Title Page - text reads Ultimate Challenge 1988 Lochailort to St Cyrus 13 to 22 May by Peter Goddard

Thursday 12th May

My intention was to arrive at Lochailort, get a meal at the pub and camp for the night somewhere close for an early getaway in the morning. Two out of three was not bad. Due to the weather I decided to take up the offer of a B&B, albeit on a put-you- up. Still a good breakfast would make up for missing a night in the tent.

View of Lochailort
Lochailort before I realised that I had lost my compass.   photo © Peter Goddard

Friday 13th May

The day started a typical Friday 13th. At least I managed to find my way out of the village before I lost my compass! After climbing up along the glen I gained the col. The original plan had been to climb all five Corbetts between Lochailort and Glenfinnan but one look at An Stac made me realise how unfit I was. So I left the pack and climbed Rois Bheinn before wending my way along to Sgurr na Ba Glaise. The weather had been quite kind and I was making good progress until I saw Beinn Mhic Cedidh! I chickened out, cut down from the col and found a decent camp site, put up the tent and had dinner. After a while I thought stopping so early was silly so I packed up again and headed for Glenfinnan; silly boy. I wandered along admiring the scenery until I fell in a bog. I dried out by walking along the railway line and then down the road to Glenfinnan. Plan B was to find a pub for a pint, that was fine. Then to pitch the tent, not so fine as the area is very low laying, hence very boggy and surprisingly for so early in the year alive with midges. So Plan C was B&B. The B&B was strange as I only saw the owner once, to sign in, then he left me saying breakfast would be at 7:30. Hope this B&B lark does not become a habit otherwise it could be a very expensive trip.

Sgurr na Ba Glaise
Sgurr na Ba Glaise.   photo © Peter Goddard
An Stac from Rois Bheinn
An Stac from Rois Bheinn.   photo © Peter Goddard

Sat 14th May

Breakfast was at 7:30 but I did not see anyone until I needed to pay when a lady popped out of the kitchen and took the money without a word of thanks or even a cheery "Good bye". On the back of the door was a very terse note stating "Keep this door closed"; charming I thought until I opened it and came face to face with a hind. They are quite large when seen from a couple of feet. She must have been expecting her breakfast as I practically had to push her aside to get through the door. Then I was up the road for a while before taking the path past Callop. I stood and watched a buzzard hunting for a while before climbing up to the saddle for a 10 o'clock tea break. After tea I dropped down into Cona Glen walking to the start of the land rover track and then cut across the glen towards Stob a'Chuir. I had lunch at about 12:30 and made the bealach in good time. I watched a herd of deer down at Lochan Dubh for a while before walking down towards them. It was too wet to camp near the lochan so I walked about 2km down stream before finding somewhere suitable. After pitching the tent by 3pm I did some washing and other "house work" before dining while watching an eagle soar hundreds of feet above the glen. Bed by 7pm.

The hind outside the B&B
My early morning visitor.   photo © Peter Goddard

Sun 15th May

After getting away by 6:30 I wandered down the glen for a few Km before stopping for breakfast and ablutions. Then it was across the river and up to Lochan na Beinne Baine. Leaving the sack I walked up the rough nose to the summit of Beinn na h- Uamah for some splendid views across Moidart. Back at the lochan I had a brief swim before dropping down to Glen Gour for a late lunch. Walking down the glen I decided to stop before I got too close to civilisation and had dinner while watching heron and ducks on the loch. Early to bed as the midges were out, very early this year.

Lochan Dubh
Lochan Dubh.   photo © Peter Goddard

Mon 16thMay

An easy day planned for today with most of it on tracks and roads. Woke at 5am when the alarm went off and after breakfast and phoning Avril I walked on to the Corran Ferry, which is free for pedestrians. I had picked up my supplies from the Post Office OK but there were no shops for fresh food, bread etc. Walking through Onich I entered the forestry and climbed up via the Waterfall Walk to the forest road. A lovely walk which I have done several times since. At the end of the forestry there is a stile and a vague path begins the descent to Lundavra Farm. I stopped here and had lunch and caught up with the washing. Then it was on to the farm and across the river to the West Highland Way (WHW), an old Wade's Road, stopping for a brew I met my first walker for four days; not a Challenger but a guy on his last day on the WHW and heading for Fort William for the night. As I left the forestry I found an old tin shepherd's shack and decided to stop for the night. Sitting eating my dinner I am contemplating the Mamors and whether I will be able to get on to the ridge in the morning.

