After completing the Munros in 2014 and naturally progressing to bagging Corbetts, I had my epiphany in October 2015 and decided list ticking was no longer for me. The desire to hill walk was still as strong as ever, but I yearned to spend more nights outdoors. The odd wild camp or bothy night here and there only whetted my appetite to get out longer on multi day backpacking trips.
The Cape Wrath Trail really appealed, but it is a big undertaking for someone who doesn’t have much long distance backpacking experience. Also anyone who walks with me, will know that I’m a sociable guy and don’t often hike or camp alone and getting a friend to commit to the Cape Wrath Trail was proving difficult due to the time off work required to complete the trail.
The Trotternish Ridge on Skye has always been on the radar and on a fairly recent rail trip to Nottingham for my work, I purchased a copy of the TGO magazine to read Alex Roddie’s article on the Skye trail which includes the Trotternish Ridge. Whilst Alex’s article was excellent, it was the TGO Challenge 2017 announcement that really caught my eye.
The TGO Challenge is an annual backpacking challenge that has been on the go for over 35 years. It involves crossing Scotland from the West coast to East coast in around two weeks. The challenge is open to 300 participants, plus another 50 from sponsors etc. It is also known as the coast to coast walk and participants are responsible for submitting their own route, which is vetted by the team. More information can be found on The Great Outdoors Challenge website.
With a night alone in Nottingham, I had some time to ponder. It appealed to me because whilst I’ll mostly be alone, I’ll bump into fellow challengers, before, during and after the walk. Also my girlfriend, Nicola has a bit of reassurance with the structure that the TGOC offers, knowing my route has been vetted and I have to check in on pre-agreed points. So by the time I got home the next again day, I had read various blogs and decided to apply. To my surprise, I got a place on the challenge at the first time of asking. Not bad!
With my place on the challenge confirmed I have all but finished my route and will submit it for vetting in the next few days. With this being my first TGO Challenge and long distance backpack, I have decided not to be too ambitious and the route will mainly stick to low level glens and passes. However, I’ll still climb to 800-900m if not higher in parts and might sneak in the odd Corbett or Graham too if the weather allows.
My route will begin in Shiel Bridge and will take me along the Affric-Kintail Way to Drumnadrochit. I then intend to get the ferry over Loch Ness and head for Dunmaglass Lodge and over the Monadhliath to River Findhorn. Then I’ll head into Aviemore for a potential rest day. Hopefully the weather will allow for a traverse of the Lairig Ghru through to Lin of Dee and onto Braemar. From Braemar my route will take me along Jock’s Road and into Glen Doll, where I’ll hopefully ascend Ben Tirran and eventually over Hill of Wirran and into Edzell. From Edzell, I’ll walk quiet country roads, and finish in St. Cyrus.
With my hillwalking and wild camping experience, coupled with my route planning skills I hope to successfully complete the TGO Challenge in May 2017. I also hope this improves my confidence in hiking alone, and is the first of many long distant backpacking trips.
A gear blog will follow after Christmas, as I hope to put the final touches to my gear with some presents I have asked for. 🙂