Posts tagged ‘Wild camping’

August 15, 2015

Slackpacking North Peak Grit

by backpackingbongos

Although only a couple of hundred metres from the thundering A628, the car park for Arnfield reservoir feels a million miles away. Turn your back on the lorries and noise and the view is the western edge of the Peak District moors.

After parking I asked at the cafe if it would be ok to leave the car overnight, they confirmed that it was so we shouldered our packs and picked up the track around the reservoir. It’s been a while since I have backpacked with my good friend Rae, so we caught up with each other, accompanied by the crunch of gravel under our shoes.

It was a steep pull up the Pennine Bridleway and we were soon slowing, the early afternoon proving to be warm under the summer sun.

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A concessionary path is shown on the OS map above Ogden Clough and Ornes Moor. We found the start but it was quickly lost amongst tussocky grass, heather and bracken. Not particularly tough but enough to warrant the pulling on of gaiters to stop my shoes filling with prickly heather. The views were good towards various conurbations and across the Cheshire plain to the west. We guessed that hills on the far horizon were in Wales.

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We eventually picked up the path again as it crossed Ogden Brook, an unmistakable groove through the heather. At the top of Ornes Moor we came to an area simply called Wilderness. I’m not sure about the wilderness tag but I would imagine that it would be tough going after plenty of rain or when the cloud has come down. The large areas of bare peat were easy enough in the dry conditions, when wet you would be at risk of losing a shoe or simply disappearing altogether.

The crunchy bog slog however was worth it when we got to the escarpment overlooking the deeply incised Chew Valley. Pretty much right on the edge of the urban sprawl it is still a spectacular place, as good a spot as any other in the National Park. The area around Dove Stone reservoir can get very busy and there were a few families walking up the access road to the higher Chew reservoir. However we had the edges to ourselves.

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The narrow edge path took us to Chew reservoir where a well-defined path led across Laddow Moss to the spectacular Laddow Rocks. With exposed drops below, views to Bleaklow and big fluffy clouds drifting across the sky it was an impressive place to be in the late afternoon light.

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I have established a favourite place to wild camp nearby, so we followed the Pennine Way for a bit before leaving it for wet trackless ground. The secluded little spot was as good as last time so tents were quickly pitched.

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After dinner I had a little wander around some nearby outcrops but was soon driven back into my tent by the midges.

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I had for the first time brought with me just a light summer quilt, something I will not be repeating. Despite a relatively mild summer night I found myself cold in the early hours, drafts sneaking in from all angles. I was thankful for the sun that warmed me up in the morning. So glad in fact that I slept through the alarm that I had set.

After a leisurely start we were once again heading along the Pennine Way, south this time. On the path we came across a beautiful male Northern Eggar moth. I picked it up to move it to somewhere It would not get squashed as there was a day hiker chomping at the bit to get past (he had no interest in stopping to look at a moth).

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Our route took us nearly all the way down to Crowden before we picked up a path through the bracken that climbed up towards Millstone Rocks and Lad’s Leap.

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This is a route that I have only done once, many years ago. It is memorable because I left a library book up there one sunny afternoon, only realising on the train home. It is obviously long gone now, and the fine was paid anyway.

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Throughout the late morning and early afternoon the clouds had been building from the west. A brooding wall of murk that had blotted out the long distance views. Descending into Arnfield Brook the storm suddenly hit. The wind picked up, gusting close to gale force and big fat drops of rain fell. Thunder rumbled above us, dark clouds rolling onto and covering the moors. I was thankful that we had descended in time.

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August 9, 2015

A backpack to World’s End

by backpackingbongos

The Panorama Walk is misnamed as it is actually a road that runs beneath the limestone escarpment to the south of Ruabon mountain. However it does offer some good spots to park the car and have a picnic with great views over the Dee valley, a popular past time on this hot and sunny day.

Total distance – 21 kilometres with 830 metres ascent

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I left the car amongst the picnickers and walked along the narrow strip of tarmac, following the route of the Offa’s Dyke Path. The views over rolling lush green hills was idyllic, the stature of the hills growing in the west towards Snowdonia.

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The road soon drops sharply to the left leaving the Offa’s Dyke Path to cut a sinuous path below the limestone cliffs. This must be one of the most scenic couple of miles in all of Wales, in comparison to the effort it takes to walk. A couple of times I sat for a while in the warm sun to watch the clouds cast shadows in the fields below. I could tell that the wind would be keen up on the moors and would need to seek shelter later on that evening when looking for a place to pitch the tent.

