Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Manchester Town Hall

Looking splendid tonight!

Martin’s Grand Scottish Tour – April 2015

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This posting fleshes out those made over the past few days and provides maps of my walking routes. There’s also a slideshow of 64 images, here.

Anyway, after straining something at the Penrith parkrun early on Day 1, I was a sorry sight limping up Hill of Persie before heading on to Braemar.

It was a very rough 5km, with 240 metres ascent, taking an hour and three quarters.

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Day 2 – here I am on top of Blath Bhalg.

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This was a good circuit, much better than the ‘guidebook’ there and back route. There were good views between the snow showers.

It’s 9 km with 390 metres ascent, taking two and a half hours.

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Day 3 – from Bridge of Gaur I set off alongside Loch Rannoch before heading to Dalwhinnie.

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Today’s walk was an easy ascent of Creag Ruadh – 12 km, with 400 metres ascent, in about 3 hours, before heading on to Newtonmore Hostel.

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Day 4 – a driving day, with lots of deliveries and no time for a walk, but with good views of the Cairngorms across Loch Morlich.

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Day 5 – from Ford, I went home via the Rest and be Thankful Pass, before which is this fine bridge at the end of Glen Fyne.

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There was time to pop up Hods Hill, on the Southern Upland Way near Moffat. Here’s a view towards Daer Reservoir from near the summit.

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It’s an easy route – 8 km with 300 metres ascent, in about two hours. I didn’t realise you could walk up the road to the end of the reservoir to join the SUW, which goes across the dam.

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So that’s it, a successful trip with some good walks in between deliveries and 1100 miles of driving.

The slideshow is here.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Friday 3 April 2015 – Cases de Betlem and sa Talaia Freda

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This is an entry from Sue. I’ve spent hours trying to post it from Nallo Lady, but have only succeeded in deleting her from the list of authors and I’ve been unable to re-invite her, so it looks as if her postings will have to be in my name for the time being…

A somewhat belated report on my walk but stimulated by a wish to share a stunning day in the hills of Majorca.  With Martin cycling with Robert and Lyn, I was free to select a grade A+ walk (defined in the guide book as a “strenuous walk, often pathless in places and on rough ground, with considerable route finding and/or some scrambling.  Normally only for experienced walkers. A+ and A++ are particularly difficult”).

After an hour’s journey dodging the multitudes of cyclists, I left the Panda at the Cases de Betlem parking area north of Arta to start the 10km circuit. I didn’t get far (perhaps just 200m!) before being distracted by orchids which I hadn’t seen before on the verges. Finally I was able to motor along the track pictured above until a right turn saw me climbing the hill.

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Where the path ended, the scent of hay rose from the cropped grass and a small stream meandered down, fed by a spring and lined with Palm fans.

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Here, the tap water was emptied out of my bottle to be replaced with spring water. The hill was covered in bright yellow gorse, in low, round clumps, and white-flowering asphodel. Small cairns led the way upwards, partly using a dry stream bed. It was rough and covered in vegetation – long trousers were definitely needed, despite the warmth. Higher up, the line up the cliffs wasn’t clear, but was confirmed by a cross, i.e. Not this way! My route was perhaps not the easiest I could have chosen, but a thrutch up the rock brought me out at a col at 330m, with Puig de sa Tudossa and its prominent masts to the left. As I climbed, seagulls squawked noisily above and I wondered if they were nesting in the cliffs. With the main difficulties over, I had a pathless but straightforward walk along the escarpment edge, with views across Alcudia bay.

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Just before the trig point of sa Talaia Freda, 564m, more new orchids, just 3 inches high or so.  This species is still to be identified!

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As I lunched at the trig point, a yellow swallowtail butterfly flitted around the summit rocks for a few minutes before flying off like a small bird, and a kite, with it's forked tail, also flew overhead. The view was fairly hazy to the south.
Just as a Spanish family arrived, I left the top, to descend steeply to reach some pinnacles and gain another small summit, with a cross and good views down to Betlem and the Alcudia bay. A wide stony path led down, and I was now meeting several groups of people.

The path brought me out at the font near Ermita de Betlem, where I watched a group of locals filling large containers from the spring. Just beyond here was a stand of bee orchids, quite overlooked by those passing by. The Ermita was peaceful, with white walls but a lovely painted ceiling, and a grotto with stalactites hanging from the limestone above behind the alter held the nativity scene.

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Another 45 minutes or so downhill brought me back to the start where the car thermometer read 22C.

After an evening meal in the main square in Pollenca, we joined hundreds of spectators lining the 365 Calvari steps, for a torchlit procession in which the body of Jesus is brought down. A slow rhythm was beaten by drums which gave it solemnity.

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The hush during the procession was palpable. Both adults and children participate, dressed in robes, a different colour for each church taking part. It starts around 9pm and takes about one and a half hours for all the participants to file down the steps. 

Wednesday 29 April 2015 - Hods Hill

This prominence on the Southern Upland Way is reached easily from Daer Reservoir, a short distance from Watermeetings near the M74 motorway in the Moffat area.

I had started walking by late morning thanks to an early start. I didn't hear Alison go out, but unless it was her hologram that served my bacon buttie at Lochgilphead petrol station at 7 am she must have left quietly whilst I was dead to the world.

The highlight of the first part of today's journey was meeting a penny farthing cyclist beside Loch Lomond. Very impressive! 

