I have absolutely no idea how I have managed to return from the TGO Challenge with a sun tan. It rained from day one and continued right through to the end, often with the wind joining in to keep the rain company. By the final Monday the weather turned from being miserable to dangerous with winds even in the valleys strong enough to rip down huge trees. I simply could not continue my planned route over the hills to Tarfside and had to purchase new maps whilst in Ballater and cobble together the final three days.
I have to admit to finding the TGO Challenge tough, both physically and mentally. I am not used to getting up and walking for 13 days in a row and it was often hard work forcing myself out of a warm sleeping bag to face another day of wind and rain. However despite the often poor conditions it was a splendid experience being able to immerse myself fully in the wilds of the Highlands for two weeks. The scenery is out of this world and I managed to pass through some really remote areas and visit places that have been on my ‘to do’ list for years. Sadly some of those areas will very soon be lost to the ever-increasing industrialisation of our wild places.
I am glad that my first five days were very sociable as motivation is a major factor when solo backpacking. I met some great people along the way, names alude me but I hope you all got across safely. I think that without that early company I would have got fed up with the rain and headed home!
The Scottish healthcare system in the Highlands is bloody marvelous. During the second week I developed a severe allergic reaction to something and needed pretty urgent medical attention. My hands and arms ended up a mass of weeping sores and blisters and I spend a couple of days walking through the wilds in agony, unsure of what to do. Reaching Aboyne I got a doctor’s appointment within an hour and emergency medication dispensed immediately. In Nottingham I would probably still be waiting.
Anyway a full write up over the coming couple of weeks along with a critique of the gear I used (most of which was absolutely brilliant). In the meantime a few photos.
The ground especially on the western side of the country was totally saturated and waterlogged. When not on tracks I was often up to my ankles in the Highland ‘soup’. Taking my Inov-8’s was one of the best decisions I made, lined ‘proper’ boots would have been hopeless after a couple of days.
The Wake for the Wild. I was pleased that I managed to join up with Alan Sloman just in time for the procession to take the coffin to where the highest turbine will be on the Dunmaglass wind farm. The Monadhliath mountains are hauntingly beautiful and it will be a sad day when they are destroyed forever.
My favourite wild camp spot on the Challenge. A remote spot next to the Dulnain surrounded by juniper and scots pines, plus the sun came out and warmed me whilst I lay in my tent. I had a big grin on my face all evening!
I felt I earned the t-shirt……………….