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Day 42 - 45

May 14 2023 Day 42

Today’s Munros –

A’ Chailleach – the Old Woman

Carn Sgulain – Hill of the Basket

Carn Dearg – Red Hill

Total Munros – 123

Parked above Newtonmore for the night with a rewarding visit to the Balavil Hotel in the early evening, Cr282 had a more leisurely start since the forecast of early rain proved correct. The parking spot was both popular for touring visitors as well as locals who enjoyed the meandering tracks with dogs, children and bikes. Some were going higher like Euan but not many on this misty, wet day. A local couple and child who had been wild swimming were especially welcoming, interested in the Challenge and willing to advise on local eateries. Another couple from Shropshire were attracted to the St Mungos logo on the van and promptly gave cash as a donation into the Cr282 box when they heard what it was all about. Another couple and fellow campers, Ruth and Jon, also donated through the JustGiving page. Thank you all.

Euan made good progress across all three Munros and even contemplated a fourth one which was within reach but involved a considerable trek from Carn Dearg. With a lengthy cycle still to complete at the end of the day and the usual admin duties piling up, he wisely decided to return to the van where he had a quick snack before cycling to the Spey Dam at Laggan.

After a quick shop in Newtonmore – at the Coop where else, with the commander’s loyalty card ticking over nicely – Invernahavon campsite was chosen for the night. In fact, it was found to be so convenient, quiet, very spacious and had a good signal that it was agreed to spend a second night there. The commander thought the fees were very reasonable too – a factor which Euan also noted – and he probably thought that he might, just might, be able to get his washing done since the commander had dominated the washing machine on day one both in use and using up all the £1 pound coins for said machine.

Some readers of a certain vintage will be glad to hear that A’ Chailleach – The Old Woman – was named with no particular person in mind. One expert suggested that since there are no less than 15 A’ Chailleach’s in Scotland, it is a tribute to the longevity of the female of the species and the respect and esteem in which the old – both male and female are held. The commander can only agree with this analysis and that this opinion should be more widely shared.

May 15 2023 – Day 43

Today’s Munros –

Geal Charn – White Hill

Meall Chuaich – Hill of the Quaich

Total Munros - 125

The campsite at Invernahavon was a lovely place for Cr282 to wake up in. Despite the early morning sun, it seemed chillier than previous days. Once parked at the Spey Dam at Laggan, a cold drizzle started, and the cold wind remained. Euan used his bike to travel up Glen Markie and decided to ignore an earlier plan to go around Lochan

a Choire and went straight up the ridge to get to the summit. He returned from the 15k route in double quick time. He then made the trip to Dalwhinnie where he was able to negotiate the crossing of a river by a bridge, a railway by a crossing and then the very busy A9 by an underpass. He then continued on his bike up to the base of Meall Chuaich where he met a lone Munro bagger from Salisbury. He was in his 70’s and had completed 60+ of them. Slow and steady was his motto then. After summitting, Euan sped down the A9 by the adjoining cycle track to Balsporran Cottages.

The name “Balsporran” intrigues. It was probably perfectly well named but this writer cannot help thinking that a visiting Hollywood film crew renamed it from the normal, for example, White Cottages, because they are, to Balsporran because it sounds more stereotypical Scottish in a Brigadoon style.

Dalwhinnie used to be an important stopping point for the drovers who used to drive cattle from the north of Scotland to the markets in the south – Crieff and Falkirk in particular. Drovers, their dogs and cattle slept out overnight as they used the glens and high passes to find the best way to the south.

You will also see another Geal Charn on the list – there are no less than 14 in Scotland. The COHN group (Committee on Hill Names) must either have poor memories or poor record keeping thinking that this name is original. It may have some excuse here though because there are several “whiter shades of pale.” To explain, there are three words for white in Gaelic – ban – is a pale white (think of a Scotsman’s legs in shorts in May); fionn – white with a hint of lilac (think peace, love, tranquillity…. or the colour of the usual air freshener cannister); geal – bright, clear white (think of the new white shirt straight out of the packet compared to the ones through lots of washes with colours.) Those readers who can recall the differences in these “white” hills in later blogs will have moved to the advanced level of the as yet unverified Gaelic Hill Names for Beginners. The writer is reminded of the disputed claim that the Innuits, the native people of Lapland, had many different names for snow – anything from 27 to 50 have allegedly been found. Scotland also has many such names – sna’ and mair sna’ or drifts and blin’ drifts or dry sna’ and weet sna’. More international is yellow snow…. (Stop – The Editor)

On returning to Invernahavon, the campsite was busier than previously due partly to the number of walkers who were taking part in the TGO Challenge – an annual walk, not a competition, to walk across Scotland from west to east. Euan met a group of engineers from the services who were talking part, one of whom who had mutual acquaintances. Another, Hamish from England, entertained the campsite in the early evening with some tunes on his pipes. Campsites are never dull.

