Category Archives: TGOC 2015

TGO Challenge Withdrawal

Unfortunately my efforts to shake off my heel injury have failed and so reluctantly I have had to withdraw from this year’s TGO Challenge. A five mile walk yesterday, Saturday 25th April, ended with my heel being quite sore and it still was this morning. With only twelve days to go there is no way I am going to be able to walk every day for two weeks to get  from one side of Scotland to the other.

Last December during a walk I developed a painful heel and the following day I could not put any weight on it. Six weeks of rest did not cure it. My GP then gave me a cortisone injection which resolved the problem. This allowed me to start walking again on my holiday in Austria. On my return in February I was able to build up the mileage and my strength. The heel was fine.

Training continued well and in the middle of March I had a two day backpack. At the beginning of April I started to get some discomfort on the side of my heel, a good couple of inches from the area of pain in December.A short family walk on 5th April ended with the heel being very sore and me knowing I had to do something to get this sorted if I was to make the TGO Challenge.

So at great expense to the management I made an appointment to see at The Body Rehab in Staveley. After much prodding and poking Sue’s verdict was that I had stiff tendons on both sides of my leg and lack of motion in my heel joints and toes. Three courses of painful treatment from Sue followed. The last one was last Thursday, 23rd April, and judging by how much less the pain was things were getting better. However as yesterday’s walk showed I still need more time and so I am withdrawing from this years event.

The plan now is to have at least a couple of weeks off walking, try some swimming and cycling, carry on with my exercises and hopefully recover so I can get out on the fells again. Thanks for all the get better wishes I have received they were much appreciated.

Now when are the entries out for the TGOC 2016?

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TGOC 2015 Part 3 Route approved!

This afternoon I received this email

Hello Paul
We have attached Roger Smith’s comments for your perusal.  There are no revisions required but Roger has made some suggestions.  If you want to take up any of these please amend your route sheet and return it to us.  All that is left is for us to wish you a safe and enjoyable crossing.
See you in Montrose
Ali & Sue
Thats a relief!
As a first time entrant to the TGO challenge this comes as a relief. Whilst planning a route is something we do all the time, planning a two week route for someone else’s approval is a novel experience. The advice that vetters give seems to be legendary amongst challengers and I was not disappointed with Roger’s two pages of notes, including important information on bridge crossings as well as  the location of a cafe!
So the route I outlined in TGOC 2015 part 1 has now become a reality…although I’m sure there will be a few alterations along the way, intentional and unintentional!
Back to more important matters…what gear do I need? 🙂 🙂 🙂

TGOC 2015-Part 2-Gear-Help-Fitness

In the last blog I detailed my route. The other two key areas for my attention between now and May are gear and fitness

Gear

As soon as the decision to enter the TGOC is made your mind starts to focus on your gear, kit, equipment whatever you call it.What have I got that will be fine on the trip, what will need replacing and what else do I need? Any comments from your OH relating to the fact that you are not sure of a place are deemed irrelevant as if you do not get in this year the organisers pretty much guarantee you a place the following year in this statement “We try to ensure that no-one is unlucky two years running.” So bearing that in mind and factoring in that well known equation Want = Need a complete gear review needs to be undertaken. So lets start with the key items first.

Pack

I have an Exped Lightening 60L which suits me fine. It may not be the very best on the market but I think I need to save my £s for other items.

Shelter

As i mentioned in the previous post we have a Scarp 2 which is spacious for two and a ballroom for one. I have used it on a solo overnight backpack but at 1.8kg its a bit heavy to carry across Scotland.

Scarp 2 on a solo outing in Black Mountain area of the Brecon Beacons NP
Scarp 2 on a solo outing in Black Mountain area of the Brecon Beacons NP

So the search was on for a new shelter. I was looking for something light, easy to set up, good in the wind, roomy with plenty of porch space. The roomy porch space was something I was particularly keen on so that I would have room to cook and store stuff in the rain. After a lot of research and talking to people on twitter, and watching videos I decided to go for an MLD Cuben Fibre Duomid. Its 8ft 8in  long and 5ft wide, so plenty of space and weighs in at just over 350g before you add the guys.

Next decision is what inner to go for. MLD do a inner net but I decided to go for an Oookworks nest instead. There are two reasons I did. Firstly I prefer a ripstop fabric inner compare to a net, and secondly it has a T zip construction instead of the J zip on the MDL inner. It took quite a while to get my Oookworks inner but worth the wait in the end. All in all the inner, shelter, guylines and pegs come in just over a kilo. There is an excellent video of a Duomid being set up with an Oookworks inner here.

The Duomid on its first outing on Caudale Moor in September
The Duomid on its first outing on Caudale Moor in September
Duomid with Oookworks inner. Loads of room.
Duomid with Oookworks inner. Loads of room.

Sleeping Mat.

Last year I changed my Thermarest Prolite for an Exped Synmat UL7 The main reason for the change is that I like to sleep on my side and with the thermarest I found my hip touching the ground but this does not happen with the 7cm thick Exped.

Other bits and pieces.

The following will also be making the crossing, Sawyer Mini Filter, Pacer Poles and MSR Micro Rocket (just ordered) plus I have it on good authority that Santa will be bringing an MSR Titan Kettle. Before anyone asks all of these products have been paid for with my own money or obtained as presents from the family.Thats not to say that I will not accept any gear items for testing!

Help needed.

There are several, expensive, items of gear that I need to get or replace. One word connects them all down. Firstly I need a down sleeping bag. Preferably with a comfort rating of zero degrees and obviously not too heavy. Then I need a down jacket and some down trousers. PHD stuff all looks good but not cheap. Any recommendations welcome.

Update

I’ve now ordered a sleeping bag. Thanks for all the advice here and on twitter and especially Gordon, @aktovate1, for pointing out the Minim 300 in the PHD sale. I went for the short zip option as well.

So just the down jacket and trousers to go so if you see a bargain please give me a shout.

Fitness

If I remain healthy and reasonably injury free then this should be the easy bit. I’m retired and live in the Lake District so I average three days a week on the fells. As long as in the New Year I make sure I do some longer walks and of course some backpacks I should be OK. My experience of multi day walks suggests that as long as you start with a good fitness base you will get fitter as the days pass. As I said if I remain healthy and relatively injury fee.

However is one are I do need to improve. I’m doing everything I can to get my pack weight down now I need to get my weight down. I recently got weighed and decided one and a half stone needs to go. So far four pounds has gone. Watch this space I will keep you informed.

I’m in for the first time! TGOC 2015-Part 1-What?-Why?-The Route

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.

 Scarp 2 camped in the Cairngorms in May
Scarp 2 Camped in the Cairngorms in May

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
  • Gear
  • Fitness

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!
TGO map
Click on the map to view in full screen

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”