Archive for March, 2013

March 27, 2013

Go west – a spot of Challenge training

by backpackingbongos

This time in six weeks I will be at Euston waiting for the sleeper train up to Fort William.  It’s come as shock that the Challenge is coming around so quickly.  There is the realisation that I am going to drag my carcass from one side of the Highlands to the other.  The truth is that I am proper unfit, I havent even been on a proper backpacking trip this year.

Thankfully the Easter weekend means that I have five whole days off in a row.  However finding some peace and solitude in the hills at this busy time could be difficult.  A couple of weeks ago I came up with a splendid route across the Monadhliath.  I had visions of exploring hidden corners and striding across high rolling moorland.  However after the huge dump of snow up there recently I think this could be a challenge too far without snowshoes or skis.

My eyes wandered west across my map to a wild and rugged land just across the Corran ferry.  Here long low-level glens bite deep into the mountains, a perfect alternative to the arctic plateaus further east.  I have come up with a route that takes in the full length of both Cona Glen and Glen Scaddle.  Linking them together will be a traverse of almost the full length of Loch Shiel.  Nothing too exciting and mostly along tracks, but through remote country.  Seventy kilometres over three days is pretty similar to the first three days of the Challenge, but with less climbing.  I can’t wait to pitch my tent for a few nights in scenic glens.


This will be good for developing a bit of Challenge fitness, however there is a plan B on the back-burner.  I’m going to pop my ice axe and crampons in the boot of the car.  If it’s not wall to wall snow and the snow line is high I may do a bit of bagging instead.  A wild and remote camp and knocking off a few Corbetts unencumbered by a pack is rather enticing.  I’ll make the decision on the ferry……………………

March 20, 2013

The big day

by backpackingbongos





March 17, 2013

The TGO Challenge 2013 – route shakedown

by backpackingbongos

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

Part 1

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

Part 2

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

Part 3

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

Part 4

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!

March 10, 2013

A different type of island adventure

by backpackingbongos

For my stag doo I had the pleasure of visiting a wild and uninhabited island with some friends.  For the subsequent honeymoon I was told that this type of island visit was not acceptable.  Apparently bothies do not provide dream accommodation and Hebridean weather can often be inclement.

Two other islands were chosen instead, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan located in the Gulf of Thailand.  It was all rather nice to be honest and I have now decided that I quite like accommodation that have stars attached to them.  Five stars are very much my favourite.  Anyway as this is an outdoor blog I won’t bore you with the details.  Just a few photos that show a bit of scenery.  Normal Bongo blogging service will resume shortly.

Sunset from Big Buddha Beach, Koh Samui.




The aforementioned Big Buddha.



The view from our balcony the first few nights.  There was much chirping and buzzing from the surrounding foliage.  It can be noisy in the tropics.


Waiting at the pier for our speedboat to Koh Phangan.


A stunning beach on Koh Phangan.  The jungle clad mountain interior dropping down to soft powder sands.


Cat and rabbit chilling in our favourite restaurant.



One of the many beach dogs that hung out near our hotel.  Thankfully they are reasonably healthy and well fed, although this old chap looks like he has fought a few battles.  Friendly mutts who do their best to charm the tourists.


Our final beach on Koh Samui and where I found out I was not very good at handling a sea kayak amongst the surf.


We have always wanted to swim in an infinity pool.  This one perched high above the sea was particularly awesome.