Why no TGO Challenge in 2012?

by backpackingbongos

In retrospect I really enjoyed the TGO Challenge this year.  Admittedly at the time there were moments whilst actually doing it where I thought to myself ‘what the hell am I doing?’.  This was most certainly the case after I got blown off course by the big storm and found myself walking the Deeside Way into Aberdeen.  The weather this year made for a difficult crossing, day after day in full waterproofs often reduced the morale of this solo walker.  However there were lots of magical moments, especially whilst crossing huge areas of wild land.  The camaraderie of fellow Challengers was second to none.  I am keen to get a few more Challenges under my belt.

However, I have decided not to enter next year.  The reason why remains the same as it had been for many years prior to this years entry.  It simply takes out too big a chunk from my precious annual leave.  Next year I fancy condensing my Scottish wilderness fixes into smaller chunks.  Then as summer turns to autumn I am considering doing something really ambitious.

In February I am returning to what I consider to be one of the wildest, most remote parts of Scotland.  In October 2009 I did a short backpack on the Island of Jura, walking along a small section of the west coast.  The wild west of the island really made an impression on me, it is simply one of the most beautiful and at the same time bleak places that I have visited.  A trip has been planned with Peter Edwards, his wife Fiona and hopefully my buddy Rich.  As well as being a very decent chap, Peter is also the author of Cicerones guidebook; Walking on Jura, Islay and Colonsay.  A substantial part of the guide is dedicated to a five-day backpack along the west coast.  It is that route which we will be walking and it will be great to leave the route finding to someone who knows the area so well, it’s tough going there!  Reuben the Staffy and Dougal the Chocolate Lab will be coming along, kitted out with their own backpacks.  Jura is probably the worst place in the Highlands for ticks, hence taking the hounds in February.  In winter it’s not the easiest place to get to; a long ferry journey to Islay, followed by a bus or two across the island, then another ferry to Jura itself, before finally catching the bus to the north of the island.  To cut out all that travelling and to add an extra bit of adventure we are planning on hiring a boat to take us from the mainland and drop us off in a convenient location.  It’s already making me feel giddy with excitement!

The wild west coast of Jura.

In April I sadly turn 40, so in celebration there will be another trip to the Highlands.  My partner has agreed to us renting  a cottage of my choice for a week where I will be able to climb mountains everyday.  I plan to find somewhere stupidly remote……………..

The big one planned for next year takes me to a place that only a few years ago I would have thought impossible to visit independently.  Greenland has held a fascination for me for a while now, however is it a place suitable for backpackers?  An article a while ago in TGO magazine by Paddy Dillon sparked an interest which soon turned into a strong desire.  He has recently written a guidebook to the Arctic Circle Trail which I have purchased.  Follow the link and I think that you’ll agree that this trek looks simply awesome.  Reading the guidebook makes my heart skip a beat.  Fingers crossed and all going well I should be above the Arctic circle this time next year.

You may have gathered that I do enjoy a spot of trip planning!

45 Comments to “Why no TGO Challenge in 2012?”

  1. Greenland I hope will be a trip of a lifetime for you.

    • It really does look like a cracking trail Martin. I hear that you may well be heading to northern Europe for a wilderness fix some time next year?

  2. Sounds like some great trips ahead!

  3. Enjoy them all! You’re lucky to be able to visit these places, and by the way, turning 40 ain’t so bad 😉

  4. There is more to life than the TGO, although many peeps will deny this. It is a bit addictive, though.TGO 2012, then something different for me…. (unless I fail to make the cut, in which case, the plans are up in the air again)

    • Hi Mike. Maybe one year on the TGO Challenge and then one year off is the way to go. Unfortunately the Challenge draw can scupper best laid plans.

  5. Looks like a wonderful itinerary. A good way to make sure that turning 40 is something you’ll look back on with a fond gaze! Jura certainly looked very appealing across the Sound of Islay this morning, I’m really looking forward to the west coast trip – one of the really excellent things about this walk is that it doesn’t matter how wild the weather is, it’s still jaw-droppingly wonderful. Don’t tell anyone though.

    • Hi Pete, really looking forward to the Jura trip in Feb, it will be good to have an expert guide to lead the way. Last time I got in a pickle and ended up a bit crag bound trying to get down to a beach. Fingers crossed for calm winds and blue skies, perfect for a driftwood fire on the beach to watch the stars at night. Sshh must keep quite about Jura though!

