Monday 25 May 2009

TGO Challenge 09 Part 2: The Wind, The Wind

The dominant feature of the 2009 Challenge was the bitterly cold easterly wind, which had sprung up on my fifth day and which lasted the final nine days. Usually the wind is from the south-west, driving you on from behind. This year it was in my face, pushing me back. This makes walking much harder, especially when the weather is wet as well, as it was when I crossed the Bealach Dubh from the camp beside the Uisge Labhair. Descending rapidly from this dark dramatic pass I headed for Culra Bothy and some shelter for lunch. As I reached the door two walkers came out, TGO Deputy Editor Emily and her partner John, the first Challengers I’d met. Later in the day I caught them up on the track to Dalwhinnie and then spent an evening with them and another Challenger, Jeremy, in the bar, watching the rain crash down outside. I was to meet no other Challengers until I reached the finish. Heavy showers and thick mist saw me over Meall Chuaich and on to the head of Glen Bruar the next day. Then came a break in the storm, although the wind hammered on, and I had a glorious day of sunshine as I crossed Beinn Dearg and Carn a’Chlamain to the head of Glen Tilt. Great towering white cumulus clouds soared into the sky, the last snow patches on the high Cairngorms to the north shone in the bright light and the hills were alive with mountain hares, ptarmigan and golden plover. It was my last fine day on the hills. There followed the two wettest, stormiest days of the walk as I crossed the hills to Loch Vrotachan and the highest camp of the walk and then continued on over Glas Maol to Jock’s Road and Glen Doll. The land was saturated and finding dry camp sites was difficult. A bumpy bank above the outlet burn was the best I could find near Loch Vrotachan, whilst a patch of short heather ominously close to flooded grassland had to do in Glen Doll. Only two days remained though, days of descending to the lowlands and joining the other Challengers in Montrose.

Photo info: Camp in Glen Doll. Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS@18mm, 1/100@F5.6, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.


  1. I think i recognise that camp spot Chris. Is it just before you enter the forest after descending from Jocks Road?
    If it's the same spot, i've had a rather soggy night there myself!

    The TGO folk got a right mixed bag of weather this year! I was camped in Glen Coe the weekend it started, and it must have been a shock to folk unused to so much rain!

    Mike fae Dundee

  2. I must admit I have only used my Scarp once on a cold windy night. Solid in the wind but very cold as the wind wiped under the high cut flysheet. What warm clothing and sleeping bag did you take for camp Chris?

  3. Martin, I had a Rab Quantum 200 sleeping bag, which I've now used on several Challenges, a MontBell Ultralight down jacket that I only wore a few times and a Jack Wolfskin Geko lightweight fleece top that I wore most mornings and evenings (and wore all day on the two coldest, windiest, wettest days - which is very unusual for May). I found the Scarp warm enough as long as I closed the inner doors. With the Akto I only close the inner door when the midges are biting.

  4. Mike, yes that's the spot. A lovely site but only just dry enough.

    As I didn't start until the Saturday evening I missed the really bad weather of the first two days. Overall the weather was good - seven sunny days out of twelve - but there was a strong cold east wind most of the time.

  5. Closing the door on the Scarp is not so bad as the space inside is huge for me at 6'2. On the sleeping bag front I use the Rab Endurance Q250 this time of year and love it. Nice to know it will serve me well for many years as yours has done so well.

  6. Martin, yes, I do like the space inside the Scarp 1. & I'm only 5'8"!
    The Quantum 200 I have is an original sample from 2002 and it has been used hundreds of times, including on a 5 week trip in the High Sierra. I've had it cleaned once, by Franklins in Sheffield. Rab replaced the 200 with the slightly warmer 250 a few years ago.