I think I have mentioned before that I am worrier when it comes to going on long backpacking trips and this trip was no exception.
The night before I was due to travel; I had a massive panic because I couldn't fit all the equipment I was taking into the new GoLite Pinnacle I had bought for the trip.
This was frustrating because earlier in the week things had gone in fine; the problem seemed to be with a primaloft jacket, I needed to take this as the weather had been bad in the months leading up to the challenge and temperatures were still being reported in the low 10c.
I finally managed to work out how to get the jacket into the pack along with a week's worth of food the total weight was around 12 kg which I didn't think was too bad.
So that was everything set and ready for the train journey to Scotland the following day.
Wednesday evening saw me at Euston to catch the 21.15 sleeper to Inverness. There were plenty of other people milling around with backpacks and looking like they maybe challengers but I didn't recognise anyone.
I knew that Alan Sloman & Phil Lambert were having a meal in one of the restaurants in Euston Road, so popped along to say hi. By now time was getting on and when I got back to Euston Station, the 21:15 was boarding; so I made my way on to the train.
Here I was to meet my first challenger; Shap who I would be sharing the sleeper with, Shap was also a first timer, so we chatted about the challenge, equipment and I think bloggers.
After a bit; Shap made he's way to the buffet car and I got myself settled in and started relax as the journey was starting.
I slept reasonable well, what with the rolling and shunning of the train through the night. I woke around 6-ish and with the train well into the highlands.
Passing through Blair Atholl and Aviemore there looked to be plenty of snow still lying in the Cairngorms but I didn't need to worry, too much about this as it would be nearly a week before I would be passing back through here.
As the train was waking up; I started to meet other challengers who had boarded through the night, the first of these was David Skipp, who guessed I was a first timer probably by the look of trepidation on my face.
Arriving in Inverness I meet Andy Howell and along with Shap and a chap named Daniel we made our way around to the coach station and into the cafe to sample the delights of deep fried bacon.
I had some errands to run so left the chaps talking; when I returned there was a whole lot more challengers milling around the station.
By now the coach had arrived and we all boarded, although there was quite a few people, we managed to spread out and I sat with Andy and did an interview with him, although I can't for the life of my remember what I said.
The journey around to Shiel Bridge took a couple of hours and passed some great scenery alongside Loch Ness.
Arriving at Shiel Bridge there were quite a few people getting off the coach; some headed toward the hotel and others like me made our way to the camp site.
Once the tent was up I crashed for a few hours and then later made my way down to the hotel for a meal.
The hotel was already filling up and I sat with a party of six (PoS) challengers who were in high spirits.
Pretty soon some familiar faces appeared in the form of Steven Horner & Philip Werner; although I had never met either before I recognised them from their blog pictures.
By about 10 pm it was time to make my way back to the camp site and get myself set for walking across Scotland over the next twelve days.
On the way back to the site it started to rain quite heavily and I was hoping it wouldn't be like is for the next two weeks.
Total Ascent: 884m
Luckily Friday morning was only damp and not raining; I had a quick chat with M&L more first timers and then was on my way.
At the Kintail Hotel; I walking down to the loch edge and dipped my feet in the loch, the PoS were standing around taking pictures and getting set to go, as I wanted to walk on my own I set of at a quick pace to get some distance from them.
Dipping of the feet
By now the weather was quite pleasant and the walking up and into Glenn Lichd was easy going, I passed a few people going the same way and exchanged the usual 'hello'.
By the time I reached Glenlicht house; the weather was starting to turn for the worse, you could see the rain moving in from the Atlantic, so it was time to don waterproofs.
This was also the start of the climb up and over into Eionnglenn, the real heavy hit when I was about halfway up and this made the rock quite slippy, the weather fronts were moving pretty quick and be the time I reached the waterfall the sun was shining again.
The climb up seemed to go on for ever, even thought it was only about 600m. I was hoping to make Camban bothy for lunch but arrived later than that. The PoS were already in there along with H&N.
By now I was feeling tired and I think this was because I had hardly eaten anything since breakfast, what with the rain and the climbing I never stopped to eat. In the bothy I made a brew and ate lunch.
