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TGO Challenge 2009 - A Third Walk Across Scotland

Day 8 - Friday 15th May
Corrour bothy to Braemar
(13 miles/300 metres ascent)

TGO Challenge 2009 - Part 7

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I slept well for the first part of the night, but woke at about 0200 needing to go to the loo.

Crazy as it might sound, I found that I was genuinely nervous about getting out of the tent. After all, I really have read a lot of creepy stories about Corrour bothy since 2005, including one which involved some sort of cowled figure spotted hanging around by the stream by a woman who left her tent to go to the loo in the middle of the night, and I don't believe that they were all inventions, misunderstandings or figments of overactive imaginations. Uh-oh...

I thought about getting out my Shewee, but a series of unfortunate late-night accidents involving large damp patches on my sleeping bag had finally convinced me that the Shewee and I are not safe bed fellows, and I was unwilling to risk another incident. I sat around undecided for 20 minutes or so, wondering whether I'd be able to get back to sleep without a pee, but finally I concluded that I couldn't and so I carefully unzipped the inner, and then the outer, and levered myself cautiously out onto the grass.

I was careful not to look too closely in the direction of the stream in case I spotted something terrifying, and I even refrained from using my head torch, lest it should alert any ghosties, ghoulies or Big Grey Men to my reluctant presence outside the tent. I'm happy to report, though, that nothing jumped down from the Devil's Point to frighten me, and that I didn't detect any sort of supernatural manifestations at any stage during the five seconds or so that I spent dropping my bed pants, squatting in a half-hearted sort of fashion and leaping almost from a standing position back into the comforting safety of the inner tent. Phew!

Having regained the security of the tent I was flooded with relief, and took the opportunity to record it for Bob, and for posterity. Then I rewarded myself for bravery with a few squares of chocolate, and settled back down to read my book for a while.

When I next woke it was 0500, and it was immediately obvious that some sort of malignant transformation had recently occurred in the weather department. The tent was shuddering spasmodically in the wind, and when I unzipped the outer I was faced with a bleak scene involving low, black clouds and a most unpleasant looking drizzle.

I closed the outer and sat back to consider the situation. It was immediately obvious that there would be very little point in attempting to scale Ben Macdui in such nasty conditions, and I experienced more than a frisson of disappointment at the realisation that my exciting plans for the day weren't going to materialise after all. Having said that, it occurred to me only moments later that the sensible thing would probably be to go directly to Braemar, and at the prospect of fish and chips followed by a visit to the Fyfe Arms I found that my spirits began to rise quite amazingly!

Just as I was picturing myself in the heady atmosphere of the chippy I heard a very loud and unexpected rattling outside, and it crossed my mind that Colin's tarp might have blown down. I was reaching for the outer when I heard Colin's voice outside, and I drew up the zip to find him crouching at the door to my tent.

It transpired that he had also been woken by the wind, and that a peep at the conditions had convinced him too that the best thing would be to head straight for Braemar. Plan sorted, we agreed to meet in the bothy to make a drink, and so I slipped into my walking clothes and made my way across.

Grizzly scene outside Corrour bothy after the change in the weather

There was nobody up in the bothy, but small sounds from the direction of the sleeping platform and the floor beneath it suggested that some people were awake. Colin and I moved as quietly as possible to seats at the table, and when a couple of minutes later it became clear that somebody was getting up I decided to light my stove to make some hot chocolate.

Hot choccy on the table in Corrour bothy

The fireplace

The two Challengers, Richard and Andy, were up first, and Charlie soon followed them. We all discussed the change in the weather, and it turned out that Richard and Andy were going to head towards Braemar as well. Charlie and Tom had finished their trip, and so they were going to head back up towards Aviemore in order to collect their car and drive home.

Window at Corrour bothy

I asked whether anyone had been woken by ghostly disturbances during the night, but sadly it turned out that nobody had. Andy actually said he'd spotted a figure standing by the window, but I'm pretty sure he was winding me up. Tut, tut! :) I'll just have to return on another occasion and sleep inside, but I'm pretty sure I won't be doing it on my own!

Colin dreaming of the delights of Braemar

Drinks and chat over, it was time to go back out and pack up. There's always time for a footwear picture first, though :)

Crocs Rule!

The Devil's Point

It was still raining intermittently, so I did most of my packing inside the tent. Colin packed up more quickly than me...

Colin finishes his packing

...and then retired, with John, to the bothy porch to await the trog into Braemar.

Having packed everything else away, I turned finally to the tent. Getting it down and into its stuff sack was an interesting experience in the gusting winds, but eventually I managed it, and a couple of minutes later I was ready to go.

