TGO Challenge 2015 Day 3

Day 3
Today was a little more relaxed for me anyway as I knew the route and that Vicky had gotten over the really hard part yesterday with no issues. We had planned to have a 16 mile day today walking along the Affric Kintail Trail and then going into Tomich for a night at the Tomich Hotel (shower, bed, food) The walking was mostly level today along Loch Affric and around a forest track.

The weather had completely changed today from the previous two days. There was some high Cirrus clouds last night and that usually signals a change in the weather and we woke this morning with rain and low clouds and much colder temperatures. 

Everyone was packing up in the rain. Below is Jayme Morgan and Peter Molenaar (Peter we had met last year on the challenge and he had been very supportive of us)
Peter and Jayme were off to walk on the north side of Loch Affric while we were staying on the south side
We were also in our complete rain gear for the start of the day and we stayed in it all day
Glen Affric was everything that everyone said it would be as we walked along the side of Loch Affric for most of the morning.

Solitary Pine along the Loch

The rain would come and go put the clouds stayed very low all day. I would not have wanted to do the pass we did yesterday in today's low clouds. When the sun did peek out, it made rainbows every time. The rainbow seemed to match the color of the landscape and it was beautiful. We stopped several times in the morning just to look at the scenery
Affric Lodge- a very posh and expensive place to stay if you want to hang with Beckham and his friends - check out the ad shot at Affic Lodge below for some live footage
This picture is in color below but you can hardly tell the sky was so grey.
Finally toward the end of the Loch we were joined by other challengers making a decision about what to do with the rest of the day. We had been provided with a fine sign pointing toward Tomich that I know cut through the middle of the forest and cut about 3.5 miles off the proposed route for the day. I felt this was a good idea considering tomorrow's mileage was higher to get to Drumnadrochit. So Peter, Jayme, Vicky and I headed right toward Tomich and Louise and Jay headed left toward Cannich and stayed on the Affric Kintail trail.
A very nice sign post pointing the way. You can see this detour on the route map above for Day 3 it has an arrow indicating the right through the forest.

It was a nice track through the forest, but the forest had been heavily logged and clear cut so those sights were not pretty and a reminder that everything in Scotland is privately owned and subject to use (or abuse)
We arrived in Tomich and we were reminded that this is the birthplace of the Golden Retriever breed of dog.
The Tomich hotel of course was at the very end of town, but it was a welcome site with a bed, bath (not much hot water) but great food and drink.... more drink

Before dinner drinks had Alan Sloman and Phil Lambert join us in the bar (they actually continued on to Cannich that evening) and Judith (Barnes?) who was staying out on the lawn in her tent for the night.
Dinner was Peter, Jayme, Jeremy Burrows, Vicky and myself

Total mileage today was only around 12 miles in a reasonable time with no issues.

TGO Challenge 2015 Day 2

Day 2
Today is the big day on the schedule. climbing to the highest point on our walk this year 2400 feet (Bealach Coire Ghaidheil) and crossing the most difficult terrain (Gleann a' Choilich) as it is very boggy. the total distance is again 11 miles but while yesterday's 11 miles was done in 7 hours, today it will take us around 11 hours to cover the same 11 miles. This is the part Vicky has been training for since last years Challenge.

 If you click on the image above it will open larger and you can see the route and the elevation profile for today.
But first we get to wake up to another lovely day. the view down the glen we walked up yesterday is fantastic. the weather was chilly but the blue sky made it easy to start the day.
You can see from the photo from yesterday of Louise going up the switchbacks to the next pass that is what he had to do for the first 30 minutes of the day. Just like Walter's Wiggles in Zion National Park. It didn't take long as you simply concentrate on one set at a time.
The view from the top back toward Iron Lodge is excellent in the composite picture below

 After getting over the top you look down the next higher pass and you can see the higher hills still with plenty of snow on them. Lots of challengers had plans to go across the high tops, but unless they had ice ax and crampons they changed their plans to a lower route when facing this much snow.
The second pass was easy walking on a good two track jeep road with more stunning scenery.
 We had met Louise just breaking camp when we got to the top of the first pass this morning. After chatting a bit, we pressed on, but she had caught us by later in the morning and we all stopped for a break around mid morning.
 This is a very large panorama of the glen leading to Loch Mullardoch. if the weather had been bad we would have taken this route as an alternative to going up high today across the pass. You can just see the Loch on the right side of the panorama. 
Loch Mullardoch in distance
The Loch is 10 miles long and takes all day to walk it on the north side but we will be turning to the right just as we get to it and heading up into our glen (Choilich)
at the mouth of the Loch is the river feeding it from this end and it has to be forded. I crossed first to make sure there were no real issues and then recorded Vicky and Louise taking their turns.
 Louise makes it!

