Once more the Challenge beckons, as it corrupts and subverts my freedom of will. Almost from the first steps taken eastwards from Dornie in May 2017, I knew it wasn’t going to be a one-off. 2018 was intended to prove 2017 wasn’t a fluke – as it turned out, it was pretty hard going. Now 2019 is the hoped-for redemption, both for me to put last year’s illness issues behind me, and for Paul to actually make the start line this time. All through last summer during a period of hand to hand combat between me and the asthma which led to very little actual hiking, there was instead much virtual hiking which resulted in 3 outlines of future Challenge routes. It’s fair to say I’m not done yet. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2019: Prep and Kit”
After the struggle of last year’s Challenge, disrupted by hayfever that went so rogue it turned into full-blown asthma, I’ve been determined to make up for it this year. With the summer following the Challenge largely wiped out by getting the condition under control and finding a new normal, no sooner had I tentatively started backpacking again, than it was pretty much the end of the season. Coupled with an intensive period of art-focused rather than outdoors-focused activity, I went into the winter still in not great shape.
As is common, New Year came around and the inevitable statements were made about getting in shape. I re-started Parkrun on the first Saturday of the year. Despite some initial calf cramp problems, cured by a good pair of compression socks, I’ve started to get into the running, and have even been out mid-week. (*Whispers: I may even have started to enjoy it a tiny bit*). The hiking, though, has been sadly lacking.
I did make a point of finishing off the Essex Way in January, but that’s all apart from a 15-miler on the North Downs last weekend. Paul meanwhile has been regaling me with tales of weight lost and walks done. He seems determined to make up for last year’s withdrawal a couple of weeks from the start line. But he got me thinking that maybe I’ll be the weak link this year.
So far, each year before the Challenge I’ve been able to slot in a shakedown trip, or two: a section of Cambrian Way and a 4 day Dartmoor backpack in 2017; a short trip to the Lakes last year. It’s becoming a bit of a tradition, but to date the focus has been more on honing gear choices than training as such. This year’s trip felt like it needed to be more about training, or at least testing what sort of condition I’m in. After all, my gear is pretty stable, and the only decisions that really need to be made are clothing layers – ie whether to lean more towards a colder or warmer set of weather.
So with an invite to a 50th birthday do in Kendal, I decided to tack on a bit so I could get out on the fells and see where I was at… Continue reading “Training and A Pre-Walk Walk”
Through a gap in the trees, I catch my first glimpse of the end of the loch. At the head of the glen, rises the Mountain, for the moment innocuous amidst its neighbours, happy to take a back seat for … Continue reading The Mountain
I’ve already told the story of the actual walk, so this post is simply an index to the individual daily posts… Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018”
Day 15 The Challenge done, I wake in my Stonehaven B&B with a lazy day ahead. I’m at the station in good time for the train to Montrose. As it pulls into Montrose, I realise this is the train that … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Aftermath and Reflections
Of the three (known) campers, I’m the last to pack up and leave. But it doesn’t matter: today I will reach the coast and should do it comfortably, even in my enfeebled state. The day is pleasant, albeit grey and … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 14 – Fetteresso Forest to Stonehaven
I set off today with the “dreaded” (by some) Fetteresso Forest ahead. My only concern is not getting tripped up by the tendency of forest tracks to not quite match what the map says. First on the agenda is Kerloch, … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 13 – Glen Dye to Fetteresso Forest
Repeating the trick of not laying down to sleep until properly tired worked again last night, but it does have the side effect of making it a late start. I’m just finishing my packing up when Graham happens by, as … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 12 – Fungle Road to Glen Dye
Yesterday’s company got me through the day I know would otherwise have broken me, but today I have low expectations for accompaniment. The original plan was to attempt to get to Tarfside in a single day, including an ascent of … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 11 – Ballater to Fungle Road
Any thought I had yesterday of a better night’s sleep in a proper bed, was proven to be spectacularly wrong overnight. Not only did I struggle to get to sleep, but to say asleep, and was up in the middle of the night with a massive coughing fit. Perhaps it was also the fact that not being in a tent with others close alongside, I could really go for it. Whatever, it was an awful night.
Unsurprisingly, I’m feeling rather grim when I get up. So grim, in fact, that I seriously consider whether my Challenge is done. All that makes me go through the motions of getting ready for a day’s hike is (a) the fact that I usually feel better walking than I am overnight, and (b) the fact that to bail out I’ll need to head towards Ballater anyway, so I might as well at least make an attempt to start the journey on foot. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 10 – Braemar to Ballater”
The Cough did it again – another sleep-starved night. I’m looking forward to getting to Braemar and the pharmacy there, not to mention the other manifold “attractions” of the village. I must be keen as I’m away for 8:30 – … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 9 – Geldie Burn to Braemar
I wake in the bosom of my fellow Challengers, for the first time this trip. It’s long overdue and with it the recognition comes that this has been a lonely Challenge so far. There’s been a couple of days (ok, … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 8 – Glen Feshie to Geldie Burn
The noise of a vehicle on the track alerts me to a possible interruption. They’re clearly checking me out as the noise is not moving. Then all of a sudden they’re gone. Panic over. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 7 – Not Far Past Dalwhinnie to Glen Feshie”
I’m not enjoying the Challenge. There I’ve said it. Something is lacking. I’ve seen very few people, and it feels like a lonely one this year, and that’s even before taking account of my missing walking partner. We’d have eaten up the miles on the walk if there’d been the two of us, but solo it’s a much different proposition. Of course it’s lacking the novelty and excitement of my first Challenge last year. But now I look back and reflect on how good a route I put together last year. It had everything – sensible daily chunks (well mostly), plenty of other Challengers, scenery I actually got excited by, and better re-supply options. This year has none of them. I’ve screwed up. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 6 – Dalwhinnie to Not Far Past Dalwhinnie”
The day starts fine, but a bit fresher than the last few days, and with the promise of turning breezier and wetter still as the day goes on. I’ve already decided that I’m taking my Foul Weather Alternative today, missing … Continue reading TGO Challenge 2018: Day 5 – Loch Ericht to Dalwhinnie