TGOC 2011 Day 11

Callater Lodge – Gelder Shiel (The Long Way)

Distance  23.5 Km   Ascent  328 m  – (Tell me Why I don’t like Mondays)

There are not a lot of photos today. (Well, there are a few)
The weather was a little damp, it was not the sort of weather you took your camera out in.
This is our corrected route (Al’s comment) via Connchat Cottages.
The one that was here I think I used in 2005.
It was all a bit head down
It had been a wet and windy night, but we were inside so we didn’t notice.
We rose quite early, since there was a long way to go.
Got kit sorted and went down for a nice bacon butty breakfast and cups of tea.
The kitchen was quite full, as were some of the other rooms.
It was NOT nice outside, but you had to stick your head outside to appreciate how NOT NICE that was, and for full immersion as to NOT NICE, you needed to take your whole body outside.
This is a necessary evil in order to have a pee, let alone anything else.
I decided that a pee was enough, and anything else would need to wait a bit.
We’ll come back to that.
After a fine breakfast and saying goodbye and thanks to Bill and everyone else at the lodge,
 it was necessary to decide on a route.
There are several options from here, and most of them were a definite NO.
Even the normal FWA was a NO, as indeed was the FWA of the FWA, although some did do that one, and whatever they say about it being alright, I reckon it was hard, and that is hard without the extra tea we had.
We decided on a long march back to Braemar.
This was further than any up and over variation, but with predicted winds gusting up to 130 mph on the tops, safety seemed best. Add to that that it was intermittently chucking it down, the road route, as horrid as it was, looked like the best option, so that is what we eventually did.
Back to the main road and then the long trek back up to Braemar.
It was wet at the start, it got wetter on the way.
Just at the end of the track, I caught up with John.
Then Al and Phil arrived, Dave having gone on one of his high speed missions.
These will be discussed in more detail tomorrow.

At the road, after pondering options, Phil said farewell, and headed off for rather a lot more road. He was heading eventually much further south to Glen Prosen. 
We turned right up the road, and hoped to avoid the traffic thundering along in poor visibility.
By the time I got half way along the road, I realised that I definitely needed new waterproofs, or I needed to do something to these ones.
There is a hut half way along, and by here I needed to lose some excess tea intake.
It takes a while in the wind and rain just to get ready.
By the time I had finished I was even wetter, and I didn’t pee myself, I checked which way the wind was blowing. I can say this, I was sure glad I wasn’t a lady.
So, now I had to catch up, and this took me half the distance again.
These were not nice walking conditions, but eventually we got back to Braemar.
And now, it was time to use a public lavatory. 
There were necessary operations that cannot be done by the side of the A93.
Also, it was warm in the toilets, and there was a hand dryer (which was nice).
We were just a short hop from the Fife coffee shop, and it seemed silly not to go in, especially as we were all pretty wet (very wet).
Interestingly also, no one objected to this idea.
Just as we were going in, there was a chap who looked like he must be on the Challenge walking up. I waved hello, and as we were dropping our packs in the porch area to go in, he started talking to us, and telling us all about the Challenge, just in case we did not know.
His audience being Al, John and Me, plus Dave.
We nodded and went in.
We had met TONY!

Tony will feature again shortly, and later on as well.
I am not going to have dig at Tony, nor say anything nasty, because he is a very nice chap, and also a very well meaning chap, but as we shall see, he does have his quirky side.
As we had coffee, a few more bedraggled Challengers arrived.
In a brief conversation Tony (remember Tony)  mentioned that 33 people had had to drop out.
We knew this, but it was ok information.
He followed this up with “that’s got rid of the wimps
Now, bearing in mind, that anyone who does the Challenge is NOT a wimp, and that dropping out is worse than doing it. I know, I have had a couple of DNF’s, 2004 springs to mind when I broke my leg on day 3 (wimp).
So I was not going to take this lying down.
I pointed out to him, that for one, no one likes to withdraw for any reason.
It is usually injury, and no fun.
Also that 3 of those were Vetters, and another one was Bill Roberts,
and that between just those four, there were something like 100 crossings.

So, Tony withdrew this remark.
We all said cheerio, after warming ourselves by the fire, and headed off up the road to Invercauld Bridge. 
The rain had stopped (briefly), for a moment the sun had popped his hat on, and all was well with the world.
The walk up the road was fine, and at one point I considered removing the old Paramo Jacket (that had remarkably dried – it’s wonderful stuff isn’t it?)
But it stayed on, and just before the bridge we cut off the road, onto the track and the long walk up to bothy.
Oh what little we knew.

The river here was on the foamy side. Normally it is quite docile, it was an indicator of the rest of the streams we would encounter

Just past the main bridge, we caught up with Richard.