Feeling much better after eating I set off towards Alltbeithe YH; at times I walked with the PoS but soon my pace was quicker than them and I left them behind. Near to the youth hotel I had my first real river crossing; the water was probably 3-4 in deep, so I rolled up my trousers and just waded through.
The Terroc's were great for this and by the time I reached the youth hotel they were almost dry again.
I arrived at the YH about 4pm and thought about stay either in there or camping outside, I was told the YH was probably full and they didn't like people camping outside.
As I was getting some water from the hostel the PoS turned up and started to disappear to different points near to the hostel and then coming back with bottles of wine; it seems they had been up earlier in the year and buried a stash of them, very bizarre!
Shortly after leaving the hostel I bumped into a group of challengers setting up camp alongside the river Affric, I had a quick chat with them but decided that I didn't want to camp with a big group; I wanted to spend my first night on my own.
I had been told that there was a good camp at Athnamulloch, so I pressed on to there but on arriving I found the ground to be full of tussocks, the only flat ground was by Strawberry cottage but that looked to be someone's holiday home.
By now it was close to 6 pm and I was feeling tried, I sat down, to think what would be the best option. A couple of challengers passed me and told me that there was a good spot up near the Cougie turn off but that was another 4 miles and I didn't fancy walking to there.
Tim & Kate Wood appear and they too were looking for a site to camp, so we joined forces in looking. The only really decent places were by the old bothy and as the weather looked to be turning again, we quickly pitched up the tents.
Once the tent was up I quickly cooked a meal as by now I was feeling quite tired; I don't think I had over stretched myself but did feel as though I had walked a little bit too far for the day.
Total Ascent: 950m
I awoke to rain; in fact I think it had been raining most of the night. Tim & Kate were almost ready to set off, so I said I would probably see them later, as they were going to same way as me.
I packed up between the showers and by the time I was walked the sun was out although this didn't last for too long. There was a stiff wind blowing up the valley and bring rain with it, after five minutes I needed to put on waterproofs.
Today was supposed to be a short day with me only going as far as Cougie but I was already think about pushing on into day three's mileage.
The path climbed up and above Loch Affric, which give great views of the loch and also the mountains on the other side.
As I was walking up the path I saw somebody coming up from the loch side, I never caught them up but later found out it was Steven.
The path was a 4x4 track so was easy walking and I made the turn off for Cougie pretty quickly, and it turned out that it was a really good spot to camp at.
Taking the right turn and following the path I soon came to the point on the map which showed that I needed to cross the river.
Having crossed I followed the path up to a deer fence and passed through the gate, this path there started to go to the right instead of going left. I took a GPS reading and this told me I was in the place I thought I was but not on the correct path. I made my way to the left and finally came up against the deer fence and followed this to the right but couldn't find a gate to go through.
After faffing about for an hour I decided to backtrack to the turn off point and start again. Once back there, there were a few people about, M&L and Bill & Mervyn. I explained that had happened and B&M said that they were going that way and I could tag along with them.
Setting out again I soon realised were I made the mistake; I should never have crossed the river. So we were climbing up and over out of Glen Affric and onto the track that lead to Cougie.
Finally on the right path
Again the new path was a 4x4 track. Some people can be dismissive of walking on these tracks but I don't mind them, they are pretty easy on the feet and you can usually crack along at a good pace.
We made our way down to what on the map looks like a small lochan but is in fact quite large were we had lunch.
We finally strode into Cougie about 2pm, still feeling hungry I had a sandwich and a coffee, I still hadn't decided whether to stay at Cougie or not. Bill was heading for Drum and Mervyn was going to Fort Augustus but by a different route to me.
What made my mind up for me was when the PoS turned up and said they were staying there. This made my mind up straight away; I was moving on.
This may make me sound like a miserably bugger but the true is, I don't like being in big crowds of people, it makes me uncomfortable; I would rather be on my own or with only a couple of people.
So letting the people at Cougie know I wouldn't be staying, I set off with Bill along the road to Plodda Falls. On reaching the Hilton lodge I said 'goodbye' to
Bill and turned right to go up into the forest. The walk through the forest was easy, once I made the open fellside I started to look for a camp site and water.
