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Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Ten Years Younger

Recently Martin Rye posted about his Ben to Ben trip, and mentioned that it was ten years ago (nice photos btw, Martin). Whilst browsing through this piece, enjoying seeing some familiar spots, it suddenly dawned on me that it is ten years since I ventured on my first TGOC. A quick trip up the loft ladder and a rummage through the boxes of photos produced these gems (mainly the work of Lyn Sloman - except for the ones where she in is the picture ... obviously ...)

So for no reason at all, other than pure self indulgence, here's a selection of pics from my first introduction to the TGO Challenge, and to Scotland (Miss W & I had never walked in Scotland before). Click on any one for the full sized picture.

It started with a dare made by Alan Sloman in the heat of a holiday in the south of France. Alan finds heat a bit wearisome (just as well he likes Scotland then) and it was along the lines of 'I've come on one of your holidays, would you come on one of mine?'

The grinning maniac who started it all - Alan Sloman

Alan's wife Lyn (blissfully unaware that we had already toured France on a tandem and walked in the Pyrenees) had a fit of the giggles and said 'Well, if those two lotus eaters ever volunteer to walk across Scotland with you, I'll come too!'

Foolish, foolish girl. In September 1998, I made the fateful call to Al ... "About this walk then...."
Our route was a classic 'first timer' stravaig from Shiel Bridge to St Cyrus, so there are quite a few well known Challenge scenes here, but they were all new to us, and started a love of Scotland that remains undimmed. Someone once called their photos "postcards from the past written to their future selves". They really are like that, and I can imagine the words 'having a wonderful time - wish you were here' written on the back of each one.

Enough philosophy - on with the show.

Near Morvich. A drop of fuel for the stoves?

L to R Meeting Jack Griffiths, Above Allt Graanda, At Camban Bothy
Jack Griffiths, who is president of the Over The Hill Club, was 90 at the time. He frequently ended up ahead of us, and dispensed barley sugars when we caught up to help keep us going! How many of us will be up to the Challenge when we're over 90 I wonder? It must be good for you though - Jack recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

Miss W tests the water. Richard Wood & Stuart McCandless look on.

L to R Wellington Bomber crash site. Phil makes a handkerchief sun hat. Lyn Sloman in Glen Buck
The Wellington bomber that we came across crashed on the 13th February 1942 after one of its engines failed. Unable to maintain altitude the crew bailed out, and I believe that all survived. It was a trainer for new crews, and whether they survived the rest of the war I haven't been able to find out. As you can see, the scar caused by the crash was still devoid of vegetation almost 60 years later.

The weather at this stage of the walk was magnificent, and only the optimistic Lyn had thought to pack a sun hat. The tick picking chap in the orange tee shirt is Russell Cameron who we met en route to the Tomdoun, where Miss W accomplished a magnificent traverse of the 'top shelf'. Each time she found a whisky that was especially pleasing she insisted on buying a round (with my credit card!). The next day was, unsurprisingly, rather trying, as well as blazing hot. We stopped at a B&B at Aberchalder where Alan fell asleep over dinner - almost in his dinner in fact. I lasted through to dessert before succumbing. Miss W seemed quite undeservedly perky.

Lyn may seem to be at a slightly odd angle in that picture in Glen Buck. This is because her rucksack had become entangled in the tree and she is struggling to move! Next up - the Corrieyairack Pass.

Looking back from the top of the Corrieyairack Pass

After the Corrieyairack, we camped a little way before Melgarve and enjoyed an idyllic evening meal, watching the deer come down to drink at the stream - and I think I saw a Pine Marten. The next day was an easy walk to Laggan. By the time we reached the Monadhliath Hotel Miss W's right arm was swollen because of sunburn, and she spent her time in the bar with a pint in her left hand, and the other in a bucket of ice. Little did we know that the weather had a surprise in store, and that sunburn would be the least of our worries.

Glen Feshie is stunningly beautiful, but it was here that the clouds gathered, the wind got up, and after the previous days of blazing sun it started to snow!

Just a few showers at first, but by the time we crossed the Eidart Bridge visibility had dropped to a few yards and the wind was at gale force. We made our way to the Geldie Burn, quickly chose a camp site and pitched the tents. This was a challenging exercise - especially for me. I was not very experienced with the Quasar, and once pegged down the inner was flapping on the ground like a demented magic carpet. I knew that if the pegs gave out whilst I was putting in the poles, the tent would be in Braemar in about ten minutes!

Fortunately all went OK, and soon we were enjoying a hot meal and lots of Alan's whisky on a very noisy night. The next day our room at the Fife Arms in Braemar was quite a sight as we dried out the tent and kit. "It looks like an arab souk in here" exclaimed Alan.

L to R Camping by the Allt Darrarie. Tents at Tarfside. Cattle near Edzell (Miss W doesn't like cattle!)

And so to St Cyrus, by way of Loch Muick, Sheilin of Mark, Glen Lee, Tarfside and Edzell. I set off thinking 'I'll do this just once', never dreaming that trying this walk is a bit like experimenting with hard drugs. By the end of the trip I was hopelessly hooked.

I wonder if the Betty Ford Clinic can help?

Me & Miss W at St Cyrus - the end of a journey,
or the start of many more?

This May I will once again be stepping out for a wander across Scotland with my old mate Alan. One way and another we've both had a bit of a torrid time recently, and there's nothing quite like the solitude of the mountains to clear the mind and refresh the soul (the body is another matter entirely).



Blogger Martin Rye said...

Big boots, very big packs and tight trousers. Good days you had there. Looked a great first time crossing.

March 20, 2009 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

The boots ARE big aren't they? We didn't have a single blister though.

And those tights - not sure I have the legs for them these days (Miss W says that I didn't then either).

March 21, 2009 at 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Phil - loved seeing the pics of your 'foursome crossing.'

Thanks, David

March 21, 2009 at 3:18 PM  
Blogger Alan Sloman said...

A lovely piece Phil.

It brought it all back and to far far happier times. The title of the piece was quite appropriate too, come to think of it - Lynnie now looks ten years younger than she does in those pictures...

Ho hum...

March 21, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff. One of these days!

March 22, 2009 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's probably starting to get addictive by now! But I'm sure that you'll manage one more before the novelty wears off, you must be tired of dragging Sloman across especially when he runs out of hooch.

March 23, 2009 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Alan Sloman said...


I heard that, I did. I have brand spanking new lug'oles, you know. A pin drop at a hundred yards...

That nice wife of yours has been dragging your worthless skin across for countless years too!


March 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just scouting for photos for the Allt Darrarie to see whether I could spot one that might show a camping spot for the 2012 TGOC, when I Googled yours. Splendid. Now I know I should have somewhere to kip.

January 9, 2012 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

That's a brilliant follow on to your comment back in March 2009 (One of these days) Robin. Have a great trip. Sorry I won't be there this year, otherwise I'd have roped you in to help me carry some coal up to the Sheiling of Mark! It gets very cold up there ;-)

January 9, 2012 at 6:41 PM  

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