One of the handy things you get from reading blog posts is hints and tips from other Challengers. So, to save folks falling asleep looking for useful information amongst while reading my deathless prose, I’ve distilled some things I learned this year into a short list.
1. Printing maps on waterproof paper REALLY works.
I have wondered about waterproof paper and the claims that it is so waterproof it doesn’t need protection in the rain. I don’t really like bulky map cases so I took a chance on trying it this year and printed all my maps from Lochailort to Stonehaven on MemoryMap Toughprint waterproof paper (Amazon, £14.99 for 25 sheets). It is fabulous stuff – you can fold at and stick it in your pocket and it is completely rain resistant. From Mount Keen east to Tampie I had horrible wet snow where I was regularly using map and compass with absolutely no problems. The water just rolled off the map. Highly recommended.
2. The Old Station restaurant and bar is the only place in Spean Bridge that sells real ale (in 2015 at least)
The pubs in Spean Bridge are, IMO, a bit dire. Even when the Spean Bridge Hotel was open (it’s closed because of a fire in April), the beer and food weren’t great. I was staying in the Mahaar B & B (single rooms, good for lone walkers) and Alan the owner recommended the Old Station restaurant. As I’ve written elsewhere, food and drink there was excellent. My old pal Woodcarver Ian, who joined me for a meal, was even persuaded by the attractive barmaid to try Sambucca shots – he’s older but not wiser, methinks. I stuck to single malts.
3. Corrour Old Lodge has some great pitches with superb views.
If you are thinking of camping somewhere between Loch Ossian and Bridge of Gaur, there aren’t a lot of options. It really is very rough although there’s LOTS of water. But Corrour Old Lodge is an oasis – water, flat grassy pitches and great views.
4. There aren’t many pitches if you stay high going east from Mount Keen.
I planned to stay high from Mount Keen, heading over the Braid Cairn and other tops to the Firmouth road. I didn’t really have much idea where I would camp but hoped to find somewhere on the way. Unfortunately, the weather was absolutely dire (wind-driven wet snow) and finding a pitch proved to be pretty difficult. There’s not a great deal of water except in the bogs and nothing very flat. I headed for 2 wee lochans to the north of the summit of Tampie on the Firmouth road. They were non-existent and the burn was a trickle. However, managed to squeeze into a rough bit of ground nearby. For the first time ever, I used my water filter as bog water was all there was.
5. You can be surprised how the OS use their symbol for a bridge
I walked with Gordon Green from Mount Battock over Clachnaben to Glen Dye – we were both heading for the Fetteresso. The 1:50000 OS map clearly shows a bridge at HeatheryHaugh so I confidently assured Gordon that was the best way. His vetter had suggested walking down the road to the bridge but he trustingly believed in my local knowledge. Well, there was a mechanism for crossing rivers though it’s not what I would normally think of as a bridge. Unfortunately, it was locked – it would have been fun to try it.
6. Not all bus stops in Stonehaven are equal.
After celebratory food and drink in Stonehaven in the Marine Hotel we headed for the bus stop to catch the X7 bus to Montrose. Being the nearest thing to a local, I led William and Russell to the nearest bus stop where we waited 10 minutes. The bus duly came, we flagged it down and it drove straight past us! The clue is in the bus number – X means its limited stop, something which was completely new to me. So, if you are catching a bus in Stonehaven, go to the main stop in Barclay Street – which is just off the square.