I found planning this years challenge much easier than in 2011. This is because there are a few areas which I am keen to walk though. These being Knoydart, the Monadhliath mountains and the Moine Mhor. I also fancied taking in Braemar on this years route. Thankfully all of these places pretty much sit on a straight line if you place a ruler across a map of the Highlands. I’m not adverse to making the route as short as possible!
As on the last Challenge I broke my route down into four separate backpacks, transport corridors make this easy to do. This makes the task less daunting as you only need to plan three or four days at a time. There are then natural breaks and places to restock supplies, meaning that no more than four days food needs to be carried at any one time. I also like to have a nice warm and dry b&b waiting for me after three of four days in the wilds!
I have been a bit more ambitious this year with regards to my ‘main’ route, it goes much higher and crosses more hills. If all goes well I will climb nine Munros and one Corbett over the two weeks. There will be the choice however if tired or the weather is bad to stick to the glens on my foul weather route. Overall my daily mileage is around 20 to 25 kilometres, the longest being on the third day at 28 kilometres.
So what is the route like in more detail?
(You can click on the maps to make them bigger).
Part one – 73 Kilometres (45 miles) over three days
This years crossing will start with the ferry from Mallaig to Inverie in Knoydart. If the weather is good I am then looking forward to ascending the Munro Luinne Bheinn and the Corbett Sgurr a Choire-bheithe, followed by the roller coaster ridge of Druim Chosaidh. I have my fingers crossed for a high level camp somewhere along the ridge. I then have two long but low-level days to get to Invergarry taking in Glen Quoich, the River Loyne and the forests of Glen Garry.
Part two – 58 Kilometres (36 miles) over three days
Crossing the Monadhliath is something that I am looking forward to immensely. The first day will see a moorland bash to Blackburn bothy before dropping down to the secretive Glen Tarff. This is a spot that has been on my ‘must visit’ list for years now. I will then cross a vast high plateau, right through the middle of the proposed Stronelairg wind farm. I then find myself on a worryingly featureless section to try to find a camp near the headwaters of the Abhainn Cro Chlach. A truly wild and remote section. Finally I head to Kingussie via a high watershed, taking in the Munro of Carn Sgulain.
Part three – 58 Kilometres (36 miles) over three days
After the fleshpots of Kingussie a gentle walk will take me to the Ruigh-aiteachain bothy located in the wonderful Glen Feshie. The Moine Mhor is also on my ‘must visit’ list and I am hoping for clear weather to cross the clutch of Munros surrounding this high mossy plateau. I’m hoping to camp up there which could be the high point of my crossing. After dropping down to the Dee there should be an easy stroll to Braemar via Mar Lodge. Saturday in Braemar should see the place full of unwashed backpackers.
Part four – 90 Kilometres (56 miles) over five days
Leaving Braemar suitably refreshed I’ll sneak past Loch Callater lodge to enable myself to keep a clear head for the ascent onto the White Mounth plateau. A spot of Munro bagging will take me to the Spittal of Glenmuick followed by another climb up to the Shielin of Mark bothy. Then there will be a stroll down Glen Lee to camp with a mass of other Challengers at Tarfside. In order to keep to the hills to the very last minute I’ll head to Edzell via the Hill of Wirren. This will then leave a tarmac plod to the coast at St Cyrus via North Water Bridge.
I have to say that I’m rather looking forward to it!