Big news last week – I got onto the TGO Challenge for May 2013, a coast-to-coast cross-country backpack across Scotland. This is an annual event where 300 hikers cross the country during the same 15-day period using different routes that they’ve defined themselves. About 200 miles in length, this hike is a significant challenge given Scotland’s fickle mountain maritime climate, where it can snow or rain for days at the drop of a hat. Pretty much what I’m used to in the White Mountains, actually.
This will be my second time hiking in The Challenge, which I also completed in 2010. During that hike, I mostly walked solo, pairing up with other Challenge hikers for a day or two when their routes happened to intersect mine.
This year I’m walking with two teammates, Martin Rye from Northern England and Grant Sible, president of Gossamer Gear, the ultralight backpacking gear manufacturer. Martin, you may recall, hiked the 100 mile wilderness with me in Maine this summer, and Grant is a good friend of mine. They are also very experienced hikers: Martin has hiked all over England and Scotland and this will be his 5th Challenge, and although Grant has never hiked in Scotland before, he’s hiked and climbed all over South America, the western US and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail.
The Great Outdoors
The ‘TGO’ in the TGO Challenge stands for The Great Outdoors, a popular hiking magazine in the United Kingdom that’s roughly equivalent to Backpacker Magazine in the US. They, together with gear manufacturer RAB sponsor the Challenge, which is managed by the outdoor journalist John Manning and frequented by another TGO writer, gear reviewer and photographer, Chris Townsend, who gave me very useful advice and helped me plan my 2010 route. I hope to finally meet Chris in person next May since he was hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail during my 2010 Challenge hike.
Planning Our Route
Now that we’re in – only 300 are picked per year – we need to plan our coast to coast route, write it up, and submit it for review by a group of expert hikers who are familiar with the Scottish mountains and country side. They help keep hikers safe if they pick a route that is too dangerous and suggest alternate routes or good places to pitch camp for the night if the hiker has never been to a region before. This is a very useful process, especially for first time challengers or foreign participants without previous Scotland hiking experience. If you’re interested you can read the comments I got back on my 2010 route submission.
Martin, Grant, and I plan to start from a remote village on the west coast of Scotland called Torridon, home to the famous Torridon Hills. For Grant and I, one of our greatest challenges will be getting from Boston/Austin to London, Inverness and finally Torridon, which may take the better of 2 days transit by plane, train, bus, and foot because it is so remote.
Our goal this year, weather permitting, is to climb a lot of mountains along our coast-to-coast journey, something which Scotland has an abundance of. This event is not a race, but more of a social celebration among like-minded hikers who hike cross country at the same time and have a big party at the end.
We are still early into our planning process, so I’ll keep you posted as we figure out which peaks and mountain ranges we plan on climbing enroute, as well as what gear I’ll be taking and so forth. This will be a challenging hike requiring a combination of winter/spring mountaineering equipment and ultralight backpacking gear.
Onto the next Challenge!
For more information about the TGO Challenge, especially if this hike is something you’d like to try, see the Complete 2013 Event Details.