The old tin shepherd's hut
My luxurious overnight accommodation   photo © Peter Goddard

Tue 17th May

I had broken camp by 6:15. As I finished breakfast the clouds were breaking and the weather looked reasonable so I decided to take a chance on the hills. By 8:30 I was on my first Munro, Mullach nan Coirean, then it was on to Stob Ban and Sgor an Iubhair. After Am Bodach it was Stob Coire a'Chairn. Dropping down to the bealach above Coire na Ba I met an old guy who had walked up from Kinlochleven as he does almost every week, weather permitting. After Na Gruagaichean it was on to my last top for the day (Binnein Mor), I had decided to miss out Beinnin Beag, seven Munros in a day being enough for me. Dropping down towards Loch Eilde Mor via Coire an Lochan I gained the track to Luibeit Bothy. As I cross the small burn I slipped and ended hanging between two rock ledges with my backside inches above the swiftly flowing burn. I managed to get myself out without getting wet or losing my pack but it was "a damn close run thing" as someone once said. Then it was short stroll to Meanach Bothy for the night. I was feeling very pleased with myself after a hard but successful day until I read the bothy book. David Thomas had spent the previous night at the bothy after ascending 10 of the 11 Munros in the Mamor range. Apart from David only four other Challengers had been through and I wondered where the rest were as this bothy used to be on such a popular route, Glen Nevis to Ossian Youth Hostel. If the weather holds then I'll spend tomorrow night at the foot of Ben Alder and have a go at it on Thursday.

The Mamor Ridge, Beinnin Mor in the distance.
The Mamor Ridge, Beinnin Mor in the distance.   photo © Peter Goddard

Weds 18th May

The day began well, I rolled over and had a lay in! I finally had breakfast and got away by 7:20 only to stop after an hour for a brew opposite Staoineag Bothy and it was here that I met my first Challenger (No.77) cleaning his teeth. When I got to the end of Loch Treig I photographed the train which had made a timely arrival and while I was changing maps Challenger 74 made an appearance. We walked up to the railway and had lunch, he then went his own way as I had decided to climb Beinn na Lap, the weather having improved somewhat. I was about half way up when it began to snow, I dropped the pack, made the top in record time and descended to pick up my gear before it disappeared in a snow drift then continued down to the loch side for a brew. By this time the snow had become rain and was getting heavier by the minute. After waiting for it to abate I decided to camp by the loch where I had some shelter. The rain eventually stopped and I wondered if I had made the correct decision but after an hour it started again and kept going all night.

Loch Ossian from Beinn na Lap.
Loch Ossian from Beinn na Lap.   photo © Peter Goddard

Thu 19th May

I woke early and got away quickly while the weather was still dry. I arrived at the end of Loch Ossian and walked through the woods to emerge on the shoulder of the hill. From the bridge it was an easy walk up to the bealach but the path was giving a good impression of a fast running burn. Having arrived at the bealach I decided not to climb Ben Alder as I could not see the top 500 meters! As I had not made it to my planned campsite last night I had the extra mileage to do today so time was getting tight as well. I arrived at Culra Bothy and spent an hour over lunch. Then it was off on the slog to Dalwhinnie where I arrived at 4pm, on the way I must have changed into and out of my waterproofs a dozen times as heavy showers blew along the loch. I managed to get a B&B at Mrs. McDonald's; there was an odd arrangement here as I slept in one house and had breakfast next door at her daughter's! (At that time Mrs. Mac must have been well into her eighties so it was a reasonable arrangement). I met Bernie Hynes, better known as "57" and "Cooperman", Keith Skeens. Soon after Jo & Jean Brown arrived and after a meal we adjourned to the Grampian where we met up with Dave Gothard (Vatman), Geoff Evans and Ray Swinburn whose wife Mary was taking a turn on Control this year with Barbara Dawes. Bed at 11.

Fri 20th May

It is now 8pm and I'm laying in my tent watching a build up of nasty weather and thinking that I will be cold tonight as I am camped at 840mt right on the Minigaig at 810850. The day started well and by 11:30 I had hiked up the old quarry road to Carn na Cain, my 12th top. I followed my planned route past Vinegar Hill and aimed to climb An Dun but didn't, I stopped for lunch and watched another eagle instead. After an hour or so I wandered on startling a herd of about 100 deer. Passing south of Loch an Dun I climbed up onto the plateau and found a series of white marker stones which I thought may lead to a bothy but didn't, at least I never found one. As the walking was so easy I wandered on until I found this pleasant spot and pitched for the night which puts me about 8km in front of my planned route.

