TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Dornie start it is then!

In the last week I have made a decision on my start location for my 2012 Challenge – I will be starting from Dornie!

Over the course of the last couple of months, since finding out that I have a place on the Challenge for 2012, I have been reading and absorbing loads of information about where I would like to walk and what I would like to see. I ended up sketching out a number of routes that I liked the look of and suppose ultimately are similar to those that other Challengers have walked in the past. I knew that I would be happy on any route really and actually choosing one would be a compromise.

I really fancied Torridon but it’s a long way up and I did not want to do a long route for my first Challenge (hopefully I will be allowed to do it again!). I’ll save Torridon for another time. Acharacle and Lochailort both appealed because I quite fancied going across the Grampians. I could have made a route, that I would be happy walking, from any start point!

In the end though I decided that I would head a bit further north and start at Dornie. After a short walk up the road I’ll be straight into the mountains on the track beside the River Glennan. I plan on doing the An Riabhachan ridge on day two followed by a couple of gentler days until I cross Loch Ness and then its up and over to get to Aviemore and across the Cairngorms [big grins]

So there we are. Dornie it is, the B&B is booked and I’m busy filling in the details of my proposed route. My excitement-ometer is off the scale and I can’t wait to get started :)  106 days to go!

Blog posts in this series:

  1. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Part 1
  2. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Only 120 days to go!
  3. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Dornie start it is then!

TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Only 120 days to go!

I can’t believe it has been a month since my first post about my TGOC preparation! It is about time for an update. I titled this post ‘Only 120 days to go’ because there were 120s to go when I started writing it. Now, as I write this, it is down to 118 days but I’ll leave the title – it is a nice round number.

My partner asked me the other day if I found the thought of doing the Challenge daunting. I realised then that I didn’t. I did initially, a few months ago, but that has given way entirely to excitement. It is certainly going to be a challenge, both physically and mentally, and that is something I am looking forward to, but daunting it is not.

TGOC preparation has now become part of my life (and my family’s, oops! :). It slots in at any moment without me realising it. I have continued to read many blogs and trip reports of previous Challenges and of backpacking and walking in general. I have bought some new gear. I have chatted a lot on twitter which is not directly related to TGOC preparation but having recently made a whole new bunch of twitter friends I am entering into discussion and more easily following and learning about what is going on in the backpacking (and particularly lightweight backpacking) world.

I have not made a lot of progress in actually having something to show for my route planning efforts. This is partly due to Christmas, where I have not had so much time, and to other things that I am involved with that have been taking some of my small amount of spare time. However, I have been constantly researching where I would like to walk and I have now got even more roughed out routes with even more possible permutations! One of the hardest things to do is to just pick one of the start points (I read this in someones blog too and apologies but I cannot find the url), something that needs to be done soon for me now and then the rest of the route will more easily fall into place. Some decisions will be made soon

I am kind of using the Challenge as an excuse to buy new gear but really I have had an interest in lightweight backpacking for sometime and it is nice to be back into looking at gear and what is available. I have just purchased a 900ml Evernew and 400ml Mug from BPL (very good service and super fast delivery). I have yet to get my hands on them as I had them delivered to my folks house and I have not been round to collect them but I should get them later today. I am excited about that, something my partner cannot understand :) I also purchased some of that super light windshield and some pot cosy material.

My current gear list gives me a base weight of just over 7Kg at the moment. I have a few more things to add to it I but I am quite happy with the weight at the moment. I have just read a review of a lightweight titanium gas stove at Going Lighter and it looks very interesting. Do I want to spen £30 to save 20g though? .. probably not, but you never know, and besides, I have not settled on my cook system yet but gas is looking favourable.

I have been doing quite a bit of walking and leg strengthening. One of biggest challenges is going to be looking after my knees because I have always had problems, but I’m trying to do a variety of exercises that will help and I am also doing a lot of stretching. I need to get started on some yoga too which I think is really going to help. I’m some way off being able to walk of one day on the Challenge with a full pack at the moment but I’m confident that I will be fit enough for the Challenge. I was planning on walking in North Wales, with a wild camp, but I have yanked my knee a bit and will settle for a longer flat walk nearer home

Blog posts in this series:

  1. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Part 1
  2. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Only 120 days to go!
  3. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Dornie start it is then!

Photographs from Kinder Scout, Peak District

Here are a couple of images from my walk up Kinder Scout on the 28th Dec 2011. At the start it was quite sunny but the whole time it was really windy. It was a great walk though. We went up Grinds Brook from Edale and then round the top to the road just before Mam Tor. About half way round I persuaded my walking companions (my brother Graham and Joanne) to stop in the freezing cold wind while I pitched my Trailstar.

The first image is looking back down Grinds Brook and in the background on the right you will see Lose Hill.

Grinds Brook


And this is just a little way along from Grinds Brook and looking back to the east.

Kinder Scout - path across the peat

Pitching an MLD Trailstar in extremely windy conditions

On a very windy walk in the Peak District last week I took opportunity to practice pitching my Trailstar. My brother took some video and as you can see it is a little blowy! The forecast was for 50 – 60 mph winds but I have no idea what the actual wind speed was other than it was extremely windy! The temperature was just 3 degrees C and with the wind chill it was bitterly cold. Unfortunately the video stops short of the final moments but you get the picture (there is another little clip that I might post sometime)

The Trailstar was seriously bowed in at the back once pitched and I could not manage to stop the front sides from blowing out. Still, due to the large internal space of the shelter it would have been quite possible to have used it to camp in an emergency if a more sheltered spot could not be found. It was an interesting exercise.

In response to Martin Rye’s question in the comments of ‘what height was the Trailstar pitched at?’ it got me thinking. The answer is I don’t honestly know but I seem to remember I was going to pitch it a 100cm high but I have a feeling that I set one section of my trekking pole to the 110cm mark (in my haste in the extreme conditions, it just goes to show mistakes are easily made!) so the pole could have ended up being 105cm. Anyway, I just checked the recommended poles heights on the MLD website and I could have pitched it as low as 36″ which is about 91.5 cm, which may have made a small but significant difference if I had to shelter under the Trailstar for any length of time in these conditions.