During summer 2017 I decided to apply for the TGO Challenge 2018. The challenge invites to cross Scotland from the west to the east coast within about 15 days - All self supported, by foot and mostly wild camping, on the route you choose...
Did you miss the start of this adventure? Back to Part 2
18.05.2018 River Dee
I guess this tree fascinated every Challenger passing by; Even with half of its root ball stripped out of the ground it stays half holded up, half cramped in the loose ground and is not ready to give up life... And marked at the same time the end of the famous pine forest.
River Feshie gets smaller while walking up towards its sources, and before I quit its course I have to cross River Eidart which runs into Feshie. A spectacular gathering of waterfalls and rapids!
The so far narrow glen opens up to a wide open landscape where the water divide sends the rivers down either west on River Feshie or east on Geldie Burn. The gently meandering Geldie Burn is a great company for a few hours of walk down the glen.
It finally runs into River Dee further down, where I camp for tonight. It is the last spot to have a wild camp before getting in touch again with a bit of zivilisation in Mare Lodge and later on in Braemar the next day.
19.05.2018 Loch Callater Lodge
The Idea of a hot coffee in Mare Lodge is driving me this morning (and my food resupply parcel waiting there to fill my empty bag), but I have to make the short detour to Linn of Dee, one of these tourist attractions with a parking close by... but it is worth it! Great to see all the different forms a river adopts on its way from the source down to the sea.
A chilled beer, bacon roll and soupe for lunch, that sounds like a good plan today :)
Long and interesting discussion with Mike who joins in for lunch before I finally break away from Braemar - While most Challengers stay in town, I will move on to Lochcallater Lodge for the night.
I contribute to the ultra light shelter collection around the Lodge and pitch my Notch in a heavy and gusty wind which will prevail all night long and the whole next day...
The hearty welcome from the host and volunteers is a nice change to the lone nights in wild camp! We get spoiled with a good portion of pasta, beer and a selection of Whiskies to perfect the evening.
For the first time on the Challenge I have to go find my tent in complete darkness, trying to avoid all my neighbour's storm guylines... ;)
20.05.2018 Shielin of Mark
The next day starts with two bacon rolls in the lodge and some talk shop about tent designs with Mike and Richard, who camp with their home sewn shelter on this Challenge!
But finally I continue along Loch Callater on Jock's Road.
The bacon rolls really where yummy, but did not provide the power I needed for the upcoming ascent. Therefore I stoppe on Allt an Loch to cook my porridge and set up a long exposure shot at the same time.
At the valley end I continue on Jock's Road for the ascent but then head left on the ridge for the Munros Fafernie, Cairn Bannoch, Cairn of Gowal and Broad Cairn (998m, center of photo below). I just scratch the cloud cover with my head, but have great views down into the Glens!
The wind on top of Broad Cairn is so freaking violent I don't stay long though, impossible to stay upright!
View down on Loch Muick and Glas-allt-Shiel, built 1868 by Queen Victoria.
After a bit of dirt road I go offroad again. Today is pretty exhausting with path finding, bumpy and partly wet terrain topped by a heavy wind to fight against!
While pitching my tent on the only dry ground available around Shielin of Mark, I was almost expecting to see the shelter ripped apart by the wind... But with my extra storm guylines and rocks placed on top of the stakes I slept the whole night without surprises :)
The bothy provides great shelter from the wind which makes cooking and eating so much more enjoyable tonight. What's more, we have some good talk with the few other Challengers around.
I start the day with mixed feelings, knowing that after the ascent to Muckle Cairn I'll mainly head down to the last part of this Challenge - approaching the east coast, and walking out of the amazing world of the Cairngorms!
After Loch Lee I pass by Invermark Castle and meet again a lot of sheep on my way to Tarfside.
Today I run at least 10 times into Philip who was my tent neighbour last night and has the same route, but apparently another rhythm than I ;)
Finally for the last kilometers we join and have a great talk!
Lots of Challengers pass through Tarfside, therefore the village green gets busy for a few days. And volunteers at St Drostan's Lodge provide the highly appreciated bacon rolls and a tasty meal.
Time, right weather and some urgency for another laundry.
23.05.2018 St Cyrus
From Tarfside it is a long but diverting walk down the River North Esk. I even have to wade through the river, as the only bridge within kilometers is under maintenance work today - great timing!
I spend quite some time around the gorge called Rocks of Solitude, climbing the slopes in order to get some decent pictures and enjoy... solitude ;)
After another break along the river I branch off to the road leading straight down to North Water Bridge, where I pass a last night under tent on the Challenge.
The next day agriculture is dominating the flat land between the hills and the shore and with every step I'm getting closer to the coast-line...
And all the sudden, I find myself on top of the cliffs at St Cyrus, with a gorgeous view over its beautiful beach! just a last climb down the cliffs in order to complete the challenge!
I enjoy to stay in St Cyrus over night before officially checking out in Montrose. Douglas joins in for the well deserved beer and meal in the Pub, and the next day we start together for a last short walk along the beach into Montrose.
And now? I'm one of these proud owners of a Challenge T-shirt! But the most valuable takeaway are all the souvenirs I carry home with me, probably making me sign up again at some point in the future ;)
I enjoyed every single one of these 280km across Scotland, discovering the country and having a great time with all the Challengers I crossed on my path! Many thanks for all the company and shared moments!
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