It was good to escape from the rain and the spray on the M74 for a couple of hours for this 8 km stroll under a thick cloud and a (literally) watery sun. As previously on this trip my selection of a summit of modest stature - 569 metres in this case - gave me a cloud free experience in pleasant surroundings. A view from near the summit, taken in between energy releases from an Arctic sleet blasting machine, is shown in the top image. Not shown are the ghostly rows of nearby wind turbines, mostly silent and unmoving despite the breeze.

The bottom picture, taken near the Rest and Be Thankful pass, was inspired by Alison's 'on hold' Bridge photography project. She spent 2014 posting a picture of a Flowering Plant every day; this year it's 'The Natural World'. Her pictures are excellent and she reckons the process has significantly improved her photographic skills. Well done Alison, and thanks for putting me up and feeding me last night. 

The weather improved as I pottered on in a southerly direction, arriving home by 5.30 pm after a satisfying and successful little 1100 mile trip, on which it was great to spend a bit of time with a variety of friends as well as climb a few hills that were new to me. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Newtonmore to Ford

After  a visit to the house with the turret, Glenmore was my next target, packages six and seven being delivered to the Youth Hostel there. Down by Loch Morlich, overnight snow had resulted in a very white view of the Cairngorms, pictured - top.

Then it was on to Aviemore for coffee, and package eight to Vermont Guest House.

Cannich, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus and Spean Bridge all successfully accepted further deliveries, leaving the car boot bereft of all but Saturday's batch of library books - still on their long journey from Dunkeld to Nantwich. 

By now it was mid afternoon - time for coffee and a new book from Nevisports in Fort William. 

There wasn't really time to go home, so I enjoyed a scenic drive past Appin to Oban, and onwards past Loch Feochan (pictured - bottom) to Ford, near Kilmartin. There, Alison did me proud, with a lovely meal. It was great to catch up, three years having passed since Sue and I passed through on our 2012 TGO B&B Challenge. 

There's a blackcap in the garden, and a cuckoo nearby.

Monday 27 April 2015 - Creag Ruadh

After a leisurely start on a sunny morning I made my way past red deer and red squirrels to Dalwhinnie to dispose of package number five and test the new café that has emerged from the shell of the old hotel. Passable, but the bunkhouse café on the road to the station is much better.

Today's hill was another easy one, conveniently accessed from the aqueduct reached from Cuaich - a short way from Dalwhinnie on the Newtonmore road.

After an easy stroll with the breeze behind me to the small power station at the end of a big green pipeline, I skipped across Allt Cuaich and up the gentle slopes to the north east, reaching the 658 metre summit at the same time as a wintry squall. 

Lapwings, golden plovers and wheatears had monitored my progress whilst grouse with bright red combs strolled boldly in front of me and piebald hares scooted off into the distance. I've heard no evidence of cuckoos though others have spotted them.

As on my last two outings, I saw no other walkers today - just a couple of estate workers. 

After lounging on the summit in a snow storm I continued ENE along the broad ridge above Coire Riabhach, gently descending 100 metres before dropping sharply down another 200 metres to the track beside Loch Cuaich, avoiding some rather nasty looking boulder fields.

From there it was an easy 6km walk (despite a squally headwind) along the track back to the car, the whole walk being a shade over 12km and taking a little under three hours.

Coffee in Ralia café whilst I composed this entry and watched the snow fall outside preceded a visit to Newtonmore Hostel and the pleasure of an evening with Ali and Adrian and Ellen.

Top picture: Creag Ruadh summit 
Lower picture: Schiehallion from Loch Rannoch

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday 26 April 2015 - Blath Bhalg

This modest hill is easily climbed from the Dalnacarn area in Glen Brerachan on the A924 road between Kirkmichael and Pitlochry. 

Today I parked up for a while before starting out, in an effort to avoid a hail storm whilst listening to Radio 5's London Marathon commentary in between distressing news bulletins following the major earthquake in Nepal.

My day had started with a trip to Ballater, past glittering snow laden Lochnagar and lines of variously coloured daffodils on the approach to  the town, and a friendly reception at the caravan park. They remember Lynsey, for whom I was delivering a package, and are looking forward to the TGO Challengers coming through in three weeks time.

A pot of tea and a fruit scone at The Bothy (Challengers may prefer the full breakfast) set me up for an easy day, with only a couple of deliveries, leaving plenty of time for the easy stroll up Blath Bhalg from Glen Brerachan.

After yesterday's pathless route, I was pleased to find a good stalkers route all the way to today's summit, which after a snow storm had cleared afforded good views in all directions. In a way the snow was quite helpful as it made the path show clearly as a white line stretching into the distance.

After a while on the 671 metre summit I took a different route down, heading over rough ground to a lunch hut and then taking the good path down to Dalnacarn from there. 

After a quick look at the nearby war memorial and a stroll back up the road, I was in the car and on my way to Biba café in Pitlochry for soup and tea.

Today's easy walk amounted to about 9 km with 300 metres ascent, taking about two and a half hours. Curiously, it was my snowiest walk in the UK this year! 

Then it was simply a case of enjoying the delightful drive past Queen's View, Loch Tummel and Loch Rannoch, to visit our good friends Eddie and Heather and Thomas at Bridge of Gaur Guest House. The lateness of this posting - mostly written in Pitlochry - is a reflection of their hospitality. 

Disappointment of the day - running out of The Bothy to avoid spending  £128 on a rather attractive sastrugi picture that may not have fitted in our house! (I should have bought it.)

Today's pictures:
Top - a view from the summit of Blath Bhalg 
Middle - Lochnagar from the A93 near Ballater 
Bottom - the path to the summit before the snow storm