Well, the application for the TGO Challenge came out on September 15. If you are not familiar with the Challenge see this post.
I was on the trail last weekend but immediately filled out the online application Sunday night when I got back. I didn’t think I could get more obsessed with this idea than I already was…but I was mistaken. Since I got a (very prompt) response from the organizers letting me know I passed the qualifications screening, I can’t seem to get the idea out of my head for more than a few hours.
The last time I spent more than a week in Scotland was when I was growing up there…I am on the left on the shore of Loch Lomond. Now I am hoping to spend two weeks walking across the country of my birth!
Now that my hat is in the ring, so to speak, for the potential lottery in November, I am spending a lot of free time poring over maps in more detail. I already had a couple of potential routes picked out but as it gets more real, I am revisiting my initial thoughts. So far I know that I want to approach this as three consecutive approximate 4-5 day trips, which is my typical routine now. These are my tentative sections and each location includes a hotel stay to dry off and rest (one each at the start and end, and two in the middle).
- Dornie to Drumnadrochit
- Drumnadrochit to Braemar
- Braemar to Stonehaven (stay in Montrose)
There may be an optional added campground or hotel at Newtonmore or Aviemore if I need it or want a longer break for equipment issues, resupply etc. Otherwise, my current plan is to wild camp the rest of the days. Each of the four locations also has a castle I would like to see (Eilean Donan, Urquhart, Braemar, and Dunnottar) and be major landmarks on which I can focus – something that always helps my progress. There are many other landmarks on the way but there is something about seeing these spots that really inspires me.
I won’t know until early November if I get in, but there is a silver lining…those qualified folks that don’t get picked are guaranteed a place the next year. So it’s just a matter of time before I attempt to walk across my homeland! In the meantime, I’ll be training by seeking out the boggiest areas, steep rocky trails, and windiest, wettest weekends I can find!
I thought I would pass on/distribute a few useful sites for folks like me who are planning on applying for the TGO Challenge for the first time. Several excellent information sources I have found include:
- TGO Challenge (http://www.tgochallenge.co.uk/) – The official website chock full of excellent information from the general guidelines to specific information. The Message Board has a wealth of info from the old timers to excellent questions and worries of those starting out. Also, since the 2017 event concluded a month ago there are some fantastic links to blogs, videos, and photo galleries sharing many of the experiences.
- Section Hiker (https://sectionhiker.com/category/trip-report/scotland/) – Philip Werner has consolidated an excellent page of information for those planning to hike in Scotland (TGO Challenge or otherwise). From trip reports to advice on planning and equipment, his experience and perspective coming from the US is invaluable for someone like me planning hopefully for the first time next year. Plus he spells his name right with one L!
- On Historic Routes (http://on-historic-routes.com/2015/08/11/planning-the-tgo-challenge-from-abroad/) – Another great site with experience planning the TGO Challenge from outside the UK. Excellent suggestions to make things easier.
I hope these help fellow first time international hopefuls for the TGO Challenge – maybe I’ll see you in the Highlands!
In the last few months, I have become infatuated, maybe even obsessed, with the idea of walking across Scotland – either on my own or hopefully, if accepted, in the TGO (The Great Outdoors) Challenge. This annual event in May organizes a two-week crossing of the Scottish Highlands for around 300 folks. They keep the entrants to a mixture of about half new and half returning walkers.
I can’t pin down one reason this event has captured my interest, but realistically it is a combination of multiple factors:
- Interest in going back and hiking some of the areas I walked with my grandfather in distant memories growing up in Scotland.
- The passing of my Scottish mother last year, leaving me as the last Scottish-born member of the immediate family.
- My love for high, open country and walking in all sorts of weather.
- The descriptions of the hiking including bog and stream crossings, that I have “trained” for all my professional career slogging through all types of wetlands.
- Vague memories of towns and vacations in the highlands coming back stronger when I look at maps of Scotland.
- My enjoyment of single malt Scotch whisky and good Scottish food (especially breakfasts and pies!).
- Turning 50 in 2018 and hoping to celebrate with the walk through my birthplace in the highlands.
I’ll try to document my progress in researching, planning, applying, and (hopefully) going on the TGO Challenge from the start. There are many excellent blogs associated with the Challenge, including some from newcomers. I’ll add those to the links page as well over time as I read through more of them. I am looking forward to this journey in a way I have never felt about any other backpacking trip!