A fine man is Richard, and as we shall see, a life saver.
He’s very into lightweight kit and gear as well.
Only problem is, he carries it all with him, which could explain his pack being up near the 40lb mark.
That and the number of Turmat meals he had. I cannot remember if it was 7, 8 or 9.
This was probably too many considering that there were only 4 days left.
His feet were playing him up as well, which in not surprising with a that pack weight.
So we walked a while and chatted.
The sun was still out, so we decided to stop for a drink and a spot of lunch, while the going was good. Richard went on ahead

John, Al and Dave

We did not stop for long, because there was still a way to go, and the forecast was not great.
Sadly, I have no more pictures after this, because shortly it would become a tad too damp to get out the camera, but I might borrow one or two off another Web Album (Ian).
A short way up the track from here, we bumped into Ian C, Tom, Bill, Seth, JJ, and a few others who had not taken the road route, but had just dropped down through the forest having possibly come over from Callater via an Sluggan and Glen beg Burn (this was an option we considered), although on looking at Ian’s Photo’s and after Al’s comment, I think it must have been via An Saigert Mhor and then down the Burn.

We stopped briefly for a chat and then carried on.
I cannot remember the exact route that we took through the forest.
I came this way back in 2005, but then the weather was absolutely brilliant,
and I had done Inverey YHA to Glen Lee in a day.
Down in the trees, it was quite sheltered, and although wet, reasonably easy going.
But as we got out from the shelter of the trees, the wind and rain hit us like a train.
You had to lean into the wind to stop being moved sideways.
I have no idea what it was like on the tops, and I have no desire to find out.
At one point as we looked forward, we saw enormous branches flying out of the woods horizontally.
These were not little branches, these were 4 to 6 inch branches that had been ripped off by the wind and blown away.
The little streams by the side of the paths had all become a rolling maelstrom of foam.
The tiny ditches just off the track, had become streams.
As you walked along, the rain stung as it lashed into our faces.
It was fortunate that most of the time it was sideways.
Even then we were looking through a small hole on the front of the hood.
My waterproof trousers were not cutting it here, but there was nothing that you could do but push on.
As we neared Gelder Shiel, there is a small hut just on the corner.
I did not get a picture of this, but I borrowed this from Ian Cotterill’s pictures.
I hope he doesn’t mind, but I had no pictures of the hut, or the foaming burn.
Ian and a few others would be arriving at the bothy a bit later. WET!

Jim JJ, Tom, Seth, Bill and others at ANOTHER hut.
Al has pointed out that this was not our hut, but it is similar, as are the dreadful weather conditions.
You could sleep in that hut!

Feindallacher Burn courtesy also Ian Cotteril

If it was moving fast here, you should have seen it at the bothy.
After a brief stop at the hut, we had to brave it to the bothy.
It was ok (bloody wet and horrible) until we turned to head up to the bothy.
Then it was in your face. 
You had to lean into it to make progress.
There was no opportunity to talk, you just walked.
Within 100 meters, I had decided that the bothy would be the stopping point for me that day.
By 200m I think we had all individually made the same decision.
And so a very wet while later, we arrived at the bothy.
There was ONLY 1 person there, and that was Hein.
This was fantastic, because we now knew that we would be able to
a. Stay
b. Have a bunk
We unpacked our kit quickly and got as much stuff sorted out as we could.
We knew that there were going to be quite a few more arriving (it was surprising how much later they arrived), and we wanted to clear as big a space for them to use.
Also we wanted to keep it as dry as possible inside, because everyone after the first 8 would need to sleep on the floor.
I went out to get some water.
I did this from the burn, trying not to slip in and get dragged downstream.
I fear that anyone falling into it that day would probably not have survived.
It was a big pity that at that point, I had not spotted the tap behind the bothy, by the toilet.
That would have saved me some hairy moments.
But, I did get the water, all was ok, and back inside we decided a brew was in order.
Shortly after this, Richard arrived with his bag of everything, and also 2 more people, whose names I did know, but I apologise for not remembering who they are.
So, by this point, there were 8 of us already in the bothy.
The weather was getting worse, and still no sign of Ian and co. 
We thought that they may have changed plans, and headed over to Ballater with JJ, but eventually wet & weary, they arrived.
It was just as well, we left the big space, bacause everyone managed to get in and dry and sorted out with some room for their kit.
We set up some extra washing lines for hanging dry stuff.
Found some wood under a bunk to block the gap under the door, were water was driving in, and everything was looking good, with stoves producing both food and heat.
In fact, the only thing that would have been nice in the bothy was fire.
Not that there would have been any dry wood anyway.
As it happens, we nearly did have a fire, but I’ll come to that in good time.