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It was tempting to follow the Offa’s Dyke all the way to World’s End but I wanted to bag the Dewey of Cyrn-y-Brain, a prominent hill bristling with radio towers. It was a steep drop down to the valley bottom and an equally steep climb up the other side. One particular field was teeming with hungry horse flies, one managing to bite me on the back of the hand. A week later I was still left with an angry itchy lump.

I played a game of fantasy house hunting when passing the isolated house called Glyn on the map. There is not even a track that leads to it, just a footpath. Despite this it looked like it is still used, possibly as a holiday cottage. I wouldn’t turn it down as a weekend retreat.

I finally picked up a hard track to the top of Cyrn-y-Brain, bagged the summit and quickly picked up a path heading east. Although the views are extensive it is not a very pretty place and I was glad to have it behind me.

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The path led to a minor moorland road which I crossed before heading towards some disused quarry workings high above World’s End. They gave some sheep cropped grass amongst all the heather and bracken, along with shelter from the wind. Unfortunately there was not much in the way of flat ground.

It was the first time that I had used the Enan and was surprised at just how easy it was to pitch. It is pretty snug inside but still enough room without feeling claustrophobic. It was a warm and muggy night, the sound of light rain on the thin flysheet soothing me to sleep.

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It was a warm and humid morning, the remnants of the nights rain in the air when I woke up. The first thing that I heard was the unmistakable sound of a quad bike, quickly followed by another. It soon became apparent that I was in the middle of four farmers who were rounding up their sheep by quad and dog. My heart sank and I prepared myself for a bollocking. I heard one say to the other, “bloody hell there is a tent there, I only just spotted that”. I popped my head out and waved and got a wave back. I was asked if I could zip myself back in so that their dog did not go for me (it was sniffing around and had yet to spot me). One actually said, “sorry for disturbing you, we’ll soon be on our way”. I was then left alone once more. A bit of a surreal experience at 8am on a Sunday morning.

I quickly packed and was soon walking along the edge of the moor with great views back to World’s End.

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Narrow sheep paths led through thick vegetation to the rocky little top of Craig Arthur. Although only a small pimple on the hill it overlooks the limestone escarpment, giving a bit of drama, especially with thick clouds drifting past.

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It was a heathery bash to gain the summit of Ruabon Mountain itself, really just a dull moorland lump. Heading west then south brought a succession of paths high above Trevor rocks and looking out over Castell Dinas Bran. Holes were quickly being torn through the clouds revealing patches of blue skies. The light was superb and I found myself frequently lingering, trying to put off the last short walk back to the car.

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I had previously only given this part of Wales a cursory glance when driving along the A5 to Snowdonia. I think that I will have to stop more often to see what the area has to offer.

July 19, 2015

Stronelairg – 5 snowy days in the Monadhliath pt2

by backpackingbongos

Part one of this trip report was published a few months ago, unfortunately other trips got in the way and I never got round to writing part two. So cast your minds back to Easter this year……….

You can read part one here.

The contrast with the murk the day before could not be greater. The mist, low cloud and poor visibility had been replaced by blue skies and crisp visibility. The air was still and despite snow still laying on the ground it felt warm.

The upper reaches of Glen Tarff really is a gem, a place where no one really bothers to venture. I picked up the old stalkers path and climbed my way back onto the Monadhliath plateau, enjoying the retrospective views down the glen to distant snow-capped mountains.

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The plateau was reached just south of the dam for the newly built reservoir. The sense of space on that clear spring morning was exhilarating. Sometimes you don’t need high craggy mountains, the empty rolling moors often make me feel just as happy to be out.

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I was heading for the summit of the Corbett Gairbeinn. Normally this would be a straightforward affair of walking across the moors and climbing onto its long summit ridge. However with deep and rapidly melting snow on the ground it was not quite that easy. The various watercourses were covered in unstable snow bridges, banks ready to collapse either side. I spent a while linking up patches of snow free ground, often making detours when the snow became too deep and soft.

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The going was easier on the higher and steeper slopes, the snow still having a bit of bite which meant that I could kick steps up. With a heavy winter pack, warm sun and no wind I quickly felt exhausted. The high snow-covered plateau however was spellbinding and I did not need much excuse to just stand and drink it all in. I was sad with the knowledge that soon the whole area will be covered in wide roads and wind turbines.