I was quite surprised at the lack of water up here, I could see that there was a big loch with an outflow and thought that this would be the best place for water and maybe camping.
When I arrived at that point there was a tent already pitched but luckily it was Tim & Kate; so I had a chat with them and camped a short distance away.
Apart from the problems finding the Cougie path the rest of the day had been really good.
Guisahan Forest-Fort Augustus
By now I had gotten into a fairly good sleep pattern, asleep by 8-9 pm and up by 6-7am.
Tim & Kate were nearly packed up and away by the time I was up and about, we chat and they set off to Fort Augustus.
As I had knocked off some of day's mileage I took it easy getting packed away and having breakfast.
Today route was supposed to be fairly easy and there was a nice track to following and the pylons that run into Fort Augustus give a good indication of where that route goes.
To b honest the walk down to Glen Moriston was pretty boring, the views were O.K. but you always had the pylons cutting through the views. From Glen Moriston it was again back into forest and the Old Military Road that runs into Fort Augustus.
I finally caught up with Tim & Kate and we walked the final few miles into Fort Augustus together, stopping off at the tea shop before I made my way to the new camp site, just over the bridge I bumped into Steven and Mervyn who were making their way back there. So we walked back together, I have a food parcel to pick up and once this was done and the tent pitched, Steven, Mervyn and I made our way to the pub for a meal.
The pub was pretty full of challengers; some faces I had seen over the last few days and some new ones. Time was spent mainly talking about how the last few days had gone.
Fort Augustus-Grava Bridge
This was a day of two half's, the first half enjoyable, the second a miserable experience.
I had decided that I was going to have a late start to the day and wandered in the village for breakfast. I sat by the locks and watched the boats going into Loch Ness for a while and as I was on the wrong side on the swing bridge had to wait for it to close before returning to the site and packing up.
I knew this was going to be big day for me, mainly because I hadn't done any walks that went as high as 800m in a long time.
Fort Augustus & Loch Ness
The late start meant that I was again walking on my own, which I didn't mind as I could stop and take pictures & video in my own time. The early part of the Corrieyairack was fairly easy and I made it to Blackburn bothy in good time, I did think there may be some challengers at the bothy but it was empty and closed up when I arrived.
I spent a bit of time videoing inside and outside the bothy, thinking I was the last to leave Fort Augustus I was surprise when two other challengers appeared in the doorway.
Leaving C&S to have a brew in the bothy I made my way back on to the path and bumped into J&S and couple of challengers I had meant in to pub last night.
Back on the path I made good progress to the bridge crossing the Allt lagan a Bhainne, which had a great place to camp but it was too early in the day to stop and pitch up. Further on I came to the old pack bridge crossing the Allt Coire Ucchdachan; while taking some pictures here, C&S passed me and this was the last I was to see of them for the day.
Over the next 3 km I climb over 350 m and it was one of the most unpleasant walks I've ever done. I don't know if it was because I was on my own or the my energy were low but it took a lot of my strength to keep moving forward and I was using any excuse to stop.
Even when reaching the electric substation which was just pass the high point of the pass I guessed I had another 5 km to Melgarve bothy and probably another 6 km to Garva bridge.
Up until now the path had been pretty reasonable but from the zig-zags going down the path was ripped up really bad, even when at the bottom of the pass the track was bad with rocks and the old cobbles all over the place making placing your feet difficult.
Close to Melgarve bothy I passed a chap with a push bike with baked bean cans strapped to the crossbar!
On reaching the bothy I spied one of the PoS and a chap with an accordion, which was the last thing I needed a night of song & dance, so I decided to push on. The camp site at Garva bridge was another 3 km along the road and although it was tarmac it was better than the surface I'd been on most of the day.
By now my left knee was giving me a lot of pain and I was limping quite badly.
I finally made it to Garva bridge around 8 pm, the first people I saw were H&N. Steven, Mervyn and Tim & Kate were also there but I didn't really feel like talking to anyone, so quick pitched the tent and had something to eat.
The day had really taking it's toll on me and I wasn't sure that I would be able to continue the next day.
Total Ascent:675 m
I woke around 7.00am and went for a little walk to stretch my legs and also to see how my knee was, it didn't feel too bad but then I wasn't carrying a pack.
