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.
…or strictly speaking Harwich to Mistley, as for logistical reasons I decided to do this last section in reverse. In any case, I’d already experienced the walk into the end at Harwich on the Secret Archipelago Expedition last March, so even if I had opted for the big climax by the sea, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise. Ultimately, doing it east to west meant I could squeeze in a last camp, and moreover a camp in a marginally more inspiring place than the corner of a farmer’s field or the middle of a wood.
After all the shenanigans getting ready for my art exhibition at the start of the month, and then helping a friend with her exhibition which immediately followed mine, I’d managed to rack up a couple of months without any significant time in the outdoors. Other than a brief snatched camp out locally, but then a tent hidden between a farmer’s field and a landfill site is hardly quality outdoors. It was high time I got out into the hills.
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”
A bit of light rain is falling, timed to coincide exactly with me packing away the tent. It’s that infuriating sort of rain that’s too light for the warmth of the jacket, but too heavy to go without. A few hundred metres up the road I switch to my windproof which is a relief. The day is grey and after yesterday doesn’t hold much promise. The murk doesn’t entice me to climb up to the Lairig Gartain that I was at one point last night so keen to do. Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 3 – Glen Etive to the Black Corries”
A lovely fine and warm day greets me, accompanied by the sound of water gently lapping close by. Six feet away there’s a bit of loch that wasn’t there last night. I soon see, though, that it’s retreating, although this does beg the question how close it actually got to me during the night! Continue reading “TGO Challenge 2018: Day 2 – Loch Etive to Glen Etive”
This year, not having been bullied into signing out early, I’m downstairs in Oban youth hostel just a few minutes before 9am, and sign out for that time. I then linger a few minutes and find myself talking to David from Dartmoor. About Dartmoor, of course.