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.

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.

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!