Back at the tent I was undecided what to do, the plan for today was to get to the other side of Phones, near Kingussie but it meant that most of the day would be spent walking on roads.
The other options were to walk to Laggan and see how I felt and if need be give up there, walk to Laggan and camp up at the hotel but this would make the next day longer and then put pressure on me for the next few days.
Either way I knew that I had to get to Laggan before deciding the next move.
The walk from Garva Bridge to Laggan is about 11km all on roads and I walked this section with M, we were told about a part that we could get off the road for a bit and we took this but instead of going parallel to the road we ended up going SE and came out on the A86 South of Laggan; luckily then is a forest walk with good paths that we could follow to the bridge that crossing the river into Laggan.
Laggan Stores has everything a challenger could want, in fact so much it can be difficult to decide that to buy.
After a cup of coffee and a couple of sausage rolls it was time to make a decision.
My knee was still playing up but taking painkillers was help; so we set off towards Cluny castle to pick up the path, we were also joined by C&S who decided to go the same way.
The path to Glen Banchor was fairly easy and once we reached the bothy it was then just a matter of following the River Calder into Newtonmore.
The Camp site in Newtonmore was a bit basic but id the job, it also had the advantage of having a transport cafe across the road, so breakfast the next morning was sorted!
Later than evening M & I went into the town centre for a meal, there was some other challengers there, FoT, along with C&S.
Having at the start of the day though I wouldn't make the 10km to Laggan, I'd surprised myself and walked nearly 30km, I was sure I would get to the finish now.
The day started off with a big fry-up at the transport cafe, then it was on to the cycle path that leads to Kingussie again it was tarmac bashing but once pass Kingussie, I would be back on forest paths. I walked into Kingussie with M but we went separate ways as I had to pick up some bit in town.
One of the reasons my route went this way was because I wanted to visit Ruthven barracks. I spent an hour looking about the barracks and taking pictures and video.
As I was leaving the barracks, a farmer was bringing two highland cows into the area surrounding the barracks and they decided that the best place to stand was right on the path. I'm not that great with cattle and especially with one's with big horns, I wasn't sure the best way to get pass them, when the farmer called out 'Jist gie them a slap oan th' erse an' they'll suin move' I wasn't to sure that half a ton of hairy cow would be happy with that, I had the feeling I was going to be there some time.
Luckily the farmer came over and moved them of the path so I could get out through the gate.
Continuing up the road to Drumgish I caught up with M again, I not sure how he wasn't much further along as I'd been quite some time at the barracks and in Kingussie, we also came upon Bill Robertson who is I guess a super-super legend as he has completed 28 challenges and was on his 29th.
We all walked together for a while but I think BR like to walk on his own and was soon leaving me and M behind.
The walking was easy so I was striding along which meant that I times I would leave M behind and then when stopped he would catch me up, I not sure how he felt about this, as I think he liked to keep an eye on me as I was a first timer.
Around lunch time we meet the FoT having lunch so stopped to join them and have a chat. After lunch we all set of to enter Glen Feshie proper. We had the find a particular bridge crossing and the one that was usually used had been washed away in the winter.
Finding the new bridge wasn't to much of a problem, as it was a nice new bridge with a nice new sign.
The paths in the forest and to Ruigh-aiteachain bothy were easy walking the only major hurdle was crossing the Allt Garblach hich was in full spate and very deep at the crossing point. C&S were already on the other side but gave no indication of where the best place to cross was.
I made my way up the banks trying to find a easier crossing point, about 60m up the river was narrower but the water was flowing pretty fast. The water came up to my knees and was freezing cold, I could feel the pressure of the water trying to knock me over. Once across I saw M had crossed further up from me and had stayed fairly dry.
Once pitched; I made my way to the bothy to take a look around it and have dinner in there. The FoT were in there with a fire going, they were trying to dry out their boots which had been soaked while crossing the river, I so glad I was wearing the Terroc's.
The nice thing about this bothy is that it has its own flushing toilet although a lot different to the one's we all have at home.
Glen Feshie-White Bridge
Total Ascent: 520m
I decided that today I wanted to try and spend the day walking on my own, so delayed setting out early. I managed to leave between the FoT and M but this didn't last to long as I caught the FoT up by the landslip in Feshie and shortly after M caught us all up.
