reluctantly decided to quit. I thumbed a ride with the first van to pass. The driver was hurrying home with 12 Red Roses for his wife’s birthday. He dropped me in Tomintoul where I camped on the lawn of the hostel. Judith came in later and had a room booked. We had dinner at one of the restaurants in town.
So ended my TGOC 2018. Although I did not complete the mission I enjoyed the trip. The weather was perfect and my route worked for me. I do not remember using my water-proof pants. I must have, because when I returned home they had mud on them. Yes! I did wash them before I left Barbados!
I returned to Kent and rested for a few days. The weeks rest fixed the ankle for my trip to Germany. More on that later.
When is the right time to admit that it is no longer safe or sensible to continue with any adventure?
Whether it is climbing Everest, doing a fun- run or cycle race or the TGOC. There is a “thin line’ between not giving up and being reckless.
When Scott walked to the South Pole he was more interested in being the first person to get there than getting home alive. The very opposite to Shackleton.
The emergency services will confirm that most calls they respond to are due to people continuing on when they should have turned back due to weather, injury or not being experienced enough for the job at hand.
For 3 days I walked slowly. I knew that I could not make the Coast unless it somehow magically fixed itself. Every morning it felt a bit better but after 2 to 3 hours I was limping again.
I changed my route and did not go from River Findhorn to the Red Bothy and Glen Avon. It was not wise to go into unknown territory (for me) with no easy way out and no cell phone coverage.
I considered taking a day’s rest, buying maps and plotting the shortest possible road distance to the coast, taking pain killers and just doing it. I would have done more damage and would not have enjoyed it. The TGOC is to be enjoyed. It is not for the badge and T-Shirt at the end. Although the clean shirt is welcome. Especially by those sitting next to us on the train home!
What are your views on when the right time to quit is and what factors should be taken into account?