Waking at Mar Lodge in the ballroom is, at first, slightly bewildering. Tearing one's eyes open, the first thing one sees is the front-end remnants of thousands of massacred Red Deer, each gazing macabrely down with eyeless sockets. After a moment the 'fog' clears and the memory returns. Thoughts and recollections of the previous day's socialising begin to muster and you realise it is time for coffee.
I can't remember if l opted for the Mar Lodge breakfast or even if one was available. If there was, l feel sure it would have been magnificent.
There is no need to rush when there is only a couple of hours' walk ahead for the whole day. In fact in terms of pure exploration alone, l really wish l had gone through the Morven Birkwood and up to the Tomintoul view point before heading into Braemar. Instead, I chose to walk the road, bumping into many other challengers along the way.
Arriving in Braemar was a joy. I located my accomodation - an over-claimed, over-priced and under-performing "deluxe" room at the Clunie Lodge b&b - and headed straight back to town.
l remember now having breakfast at a little café with lots of pine, so I guess I didn't eat at Mar Lodge, or maybe I did both! Having only just had breakfast, it wasn't quite lunchtime, so after a coffee and a 'paper I went browsing.
Braemar Mountain Sports had a lot of visitors that day. I procured some urethane sole repair to re-stick some loose bits on my New Balance shoes. They had fared ok thus far but took a hammering coming out of Glen Feshie. The sole repair held and I am still using the shoes these days on my Sunday strolls.
Feeling a little parched, I nipped into the Fife for pre-lunch hydration. This comprised a good few pints of Belhaven "Best" (ahem!) and a glass of Royal Lochnagar "Special Reserve" (special indeed). I shared some time with Alan Callow at the Fife. Alan had swapped his Paramo for a brand new 3-layer laminated number at Aviemore. I remembered him commenting about the Paramo when l had seen him at our Findhorn camp. Clearly he is a man who confronts his gear problems head-on!
I was feeling the effects of my 'refreshments' by now so I set about ordering a plate of calories. I settled on an ironic 'Cumberland' Sausage and demolished it, swallowed another "Best" and stumbled in the sunshine back to my digs for a bit of gear sorting. I began with the odds and sods bag, putting it on the bed and tipping out all the bits in a heap next to me.
3 hours later I woke up next to the pile of bits and finished the task.
I went back into town for a head clearing gaze up the Dee from the bridge and a general mooch about. No Dippers this year, but a cool little Red Squirrel made an appearance.
The Moorfield House had promised good music, decent food and fine challenge company. It delivered on the latter two. The music, however, was shit.
I managed to locate fellow East Anglian Andrew Walker for the first time and Alan Sloman too. JJ and Louise (comatose - she'd had a rough one) arrived, Lynsey was also in attendance, heck, everyone was there. I think it was during this evening that Lynsey convinced me to alter my route on Day 10 to drop in at Callater Lodge. Apparantly it was essential.
It was late when I hobbled down the lane with 'Croydon' Mick and Alan (complete with his blister), so late that there was no time for a last pint at the Fife. So we went in anyway! My already hazy memory disappears completely here, so I assume my day reached its end.
The photographs included are all that l managed on Day 9. Sorry!