  6. I can understand why you want to do something different. I don’t know what sparked it – perhaps it’s always been there, a latent desire I just didn’t really acknowledge – but I am much more excited about trips abroad than the UK. Greenland is fantastic (my partner is Danish so knows a fair bit about it and friends of hers have trekked there) and that website makes interesting reading. Kit selection will be very interesting for such a trip. It’ll be great James. Who are you going with? I had plans for next year already – “The Italian Job” which is a week in the Alps doing the 4000ers in the Monta Rosa massif and a chance to stay in the highest refuge in Europe, as well as Sarek National Park in Lapland. Also, some scrambling courses with our leader from the CHR – a couple more Grade I Scottish Winter gullies too. Busy year!

    • Maz, I have been thinking about a trekking trip abroad for a while now. Ever since a few treks in the Himalaya I have fancied something different. In terms of gear for the ACT I don’t think it will differ much from the TGO challenge, pretty similar weather conditions in the summer in Greenland. I will just need a big enough pack to carry 10 days food – that will be the deal breaker. Not sure on who my trkking partner will be yet, although working on persuading someone! Looks like you have got an interesting year ahead.

      • Big and light pack – has to be Golite doesn’t it? Osprey are comfortable but too heavy. I guess the Lightwave Ultrahike 60 is also a possibility at 1250g. Anyway, enjoy your prep and good luck. It’ll be something special!

      • I think that I would try and use my ULA Catalyst – used on the TGO challenge with 5 days food and there was a bit of room to spare. If conditions are favourable for my Trailstar there would then be lots of room. I need to check out flight prices, they will be what determines whether the trip is realistic!

  7. I think you had a baptism of fire (flood / hurricane) on the TGO in 2011, James. Still, it’s good to hear that you will be coming back for more at some point.

    I’m looking forward to reading your travels next year – that sounds a pretty good itinerary.

    • I think the Challenge this year would have been much easier if the weather had of been kinder Alan. Still I’m glad that I did not give up and go home. I’m assuming that you will be entering again next year?

  8. James, we talked briefly about the Greenland trip in the pub a few weeks back. I also fancy that sometime, after reading the Arctic Circle website. I have also be looking at other trips in Greenland organised by adventure travel groups. I would like to do this sometime not sure when, but it is on my list. Would be a great celebration of your 40 years! Don’t worry about 40 – I have got 10 years on you 🙂

  9. Visited briefly Jura during a holiday on Islay (whisky tasting rather than hiking was the theme back then…), lovely place!

    • It’s a great place Yuri, really off the beaten track. You would have a fantastic time if you returned for a spot of backpacking.

      • If time off and money was a bit more freely available, I’d love to backpack my was across the entire Outer Hebrideans as well, been on Lewis, Harris, one of the Uist (not sure if North or South, on top of my head) and Barra/Eriksay. I adore the Scottish islands, I’d say they have a greater pull than the Highlands (being from a landlocked country full of big mountains, I go for the “exotic” of the sea and the isles…) for me. Mind, Skye offers the best of both worlds…

        (off to reminisce…)

        PS I miss the curry and chips on the CalMac ferries 😉

      • I suppose there is always the lottery……………

  10. Have been housebound for a week or two James? I know you like planning things, but this is organisation and a half! That Jura trip looks good, I’m very jealous. As for the ACT, I read that TGO article, both myself and my mate thought it looked amazing. Good luck with booking it all.

    • You have guessed correctly Charlie, I have not been out hiking since the Bank Holiday. I do like a good plan…………..

      Have you done your Scottish trip yet?

      • I got back a couple of weeks ago, but then have been away elsewhere since then. So now I’m around for a few weeks I’m going to get my massive backlog written up before uni. It’s so much wilder (we only saw three people whilst on the hills) than anywhere else I’ve been. Awesome, in the true sense of the word.

  11. Stunning plan James, I hope it comes to fruition and that I can live vicariously through your reports. Best plan to do it soon though, some scary news about the Arctic Circle and the shrinking Ice caps this week. Cause for concern.

