Saturday, 13 July 2019

Munro Madness : 6

I enjoy another day off in Braemar, this time I buy a ticket to enter the newer of the two castles, fascinating place still fully furnished in fifties aristocratic style.  I have another tough section coming up, some twenty Munros - including one I missed during planning - and a hundred and twenty kilometres in four days...

In the event I make remarkably short work of the first day, powering over six, count 'em Munros before 5pm.  A nice, if breezy day too, makes for fun walking, and I do feel a certain sense of achievement too.  I am a lean, mountain climbing machine, oh yes.   Definitely earned the burgers I've brought from Braemar - what?  Of course they can be cooked on a camp stove.

I begin the next day by climbing Glas Maol, which brings back memories - this was my first ever Munro, I came here during, hard to believe though it may seem, a golfing holiday.  After a few days I was quite heartily sick of golf, so climbing a big hill was a great improvement!  This time I follow it up with four more, all close to the Glen Shee ski centre, which is handily open for lunch.  More familiar hills too, did them on a proper walking holiday a few, well, many years back - well, no harm going up them again.

The next day is very hard, another five Munros, this time I think over five thousand feet of ascent in total, it takes over twelve hours and I am pretty shattered by the end.  Then one more day to get to Blair Atholl, only three Munros, but it rains all day, this does not help. My thighs chafe in my wet trousers - think I can see why they wear kilts around here - it is not much fun.  At least on reaching Blair Atholl, I find it has pizza, in an odd place, a pub in a marquee, a venue for beer festivals and live music it seems, but not tonight.

No time for a day off, but I am reaching the end of the trip, just two days to go.  I walk out of Blair Atholl past Blair Castle, there are lots of private road signs, typical of Scotland.  Three Munros today, it is hard work, a lot of trackless hacking through bog, I keep going, quite tired now, but the end is in sight, indeed this is my last night camped out on the hill.

And the last day is easy enough, just a single Munro, bringing the count to seventy-seven I think, go me.  Back to Blair Atholl where I have definitely earned a burger plus a beer or five... shame about the 7am train the next morning but what can you do.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Munro Madness : 5

Braemar is a good place for a day off - so good, I'll be back for another in a few days time.  There are two castles, the ancient ruins of Kinrochit, and the imposing seventeenth century Braemar Castle.  And cheap beer in the Invercauld Arms, all good.

I have an easy section now - compared to the last one at least.  I'm heading east towards the isolated Munro, Mount Keen, so my first day has no climbing at all, in fact it's a familiar route past Balmoral, I came this way on my walk from Inverness to Aberdeen a few years back.  This time on reaching Ballater I check out its second curry house - also good!

From Ballater I have a simple enough day, over thirty kilometres but good paths and just a single Munro, lonely Mount Keen - there's a fine panoramic view from the top.  Turns out there is another stiff climb, over a thousand feet out of Glen Lee, then I find a camp spot in a high valley far from anywhere.

Two more Munros the next day, the evocatively named neighbouring peaks Driesh and Mayar, ascending the first of these the path on my map seems not to exist in reality, instead there is just a scarily steep slope that I am very glad to reach the top of.  Plenty of other climbs too, out of deep glens, this section is not as easy as I had hoped, still I am getting through it.  At least I seem to have stopped breaking things, touch wood.

My return to Braemar is surprisingly easy, given there are three Munros, including the peak of Lochnagar, or Cac Carn Beag as it is properly called.  A bit of a treat for me up there too, I'm just passing the lesser summit, Cac Carn Mhor, when the Red Arrows  fly by in formation, very cool.  I think I've built some muscles, as I power up the climbs and reach camp before 5pm, all good.  Maybe I was hurrying a bit as the weather has turned again, back to howling arctic wind.  Or maybe I just wanted to get back to the pub... 

