Thursday, 13 June 2019

Contrasts on the TGO Challenge

Day 3. On Gulvain. Hot and dry.

Day 9. On Leathad an Taobhain. Brief clearance. Cold, wet and misty.

On every long walk there are contrasts in the weather, the landscape, the terrain underfoot, the campsites and more. This is one of the joys. Nothing stays the same. Every day is different. Often the changes occur gradually, a merging that can be almost unoticeable until you realise how different the world has become. On this year's TGO Challenge crossing of the Scottish Highlands it was the opposite. Changes in weather, underfoot terrain, and water were abrupt.

Day 6. A shrunken Loch Treig

At the end of the first week I walked into Dalwhinnie in hot dry weather, as it had been every previous day. At 9pm that evening the rain started. It rained all the next day, and frequently for the four after that. The first week I had dry feet every day, walking across crunchy dried-out bogs glad I'd chosen cool mesh trail shoes. The second week I had sodden feet every day and on two of them I wore waterproof socks to keep my feet warm. The first week burns were dry high up and trickles lower down. Reservoirs like Loch Ericht and Loch Treig showed huge waterless expanses. The second week I forded knee deep torrents and wondered at some camps whether the nearvy river would burst its banks.

Day 11. Glen Callater.

The change in the weather shows up in the number of photos I took - 325 in the first seven days, 100 in the last five. It also shows in the distance I walked, 138km to Dalwhinnie - 19.7km a day - and 169km from Dalwhinnie - 33.8km a day. Cold wet weather keeps you moving! There were times in the first week when I just sat on the hillside and watched the world, sometimes for half an hour or more. I never did that the second week. Stops then were just long enough to munch a snack and gulp some water.

Day 3. Gulvain. A hot thirsty climb.

The second week wasn't just slogging head down through the rain seeing little though. Stormy weather has rewards - dramatic cloudscapes, rainbows, waterfalls, mysterious mists. Contrast is good. It all adds to the pleasure of walking.

Day 12. Rainbow over the east coast.

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