  12. Hi,

    The arctic circle trail is a very nice hike, heres a link to a few photos :


    Unless you get early or late in the season beware of the mosquitoes, unlike the midges they bite through most clothes, and i got stung quite a few times peeing…

    The first day take a taxi from Kangerlussuaq airport to the start of the hike , the road walk has no interest we would not do it again.
    The walk is pretty easy, if you are leaving Sisimiut by boat have something to do if you arrive before you scheduled , ( we hiked the south coast )

    What i liked the most in Greenland was the total freedom you have, ( we hated being “held by the hand ” in Patagonia the year after )

    Funny part is 2012 should be my first TGO :p

    Good luck


    • Wow those photos make me want to go even more Frederic, simply stunning! I think that I will go late in the season as I would be keen to avoid those mossies, they look hellish. I hope that you get on the TGO Challenge, you will have a fantastic time.

      • As the text is in french , i should add that the photos with icebergs and ice in the water are from the Illulissat area.
        After doing Kangerlussuaq Sissimiut and a short hike on Sisimiut south coast we took the boat to Illulissat, and then did a short hike to the east ( the photo with our shelter in front of the glacier )

        First thing to know is that Greenland west coast has a huge tourist traffic ( compared to his population ) boats filled mostly with elder people are cruising along the coast, so in Sisimiut ( about 5000 habitants from memory ) you have very few tourists from late afternoon to early morning
        And then at 9 or 10 AM up to 1000 tourists can be released in the street, they usualy dont go far from the harbour to the small area with souvenirs shop and tourists building, photographying everything and every people that they see.
        Late afternoon they go back to their boat, and the town goes back to normal.

        Illulissat on the contrary lives mostly from tourism and their presence is permanent, with lots of organized boat trips etc.. around.

        Good thing is that in either case if you walk 15-30min out of the area you are alone by yourself and with no restriction were to go.

        As for the duration of the arctic circle trail, if you follow the trail its very easy ( close to WHW difficulty, so way easier than the CWT to compare to Scottish the hikes i know ) so you should need less than 10 days.
        Then you can go offtrail to lenghten the hike, but if you go late in the season you will need extra care with the hunting grounds that are close.
        Going early solve that but it should be muddier.
        So its a choice between mud / mosquitoes / hunting season 🙂

        I dont know if ill hike again there ( we will surely go back to Iceland first ) but you have guessed i really loved Greenland .

        Hoping you will have a great time too


  13. Forgot to say :
    I brought 500g of fishing equipment
    This wasnt added weight as i removed 2 x 500g of the food we would have brought for the 2 of us.
    And we ate freh fish every time we wanted.

    If you like fishing, i would rate Greenland above Iceland and Patagonia for the ease of catching fish ( never tried in Scotland.. too complicated )

  14. Sounds like a great year of trips James. I’d love to do Greenland and Iceland – have to wait until the kids have gone their own way. My mate Mad Malcs has done Greenland (mountain climbing) and loved it. I’m also off to Jura next year with a few pals over Easter. Only got a 2 full days on the island so I’ve been in touch with Pete and has given his recommendations. Really looking forward to it after reading your’s and Pete’s trip reports. Would you be able to let me know the details of the boat hire you plan to use.

    I’m a serial planner as well (I’m a project manager by trade) – my pals have been known to ask me to plan bits of their trips for them!

    Enjoy the adventures!

    • You will have a spendid time of Jura, it really is a special place. I bet that Pete has recommended the West Coast? That is one trip report that I will look forward to reading next year. Nowt wrong with a bit of planning is there?!

  15. Ooh, you are planning ahead there! The Arctic Circle trail looks wonderful. Having been to the Faroes and Iceland (twice) we’re hoping to head north again (we couldn’t do so in the past 4 years that I’ve worked a summer seasonal post), but it depends on changes of jobs/leave for Neil.

    As for “In April I sadly turn 40,” I’d say you should rephrase that as “In April I gladly turn 40,” after all it’s better than the alternative! 😉

    • I have to say that the Faroes and Iceland are also on my list of places I ‘really’ want to visit. I bet that they were wonderful? The 40 thing is a bit weird, I suppose when that day comes I am officially an adult?

  16. James – If you have not already got the biography of Fridtjof Nansen, then get it before you go near Greenland. Possibly the greatest explorer of his time and certainly the one with the most varied CV. Much of modern equipment was invented by him – a part of the body is named after him and I think he got the Nobel prize for peace for setting up the league of Nations. All probably by the time he was 40. I recently got a seniors deal on a motel – I am 50!!!

  17. Not sure if you’ve come across Gavin Macfie’s blog but he’s put a number of great posts up about his trip. The first one is here:


  18. Sorry neglected to mention it’s about Iceland!

  19. looks like some good plans there James. Jura is beautiful and that Greenland Trail looks absolutely amazing.

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