Ian, Jim, Richard and Al. That might be a bit of Bill

Tom (he’s young) and Me, and is that Alcohol in that Lucozade bottle? Al and Dave are lying in their bunks.
I think this picture was taken by Ian, it is not one of mine, but whoever it was can you make me look better next time! I know what you’ll say Cotterill!

With I think 13 or 14 were in by now, and it was pretty cosy.
Everyone was warm, had a space, had been fed, and the wine and whiskey (mainly whiskey) was flowing.
It was getting near to something like 8.00 when the door burst open, the elements flew in, and Tony arrived, in flurry of wind and rain.
He said he was going back outside in a minute to put his tent up.
He was just going to stay long enough to make everything wet.
I am not sure where he was thinking of putting his tent.
You couldn’t stand out there easily, let alone put up a tent.
We told him to forget it and stay inside, but he was quite insistent and off he went.
Time passed, and after a while, Tony arrived back at the door, with arms full of bits of everything he possessed, soaked and with surprisingly, no tent up, with an almight crash as stuff dropped on the floor just outside.
“It’s ok”, says Tony, “It’s just the PETROL for my stove”

Click the Clip Right Now! (It’s for effect you see)  
Anyway, in he came flailing water and equipment everywhere.

This is the Challenge, and it was hell out there, so we did our best to find a spot for him, and get his gear into the bothy without everyone becoming cold and wet, which we did.

I think Richard made him a brew, and we left a space on the table for him to get his cooking stuff out.

By now, most of us had gone to our bunks because it was getting late, and tomorrow was going to be a long day, and also with NO FIRE, it was getting a bit cold.
So Tony, started to cook his food.

First step was to get his ageing Petrol based stove out, get some fuel in it, and then pump up the pressure.

Which he did.

A pity therefore, that he had not noticed that with each pump, that very same petrol was pumping back out all over the table and the fumes were filling the bothy.

Never one to give up, Tony carried on, after first attempting to fix the stove (with the missing valve), and wearing his wonky glasses, I think that they were broken too in an earlier accident, I cannot be sure, and then giving it another go. With the same result.
By now, everyone was awake.

About awake as anyone can get in the face of an imminent explosion and instantaneous death by conflagration.

Tony was offered another stove to borrow, but undeterred, he got out his lighter, ready to ignite his stove I say light, but in reality detonate.

The Stove, the table, everyone in the immediate facility, Gelder Shiel Bothy and possibly half the Balmoral Estate, starting with the petrol lake that was the table.

Now, Down & Hollow Fibre Jackets, and in particular Nylon covered sleeping bags ,are not the best defence against a fireball that is about to engulf you, so there were a few nervous people sitting up in their bunks at this point.
I say nervous, but more terrified.
There were a few laughs, as you do in that moment of terror just before death.
It was an interesting scenario.

Have you seen the end sequences of Carrie.

Well, it is at this point, that we must all bow down and pay homage to the deity that is Richard.

Richard being a nice chap was doing his best to look after Tony, and as it happens all of us, because Richard stopped the spark, mopped up the petrol and saved our lives,
and to Richard we all say

Ok, I may have gilded the Lily on that story a bit, but trust me, you had to be there,
or more likely, you didn’t.

Anyway, we were all saved.
The petrol was mopped up.
The door opened for a while to let out the fumes,
and then Tony’s food was cooked on a stove that was not a threat to Western Civilisation.

Eventually we all got to sleep, mostly with one eye open, just in case.
I was hoping for better weather tomorrow.
It would not have been hard to be better though.
As Vinny Jones said – “It’s been emotional”

6 thoughts on “TGOC 2011 Day 11

  1. Enjoyed that, from the warmth & safety of Mission Control.

    Navigation – not our Bottisham Boy's strongest suit… We went by way of Connachat Cottage, Andy. And I don't think that hut in the picture is the one we stopped at either… similar though…

    Didn't the Brave Boys go part way up Carn an t-Sagairt Mor and then down the Feindallacher Burn? Someone will be along in a while, I am sure to let us know. They didn't get tea and shortcake in the Fife though…

    Did you get across to everyone how wet and windy it was? It was horrid, Captain!

  2. Navigation?

    I didn't do any navigation as far as I can remember.
    Far too wet and windy and miserable.
    I just followed people that looked like they knew where they were going.

    It was brilliant, and it worked a treat.

  3. Yup, I seem to remember Laura and I had fun getting from Allt-na-giubhsaich to Tomdoun that day, via Muckle Cairn. Tad breezy. Bit damp. Laura thought it was fun.

  4. I was to do the TGO with Seth and Tom but had to pull out at the last minute. Tom has told me this story and I can see from your post it was wholly accurate. Tom happens to be a fireman, perhaps he should have stepped in?

    Challenge tales. I'm already sad no to be going on this years walk.

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