This is a problem were taking one of the more popular routes across Scotland finding solitude.
M and I soon leaving the FoT behind and walked together until we reached a place where I had thought to camp instead of at the bothy, it looked a good spot to stop and have a bite to eat, M decided that he would continue on and left me there.
This break allowed me the space between M walking in front and the FoT walking behind, to spend most of the rest of the day walking on my own.
The weather had really warmed up now and I was having to put sunscreen on, I was also glad I had my Talley with me as the sun was beating down. This stretch of the walk gave great views over on to the Cairngorms which still had a fair bit of snow on them.
Again the walking was easy until the point where you have to move away from the river Feshie to cross the river Eidart, this involves a 400m detour to a bridge and the path is boggy and slippery.
Bridge across the Eidart River
Once across the bridge I needed to find the path that would take me away for the Feshie and onto the Geldie Burn, this path wasn't easy to find at first so I took a bearing, which wasn't that difficult as I knew I wanted to be hearing East.
I soon found the path and was racing along it. Along there I saw my first and only Adder of the trip.
Shortly after I managed to catch M up along with BR, we walk to the bothy at red bridge together. C&S were camped here as they only had a short day, the next day as they were staying at Mar Lodge.
M and I pushed on to White Bridge which was to be our camp spot for the night. I think the hot weather and all the walking had finally caught up with me as I was really tried that night, after eating I crashed out until the next morning.
White Bridge turned out to be a popular camp spot as a lot more challengers had turned up after I went to bed. Today was the short walk into Braemar, a few challengers passed by while I was packing away, it seemed as everyone was in a hurry to get to Mar Lodge for their tea and biscuits.
On the walk in to Mar Lodge I meet up with Carl, and M finally caught me up.
You go around to the back of the lodge and are taken into a big kitchen where the tea & biscuits are served. FoT were already there along with P, shortly after Graham & his Wife Chris turned up. It was nice to see some new faces and to have a chat with them; although the conversations were similar it was nice to have them with different people.
I left the lodge with Carl, M & P and we headed up to the Victoria Bridge and then the road into Braemar, this road is a slog and having someone to chat to help to pass the time on it and we soon found ourselves in town.
Walking pass one of the cafe's I saw Steven, so popped in to say Hi. He was with Phil Turner and John this was the first I had meet Phil but I had chatted to him online and it was good to meet him in person. After a chat I moved on to the camp site.
After a shower and some washing I went back into the town centre and to sample the Fife Arms, I spend most of the afternoon in there with Andy, Steven, Phil, John and a few other challengers.
Later we made our way to the Hungry Highlander, I had heard Duncan mention this place a few times and wanted to try out the venison burger, the weather was so good we were able to sit outside to eat, after this I made my way back to the tent.
I have put no km walked today but if you do the challenge and spend any time in Bramaer, you will find that you spend a lot of time walking from the camp site into town and then back out again.
The day started with a visit to the cafe for breakfast, I sat in there was Andy and watched as the main bulk of challengers started to arrive; the first I saw was David Skipp who processed to order nearly everything on the menu.
After breakfast I had a wander around the town with took up about ½ an hour then I sat opposite the Fife Arms watch even more people arrive, I was on the lookout for Duncan as he had a parcel for me.
When Duncan arrive we made our way to the Fife Arms, we were soon joined by Andy, Shirley and Humphrey.
After getting my parcel and a few extra treats from Duncan I went back to the camp site, which now was completely full, so full that they were turning away anyone who wasn't a challenger.
The day had also turned into a scorcher and there wasn't to many places to go to get a reprise from the sun and the rumour was that it would be even hotter the next day.
In the evening there was a band playing in another hotel in the town and most of the crowd were up there, the entertainment was good and I spent some time watching the band with Andy and Shirley but when the dancing started I made a hasty retreat.
Braemar-Stables of Lee
Today was supposed to be hotter than yesterday, so I had an early start I was up and away by 5.30am. It was pretty quiet on the camp site as I left and the walk up to Invercauld Bridge was quite to hardly a car on the road.