Peter Goddard at brew stop.
Your author, 25 years younger and much less Grumpy.   photo © Peter Goddard

Sat 21st May

The day started well despite having ice on both the outside and inside of the tent. I made my first top of the day, Leathad an Taobhain, by 7:30. After spending the first week without a compass I had managed to borrow one from Jean Brown in Dalwhinnie and now messed up my route finding by walking past my way point and having to retrace my steps. I overshot the way point simply because I was walking much faster than I estimated as the plateau was covered with hard packed snow and I was walking at more than 5kph. Back on route I reached Carn an Fhidhleir by 12:30. Dropping down into the bealachI decided to by pass the 300mt ascent of An Sgarsoch, head for Geldie Lodge and walk on to my UC87 camp site at the junction of the Allt an t-Seilich and the Geldie Burn. No sooner had I put down the sack when Pete Hirst et al appeared on the far bank and proceeded to ford the Geldie. I did not take much persuading to walk on to White Bridge and pitch with a dozen others before the short push into Braemar the next day.

Sun 22nd May

Left White Bridge at 6am, arrived in Braemar at 9:20; Braemar closed! Met Mic (Quincey) and other assorted Challengers then spent most of the day eating and drinking (mainly tea) until it was time to book in at the YH. After dinner we returned to the Fife for a couple of pints before retiring to sleep on a real bed

My home made light weight shelter
My home made light weight shelter.   photo © Peter Goddard

Mon 23rd May

I woke after the worst night's sleep I'd had on the whole trip. Missed breakfast and left the hostel to walk up to Callater Lodge, arriving at 10am we found about 40+ challengers doing the same before most climbed Jock's Road. We headed towards Carn an t-Sagairt Mor aiming to by pass it on the path but somehow ended up on the summit! From there it was off to Carn Bannoch and Broad Cairn so that Mic could get his high level route, this gave me a total of 17 Munros and Corbetts. I considered this quite good as I had missed so many planned tops early in the walk. We stopped at the pony stable for lunch then headed down to Loch Muick and ended the day in the MRT crash pad at he Spittal. (Unfortunately this facility is no longer available). Only two other Challengers came in, so it was a quiet night.

Glen Lee
Glen Lee   photo © Peter Goddard

Tue 24th May

We were now leaving the big hills behind and I always feel the Challenge is now running down fast and that it's all down hill to the coast. Leaving the Spittal by the usual route we arrived at the Shielin of Mark Bothy by 8:30 and stopped for a brew before wandering over Muckle Cairn and down to Loch Lee stopping to chat to the farmer on his rounds while having our lunch break. At the Glen Mark car park we were passed by the Fifes walking much faster than we were capable of, so what's new! We plodded our way past Westbank Farm and into Tarfside by 2:15. We had tea in the lounge before putting the tents up and waiting for new arrivals to wander in. (These were the days when Challengers could camp on Mrs. Guthrie's lawn at the Parsonage).

Tents at Mrs. Guthrie's lawn at the Parsonage
The Parsonage, Tarfside   photo © Peter Goddard

Weds 25th May

As we were in no hurry to leave we were in the third sitting for breakfast! Last night there had been 25 tents on the lawn and two Challengers sleeping on the lounge floor. We headed for Edzell in the company of Jo & Jean and Chris Sainty parting company as we stopped for a brew. We had lunch in Edzell and pushed on to Westside Farm where I had camped in previous years but there was no site available this time so we went on to Westerton just as Jo & Jean arrived. The farmer, Mr. Gibson, gave us two eggs each and showed us where to pitch then it was just a case of a bit of washing, dinner and bed.

St. Cyrus beach
St. Cyrus beach   photo © Peter Goddard

Thu 26thMay

We left the farm at 6:50 and arrived on the beach at St Cyrus at 10:20. That's about all that needs to be said about today's walk. I went for a dip but only chest high as it was very cold. Then it was coffee in the pub and a bus into Montrose to sign off at 12:30. We booked into the Limes B&B before heading back to the Park for the evening meal, a good meal but quite expensive at £7.50. And so another one finishes, my fifth, it's getting to be a habit.

(This account was finally written up in 2012 from notes taken on the Challenge. The poor quality of the photographs is because they were scanned from 25 year old colour slides. Older Challengers will recognise many of the names in this report, some of whom are no longer with us and are sorely missed.)

© Peter Goddard 2013

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