It was 0710 when we left. The path was narrow, and so we walked in single file: first Colin and then me, with John bringing up the rear. We cracked along as quickly as we could go, because in such high winds conversation was impossible, and we were all keen to get to Braemar as soon as we could, to take refuge in the chippy, or one of the cafes. I dug out my MP3 player and listened to some music. It was very exhilarating, and eventually I began to hum, and finally to sing. I enjoyed the walk immensely, and it felt like no time at all before we were approaching Derry Lodge, where I'd had a great night's camping with a big bunch of pals back in 2006.

Crossing the stream above Derry Lodge

On the approach to Derry Lodge the path broadened out, and it was finally possible to talk.

Colin and John

I was still bound up in the music, though, and so I dropped back a little as John and Colin walked on ahead, chatting together.

John and Colin

Eventually we arrived at the grounds which surround Mar Lodge, and spotted a very welcoming sign.

The lodge itself looked equally welcoming, and as we passed it occurred to me, and not for the first time, that it would be a very interesting place to stay.

Finally we emerged from the grounds of Mar Lodge and onto the road. Just as it had in 2006, the walk into Braemar soon began to feel interminable. The map suggests that it's only 3 miles, but it feels much further than that to me. I suppose it's the result of excited anticipation!

Slugs were everywhere--even scaling the bushes--and I passed a bit of time by moving a few to safety, from the middle of the road to the grass at the side.

Slugs in a gorse bush

There wasn't much else to look at, and I recorded a bit of an update for Bob to pass a little more time. Eventually, though, we arrived on the outskirts of the village, and at 1110, four hours after we'd left Corrour bothy, we turned in to the Old Bakery next to the Fife Arms, heaved our rucksacks onto the large pile just inside the door and bagged the last remaining table. Hurrah!

We weren't at all surprised to find Kate and Andy already installed, and surrounded by newspapers, though I reckon they were pretty surprised to see us :)

Kate and Andy at the Old Bakery

Phil Turner was also there, and he left his table and came over to join Colin, John and me.

After that, a great deal of happy and contented eating went on. Almost everybody was having the enormous full breakfast the Old Bakery provides, with the free tea or coffee that they offer to Challengers.

Kate and Andy settling to their enormous breakfasts

Colin's enormous breakfast

I had egg and chips, though, and it was truly wonderful, with soft eggs for dipping my chips into. Ultra-yum!

My wonderful brekky :)

Colin had spotted a chocolate cake on first entering the cafe, and so as soon as he'd eaten the first part of his brekky he had to have some, addicted to chocolate as he is.

Colin moves on to the chocolate cake

Although we were now warm and well fed our clothes and packs were soaked, and so we hatched a plan to go straight to the Fife Arms after breakfast. Just to dry out our kit, you understand... We therefore settled up and got our things together, and a couple of minutes later I was depositing my pack and things beside a large table in the pub and rushing over to greet Humphrey Weightman, who had somehow guessed that we would be there and very selflessly installed himself at the bar to await our arrival :)

Humphrey and I had had a gin & tonic plan in place for the Fife Arms for many months, and we lost no time in putting it into action. Little Peewiglet got a little carried away, and had a few sips at my drink while I wasn't looking. Naughty wee piglet!

Little Peewiglet contemplates my drink

Ooh, delicious!

Uh-oh... hic!

Somehow, many happy hours passed as we all chatted away, telling terrifying tales of high winds and rivers in spate, catching up with old friends, greeting new arrivals and growing steadily more intoxicated, and all in the cause of properly dry kit. Blisters and other wounds were examined and compared...

Something seriously wrong with Humphrey's leg

...and late morning progressed seamless to late afternoon.

Yippee!!! Happy Challengers assiduously drying their kit in the Fife Arms

At some stage I realised that it was almost time for the shops to close, and that I still hadn't made my first visit to Braemar Mountain Sports. Oh, noes! I'd planned to buy some wicking knickers, and as it no longer seemed likely that I'd be doing any laundry that night I gathered my pennies together and jogged round to the shop, where a bemused male assistant spent ten minutes or so guiding me in detail through the relative merits of quite an extensive range of wicking female underwear. I eventually bought three pairs and jogged back to the pub, with my expensive new purchases stuffed into a pocket.

Eventually we decided it was time to get something to eat, and so we made our way over to the excellent fish and chip shop. Most people had fish and chips, but I decided to try the venison burger. It was good, but not as good as the fish, I suspect. Sadly, by that stage I'd forgotten my plan to keep a pictorial record--or maybe I'd simply forgotten how to use the camera--but one way or another I have no photo to record the event.

The foul weather early in the trip had led to a spate of cancellations in the accommodation dotted around the village, and so Phil, Colin and I dumped our plan to camp and booked into a B&B instead. Eventually we went there--I'm no longer sure what time it was--and not an awfully long time later I was sleeping the contented sleep of the exhausted and semi-inebriated Challenger...

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