Sunday, June 6, 2010

TGO Challenge Day 3: May 16, 2010 - Spean Bridge

We slept well. We slept well because we were all, as the British would say, knackered. The morning came with fairly clear skies though and I think we all felt pretty good about the day ahead. Sure we were all changing our plans but that is something that happens. I was resigned to the fact that my changes might well require me to metaphorically explode my Challenge and take a bus ride someplace to get back on track. Sure routes exist that can be walked from where I would be to where I wanted to go but not being able to easily read the map and study them ahead of time let alone plot them out and fill a GPS with waypoints (very useful for one such as me. I freely admit that fact; a non-GPS based trip might actually be impossible as the GPS really does help me quickly fix my location and tell me if I am close to where I think I should be; remember reading the maps with their tiny print is exceedingly slow work for me) would be quite difficult indeed.

Photo: My comrades for the past day. Our campsite was pretty good all things considered. We dawdled getting on our way not really leaving until sometime around 10:00 I think. It had been good to sleep in.

My comrades soon pushed on ahead showing that they definitely had slowed way way down to let me tag along. They zoomed down Loch Arkaig road and were lost to me in short order. I trudged on alone down the single-lane paved road. I do mean a single lane: one lane for both directions of traffic. If you need to pass someone you need to find a passing place. To add to the driving challenge the road is hilly. It used to be a dirt road so the fact that it is paved now is certainly an improvement for drivers but you do not drive the road quickly. I strolled down the road and found a few people along the way. Apparently Loch Arkaig provides some fine fishing opportunities for people as well as easy access to some nearby high peaks to bag. I chatted with a few of them and they offered to give me a lift should they see me again later in the day. I said that since the road is 20 kilometers long the chances were quite good that they would see me again. Sure it is paved but that doesn't mean it is a quick walk. Perhaps I was just plain out of shape but I don't think I was walking down the pretty road all that fast. I took time out for a break here and there to enjoy the sight of the long lake and to put on and remove rainwear but surely that can't account for too much time.

Photo: At the western end of the road that skirts to northern shore of Loch Arkaig. This single-lane paved hilly road is pretty enough but it is a slog of a road walk nonetheless.

Somewhere down the road, in mid-afternoon, those kind folks pulled up in their caravan and asked if I wanted to ride the rest of the way. I knew it was breaking the rules but I also knew I would likely be doing that anyway so I accepted. They were fine company (and they had picked up a Welsh peakbagger already). At first I thought I would have them drop me at a campground near the Great Glen Way but this proved a no-go (ugly ass caravan campground). I had thought I could walk the Great Glen Way to Fort Augustus and be on track that way though at least a day behind. Instead they dropped me at Spean Bridge where I would learn many other Challengers were residing. I'll have to find out how they got here, surely not all walking that 20km road. I know you can backpack from Spean Bridge to Roybridge and then along paths to Melgarve bothy. It looks simple enough on the map and, in fact, I think I had plotted that route out as part of my never done 2009 TGO Challenge. But what looks imple on paper is probably not so simple in reality. I was nervous about trying it on my own and without any prep ahead of time. I was also feeling whipped and unconfident after the last couple of days. The safe approach, rules be damed, was to just catch a bus to Fort Augustus and pick my route up from there.

I did meet a Challenger or two in Spean Bridge. Mike Knipe, in his usual memorable way, found me at the Commando bar (only place serving food when I dragged myself away from my room at Mamar B&B). Mike Knipe had ideas of what I could do and I'm sure he could pull them off. I was afraid to try. It was good to just chat ocher drinks and food. (Update: The following morning I would come across Russ Manion and his band and they offered to let me join them but since I had no idea what they were doing and felt sure I'd slow them down I declined. I wonder if that was a mistake. I bet it would have been fun hiking with them. And sure, I could have walked the dead-easy, from a navigation point of view, Great Glen Way, but I doubt I could make up the lost time had I done that. A bus ride was the answer. I told Challenge Control all this and that was that.)

Location: Spean Bridge

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