TGOC 2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part One

The Wise Man appears as if from nowhere, out of the sunlight, and speaks.

‘Your first time?’

I nod.

‘Be prepared to alter your plans.’

And as fast as he’s appeared, he’s gone, into the shadows.

Prophetic.

Day One – 12.9 miles

I wake with a migraine. Brilliant. I’ve actually been worrying about this, so that’s probably why it’s happened. I start the day with doses of cocodamol and ibuprofen, and try and ignore it.

Signing out at about 9:15am, I realise I’m already much later than many! No rush though, I set off in blue skies. The day promises to be hot.

My route along Gleann Lichd opens out and I start bumping into people. A quick chat here and there, and before I know it, I’m climbing past the waterfalls and up into Glen Affric.

Everywhere I look, there are views to lift the spirits. I stop for a break, take on more water and chill for a while.

Moving on, the ground starts to level out as I approach Camban Bothy.

A popular place for a break, I bump into several people, including John Woolston. Most set off again before me, but that’s fine. I’m happiest going at my own speed.

The weather is holding up well. I continue on and before I know it, Alltbeithe Youth Hostel comes into sight. I’ve heard they do scones. And tea.

 

Inside the hostel I join John again, and we both partake of home made scones and jam, before I move a bit further on to pitch for the night.

A lovely, quiet pitch with just a few tents to see in the distance. I’m still struggling with my migraine though, which is now making me quite nauseous. I make my dinner and find I can’t eat it. It’s my favourite too, macaroni cheese. Thank goodness for Complan. I make up some cold – it tastes like strawberry milk shake and that goes down easily.

Day Two – 13.5 miles

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve slept well. The migraine is also fading fast. I do marvel though, at my own stupidity at not having brought my toe sock liners. These socks were a miracle discovery of mine a couple of years ago, successfully stopping all the blisters I used to get on my little toes, which fold underneath the next-door toes. I’ve become a bit blase of late, as I don’t need them on short walks, but normally always use them backpacking and on longer routes. My little toes are already starting to feel sore after one day. I try taping them up for today.

The weather this morning is overcast, but not raining. Breakfast is enjoyed – porridge with strawberry bits – and I set off. I’m aiming for somewhere near Plodda Falls this afternoon.

The Glen is very quiet. I see no-one till after I’ve turned off for Cougie. And the Cougie turning is a surprise. Last year, it was a little path heading off uphill, but this year the whole area has been turned into a construction site, with a path diversion in place.

Easy to follow mind, I sit and have some lunch amidst all the chaos (I am very hungry) then move on, soon passing another guy on his own break. A quick chat, then off again, wandering along a much nicer, grassy track for most of the rest of the way.

Again, not a soul in sight. Very peaceful!

But by the time I hit a touch of civilisation again, I’m ready for tea and toast, and a chat with three other challengers with the same idea. My little toes are also starting to get very sore this afternoon. Obviously taping them has not been mega successful.

 

Delicious! Migraine and nausea now all gone, I am enjoying my food again today.

Moving on, I manage to pitch for the night in the vicinity of Plodda Falls. Another quiet spot, not another soul anywhere around.

 

Day Three – 16.9 miles

It rained overnight, and it’s still raining while I breakfast and sort myself for the day – including putting more tape on my sore toes.

The fly sheet is sopping, so I split the tent before packing in order to keep the inner dry, and set off with full waterproofs on.

It’s a long slog today, climbing up to about 550m before dropping down to Torgyle Bridge, and then up and over another ridge before reaching Fort Augustus. It’s about 9 miles over the first section and I want to get it out of the way before lunchtime.

Although it’s a good track it still feels wild and remote, and the weather matches it. Alternating between wild, windy and dry, or wild, windy and heavy rain, it’s certainly atmospheric!

 

As I finally drop down to near the road at Torgyle Bridge, I bump into Morecambe and Wise – sorry, Colin and Dave – having their lunch. I’m enjoying these unplanned meetings with other Challengers. A couple of retired policemen, with Scottish accents so broad I have to concentrate to understand them, they persuade me that they know the best way to Fort Augustus from here. My toes are now very, very sore, so it sounds like a good idea to team up.

All I can say is, that after scaling a 7 foot fence and ploughing through the undergrowth under a line of new electricity pylons, it’s a good job they’re funny. We have a good laugh and it takes my mind off my feet for a while.

I reckon we probably make a sorry sight when we finally drop into Fort Augustus. I’m limping, Colin has very achy shoulders and Dave has a painful back.

Morag’s Lodge beckons us all for the night.

 

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About chrissiedixie

Love being out on the moors and mountains, backpacking, dogs, travelling generally. Favourite place in the world - Yosemite National Park. Retired teacher and ex Mountain Rescue Deputy Team Leader. Married to Geoff, who puts up with all sorts.
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28 Responses to TGOC 2017 – Shiel Bridge To Aberdeen, Part One

  1. Andrew says:

    After my rapid re-route with Matt on day 1, our routes are very similar to Fort Aggie.
    Even don to the day off πŸ™‚
    Hannah at Alltbeithe is a diamond, and Cougie peeps are beyond wonderful πŸ™‚
    I must start mine soon.

