Well after the long wait the package has finally arrived…”Welcome to the Challenge” Like I suspect most first timers my initial reaction is elation followed by “what have I done now?”.
So what is the TGO Challenge?
The following is from the TGO Challenge web site
“The Great Outdoors Challenge is an annual self-supported walking event across the Highlands of Scotland, west coast to east coast. The brainchild of well-known writer and mountaineer Hamish Brown, it was first held in 1980.
As a Challenger, you’ll start your hike by signing out from one of around a dozen locations on the west coast, strung between Torridon in the north and Ardrishaig in the south, and your journey will end when you reach the eastern seaboard between Fraserburgh and Arbroath.
Between those chosen points, you’ll plan your own routes, which will be checked by experienced vetters. Their comments may assist in your final preparations. You can plan a high- or a low-level route, or one that blends both. That flexibility, combined with the vast and varied geographical area available, is one of the Challenge’s unique attractions. All participants must report to Challenge Control in Montrose on finishing.
The Challenge is restricted for environmental and administrative reasons to 300 participants each year, plus a number of people associated with the event. The event is generally over-subscribed, so a draw for places is made after the closing date for entries.”
So why do I want to do this challenge?
After I retired my wife, Sian, suggested that we give wild camping a go. We have always been keen day walkers and have done some multi day walks such as The West Highland Way and the Coast to Coast. So we bought a cheap two man tent and gave it a go. We really enjoyed it and soon upgraded to the spacious Scarp 2.
Last year I took quite an interest in the event, following many twitter pals crossings and reading their blogs, I was also texting the “Trailstar Trio”, Peter Dixon @munro277, Lee Taylor @Leerockwell15, and Matt Holland @OutdoorsMH, the weather forecast each day and following their progress on Social Hiking. I also found a superb two part video on The Outdoors Station by Bob, from Backpacking Light. (The 34th Rab TGO Challenge 2013 – Video and route review – Pt 1 and Part 2).
On his return, Matt Holland who has an excellent blog, made an excellent set of four videos (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4). All this combined with the fact I do like a challenge and something to aim for meant I had to go for it. A quick conversation with Sian and it was decided that I should do it on my own.
October’s TGO magazine arrived and the application form was filled in and returned with my £40 cheque. Last Friday (7th November) I noticed that my cheque had been cashed which should mean that I’ve got through the draw and have a place. Conformation arrived with the postman today (11th November)
So What’s Next?
Three key areas that will require my attention over the coming months are
- The route
Planning for my route has been ongoing since I started considering entering. Its hard not to when reading other accounts of crossings. I have to submit my detailed route for vetting by February 14th 2015, I suspect mine will be in long before that! The vetter will then return it with any suggested alterations and maybe some advice. On days that I intend going up high a Foul Weather Alternative (FWA) needs to be submitted as well.
As a first timer I have decided to make my route relatively straight forward and not too challenging especially the first three days. So subject to alterations suggested by the vetter my route is;
- Start from Shiel Bridge staying the night before at The Trekkers Lodge at the Kintail Hotel.
- Day 1 Gleann Lichd to Glen Affric-camp
- Day 2 Glen Affric to Cougie to camp near Meal na Doire
- Day 3 Camp to Fort Augustus via the old military road.Staying at Morags Lodge
- Day 4 Fort Augustus to Chalybeate Spring (One year late for Cheese & Wine party)-camp
- Day 5 Chalybeate Spring along Monadhliath-camp
- Day 6 Monadhliath to Kingussie staying at Allt Gynack Guest House
- Day 7 Kingussie to Glen Feshie then on to Moine Mhor to camp
- Day 8 Descend via Beinn Bhrotain to White Bridge Camp between White Bridge and Linn of Dee
- Day 9 Camp to Braemar SYHA Hostel
- Day 10 Braemar to Ballater staying at Habitat Hostel
- Day 11 Ballater to Shiel of Glentanar-camp
- Day 12 Shiel of Glentanar over Mount Keen to Tarfside-camp
- Day 13 Tarfside to North Water Bridge-camp
- Day 14 North Water Bridge to St Cyrus Finish! Then to Montrose staying at The Park Hotel. Party!
Friday 8th May Start
Sunday 10th May Fort Augustus
Wednesday 13th May Kingussie
Sat 16th May Braemar
Sunday 17th Ballater
Thursday 21st Finish
In the next part I will talk about everyones favourite subject “Gear”