Vicky makes it- watch later for the movie of Vicky's crossing.
Once in our new glen the trail is reduced to maybe faint tracks in the bogs! and for most of this Glen no trail at all. The GPS kept us in the ballpark and I was able to scout ahead and make the route as efficient as possible. I only fell in a hole once. However walking here is very slow and tough as you negotiate the bogs.
Look for the white arrow on the horizon, this is the pass we have to go up and over to get to the other side into the next glen.

Panorama view of Glen Choilich
Vicky surveys the options to find a dry path.  Notice no sign of a trail. Thousands of people could walk atop bogs and never leave a mark as to the way they went.

We reach the base of the pass and looking up for the best way to proceed.
Louise catches us just as we are making the last climb up the pass

We encountered just a bit of snow in patches on the way up.
Almost there!

Made it to the top!  

Looking over the other side from the top of the pass
Down the other side to Glen Affric. This glen is considered by many in Scotland to be the prettiest Glen in all the highlands.

Another 2 miles down the glen is our destination for the night (Athnamulloch). You have to cross the bridge over the river Affric.

Athnamulloch Bothy
This is a funnel point for several starting points and other challengers were here for the night as well. You can see our MLD Duomid just to the left and behind the bothy in the picture below
Set up and tired. The day started at 8:30 am and we arrived at camp at 8:30 pm. A full solid day of walking. I made some dinner for Vicky and I and we were soon fast asleep.

A beautiful sunset for us as again the sun doesn't actually set until 10:30 to 11 pm

TGO Challenge 2015 Day 1

Day 1
The big day! we had been planning and Vicky has been training for this since we returned from the Challenge last year in May. Despite the cold and windy weather the first day of the Challenge dawned perfect, blue sky, cool and no wind, everything we could have asked. Today was going to be eleven miles, not far, but not a piece of cake either, as the day climbed (sometimes not so slowly) into the Highlands of western Scotland. The Challenge for us starts in Dornie at the Dornie Hotel, where we have been staying for the last day and a half. 

Even though we had toured the Castle the day before, I ran over to get some pictures of the Castle in the early morning sunlight as it looks completely different than it did the day before
A panorama of the bay with Eilean Donan Castle of the right and Dornie on the left 

We went down to the bay and dipped our toes in the west coast water, hoping in fourteen days to do the same on the east coast of Scotland

Then it was back to the Dornie Hotel for a traditional Scottish Breakfast (minus the black pudding)

Hotel check out and officially signing out to start to the Challenge

Walking out of Dornie getting a view of the remainder of the village on the far side of the bay 
A panorama of the entire far side of the Village of Dornie

We walked to the end of the village, about 1.5 miles, and crossed over a small bridge that led to a farm track into the hills

As we move up the valley, looking back on where we came from you can see the last home in Dornie Village (a very nice B&B) in the distance

The first part of the track was rocky and footing was not real solid, but Vicky navigated it well.
The first valley (Glen) ended with a big climb up and over a pass between two higher hills
Just before the top of the pass there was a very nice spot that looked to be a regular camping spot for the locals.

Up and over! You can see a long way down into the next glen. You can see the farm at the base of this hill
This gives a better perspective of the steepness of the decent. Can you spot Vicky just about half way down? We had been following a fairly well marked path to the top but as we came down this side the trail disappeared and we simply had to head straight down to where we knew we had to be. Here we actually caught up to a couple of Challengers that had been ahead of us because they got off to the left in this photo into a ravine that was very hard to navigate.
The elevation evened out once down the hill and we walked past many fields with cows and lambs, most with brand new youngsters

The glens had plenty of water and great views (above and below the river Elchaig)

We got our first view of the higher hills we would be in tomorrow.
The last part of day one was walking down toward Loch na Leitreach near a cottage called Carnach.
this was one of the most beautiful settings for a home I have ever seen
looking back up the way we have just come as we reach the cottage of Carnach

After passing Carnach you see Iron Lodge in the distance

Iron Lodge was someones home until the 70's when it was abandoned (I don't know why) but it is now in very rough shape and unusable to stay inside but it makes for a good stopping point for us tonight.

Louise Evans, one of the Challengers that helped me define my route this year on the north coast arrived for a rest. She was continuing on to camping spot on top of the next set up hills behind Iron Lodge.
You can see Louise start up the series of switchbacks that get you to the top of the next pass. We had thought about continuing with her, but this was our target point for the day and we had already set up our tent, got into our sleeping cloths and started to dry out our gear 
The MLD Duomid pitched next to Iron Lodge. This let us stay out of the wind and enjoy the sunset down the glen you had just walked. We found and old cloth drying rack in the house and are using it outside to dry our wet socks and the sweat on our hiking shirts. We used the old lodge kitchen table to make dinner. 
Evening looking down the glen. The sun doesn't really set until about 10:30 pm here now and it is light at 4:30 am. 
This was a really good first day. 11 miles in good time and everything felt good. We got to bed early to prepare of the big day tomorrow.
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