TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about my preparation for the TGO Challenge 2012. It will be my first Challenge and I will talk about my thoughts and feelings, gear, my route and anything else which I feel might be interesting to discuss with regards my planning for the Challenge, such as training. So, lets get started…

It has been 3 weeks since I found out I had a place on the Challenge and I think it is about time I wrote something about my experiences so far. My initial emotions upon finding out were actually quite mixed. I was really excited to have got a place. I immediately phoned, sent texts and emailed a few people, I even tweeted the news… and then all of a sudden I felt quite nervous. It really dawned on me that I had quite a task ahead; the preparation, the training, the route, the mental preparation.

It didn’t take long for things to settle down. I had already been lurking on the TGO Challenge Message Board and there was suddenly a flurry of activity as people found out they had, or had not, got a place. My thoughts turned to my route and my head was suddenly filled with questions that seemed impossible to answer; Where shall I start and finish? Where do I want to walk? What do I want to see? etc… and then this big one – How do I actually go about planning a route?

It soon became apparent that I was not alone. Not alone in the sense that I was not the only first time Challenger and also not alone because I discovered many people willing to help, friends that I did not yet know, such is the TGO Challenge community. Several experienced Challengers emailed me with offers of support, should I need it, and for that I am very grateful.

Route
The main activity that has been occupying my spare time has been to get started on planning my route. As a new Challenger I have until the end of February 2012 to submit my route for vetting, so there is plenty of time, but I do not want to leave it until the last minute and there is so much to learn. I pulled my walking guide of Scotland off the shelf, consulted my book of Munros, dug out a 1:250K map of Scotland, ordered my Scottish Hill Tracks book, set about reading every TGO Challenge related blog post I could find (particularly those that are trip reports from past crossings) and now I feel I have a handle on things. I have a number of ideas about the route I would like to take and what I would like to see. This, amongst other things, has helped me to narrow the start down from the 12 possible sign-out points.

I am really enjoying the experience of planning my route and I am now using Tracklogs mapping software to help which is great. I will reveal something of my route choices in a later post.

Gear
Well, now here is a subject… lightweight backpacking gear. I don’t intend to lug a massive pack across Scotland, I am practitioner of lightweight backbacking. My previous backpacking trips (mostly overnight trips) have recently been under a tarp with a light pack, just under 6kg base weight, so it is going to be interesting to see how the weight creeps up for a two week trip with the additional items I am going to need to take. I can see that I am going to need to be very careful to keep the weight down – I might have to saw a little bit more off of my toothbrush handle! :)

My shelter of choice for next May is, barring any problems, going to be my newly acquired MLD Trailstar. A brilliant creation and something I am very excited about when it comes to camping in the wild. I shall hopefully be testing it out soon on a trip to North Wales. For the Challenge though I am going to need some midge protection and I am looking to get an inner of some description, the Oookstar from Oookworks looks really good although I would prefer something a little lighter if possible so I am open to suggestions.

I have been using solid fuel tablets for my overnight trips and I find it very enjoyable using them; easy to use, lightweight, slow burning (less burning on the bottom of the pan and no need to rush) and quiet. Silence is golden, no loud roar of a fierce little gas burner. However, the weight will probably be prohibitive for a two week jaunt so I am looking a meths burner.

That’s it for now, feel free to comment or email me directly from the Contact page.

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!

14 thoughts on “TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Part 1

  1. No, you’re not alone Bryan. The standby list should be kind and I’ll be striding out for my first challenge too.

    I love the planning of any trip. Packing and repacking and weighing and changing my mind. Writing it all down and then rewriting it.

    Smashing stuff eh?

    • Smashing indeed Carl. I love all that too, I’m a bit obsessed with the weight though! :smile:
      I hope you make it in Carl.

  2. Every year the Challenge takes on about a hundred first-timers. Your first one is really quite special because it is a challenge entirely of your own making.
    Working out a route is wonderful fun (I am currently trying to find the best way off the North Morar Ridge in poor visibility – could be tricky…) and something to be savoured. There are so many variables to consider: fitness, weather, unexpected terrain, rivers in spate, re-supply points, becoming unwell etc etc.

    One thing I would really not skimp on is having a well stocked first aid kit. This is really, really important as a solo walker. My own FA Kit weighs in at a hefty 450 grams and there have been occasions when I have used most of it up (on others, as it happens, but just the once, on myself.)

    You have to consider bashing yourself quite badly and then seeing how your kit would cope – imagine gashed arms, legs, bashed bonce etc…

    Have a wonderful time planning your route – the more effort spent now pays dividends on your walk.

    • It is really great fun planning my route, I love looking at maps.

      No one want to be ill or injured but it is important to be prepared. In the space of two weeks there is the chance of something happening to hamper progress, even if it’s just a cold, but being prepared for that is important – mentally too.

      I read an article recently that went the other way with with regards your first aid kit, it was very interesting, I’ll try and find the website.

  3. Think of it as less of a Challenge and more of an adventure.
    Planning is fun, the event is wonderful. People come back year on year.
    You will have a great time regardless of the weather and meet some great people too.
    The Trailstar is a pretty bomb proof tent and I quite fancy one.
    But you will need to make it bug proof. Probably more for Ticks than Midges.
    If you are in Braemar on the Sat, now that is an adventure.

    • Oh yes Andrew, definately an adventure and I’m so looking forward to striding out into the mountains. I assume noseeum mesh for inner tents is tick proof, some research needed.

  4. Hi Bryan,

    If you want something lighter than the OookStar* I’d be happy to knock you up a smaller/lighter inner/bug bivvy for your TGOC.

    Get in touch if you’d like to discuss.

    Sean

    • Thanks Sean. Weight vs practicality is a constant compromise. I like the Oookstar for the fact that it seems to maximise the available space of the Trailstar. ‘Lighter’ can be accomplished in two ways, 1)smaller or 2)lighter materials, and considering I like the Trailstar for the size then I am thinking that perhaps lighter materials is the way to go. You have previously mentioned in an email that you are making one that has some cuben fibre, which is certainly interesting.

      Anyway, I’ll be in touch, thanks.

  5. Excellent, it looks like 2012 might be a bumper year for TGO Challenge bloggers :-) It seems that at least half the fun is in the planning – enjoy the next five months!

    I’ve started using a meths stove this year (a Caldera Cone) and really appreciate the silence compared to a gas burner. I’m not sure how fuel weight/efficiency compares over a long trip though…

    • As I understand it gas is more weight efficient over longer trips. I have not done the maths myself but that is what I have read. I might just have to keep the gas down low to keep the noise down if I decide to take gas.

  6. Pingback: TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Only 120 days to go! | bryan waddington

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