(Virtual) TGO Challenge 2020: Preparation

With the actual Challenge deferred to 2021, something is needed to fill the gaping hole left. A couple of posts, including one from Sue and Ali, have suggested ways in which a virtual Challenge could be done, within the confines of the lockdown. So this is mine….

There are various ideas about sharing memories of past Challenges and doing minature versions of the Challenge using the allotted daily exercise reason for leaving one’s dwelling. But where I live, it’s difficult to put together a meaningful route, so I’ve taken another path on this.

The Rejected Route

The most meaningful route option here would be to walk across the borough, from west where the boundary meets the Thames to east and the bandit-ridden country where the border with Basildon lies. It so happens that the “county” (well, unitary authority) top lies on that bandit border, making it the obvious end point. The route, as I’ve mapped it, is some 20km with an dizzily epic and supplementary oxygen-requiring 235m of ascent.

This route has the advantage of avoiding civilization for the most part, and for the majority of its length follows the Mighty Mardyke from sea to its upper reaches, before a dash across the windswept desolation of the fen to the Great Precipice itself.

But, this route is difficult to break into daily chunks, due to me living in that nasty coloured bit at the bottom, with the consequent addition of a lot of mileage to get to the start/end points for each day. It’s impractical to do all of it walking from the front door. So I’m going to leave this actual route for a suitable time when the lockdown itself is eased, and disappearing outside for a full day is more acceptable. The above does show my overall Virtual Challenge area though.

What to do instead ?

The Actual Route

The solution is not to focus on a specific route, but on the amount of ground covered overall. I know that my planned 2020 route card adds up to about 350km with 11,000m of ascent, so I looked at what fraction of those figures is realistic within the lockdown constraints, and reflecting the fact that I;ve rescinded my leave for the period of the Challenge (can’t think why) so will also have to be working. Contrary to popular belief (in some quarters) there isn’t a specific daily time limit on exercise, but there certainly is the concept of what is reasonable, especially in the context of letting everyone have time outside, so avoiding cluttering up spaces. I’ve halved the daily distance, and taken the final zero off the ascent figures to give figures that better fit the circumstances.

The goal now will be to do the daily distances and ascent via local walks in the immediate vicinity of my home. This means daily walks of 8 to 16 km, with up to 160m ascent. So this will in most cases be walks of an hour or so, depending on whether I walk it or run (yes I’m allowing running to count).

This is achievable on the terrain I have to hand, although that 160m epic day is going to require a bit of thought, as nowhere here protrudes very much above the 30m contour.

Highlights of the “route” include:

  • The epic vistas of Glen Mattie
  • The stunning summits of Carn Rose Bush, Carn Ball-ache, Meall a’Boring, An Sugarsock, Ben Tiring, Tollbooth, Maynot and Dire-sh
  • The ancient remains of Chavhenge
  • The stunning beach at Corbie Doesn’t Knowe

Obviously, living somewhere seriously flat, makes pinpointing all of these epic-sounding places to local equivalents pretty difficult, so don’t take the route card too literally. That’s a bit of fun. The actual route will consist of road, wood and a couple of nature reserves for the most part. Chavhenge, however, is a real place, albeit one of my own naming.

Accommodation Plan

My starting plan is to match my actual original route plan as much as possible, with wild mild camps on the same nights, and sleeping in the house on any planned B&B/hotel nights. Clearly if I find myself in need of a bothy, that means I’ll be sleeping in the shed. (This will be an issue as the shed is not big enough to lie down in).

So, this will mean:

  • 11 wild mild camps
  • 2 campsite nights (Cannot and Graemar)
  • A B&B at Kings House
  • A night in the Hotel at Mont House as a reward at the end.
  • As I’d not sorted what to do about accommodation the night before the start, I have a free option for that: B&B, hostel or camp. Most likely I’ll stay at the Shite Bridge Hotel.

Phone-in Points

My Phone-in points (remember there must be at least 4!) will be:

  • Cannot campsite (night 3)
  • Kingshouse (night 7)
  • Graemar (night 10)
  • Covid (day 12), when passing through
  • Broken (day 14), when passing through

My “phone-in” will consist of a progress report on my blog / the Facebook TGO Challenge group.


The forecast for the Challenge period looks pretty benign, and I’ve heard there is no late snow on the tops I’m expecting to pass over, so crampons and ice axe won’t be taken. If I encounter any significant white stuff, I’ll need to be on my FWAs.

Generally conditions are nice for walking and not too bad overnight, so I have a pretty much free choice of which shelter to take. As my route plan offers a lot of possibilities to have gear sent to me and to send it back home, I will probably use a selection of shelters, and take the opportunity to try out various combinations.

I plan to travel light, so think I can get it all in a 45L pack. Certain things, such as water filter, poo trowel I think I can leave behind due to the availability and purity of water and the spacing of facilities along the route. There are also plenty of places to dine, so food carried will be minimal. I will, however, need to consume some of the dehydrated food I’d already prepared for the real Challenge to stop it going to waste.

Progress Updates

Each day, I’m hoping to share memories of my 3 past Challenges on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The idea will be to share one photo per year for the relevant day of the Challenge (ie the first day, I’ll share Day 1 from each of 2017, 2018 and 2019), as well as something for the 2020 Virtual Challenge.

Watch this space. Look out for “arriving at the start point” memories from Dornie, Oban and Mallaig tomorrow.

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