Wondering what it feels like to be part of the TGO Challenge or have entered but need a bit of inspiration for your route? The blogs, vlogs and photo collections here might help you. There is something for everyone from simple factual accounts to the more prosaic, photo collection some animated and set to music and an array of video presentations. They cover all kinds or routes from most of the potential start point.
By all means use them for inspiration but please don’t copy a route in its entirety – one of the joys of the Event is creating your own route. David Brown’s beautifully written blog explains some of the difficulties of borrowing a route that suited its creator but proved difficult at times for him and his walking partner. Despite their struggles it gives a great idea of what the Event entails and what makes it so special. He describes meeting a Challenger as they walk to their start point in Lochailort with a man “who became, Challenge-style, a great friend in under 24 hours”. When they meet him again several days later, he comments:
“We greeted him like an old friend, which he was in the TGOC time warp. He sat down next to us and took off his boots, not to rest his feet but to inspect his right ankle. He’d twisted it the previous afternoon. It was red and swollen, and he was walking on it conditionally, not sure how long it would hold up or whether he’d have to “retire” from the Challenge.
We invited him to join us. Normally, he was an upright, long-striding machine. Crippled, however, he might be in our league. He said he’d love to walk with us (and he has been ever since).“
Somehow this sums up many Challengers’ experiences of how quickly lasting friendships can form aided by a common objective, a shared acceptance of the struggles and pleasure of backpacking in Scotland and the time and space to get to know people without the intrusion of normal life.
David’s section on Challengers they meet along the way puts us in mind of Minna Luminrae’s blog. This year she walked with a Challenge friend made on a previous crossing. She describes the Finnish characteristic of “sisu” which roughly translates to “perseverance, determination and insistence”. It’s something Challengers have in spades and is a rather handy quality when faced with the conditions Scotland threw at them in May. Peter Aylmer, in his 2019 blog, pondered on the collective noun for Challengers and came up with a “conviviality” of Challengers which is pretty much perfect.
A definite conviviality is evident in Dean Read’s videos. This was Dean’s first crossing, but he was walking with brothers Pete and Rich Jones who have crossed Scotland before. They soon linked up with other Challengers and their account very much shows how to enjoy a crossing despite the weather and hardships. We’d recommend anyone new to the Event watches it. Rich also has written an excellent blog and his post on how he prepared both himself and his route for the Event is another must for anyone considering coming along.
While we are talking of vlogs Sabine Zawadski’s gives a very different feel. Using one of the lesser frequented start-points she walked alone through appalling weather in very remote territory. Her plan to stick to the tops was thwarted by weather and an injury but she still made it to the east coast. Her shots of the first few days bring home better than any written words the warning Challengers will regularly hear about burns and rivers in spate and the uncertainty as to whether remote bridges will still be intact. As a contrast take a look at her 2019 animated photo collection – some stunning photos of high wild camps and summits and a rather unusual birthday celebration!
This year’s weather pushed many Challengers planning to walk some hills and ridges into the glens but a few hardy ones braved the weather. Sadly, we don’t have a record of Carl and Juraj’s epic route which got them up 50 Munro’s though we suspect the view from the top of most was of the backside of a cloud. . . However, they did cross the path a few times of Andrew Dawkins who celebrated his 10th crossing by climbing all Scotland’s 400fters. Someone else who got up a few hills was Dima Zlotnyk and he has some very atmospheric shots of the Five Sister of Kintail.
If you are looking for stunning photos you can’t go wrong with regular Challenger and vetter Ian Cotterill’s Vimeo collection on his 20th crossing or Alan Bellis’ YouTube set to some rather glorious 1980s Scottish music.
Back to the blogs – we really can’t mention them all. Every one is different but all give a flavour of the Event. Louise Evans gives a very honest account of dealing with the doubts many Challengers face but maybe don’t often voice, Mike Knipe offers his customary witty alternate view on the event and Alan Sloman, who has blogged about many of his 26 crossings, is always an engaging read. Andy Neil and Chris Futers also write engagingly about their first crossing. Both are excellent thoughtful pieces and we’d be mentioning them even if they weren’t representing our wonderful sponsors Ultralight Outdoor Gear!