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Munro Madness : 4

I've not done a great job of planning this next section - a hundred and sixty kilometres in five days, fine on flat terrain, but with many huge hills to climb, plus the need to find somewhere sheltered at a lower altitude to camp, it seems impossible.  But perhaps I can find some shortcuts, we'll see.  Things start OK at least, a long ascent of Braeriach, well over four thousand feet, then three more Munros, all in cloud except the last, Devils point.  Warm enough and dry though, and if I don't reach camp until eight, so what, still plenty of daylight left.  Lots of people here, both camped and in a small stone hut or 'bothy' - it even has a toilet!

Day two out of Aviemore, beautiful blue skies, it is actually hot and I need to filter water - well, not hard to find up here.  I manage the planned two Munros, ascendimg one of them twice in fact - still better than my original route which had me backtracking from the Devils Point over two big hills.  But, I'm only at the fifty kilometre point at the end of the day, I need to pick up the pace.

Day three, the glorious weather continues and I keep walking, four more Munros including mighty Ben MacDui and the iconic Cairn Gorm.  A long day, I walk from 8am to 8pm, but with a few cunning shortcuts I get to a nice campsite by Loch Avon, some ninety-three kilometres into the route, this is better.

It doesn't get any easier, I walk a a twelve hour day with four Munros, tough, but really, the more time out in this amazing landscape on another lovely day the better.  Pity about the hour or so tramping through bog to finish mind.  Then, an easy enough day with just a couple of Munros and a lot of gentle trail gets me to Braemar.  I still need to find a shortcut, this one involves a thigh deep wade of the river Dee, worth it to get to the pub in good time.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Munro Madness : 3

Dalwhinnie is the highest village in the UK, and the coldest, according to a sign I read there - I can well believe this.  Still I am toasty in my B&B, and breakfast is excellent - there is, of course, haggis.  Then back into the hills, a little easier here as there seem to be more paths, I get up four more Munros and nothing breaks, a good day, for all that it rains for much of it.

Onwards, the Munros keep coming and I keep climbing them.  There seem to be quite a few people about, maybe it is the weekend?  I think these are more popular hills too, this is good, paths to walk on and good gravel roads, courtesy of the grouse industry.  And then the skies clear, I walk and then camp in glorious sunshine, has summer finally come to the highlands?  I sure hope so.

Getting close to Aviemore now, I am in need of a break I must say, feet are sore and I am tired.  Two more Munros first, and one is a beast, Sgor Gaoith is around 3,700 feet high with a dramatic pointed summit.  Good view from it anyway, for all that it has clouded over again.  Indeed I can see Newtonmore where I started walking a little way away, I really haven't walked far as the crow flies.

I've made good time and it is just a short morning's walk into Aviemore, a pretty big place bustling with tourists, time for proper hot food and beer, and a day off from walking, I need these things.  This is the closest town to the Cairngorm ski centre, and there's a definite ski resort vibe, live music in the evening and all, I approve.  I splurge out shopping a bit too, new socks, gas for cooking and lots of food... a big stage coming up, into the high Cairngorms, good to be prepared for it.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Munro Madness : 2

Not giving up on the madness yet.  Tent now has guy ropes - string from the nice people at the campsite.  Sleeping bag is dry thanks to their tumble dryer, and wrapped in two layers of black rubbish sacks, so I am prepared.

Two Munros the first day out of Roy Bridge, Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg.  And the climbs go well, it does seem warmer, and there is an awesome view from the tops, several lochs visible, many pointy hills, and little sign of humanity.  I make camp around 5pm, there is even some sunshine, this is good.

The next day brings three more Munros, and good views from each, this is more like it.  Really rather awesome to stand atop these high mountains with the wild country spread out below me.  There's some more sun in the afternoon, and I am making decent time again, shame about the five kilometres of trackless bog to end the day, still, I can take it.  But then, a tussock collapses beneath my foot, I end up on my bottom, and one of my poles jams into the peat, bending in two places.  Sigh...

