Saturday, 20 April 2013

TGO Challenge 2012 - Ruigh Aiteachain to Mar Lodge

It feels like only yesterday that l was writing Day 7. It wasn't. It was months ago!  Nevertheless, here is Day 8.

Waking up early in my usual 'get the day started before it's started' fashion, I crept about the bothy with great stealth.  In doing so I managed to wake up both Grant and Tim from their deep and snoring slumber.
I gathered my kit together, brushed the powdery whitewash from my quilt, and packed my bag. Outside, it was beginning to snow. Just lightly but the wind was coming down the glen. I, was travelling UP the glen.  As I filled my water bottle from the tiny burn above the bothy I surveyed the scene.  Ruigh Aiteachain's curtilage was strewn with temporary shelters and resembled some sort of refugee camp. Looking further into Glen Feshie there were more tents, some by the trail, others tucked in behind a pine or some grassy knoll. 30 plus, maybe?

Stepping down, I bumped into Stickman who was just beginning his morning routine.  We chatted for a moment and Lynsey joined us having surfaced from her tent so we chatted some more.
I had earmarked a spot just past White Bridge to aim for that evening, I could see the weather was a bit grim so I bade farewell to my friends and set off.

Upper Glen Feshie

Upper Glen Feshie

Upper Glen Feshie
I passed a few landslides as the path rose above the Glen floor and imagined myself passing just at the moment they occurred.  The sound deafening, and if too close, I would doubtless be drawn down with the shifting rocks and soil.  I would almost certainly not survive the ordeal.  Oddly, my pace (and heart rate) quickened as I passed each of the scenes of destruction where huge, mature pines had been relocated by a hundred metres or more.


Waterfall - obviously.
I walked alone for most of the first hour or so and the glen was piled with atmosphere, . The paths in the uppermost part of the glen were largely thick and wet black peat, which made the going quite tough.  The challenge to stay upright was, interesting.  During one of the moments I did have a companion, I slipped and slammed into the ground.  Thankfully the impact was softened by the heather and mosses and I escaped without physical injury.  My pride, however, was not totally unscathed.

I walked with these chaps for a short while, and my memory fails me as far as their names are concerned.  Folks, if you recognise yourself in these pictures, I'm sorry - please introduce yourself again in the comments.
Eidart Bridge

Eidart Bridge

Eidart Bridge and the innominate gentlemen

Jim Davidson, where the Glen begins to top out.
Right about where the River Feshie bends away to the south at the top of the glen the surroundings become much more like Pennine moorland - featureless at close quarters. It was here that I became strangely disorientated and lost confidence in my position.  Checking the map confirmed where I was and I set a bearing which pointed directly along the trail I was following at the time.  Nevertheless I didn't believe it was right and the irrational diminution of my confidence continued.  
I didn't like it, and felt very uneasy.
I stopped to scrutinise the facts offered by the landranger, compass, and the surrounding terrain. Everything added up, yet I was still unsure.  I pulled out my 'phone and fired up the mapping application. The GPS got a fix straight away and confirmed what I should have already known - I was right all along. To this day I still can't put my finger on what was going on in my head.

I reached White Bridge and dismissed it as a spot to camp. It was most uninviting, and I wasn't in the best frame of mind.  I already had my spot planned out in my head and kept plodding along.  As I reached my self-allocated pitch I still wasn't happy.  I made the decision to get as far as Mar Lodge.  I wanted company this evening.

As I descended the weather improved.  The Linn of Dee was just a few minutes walk now and memories of a holiday with Mrs M came bursting into my head. It was on that holiday that Linda and I had taken a walk up Lui Water to the Salmon ladder, I spent a good while taking film on my video camera that day, and found a huge Wood Ant hill and took a long time studying their movements around the colony.  As these memories forced their way to the front of my mind my mood changed and I became elated.  The sunshine began to poke it's way through the cloud and I practically skipped past the little signs that the Mar Lodge Estate had put up welcoming us TGO Challengers for refreshments.

Many of you will know Mar Lodge.  For those who do not, this place seems to fit in, where so many other huge shooting lodges do not when it comes to the Scottish Glens.  I am thinking of Coignafearn as an example, which juts out like a boil on a maiden's face on the Findhorn.  Mar Lodge is partially concealed by the trees at the bottom of the glen and for me, it works.  
The ballroom, Mar Lodge

Mar Lodge
I arrived at Mar Lodge and was directed to the Gun Room where all the lovely refreshments of Tea, Coffee, Soup, Rolls and the promise of a nice grassy pitch was offered.  I gladly accepted all of the above and went out to pitch my tent.
The Gun Room, Mar Lodge (Lynsey, Gayle, Mick, Jim D & others)

The Gun Room, Mar Lodge (Colin, behatted)
It was whilst I was waiting for my refreshments I was offered the chance to sleep in the ballroom at Mar Lodge, I had declined the offer initially, having pitched my tent, but was urged to take a look.
The Mar Lodge Ballroom

The Mar Lodge Ballroom

The Mar Lodge Ballroom
I accepted.

I also accepted a three course dinner (with a bottle of red), use of the shower facilities and more tea, which Mick Blackburn (of Mick and Gayle origin) willingly coordinated for us all.  For those of you who have yet to meet Mick and Gayle, you are missing out.  They are truly great, and warm people.  If if you are looking for a backpacking story, they'll not disappoint.  Lovely, lovely couple.  

We sat at our table in the kitchen by the Gun Room and dined like monarchs (albeit not quite in the same robes).
Terry Leyland, and Alan (surname TBC)

Jim Davidson, and Willem Fox, the smashing chap in the middle's name escapes me - help anyone?  Please.

Mick, Gayle, My seat, Chris, and a lovely lady whose name also escapes me.  This is getting embarrassing 
After dinner, we chatted, and finished our beers, wines, etc by the fire in the Gun Room. Dozens of folk passed through that evening and I retired to the Ballroom where sleeping bags we laid out battalion fashion on the floors.  This took me by surprise as my kit was the only stuff laid out when I had left it.

I lay there, stuffed, drunk and satisfied.  Thinking of what had passed, what was to come, and before long I was fast asleep.  

Just 5 miles tomorrow - into Braemar.