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The ridge of Gairbeinn was snow free but the east side was heavily corniced. There had recently been an avalanche which is visible in the third photo below. Some of the blocks of snow were the size of a chest freezer, not something that you would want to get caught up in.

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I lingered at the summit for a long time, out of the wind the sun felt warm and the surroundings were majestic. Across the infant Spey the Creag Meagaidh hills towered high and snowy. Much of the high plateau of the Monadhliath was still draped in virgin white, so I decided against a planned long walk across the summit of the Corrieyairack to bag some more Corbetts. Even though it was only early afternoon and I had walked only a few kilometres I decided that I would look for a nearby high level pitch and just enjoy my surroundings.

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I backtracked along the ridge and then descended to the east to a good spot on the 780 metre contour. I pitched the Trailstar and spent a lazy afternoon and evening reading, brewing and eating. Taking time to walk around various vantage points above camp. The air soon became cold and crisp, the hills glowing in the setting sun.

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It was only a short walk back to the car the following morning so I decided on a small detour to climb Creag Mhor. It’s a small hill that does not feature on any lists but it was worth the effort for the views along the upper Spey and back to the plateau from which I had come.

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The often grassy banks of the Allt Gilbe eased progress back to Garva bridge. I passed a family picnicking next to the bridge over the Allt Coire Lain Oig, the first people who I had seen in five days. I could not think of a finer place in which to spend a busy Easter weekend than the lonely underrated Monadhliath.

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July 16, 2015

TGO Challenge 2015 – Days 12 to 14

by backpackingbongos

Days 1 to 3 can be found here.

Days 4 to 6 can be found here.

Days 7 to 9 can be found here.

Days 10 & 11 can be found here.

 

Day 12 – 14 kilometres with 220 metres ascent

Day 12

(Click map to enlarge)

It was the coldest night of the Challenge. I woke at first light and tried to unzip the fly which was a solid sheet of ice. The rain the previous evening had frozen and I was treated to an icy shower as I brushed against the Scarp. I went back to sleep for a few hours until the sun had risen over the hills and warmth filled my tent.

The Water of Unich was followed downstream for a bit before I crossed it and picked up a track that led up and over Carn Lick (I couldn’t find a cairn to lick).

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The Shank of Inchgrundle is a great name for a very scenic ridge walk down towards Loch lee. The views along the Loch and up the Water of Lee to Mount Keen were splendid. The following two days would be across farmed glen, intensively managed grouse moor and country lanes towards the coast. I took the opportunity to savour the hills whilst I could.

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The walk along the Loch is via a well used landrover track. I stopped often and sat on various rocks in the sun, avoiding leaving the hills behind.

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Just past the castle and at the beginning of the public road I spotted Louise approaching from Glen Mark. After a couple of days on my own it was great to receive a warm hug and see a smiling face and we talked of our adventures as we walked together to Tarfside. The hill path that skirts to the north of the Hill of Rowan is a much better alternative to walking the road, although I have never been tempted to climb the small hill with the big monument.

We both made a beeline straight for St Drostans Hostel, an oasis of Challenger hospitality along with food and drink. The big kitchen table was crowded with other Challengers and it was great to catch up with others after a crossing mostly undertaken in solitude. I was offered a bed for the night in the hostel and jumped at the chance of a room all to myself. Louise was offered a room with a young handsome Canadian chap as they were mistaken as a couple (I think Louise was flattered). She then managed to draw the attention of the obligatory weird and sexist Challenger………

I sorted out my room and then sat in the lounge for a while to drink beer and be sociable with various folk who I knew through blogs and Twitter, but had not met in real life. Chrissie was on a grand tour of Scotland and had come to Tarfside to meet me and sample the social side of the Challenge. I wandered with Robin down to her van which was parked up next to the village green where we passed another sociable couple of hours drinking coffee and eating cake. I had booked dinner at the hostel so walked back to fill myself with Carbs. A night in the Mason’s arms with plenty of beer saw me heading back to my bed in the dark a little ‘dehydrated’.