May 16 2023 Day 44

The commander woke up this morning with an itch – no, he wasn’t going to suddenly leave Cr282 and strike out on his own challenge – this was a small, physical itch behind his right knee. A tick!

A check on Wikipedia on ticks will satisfy both those who are medically curious and those who are just plain nosey. Seriously everyone should check the NHS inform site – Tick Bites for a clear and comprehensive description of ticks, symptoms, precautions and treatment. This small parasitic arachnid has become far more common in recent years and anyone who is out and about in the countryside should be aware of the dangers – Lyme disease in particular.

Euan was able to “howk” out (Scottish vernacular for dig out – the Editor) the blood sucking tick with a special tick remover and then a tweezers to get remnants of it. He then used antiseptic over the bite area. He said that he would not charge for the treatment – usually £50 – as long as the commander didn’t want to see details of his medical competence. To be fair, the treatment was efficiently and professionally carried out and the patient was suitably grateful.

Back at Balsporran Cottages, Euan was soon on his way to his first Munro of the day in what was going to be a relatively short day.

Geal Charn – White Hill

A’ Mharconaich – The Place of Horses

Sgairneach Mhor – Big Scree

Beinn Udlamein – Jointed Hill

Total Munros – 129

For advanced level Gaelic Hill Names students – What colour of “white” is Euan’s first Munro – Geal Charn? Please revise previous blog as homework if you cannot answer.

The rest of the Munros quickly followed in 3hrs 49 mins. Cr282 was parked at layby79 on the A9 and was glad Euan returned so quickly because the van was being buffeted as every lorry and large van hurtled past. Next stop was a late or second lunch at a Newtonmore café where the commander then rested while Euan went to have a haircut. The difference between a normal price for a haircut and beard trim and to the reduced one for Ch282 was added to the Ch282 donation box. Thank you, Brannans Barbers. The commander wondered if businesses which helped Ch282 should not be awarded a crest of some sort - a la “by royal appointment”? (Does one not think that one has ideas above one’s station? – The Editor)

The rest of the day included such admin as serious planning for a multi-day route between Dalwhinnie and Kinlochleven – the café table and floor was suitably large for maps. Euan reminded the commander as he was wont to do on such occasions – “Time spent on recce is seldom wasted” and then as he packed, “Travel light, freeze at night.” The commander did think, however, that after checking the weight of Euan’s packed sack that it did not seem light, but then again would the commander be “toasty” at night.

May17 2023 – Day 45

Today’s Munros –

A’ Bhuidheanach – The Little Yellow Place

Carn na Caim. – Hill of the Curve

Total Munros – 131

As has been described before, bhuide is the mellow yellow of dried, matted grass rather than the fluorescent yellow of security worker’s bibs everywhere. These hills are well known to the many travellers at Drumochter lying northeast of this busy route through the Highlands. It would be remiss of the writer not to mention “Monarch of the Glen” the TV series aired between 2000 – 2005 which was filmed in the area around Laggan and Newtonmore. It seemed to this viewer that the location was the star of this series.

Cr282 reluctantly left one of the best parking spots of the trip – Glen Banchor above Newtonmore. Locals had conveniently placed benches unobtrusively in this whole area so that they and visitors alike could enjoy the views and wildlife – roe deer and birds small and large. Well worth a visit for a wander. At a lesser height than the Drumochter Munros are – An Torc and Meall an Dobharchain – The Boar and Hill of the Watercress respectively. They then renamed An Torc, the Boar of Badenoch and so they had to – you’ve guessed it – renamed the Hill of the Watercress – The Sow of Atholl! Sometimes COHN is just too predictable. Anyway these two hills tend to guard the Munros on either side.

Cr282 found layby no 87 was slightly further away from the buffeting draught of the heavy traffic which it had to endure the previous day. Euan, meanwhile, had an unexpected reunion with Lottie on a hill – this woman was doing an unsupported round of the Munros and Euan had met her and a companion a few days ago on a similar Munro bagging route. Again this is not a competition. Euan completed the two Munros in 2hrs 27 mins before a short cycle run to Dalwhinnie station. The writer was aware of the unilateral decision of Network Rail to lock the gates at the level crossing which gave people easy access to Loch Ericht and beyond. He was heartened to see that a serious campaign is in process to force Network Rail to reverse this decision. It was galling to hear that Network Rail had made this decision after the community had provided a carpark at the crossing and its solution to the locked gates is a circuitous route up a station footbridge and along a boggy path. It also blocks an ancient right of way.

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The afternoon at the campsite was spent on “admin” – regular readers will know this is shorthand for clothes washing, showers and preparations for the next day or in this case, a serious expedition from Dalwhinnie to Kinlochleven.

Heading west again...


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