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  2. Enjoyed that even if I’m a little gutted I pulled out of the challenge. Shame about that huge track to Cougie, I remember it being over grown coming off the Corbetts. I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

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  3. Brenda-Dawn Linney says:

    Great write up Chrissie, I admire your ability to keep going with migraine, usually I am floored.The toe socks sound a brilliant idea. On my last two walks i have had exactly the same problem with my small toes, one turned septic. Look forward to part two.

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    • To be perfectly frank, Dawn, if I’d woken up at home with that migraine, I would have gone back to bed. It was a bit of a struggle all day, which was why I think I felt so horribly nauseous by the evening.
      And a septic toe doesn’t sound very pleasant…..

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  4. Fellbound says:

    Good stuff. Complan? Isn’t that for people who need to diet? What are you doing with it?

    I found the power lines to Fort Augustus – and beyond – very off putting when I went this way in 2014. Symptomatic of how the Scots are trashing their best bits. And all the massive new tracks. πŸ˜“

    I see you opted to take the Enan. Was it the right choice?Purchasers have paid for a structural survey and await results.

    X

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    • Thanks, David πŸ™‚
      Complan isn’t diet stuff, it’s meal replacement stuff. Comes in three flavours – chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Usually found in chemists, but Tesco also sell it. There are a huge amount of calories in it when you make it up, either with milk or water – hot or cold. I use it normally as a dessert or hot chocolate drink. That’s the first time I’ve used it when I haven’t felt so well, but from now on will make sure I always have a couple of spare sachets with me!
      I have to say there were rather a lot of pylons around, although personally I think the tracks were almost more of a scar. Perhaps living around the Woodhead area, we’re a bit used to pylons here….
      I do still love the Enan, you know. I’m not as tall as you, but I can get everything either inside the inner or the porch and still be comfortable with plenty of space. It seems to withstand wind and rain pretty well, but when it’s very cold and around freezing, that’s when it seems to fill with condensation. Not really a winter tent in my opinion…… Was very happy with it on the Challenge though.
      X

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  5. Been looking forward to this one Chrissie. You don’t half get a hard time with those migranes. As I was expecting, amazing remote views. Those bothies and lodges must be a great motivator to get to when you’re not feeling great. A wee bit of company along the way seemed to lift the moral too. Great read and pics. Just one thing though, put those bloody toe sock liners in the bottom of your bag and leave them there. πŸ˜‰πŸ‘

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    • Thanks Andy, and don’t worry, those toe socks are nearly permanently attached to me now! πŸ˜€ I just can’t believe I did that. I’ve used them on both long trips in Arctic Sweden and all backpacking trips in the UK for 2 years now, and not had a single blister. Some stupid brain dead moment or what!

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  6. John Woolston says:

    Always a lovely spot to stop for a cup of tea and scones. Altbeithe and Hannahs cakes, not to be missed. A long first day considering you were walking with a migraine. looking forward to the next episode.

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    • Thanks John and I appreciated your company on and off on that first day, too. πŸ™‚ If I do the Challenge again, the one big change I would consider would be to make the first 2 or 3 days a bit shorter than the others. A progressive start…. πŸ˜€

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  7. Awful about your migraine – sorry to hear about that – I can imagine how awful it made you feel, especially when it stopped you eating. How amazing that they still do Complan – my mother used to give me that when I was a toddler if I got a stomach upset and wouldn’t eat!

    A progressive start is a very good idea (mentioned in your answer above). Still, doing those kind of things, you learn by everything you do – right or wrong.

    Look forward to the next part…
    Carol.

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    • No matter how much backpacking – even longish trips – I’ve done in the past, it was after all my first Challenge activity, and in the end there are key differences! We never stop learning….. πŸ™‚

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  8. Paul Edmondson (@TrekkingPaul) says:

    Enjoyed your blog, Chrissie and Will look forward to reading the rest of it. Have enjoyed following you Challengers on SH this year!

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  9. Margaret Oliver says:

    I have the same problem with blisters at the end of toes but just put up with it , I didn’t realise you could get anything to help it. Please can you let me know where you get them from and what they are called. Thank you

    Like

  10. surfnslide says:

    Great stuff and admirable persistence to push on with a migraine, feeing I’ll with the comforts of home is bad enough but with a pack on your back….
    At least the views would have provided some comfort. That part of Scotland from Sheil Bridge is majestic.
    I’m off to try a pair of those toe socks. I’ve started having toe blister problems and these look just the ticket

    Like

    • Thanks Andy, it’s absolutely gorgeous around there, isn’t it!
      I’d be the first to admit that everyone’s feet are different, but those socks have certainly worked for me and I would say they’re definitely worth a try πŸ™‚

      Like

  11. Chrissie, so right about Altbeithe (great welcome) and the works around Affric (dirty big roads being cut everywhere). Glad the migraine cleared. Mark Waring

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    • Hi Mark! Hannah at the hostel is really nice, as well as being able to make great scones! I was pleased the migraine cleared too – another couple of days like that would have been very hard going….. πŸ˜€

      Like

  12. A great read with some awesome photographs. A shame you had to start with a migraine, but at least it went. That new path seems a bit ott eh, any idea why they made it so large? Right on to part 2 πŸ™‚

    Like

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