One of the most time consuming parts of the TGO Challenge, a 15 day coast-to-coast backpacking event held every May, is getting to the one’s start point on the west coast of Scotland. Challengers are required to start at one of 12 absurdly remote but picturesque inns and hostels at the start of their coast-to-coast hikes, and although adequate medication and sustenance is usually available upon arrival, they are still damned inconvenient to get to.
The journey is particularly hard on Challengers coming from overseas, since we arrive jet-lagged in London, Edinburgh, or Glasgow, and then have to take multiple trains, buses, or taxi cabs to get to our final destination. It is an exhausting trip that can take several days.
My Challenge start point this year is the Torridon Youth Hostel, located in a small coastal village 227 miles northwest of Glasgow. To get there, I need to fly from Boston to New York, from New York to Dublin, and from Dublin to Glasgow.. Then I need to take a train to Inverness, and another train from Inverness to the a tiny village called Strathcarron, before getting out and walking the final 19 kilometers to Torridon.
Technically speaking I could take the train past Strathcarron to a town further north where I could hire a taxi to take me into Torridon. But after all those trains and planes, I’d rather sleep in the hills on my first night in Scotland, stretch my legs the following day or two, and adjust to the time zone difference between Boston and the UK.
The inspiration for this hair-brained scheme is Alan Sloman, a friend and fellow hiker from the UK. Alan walked a similar route on day 98 if his LEJOG in 2007. LEJOG stands for Lands End to John O’Groats, a hike from the the southernmost point of the UK to the northernmost that’s roughly 1200 miles long by foot, although there’s no set route and people can hike, cycle, or run the distance by any route they choose.
Besides shadowing most of Alan’s route, I’m also looking forward to climbing a munro named Maol Chean-dearg (pictured above), which Alan skipped because he’s not a peak bagger. Maol Chean-Derag (pronounced something like “mole chan derag”) stands for bald red head in Gaelic on account of its red sandstone summit and lower band of white quartzite. It’s also a relatively easy climb and distinctive looking peak that will be easy to spot for a jet-lagged yank, making it a good warm up for the my subsequent cross-country hike.
After Moal Chean-Derag, I will leave Alan’s route to walk past Beinn Damh. I don’t think I’ll climb this one, but it should make for an awesome finish to this short ramble into Torridon.
If you’ve ever wondered why I’m so smitten by hiking in Scotland, the reason should be apparent.