The route through the Ballochbluie forest was unnerving as there were a few different paths to take and one could easily get lost in there. Once I got to the Connachat cottage I would be O.K. Just as I rounded the corner I saw a flash of red ahead of me, this turned out to be Carl who had, had the same idea to get away early.
As we were both heading for the Shielin of Mark bothy, we thought we may as well team up for the day.
Once out of the forest, it started to drizzle; so much for a hot day! The path was easy and we got to the Gelder Shiel bothy just before the rain came down.
We sat out the shower in the bothy and had breakfast in there, once the rain stopped we took a few pictures of the bothy and then got on a path that would take us back to the main path we should be on, this turned out to be a fair nit of heather bashing but we did have good views across to Lochnagar.
The path now started to go upwards but unlike day 4 I had no problems coping with it, at one point I looked back down the path and someone moving like a rocket, this rocket was Shap; he caught and passed us in a cloud of dust.
The Spittal of Glenmuick has a visitor centre which has a drinks vending machine which Carl and I made use of; while sitting and eat lunch, Graham & Chris appeared. As they were heading the same way we all teamed up to go on the hunt for the elusive Shielin of Mark bothy.
The first part is straightforward as you just follow the Allt Darrarie but then comes a point where you have to take a bearing for the bothy and turn away from the river.
Carl took a bearing on his compass and I got to use my GPSr for the first time, the route involved some bog hopping but luckily the bogs were quite dry. I had been told the the bothy was elusive because you can't see it until you are right on top on it.
Approaching Shielin of Mark Bothy
We arrived at the SoMB about 3.30pm and after a sit down and a bit to eat we decided to push on to the Stables of Lee. We set off around the streams that surround the bothy and made our way over to Muckle Cairn, again we were lucky that most of the bogs were pretty dry although it did take some time to reach the top, I was concentrating so much on the map I nearly walked straight into a tarn that wasn't marked on the map.
We had some trouble finding the path down off Muckle but once on the track it didn't take long to reach the stables. There was someone actually spending the night in there! We were happy to set up camp outside.
Stables of Lee-Tarfside
Although today was going to be a short day, I was still up early as I wanted to get to Tarfside and St.Drostan's as after twelve nights sleeping in a tent I wanted a proper bed.
I left Carl, Graham & Chris and sped off down the valley, on the way passing David Albon's group who had passed us late last night.
Path along Loch Lee
Although it was still early in the day all I had on my mind was a Bed and Bacon butties!
I could soon see the Hill of Rowan and knew that Tarfside wasn't far away, I was going to climb up the hill to the monument placed on it's top but as I got closer the lure of the bacon butties got the better of me and I carried on to Tarfside.
I wasn't the first to arrive, but I was pretty close. There were some challengers already in and enjoying themselves, I took a place at the table and ordered my butties and asked if there were any rooms available, 'yes, would I like one?' I would, so I installed myself in a room then when off for a shower.
By now Carl, Graham, Chris & Andy had all arrived. I decided to take a wandered down to the sports ground to see who was about, there were quite a few tents, among they was Shap, John, Mervyn and Bill, I stopped and had a chat with them all, I was kind of wishing that I had camped out instead of taking a bed.
By now it was time to get back to the hostel for the evening meal. After the meal we were sitting around the hostel having a couple of beers and thinking what to do for the evening, Carl said that he'd never been to the Mason's Arms and as I wanted to experience all on the challenge, we made our way down there.
The Mason's was full of challengers, all having a good time. Carl and I spend awhile in the Mason's and I met Philip again, the first time since Shiel Bridge.
Carl and I strolled back to the hostel around 9.30pm and although it hadn't been a very physical day it had been tiring.
Tarfside-North Water Bridge
I decided to skip breakfast at the hostel and go to the retreat instead, the retreat is a museum/restaurant/tearooms and a place that the challengers like as there was a stack of packs outside when I arrived.
For the past two days my right shin had been hurting, today it was really hurting. Every footfall caused pain to shoot up the front of my leg, it looked like I had developed the dreaded shin splints.
After breakfast I made my way along the road with the other challengers as there were quite a few strung out along it, Henry Shires went speeding pass, I did try to match his pace but this lasted for all of 100m.