 

Day 13 – 22 kilometres with 520 metres ascent

Day 13

(Click map to enlarge)

A mixture of alcohol coursing through my veins, a hot room and numerous people who can’t close a door without slamming it meant that I slept badly. Coffee and an egg cob settled my grumbling stomach and I headed off to walk the road to the Retreat with Louise. A mile later and we were stopping for breakfast number two before continuing along the road to Edzell. We said our farewells after a few more miles as Louise crossed the river to walk along the south bank of the Esk. I continued a bit further before taking the track that heads up to the moorland summit of Craigancash.

On the horizon above I could make out Alan Sloman and Phil and I did my best to try to catch them up. The views to the west were lovely but the hills around me were covered in tracks leading in all directions, the heather scarred with a patchwork of Muirburn. This part of Scotland is an intensively farmed monoculture used for the raising and shooting of grouse.

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On the climb I was aware of a figure watching me, the strange thing being that it did not move at all. This became more unnerving as I got closer. A man in a blue boiler suit and red hat remained motionless in front of me, it was only at the last moment that I realised that it was a mannequin. It was pretty obvious but I really had not expected to see a shop dummy with a wooden pole shoved up its trouser leg on a Scottish hillside. The fact that its mouth was taped made it all the more creepy.

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I found Alan and Phil just finishing their lunch as I stopped for mine, so I was left alone to watch them grope another dummy of non specific gender that was hanging out further up the track. The coastal plains were far below my feet, green and yellow fields stretching to the sea which still looked a long way away. It was good to see it glinting on the horizon though, I was nearly at journey’s end.

Passing the dummy I could not help noticing that it was not suitably dressed for the hills, remember folks cotton kills.

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Progress was halted by a tall deer fence which fortunately was not electrified. It was a bit of a precarious climb to get over it though. It would be pretty much impossible with a dog, so perhaps not the best area to return with Reuben.

I caught up with Alan and Phil in a brand new shooting hut complete with comfy chairs and a functioning gas cooker. I soon left them to it as I was keen to get into Fettercairn and the hotel that I had booked for the night. It was a long descent down Herd Hill and through the Wood of Mon Duff. The final walk along tarmac left me feeling foot sore.

The Ramsey Arms was a real gem, by far the best place I have stayed in in Scotland. Friendly staff, bags of character and comfy rooms. Chrissie had motored over in the afternoon and parked up the van in the village. I was too tired to be sociable so headed straight to my room for a well needed shower and to rinse my filthy socks. It was a sociable evening in the bar though with Chrissie, Alan, Phil and another couple of Challengers whose names I have already forgotten. As well as Guinness they served up huge portions of excellent food. I wholly recommend the Ramsey Arms for food and lodgings and a final nights treat on the TGO Challenge.

 

Day 14 – 23 kilometres with 180 metres ascent

Day 14

(Click map to enlarge)

The last day of walking was not one I had been particularly looking forward to. Twenty three kilometres along tarmac is not really my idea of fun. After a decent breakfast I went and said good morning to Chrissie and the brown Lab Tilly and arranged for the van to become a mobile tea van around lunch time.

I headed off under leaden skies, a light rain falling for the long trudge to the east coast. Initially there was a nice path through beech trees but this soon deserted me and it was tarmac all the way. The crossing of the A90, which is a dual carriageway was a bit hair raising and I was glad to get across in one piece. Chrissie met me just to the north of the Hill of Garvock where I fortified myself with coffee, sandwiches and cookies. The timing was perfect as the rain got heavier whilst I was in the van.

The walk from there into Inverbervie passed without too much excitement, the towering turbines of a wind farm being a bit overwhelming at one point. I could not believe just how noisy they were even from a mile away.

Inverbervie itself is a pleasant place to finish, a functional Scottish seaside town. I met Chrissie and Tilly for a celebratory dip of my toe in the sea. I had decided the day before that I could not face the Challenge meal in Montrose. I really did not fancy camping at the busy Montrose campsite (not particularly pleasant) and all accommodation in the town had been booked up. Instead I secured a cheap room at the Star Inn in Inverbervie which was actually very pleasant and excellent value for money. I met Chrissie that evening at the Bervie Chippy for a celebratory meal. A pleasantly understated way to finish my third TGO Challenge.

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July 9, 2015

TGO Challenge 2015 – Days 10 and 11

by backpackingbongos

Days 1 to 3 can be found here.

Days 4 to 6 can be found here.

Days 7 to 9 can be found here.

