Greg’s Bothy

Some of this is gear comment, some a report on a short trip to Greg’s Bothy 3 of us did, FatGeoff, Jut and me.

Gear: I was keen to see how two new bits of gear performed:  my 10°  Loco Libre Ghost Pepper and my KS Ultralight KS 50 backpack.

The easy one to report on first is the quilt – it never got tested; despite winds and snow and the coldest night of 2017 providing the perfect test conditions in my tent, I opted to stay in the bothy as we got it so chuffing warm in there.  Temperatures may have dropped to 0ºC/32ºF inside our uninsulated stone shed, and as expected the quilt was toasty. So not really a good test.  Unlike the treatment of the pack…

We carried in 15kg (33lbs) of coal between us; I also had 2kg (4.5lb) of food and  alcohol with me (beer and wine and whisky: it was a booze fuelled trip!).  So with my pack (tent, waterproofs, quilt, Xtherm, down coat, spare socks, cooking stove, music, camera and spare lens, phone, tripod etc) weighing in at 6.3kg (14lb), it wasn’t a lightweight trip!! I think that makes about 13.3kg (29.5lbs) carried in.  The KS50 carried fantastically – granted it was only 6 miles, pretty much all uphill in snow and ice, but I do not expect to carry that weight on a normal longer trip so I was very pleased with how the KS50 carried.  I also loved the hip belt pockets, the best I have used (and I’ve had a lot of packs!) due to size (they took my camera in them) and ease of access. So all in all I think at last I have found (for me) the perfect pack – lots of areas accessible without the need to take the pack off, the way it carried, and the simplicity. Having been a z-packs user and having the carry system fail on me mid way through a two week trek, I value simplicity and the lack of fragility.

Just out of interest, this is my tent, a full 2 walled number weighing around 660g (1.45lbs):

The walk was lovely, conditions on the way out fantastic, the sun setting just as we arrived at the bothy.  We need not have bothered with the coal as someone had very generously literally left bags of the stuff here (someone must have quad biked them in?).  Needless to say it was very hot in there until the fire went out in the early hours. One of the photos shows how hot the stove got!

The walk out was a bit of a white out but great fun. So, all in all a fantastic 24 hour trip!

My pack – the carrying suspension and the pockets are fantastic:




Some from the walk, the last 3 are arriving at the bothy,  the red hot stove, and the walk out.










Time enables us

To skirt round evil

Pass by death

Enjoy carnage 

From a different space 

In the same place

Day Thirteen: A Last Full day.

This year we tried to keep some sense of wilderness to the end. Last year the last 2 days were vile and so this year we were keen to stay out there away from it all. This strategy carried risks – we wanted to walk to within 3 miles of the East coast sea and camp, without civilisation getting at all present. But there were no camp spots obvious on the map there, so we knew we’d have to see what we could find. By luck we found gold.

But not after a long 17 miles through forests and past wind farms. My those things are huge. Just past them we met the 3 Belgiums who seemed very fine folk. Then we met the construction team. There are a lot of associated works with the wind farm and by luck some workers were in. We needed water and they kindly gave us the only bottled water we’d had in 2 weeks; 3 litres of it. Thank you. It was chilled too. 

It was a day of hiking through forests and we knew finding a place to sleep was going to be hard. Our fantasy was a place with a view of the sea; flat; by a stream for water; and somewhere we wouldn’t piss off a Scottish father. There is a lot of evidence of guns after all. We got all but the water and had anticipated this, carrying 4 litres of brown peaty water for 2 miles. But it was so worth it. Our camp, for edge of town camping, it truly a joy. 

Day Nine: A Slackers Day

Quite a dull day with little to report other than we walked 8 fairly dull and totally unadventurous miles into Braemar after a very lazy start. We hit the first cafe we saw and gorged for 3 hours then hit the Hostel and washed then went out and gorged more. I discovered the joys of cider. The sun came out at 9pm, a welcome change from the rain. By luck we chose a good day for a slack day.

We had a lovely dinner at Gordon’s with Nina and due to being inept we can’t remember her partners name, but they are genuine warm people. Interesting and interested. And they are 70 and 71, doing the TGO and camping and with long often high days: we felt in awe.

Theresa May nipped up to Braemar for some chips. She wasn’t made welcome.

Day Twelve: We Love Our Fucking Tents. We Really Do.

So. Amazingly we were on our way at 8am, for a longish 17+ mile day with shit loads of ups and down. After 1 mile we were distracted by a Folk museum that served breakfast so at 8.20 we were sat at a table with a plate of sausage bacon and mushrooms (Nick) and beans and egg (me). Oh, and a lot of toast. At 9am we were back in the road.

Little to report as we cruised along those bulldozed estate ‘roads’ that exist solely for fat rich people to travel along so getting to kill things is easier and involves no effort; up and down only 400-500m hills, the climbs still felt hard. It was very noticeable that estates like to kill things. A lot of traps and a place that wasn’t a place for good things to happen. It had a vile vibe. We moved away. 

Onwards. Following Water of Dye for many miles until Char Bothy where we stopped and sat by the stream for the last of our fruit cake, with tea. Sore feet in the river. They still smelt when they came out and our shoes stink of ammonia. We are sexy.
Onwards to Spital Cottage and into the forest where we knew finding a place to camp would be tricky. Unfortunately by now Nick had long since taken refuge in a shelter called ‘edibles’. 

