Thursday, June 10, 2010

TGO Challenge Day 8: May 21, 2010 - Somewhere in Glen Feshie

The sliver of sunshine that has been peeking out through the masses of clouds has all but vanished and I think it will not be coming back tonight. It is about 21:30 and I have just left Lou and Phyllis to finish up their dinner at their solid blue Stephenson and returned to my screamingly yellow Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar. This is a pretty nice camping spot even though I could have picked slightly less lumpy and sloped ground than I did. It has been a good day and I think it will be a good night even if I find myself sliding off my sleeping pad a fair bit.

I left the Allt Gynack B&B after a filling Scottish breakfast a little before 09:00. The mroning was bright and clear promising fine weather for the foreseeable future. I strolled through the quiet streets of Kingussie heading out of towards towards Ruthven Barracks. As I neared the old fort I saw Lou and Phyllis coming out from the place they had stayed the night before. They have the distinction of not only leading the American contingent of TGO Challengers in successful crossings, having done more than a dozen each, but also of being the oldest couple on the Challenge this year (81 and 78 respectively I believe). They're well liked by everyone and a whole slew of stories exist around them. They're good people and I was happy to join them for a while as we walked down the road past the old fort towards Tromie Bridge. I had thought I might pause at the barracks to get some additional photos and video but before I knew it it was receding into the background as I chatted with the venerable couple about the Challenge. At some point as we worked our way through the very much managed Baileguish forest I pulled ahead from Lou and Phyl and continued the easy walk through the woods and farm along the forest roads and farm track. The morning was passing easily and the weather was still quite fine. I was feeling in fine spirits as I came to the paved road that runs along the River Feshie's western bank. When I came to the lovely sign saying that I was at the last bridge crossing of the Feshie I had to make the sad decision to cross here instead of taking a chance and fording the river downstream by the bothy (which I thought might be possible and later learned definitely was possible as Vicky Allen did just that). I would get to experience new paths though which is a good thing. In fact, the path I was following was also new to Lou and Phyl.

Photo: Signs like this are definitely mire common than they were two years ago. Photo by Phyllis.

By this time the clouds had chased the sun away and the wind was picking up somewhat. Sounds of the river competed for my attention along with sounds of construction work. I am not quite sure what those fellows were doing but I'd not be surprised if it involved some type of bridge work. My narrow path took me inland and well up above the river below. It wasn't hard walking but it was a bit muddy. Then the path came to a gushing stream. If you have long legs and are confident crossing that fast flowing moderately deep stream would be easy work for you. It gave me pause and I had to pluck up my courage to go across. Fortunately as I was getting ready to cross, perhaps 30 or so minutes after arriving (I had a snack too) Lou and Phyl showed up as did a local fellow out for a day hike. He was of great help to Lou and Phyl ferrying their packs across for them. I had crossed by this time and together we continued along the narrow path, now and then it would come within feet of River Feshie, towards the bothy at Ruigh-aiteachain. We walked together to the bothy wading through one more stream (I should have removed my shoes for that one too) and passing by a group of cyclists out for a day of hill riding and then we were at the bothy just as it began to rain.

The rain did not last long and it gave us an excuse to sit inside briefly and have snacks and gaze at the map figuring out whether to go on or not. It was still rather early, barely 15:00 when we arrived. Lingering about was not a problem for any of us and when Vicky Allen showed up, having set up her tent a ways downstream (the best water source is at the bothy along with an actual privy) we lingered a bit longer still. But it was really too early to stop even though I did consider it as I was really hoping to get some photographs and shoot a bit of video of the local friendly horses if they decided to make an appearance (they did not, I wonder if Vicky saw them). Lou and Phyllis wanted to shave off some kilometers so they could get to Braemar at a reasonable hour tomorrow. I had no such ambitious plans but shortening the hiking the following day to either WHite Bridge or Mar Lodge was fine with me. We gathered our stuff up, said farewell to Vicky, and continued on our way - it was probably about 16:00 by this time.

The easy to follow path leaves the bothy following near the bank of the river heading along the course of the river until it reaches a series of landslides. Two years ago I along with some others took the tough way through these scree fields of very unstable rock taking a low route that was definitely far more trouble and potentially dnagerous than the proper higher up path Lou, Phyllis, and I would trod this time. As we approached the landslips we could see a couple people, we assumed Challengers, setting up camp down by the river's edge. I wonder if you stuck hard and fast to the river's edge if you could get around the landslides that way and just where does that path on the other side of the Feshie go. We picked our way across the scree and I think we all felt a sense of relief to get back onto more stable ground and continue on our way. At this point I decide to pull ahead of the others and see how far I would get before deciding to camp. We knew that decent spots existed not far from the old shell of a shepherd's shack near a stream a couple of miles beyond the landslide area and that was where, more or les, I think we all wanted to camp. Time was passing by as I worked my way along the good path up and around the bit just before Ruighe nan Leum (never did see the lower elevation route option that is on the map, and this is also about where I got plenty of extra water and then, I believe, left my Nalgene canteen). Finding a safe water crossing at Ruighe nan Leum took a bit of time but I managed to get across the rushing water without getting wet and I was proud of that. From there you climb a bit along a narrow path and head easterly with the Feshie vanishing from view below and to the south of you (but never very far away). I was now looking for good campsites even though I was reasonably sure I was within a couple klicks of the shepherd's shack. I was also ready to stop so when the large field on the southern side of the path with a rivulet of water just off to the north appeared I decided that it was time to stop and set up camp under the darkening angry looking skies. It was about 19:20.

YouTube Video

Video: Take a look at our campsite.

I wish I could just whip up my Trailstar and be done with it but it definitely takes me a while to get the pentagonal tarp set up reasonably well. I would like to say that is because I am a perfectionist but truth be told I am just slow. I've no doubt I can pitch my Stephenson or Henry Shires Tarptent Virga more quickly. But when the Trailstar is set up well it is a palace. It is also a beacon. I am sure Lou and Phyllis were able to see it from quite a ways off. They strolled into camp about an hour or so after I had arrived and was eating my hamberger wrap meal. Unlike me they had gotten a bit wet crossing the last great ford of the day even though they had stopped to put on their Drywalkers. Maybe, as Phyllis admitted ruefully, that was their undoing as they got a bit cocky. But no real damage was done except perhaps to their pride and I think we will all enjoy this quiet campsite in Glen Feshie.

Location: Camped in Glen Feshie (NN 893 888)
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