 

Day 10 – 22.5 kilometres with 880 metres ascent

Day 10

(Click map to enlarge)

Harmonicas should be banned from public spaces unless the user is a trained professional. A merry band of Challengers were enjoying a beer or two right below my room in the Moorfield Hotel. That was ok by me as I knew that would be the case when I booked. I had not taken into account a drunk man with a harmonica though.

The day started off with some very heavy showers as I left Braemar and walked along the road past the golf course. The way to Callater Lodge is straightforward, and I was happy to see what I hoped would be the last of the showers head swiftly east.

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The hospitality for Challengers at Callater Lodge is legendary. Before I had even managed to remove my pack Bill popped his head out the door and offered me a cup of tea. I entered the warm kitchen full of Challengers swapping tales in front of a roaring fire. I was kindly offered a bed for the night by Bill but I had plans to climb some Munro’s whilst the weather was fine. After half an hour I said my goodbyes and headed up the path at the back of the lodge and bothy.

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After ten days of bog and moor the path that leads up to and over the shoulder of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor was a thing of beauty. It is brilliantly constructed at an angle that makes the ascent nice and easy. I took my time though, frequently stopping to take in the views which were extensive due to the cold and crisp air.

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Carn an t-Sagairt Mor was an easy bag, a short stroll off the path. On the way up a passing shower gave me a good battering and I had to bury my face in my hood as protection from the stinging hail. One hefty gust saw my pack cover take off at great speed. It was last seen heading for Lochnagar with great enthusiasm.

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Some hill days are as close to perfect as it is possible to be. After the rucksack cover blasting shower the weather remained benign for a while and I enjoyed a high level promenade over two more Munros, these being Cairn Bannoch and Broad Cairn. I remained above 900 metres and there was a great feeling of space and solitude up there. I did not see a soul, the hills were all mine. This is perfect hands in pockets yomping country, distance and ascent effortless. In this case a few pictures can say more than words.

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The path down the east of Broad Cairn soon turns into an ugly eroded track, a bit of a disgrace for the Cairngorms National Park. However it was much easier than the extensive boulder field that preceded it. I could see that bad weather was rapidly coming in, a big wall of cloud and grey heading my way. It was time to look for a place to pitch for the night before the forecast wind and rain hit. I spotted a tin hut and a patch of green on the high plateau below me and decided to go and investigate. The hut itself was a midden of animal excrement, whilst outside shit stained toilet paper blew in the wind like soiled streamers.

The weather arrived in a misery of wet. I was high and exposed and indecisive whether or not to drop down to Loch Muick or continue ahead. In the end I decided to try the headwaters of the Black Burn. This initially was a disappointment of rough heather and peaty pools. I was very pleased to find a tent sized patch of flat, reasonably lump free grass. I wasted no time in setting up. Thankfully a window of dry weather that evening gave me an opportunity to dry out some of my kit before the rain returned for the rest of the night.

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(Click map to enlarge)

 

Day 11 – 12.5 kilometres with 320 metres ascent

Day 11

Waking to a world of grey murk is never conducive to getting out of a warm sleeping bag with much enthusiasm. Especially when that day involves miles of rough ground without a hint of path. In the end the walk across the barren wastes of the catchment area for the Black Burn was not too bad. Years of hiking in the Dark Peak toughen your resolve for this type of walking. Lochnagar remained scowling under a blanket of cloud all day.

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A large cairn on the summit of Ferrowie gave some shelter for a quick snack, the cloud remaining high enough to enable me to plan the ascent of the Lair of Aldararie. There are some great names on the map within this part of the eastern Cairngorms.

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I was dropping down into the headwaters of the Water of Unich when the temperature suddenly plummeted. It literally fell several degrees in a matter of a couple of minutes. A cold rain started and became heavier before finally turning into large wet snow flakes. This quickly began to settle into a slippery slush, my toes wet and cold within mesh trailshoes. It was an unpleasant walk down by the river, the hills hidden from view under cloud and swirling snow.

I cut a corner off the long twisting glen by climbing and descending along the Burn of Longshank. As soon as the snow stopped it melted away under the strong May sunshine. A reasonable pitch was found alongside a ruin next to the river. Another snow shower blew in whilst I was pitching but quickly passed allowing me to once again dry out my kit before getting comfortable for the night.

Sadly it would be my final camp on this years Challenge. However it was a good one.

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