Close to Tire Beggar Hill we found some land that was flattish, without trees nor big nor heather, dryish, and by water. Brown peat filled water but it would have to do. We were fairly fekked and so took the sensible action of slotting rather a lot of whisky and Nicks tent was erected with the professionalism of a dead dog on speed, something Nick both resembled and smelt like. Putting up a tent whilst stoned and pissed is indeed difficult.

Then we were inside as the heavens opened and we are now loving, totally loving, just being here. 


Day Eleven: A Tale of Two birds

This trip has daily had the sound of one if two birds: lowlands, cuckoo; highlands, grouse.Grouse seem to be permanently underfoot; cuckoos seem to be permanent in the ear, never to be seen. But never at the same time.

It was a nice lie in. Everyone had left. Lots of tents. Then lots of people walked by, 6-8.
We chilled.

Unfortunately I fell in the river with my morning coffee whilst sitting on an angled rock on my little cushion thing. Said cushion thing created the perfect slide and before I knew what I was in my back in the river. Biggest tragedy was by lost freshly brewed coffee. Oh and a rather wet down jacket. Nick did immensely well. Not to laugh and I’m grateful for that. He helped me sort my shit and as the sun was out and the wind up all ended well with everything except my red shreds and black trousers dry, even the jacket was dry. Nick took a fetching photo of me in my shreds.
Then it pissed down.

We walked and tried something different to get to Tarfside, but my navigation was lazy as it didn’t truly matter, and we ended up going down to Glen Lee again, still lovely. Then we arrived in Tarfside a bit like arriving at Rivendell, wooded, full of birdsong, gentle, a lovely place. We had butties galore, Nick 3x bacon sarnies plus 2x burgers, me 2x egg sarnies plus 2x veggie burger; some beer and cider. And all provided by lovely people. We also met the bothy occupiers. But nuff said. 
But the birdsong here is unlike anywhere, so noisy til late and I know so noisy so early.

Oh yes, we imbibed much.

Day Ten: It Takes a Special Kind of Moron

The morning forecast said no more rain for a week. The sun shone. Until we started walking, then it pissed it down. All day. Until now – 9pm. We are tucked up bed a tad damp after 20 miles with a pack laden for 5 days in the hills and 950m of ascent. It was very hard work. 

We left Braemar and walked down the road, turning down Callater Burn past the lodge and onto Jocks Road, over Crow Craigies and down past Loch Esk and Glittering Skellies, down to the river and up the back of Bachnagairn. Then followed endless hag bogs until we hit Capel Road then more hills and endless gags and eventually joy – Shielin of Mark bothy.Navigation had been a proper test, conditions were vile and visibility often very poor. And Shielin of Mark bothy is notoriously difficult to find. A final bearing took us, satisfyingly straight there.
We couldn’t wait to get inside and brew up. It was 7.30pm and we’d not really stopped since we started at 9.00am. 
Unfortunately the place was occupied by four people who pretended to be asleep. We stood there like morons saying hello. No reply. They filled the place as it’s a small bothy and we were cold and tired.. Not even a hello. I’ve never been made to feel so unwelcome in a bothy. But I guess they were all tired too.
A day of effort pain and reward.
Anyway all is well that ends well. Tents up, lots of scoff, wine, warmth amidst the damp. Nick is cramping up rather a lot though. Easy day tomorrow. Into Tarfside via Glen Lee.

Day Eight: The Organised Pack, or/and we fucking nailed it today.

So my Z-Pack pack is a bit too fancy and ultimately fragile. There are these thin round carbon fibre stays that run the length of your back and form a frame that transfers weight onto the hip belt. On day 2 one of these forced a hole in the webbing that holds it taught at one end. I managed a botch mend but when you lose trust in your pack… and it also meant I couldn’t tighten the pack so as to bend the stays and thus create a ventilation gap between pack and back. Not that I think it made any difference anyway. But it pissed me off. 
Anyway, I’d kind of half fallen out of love with the pack as it felt a proper mess. Truth is my packing was shite. I had something like 11/12 separate bags in there as well as other bits of bollocks like a loose midge headnet, my tripod poles (don’t ask). So I managed to simplify into 5 bags that lay across the pack in a nice straight tidy line. I like a tidy pack. Possibly I am a saddo.
We did 22 miles today. From our camp site on Allt Bhran up Glen’s and eventually into Glen Feshie (about a mile south of the Lodge). I’ve wanted to walk Glen Feshie for a long time and it is beautiful. Wide, high sided, beautiful wild trees – mostly Caledonian Pine/Scots Pine/Birch. The river has recently eroded the path and changed course totally and the power of that change must have been immense. So the journey along the edges was at times quite adventurous.
Anyway we motored, got in a groove and fucking nailed the day. We met lots of folk but the people we especially warmed to were Dick and Rosie (the boozer), the Canadian couple, and a couple in a tent by the bridge who had a Hilleberg Nallo; all these seemed interested and interesting. Always the test. 
So we cruised down Geldie Burn and here we are in the rain in our tents imbibing by the river, a mile from the car park, chatting and eating. First rain since Corrour. That’s 3.5 days ago. Apparently it’s pissing down tomorrow but its 8 easy miles into Braemar where there is beer. And a youth hostel, restock, clothes wash, and then the final 5 day walk into Stonehaven.
A study of specs. Quite dull unless you are in a tent, imbibed, and it’s pissing down outside.
PS wifi is too shit to upload photos so will do so later