Once off the road and on to the track along the river Esk my leg didn't so bad this was probably more to the painkillers kicking in than the track.
The walking now started to resemble the type of walking I usually do, alongside rivers and through pastures. I walked for a few kms with Richard & Sheila, it was Sheila's first and Richard's second, although there was a gap of 10 years or so since his first!
Walking into Edzell I saw Carl & John sitting outside the pub, so joined them for a pint. It was then on to the Tuck Inn, Andy was already there along with a few other challengers, and Geoff another blogger.
Philip then turned up; having not seen him for the first ten days or so, we seemed to be bumping into each other at every turn now.
Outside the cafe the packs were stacking up.
After eating it was a trip to the grocery store to get some provisions for the night at NWB.
When I first planned this walk I always thought it strange that people would walk into Edzell only to have to walk out again to cross the river, it was only a few days before setting out that I realised that there was a bridge in the village, but I still had to find it. Luckily there were enough villagers around to ask and I soon found the path down to it, I saw Philip coming down the high street and thought he may have the same problem finding the path as me so waited for him.
As we crossing the bridge we were joined by Rob. It was now time to walk the 5km road into NWB camp site.
This road is dead straight and has quite a lot of traffic on it, you have to keep an eye out for the big dumper trucks that fly down it; although to give them their due they do give you a wide berth.
The walk down the road soon pass as we chatted about our challenge experiences and gear; arriving at the site there were already quite a few tents pitched and familiar faces in Andy, Carl, John, Mervyn, Cameron and Graham & Chris.
Time was spent sitting around chatting until it got a bit to cold and then it was into the tent for the night.
North Water Bridge-St. Cyrus
Total Ascent: 280m
I was up and away fairly early but not as early as Philip who must of left about 5 am. The first challenge of the day was getting across the A90; having avoided these type of roads or nearly two weeks it was quite a shock trying to cross.
Once across it was back on to leafy lanes with views back to the mountains, I hear the familiar click-clack of poles on the road and turned to see Andy had caught me up, Andy had been suffering with a bad back for most of the trip but he was certainly going at a pretty good pace.
My shins were again hurting and I although I wanted to get the walk finished I was taking it easy and stopping quite frequently.
There is a little climb up the hill of Morphie and once over this you can see the church at St. Cyrus which still looks far away but pretty soon the church gets closer and the sea begins to appear.
Once pass the church the view opens out to the beach and the sea.
I now had to make my way down to the beach, which I didn't really fancy doing but I did feel that if I didn't it wouldn't feel like I'd finished.
I walk down was painful on my shins but once down on the beach to was soon forgotten.
I walked out to the sea to dip my shoes in the North Sea, Andy was already there and we shook hands, he also took my picture.
Picture courtesy of Andy
So that was it, all that needed be done was climb back up to the top of the cliff.
We made our way to the tearooms, passing Mervyn & Carl making there way to the beach.
Rob was already in the tearoom and Andy & I were soon tucking into coffee & teacakes, it was then off to catch the bus into Montrose.
The bus ride was uneventful but it was strange to be moving that fast and not under my own power. We soon arrived in Montrose and it was full of 'normal' people all moving in different directions and all in a hurry it seemed, this was going to take some getting use to.
I followed Andy & Rob to the Park Hotel and made our way up to challenge control to meet Roger and the rest of challenge control. Roger handed out our certificates, badge and free samples of whisky.
We sat around drinking tea and chatting about the event until the next group of finishers arrived, we then made our way to the camp site. Once pitched it was time for a shower and some clean clothes. I didn't have any plans for the evening but Carl said there was a group of them going to a pub and I was welcome to join them, so I ended up going to dinner with Carl, Graham, Chris and one of the Tower twins (I still don't know which twin it was!).
I spent the final day moping about Montrose; it was strange not having to get up and walk for 8-10 hours, the highs from the last two weeks were starting to wear off already.
Having constant contact with home also made me feel depressed and I really just wanted to go home and see my wife and kids.
I didn't go to the meal but did pop along to hear the speeches and see the presentations, it was then into the bar to have a couple of end of the challenge pints.
Next morning it was on the train back home with my first TGO challenge under my belt.
Video's from the trip can be seen here