TGOC-2018: Ten Images

Digital photography is wonderful but it’s too easy to take too many pictures. Many of us have computer hard drives with thousands of images. Most of us will never find the time to sort them out.

Because it is so easy to take photographs, some people over-illustrate their accounts of their outdoor adventures. They take lots of pictures so feel the need to include lots of these pictures in their blogs. There’s an inevitable sameness about them when you have too many pictures - after all, one peat bog looks much like another. Over-illustration, in my view, often detracts from rather than adds to words.

In the old days, when we took photographs on film, we were much more selective. I’m coming round to the idea that this is really a good thing and I’m cutting down on the number of digital pictures I take.

Here, I’ve selected 10 of the images that I took during the Challenge that I’d want to look back on to remember the event.

Loch Duich, near Shiel Bridge

I started at Shiel Bridge and dipped my toe in Loch Duich. The weather was beautiful - a harbinger for the rest of the walk. Apart from some overnight rain on the first day and a shower on the morning of the 3rd day, it was dry every other day.

Falls of Glomach

There were only three of us who started at Loch Duich who headed to the Falls of Duich and then descended into Glen Elchaig. The Falls are magnificent and the descent path is quite intimidating - lots of exposure into the gorge. I decided to include this wider image rather than a close up of the Falls as I think it captures the wildness of the West Highland landscape.

Loch Mullardoch

I’ll write in a separate post about walking the north shore of Loch Mullardoch - an area that’s not well documented but which has something of a reputation as being ‘challenging’. Again, not many Challengers seemed to head that way - only three of us as far as I know. Loch Mullardoch is absolutely beautiful and my walk along its shores was a highlight of this year’s Challenge.

Camp close to the end of Loch Mullardoch

As well as the fantastic weather, the thing I will remember from the 2018 Challenge is the absolutely fantastic wild camps that I had. As I reached the east end of Mullardoch, crossed a burn just before the road starts and found this fantastic pitch looking west to the hills across the loch.

Across Loch Ness

Unlike some Challengers, I find it difficult to wax lyrical about the Monadliaths. I’ve always thought of them as boggy, heathery lumps and something to be tholed rather than enjoyed. We had a scenic boat trip across Loch Ness in Gordon Menzies’s boat with most of us heading up the hill to Janet and Alex’s wonderful hospitality at Ault-na-Goire. A great night - Ault-na-Goire makes the Monadliath bogs worthwhile.

Regenerating forest

From Ault-na-Goire I headed to Glen Mazeran and then north-east to the River Dulnain to approach the Cairngorms from the north. I was delighted to see these signs of forest regeneration in the Monadliaths as I descended to the river. It’s maybe a forlorn hope, but if we could get rid of grouse shooting then we might see a lot more rewilding so that these hills become a bit more interesting.

Camp on a river beach, Nethy Bridge

Resupplied with perhaps the largest individual pork pie I have ever seen from the Nethy Bridge butcher, I headed north from Nethy Bridge to Ryvoan bothy. The weather was, as always, beautiful. I arrived there about 4 so I decided that rather than a dark bothy, I’d prefer to camp. So, I thought that I’d press on a couple of km to Strath Nethy.

As I rounded the corner of the path, anticipating a pitch by the bridge, I was faced with the sight of about a dozen tents and 30 or so teenagers on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition. I had thought that rain was compulsory on such expeditions to build young characters but apparently not. I do like young people but really didn’t fancy the prospect of squeezing my tent into a bumpy space and listening to teenage banter for most of the evening.

The only alternative flat bit of ground that I could find was on a gravel beach by the river. Thankfully, the weather was settled as this would not have been the place to pitch where there was any prospect of rain. I’d never camped on a beach before and my pegs aren’t really designed for this kind of ground. Luckily, there are always rocks by a river. Another wonderful wild camp - I really enjoyed my pork pie that evening.

Selfie on the summit of Bynack Mor

I’ve never been a Munro bagger and have no interest in ticking hills off a list. I don’t like dragging a heavy rucksack up a hill so I tend to only do hills on the Challenge when I can abandon my pack somewhere. The track from Strath Nethy leads over the shoulder of Bynack Mor and it seemed too good a day not to go to the top. So, I left my rucksack behind a rock and did Bynack Mor and Bynack Beag before 10 o’clock in the morning.

Falls of Avon

From Strath Nethy, I walked over Bynack Mor then cut across country to lonely Glen Avon and then to Glen Builg. It’s rare on a Challenge not to meet anyone but I never saw a soul that day. Unlike the major passes of the Cairngorms - the Lairig Ghru, Glen Feshie and Glen Tilt - Glen Avon is a lonely place. Past Faindouran bothy, I came to the delightful Falls of Avon.

Ballater station - reopened in 2018

This photo of the renovations of Ballater station which was burned down in 2015 may seem a rather lame ending. But its poignant for me as it’s the last photo I took on this year’s Challenge. I’ve written about my leg problem in a separate article and it was starting to niggle as I took this picture. Two hours later I struggled to walk and, over coffee and a scone in the Loch Kinord hotel at Dinnet, I faced up tp the reality that my 2018 Challenge was over. Thankfully, it seems to simply have been a muscle spasm and after a week’s rest, it’s fine again.

Next: An Unfortunate Ending