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Final Route Plan: TGO Challenge

TGO Challenge Route

I've now spent the good part of a month on detailed planning of my 2010 Challenge Route, and I've made some fairly major changes since I posted it last on January 7. I've added a nearly full rest day in Kingussie and held a one and a half day in reserve, in case I need a little extra time finishing week 2. Despite that, the shape of the route has not changed all the much, but it's a bit less ambitious a little than before, with less Munro ascents. But for all that, I expect glorious scenery along the way plus the companionship of my fellow Challengers.

My plane and bus reservations to Scotland are booked, my new employer has graciously approved my long vacation, and I have a first night's lodging arranged in Sheil Bridge. Now it's time to send my route to the vetters for final approval, book my last few nights on the east coast, sort out my sponsors and charity, and start packing my kit. After over a year of planning, it's beginning to dawn on me just how big this adventure is going to be. This is going to happen!

DayOS GridsMilesAscent (m)StartSleepRoute
13311.5650Shiel BridgeWildActivity Center, Glenlicht House, Allt Grannda Waterfalls, Camban, Alltbeithe
233, 2513.931441AlltbeitheWildCarnach Mor, Cnoc Fada, Coire Leachavie, Mam Sodhail(1181), Carn Eige (1183), Sgurr na Lapaich(1036), Loch Affric
325, 3411.75477Loch AffricWildAllt Garbh, Cougie, Creag Bhog, Coire Dho, Cul Dubh
43411.7464Cul DubhB&BCeannacroc Bridge, Collie Ghormaig, Meall Dahm, Druim a' Chathair, Old Military Rd, Jenkins Farm, Fort Augustus
53416.3972Fort AugustusWildCulhachy Ho, General Wades, Corrieyairack Pass, Melgarve, Garva Bridge
63515.5425Garva BridgeWildGarvamore, Laggan, Drumgask, Catlodge, Melm, Phones
835, 4315.5578KingussieWildDruim na Feuraich, Maol a Ghiubhais, Baileguish, Stonehopper, Rushie Non Leum, River Eidart
94316276River EidartWildGeldie Burn, White Bridge, Lin of Dee, Victoria Bridge, Braemar
1043151173BraemarWildInvercauld Bridge, Connachat Cottage, Gelder Shiel, Meikle Pap (980), Monelpie Moss, Glas-allt Shiel
1143, 4415654Glas-allt ShielWildSheilin of Mark, Muckle Cairn, Loch Lee, Hill of Rowan, Tarfside
124417.5369TarfsideB&BWoodhaugh, Dalhastnie, Rocks of Solitude, Edzell, Brechin
13549.549BrechinB&BMains of Dunn, Montrose Beach, Montrose Campsite


  1. Very, very cool! I'll have limited internet access this summer, but I'll have to make sure to check here in June for some sweet pictures and trip report.

    Are you counting down the hours yet? :)

  2. Not quite yet. It is however just beginning to sink that I've bitten off a huge Challenge! But without dreams, no one would go out on a limb and do anything outrageous. Eh?

  3. Five B&Bs in 15 days? Sweet! And will there be a single malt in the Camelback?

  4. Oops – one of these B&B days is an error – fixed. I'm going to be camping between the beginning and end except for a rest day. You'll love the kit. Lots of cuben fiber, so I can probably fit in a dram or two. No point in suffering in the land of plenty!

  5. Cuben kit ? Would that be a DuoMid then ? And a rucksack.

  6. Spot on Martin. I'm in the queue for a duomid and I will almost certainly bring the zpacks blast 32. Very nice pack.

  7. Hi, Earlylite.

    Your second day really stands out. Its character is utterly different from anything else you have planned. I can't make out how you will approach the big two. Sgurr na Lapaich isn't the logical route off Carn Eige as you would have to reascend Mam Sodhail. Sgurr na Lapaich is such a fine looking (i.e. steep) hill that the extra ascent would probably be worth it. Are you planning with Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 maps?

    If you are up for the two biggest hills north of the Great Glen, then you will find Cairngorm summits straightforward. In the east, the ground is drier and less tussocky and the ascents don't start from sea level so miles are easier to make than they are in the west.

    I forget the name of the American who was featured on BackpackingLight for his Challenge adventure, but I recall that he had a lot of foot trouble. Given your New England experience, you probably know what your feet need in damp environments. Personally, I think good socks, with ankle gaiters to keep out bits of heather, are the key.

    Have you come across the websites, such as Munro Magic, where you can hear native speakers pronouncing the hill names? Rushie non Leum (Ruighe nan Leum) caught my eye. I think Leum means leap and it is on the map next to a gorge. Interesting! Some Gaelic words, garbh for example, are worth learning. I apologise if you already know this stuff.

  8. John – I just got route comments back from my vetter and he said the same thing regarding the day two climb. He suggested continuing east past Carn Eige and finishing the other munros on the ridge. Sounds good to me! Given that alternative, it might be best to continue further along Loch Affric and ascend from the east and then loop around and down. That actually what I had originally planned, many route versions earlier. Lots of ascent for one day, but I'm sure the adrenaline will be pumping. I think it will be a joyous day!

    Regarding footware, I will be using trail shoes to combat the damp issues. I'm just in the process of retraining myself to walk in them. I just received a pair of event gaiters from MLD which I plan on wearing and I'm testing different sock combos now. I think this change in kit will work out fine as long as I increase my concentration on the act of walking to prevent ankle twists.

    Munro Magic is a gem – I used it as a reference for planning. The gaelic pronunciations are a hoot.

    Are you a UK walker, or here in the States?

  9. Hi, Earlylite.

    These days I'm more of a cyclist than a walker. Getting the ferry off the Isle of Man with a touring bicycle is easier than using public transport once across and a lot cheaper than taking a car. I completed a Munro round in 1986 and have spent more time in New Zealand and in the Pyrenees than in Scotland since then so my knowledge of the Highlands is a little out of date. Retirement is not that far away which should give me a chance to rectify matters. Perhaps they'll even let me on to the Challenge!

    I have vivid memories of my day on Mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe, even though it was 24 years ago, because they gave me a right old beasting. I camped in Gleann a' Choilich and climbed Beinn Fhionnlaidh before traversing to the bealach between the two big hills. I was so cold on Mam Sodhail that I had to cower in its huge, hollow cairn to put on long johns. Then I ran back to the bealach to warm up before climbing Carn Eighe. I was worried about finding the narrow ridge off towards Tom a Choinich but the clouds tore apart just as I reached it. It was a long day to the Mullardoch dam and the heather in Fraoch Choire felt very unkind. Given the name, I should have looked for a different route. If you approach from the east you will be able to approach via Sgurr na Lapaich. It is apparently a classic approach and high on my To Do list.

    Maybe you'll find the exposure on these hills similar to the upper parts of the White Mountains. With luck, you will have kinder weather than I did. May can be a really good time in Scotland.

  10. Apologies for three approaches in two sentences.

  11. Great story. I can't wait to have my own experience – just a few more months. I've been looking at the different routes and have decided to call it when I get there. The full round of peaks starting from the east is tempting but high ascent for one day. I am happy to bag just one or two peaks to be honest, but if the weather is clear I'm sure I can power up with some extra chocolate and do the complete series.

  12. Hi, Earlylite.

    You are absolutely right. You can only call it when you get there, depending on the conditions and how you feel.

    If the big two are out, consider the Sgurr nan Conbhairean group, which almost parallels your route to Ceannacroc Lodge.

  13. excellent suggestion. They are quite close and I would have some time on my hands. Thx.

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