The ups and downs, both literal and figurative, continue.  I climb five Munros in a day, and four more the next, wow.  And something of a miracle, I find a newish trekking pole just lying around near the summit of Ben Alder!  But, in another peat bog related incident, I bend my remaining Walmart pole - just a little though, it is still functional.  Worse, I descend from a mountain where the usual hurricane is blowing and try to put up the tent - doesn't seem to windy to me, but the tent disagrees, before I know it one of the poles has snapped.  Well, this is why I have repair sleeves...

I get to Dalwhinnie anyway, only one night here, but it is in a B&B, so, a proper bed and real food.  Warmth!

Friday, 14 June 2019

Munro Madness : 1

Time for more Timmy madness!  This time I'm in Scotland, the plan is to see how many Munros - notable hills and mountains over five hundred feet - in a month.  What can possibly go wrong?

Well, I get up the first couple OK, hard work but totally worth it for the fine view of the inside of a cloud from the top of each.  I make my way towards number three, eventually reaching the high point of a long ridge and a familiar cairn.  Oops, seems I turned around somehow and I walked back to Munro number two...

OK, I keep going, need to keep moving as it is really very cold up here.  I camp in the hills, another small problem, seems I threw away the tent's guy ropes along with the cheap pegs it came with, oops again.  It doesn't blow away, although my sleeping bag is damp from walking in the clouds, makes for a cold night.

More gruelling ascents, more horrible weather - on the approach to the summit of Creag Meagaidh, there is such a howling gale that I fear being blown off the edge, so I make my way along the steep, but sheltered slope below the ridge, then crawl to the top on my belly.  Then on my second night, the wind is so strong that I need to remove my shoelaces to use as guy ropes....

Very much a relief to get down for a rest at Roy Bridge.  My fingers don't seem to want to warm up, but, it will get warmer yeah?  Here's hoping.

Friday, 24 May 2019

NSW Coast Walk : Review

Freedom!
So, as with some of my previous long walks, I thought that after taking a bit of time to recover I would post some musings on how the thing went.  Well, it was all pretty awesome!  Fair play to the people who came up with the idea for this, it really was nice to do a long trip that did not involve long, long stretches of unimproved forest, or indeed dangerous and absurdly arduous walking through mile after mile of snow.  Perhaps I did sometimes miss mountains, and the succession of beaches did eventually get a little boring, but really this was very cool.  I guess, the fact that Australia was always able to produce some kind of interesting bird or animal to enliven my day meant it was never dull.

They are so cool.
Given this isn't an official trail at all, it really was amazing how little road walking or bushwacking was involved, there was a lot of beach, and other than that a lot of good paths.  None of those paths, individually, were very long - I really do get the impression that this is not a country of hikers - but there were plenty of them.  Obviously there was one serious obstacle - or obstacles - to overcome during this walk, namely the many water crossings.  Getting back from it, I notice that most other people who have done this seem to have mainly crossed the various creeks and inlets on boats, well, I guess I am a bit too mad for that.  But really it was fine, I never felt in any danger, and swimming for fifteen minutes, or even half an hour, isn't too hard - I was happily walking for hours on end after all.  I reckon I swam eight times in all, over the following rivers / etc. :

Wonboyn River
Towamba River
Pambula River
Nelson Creek / Wapengo Lake
Bithry Inlet
Tuross River
Currambene Creek / Huskisson
Crookhaven River / Greenwell Point

So much exciting wildlife.
Many other inlets were closed off by sandbanks so I could simply walk past them, and in one or two cases I detoured around - notably the Tomaga River.  And of course I did take a boat a couple of times, firstly over Sussex Inlet, and then the Comerong Island Ferry.

There was beautiful scenery, mostly coastal of course, but there were beaches, rocky shores, cliffs - all good.  Did I mention the amazing wildlife?  Logistically it was all good too, I had no problem getting the buses to the start, good, cheap food was available every couple of days or so, and Australia's campsites seem to be largely excellent and reasonably priced.  So really, I would totally recommend this walk - just as long as you are happy getting wet from time to time!

Enjoying the view from Sublime Point.