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One of the best bits of advice that I’ve come across about the Challenge was to remember that it’s a holiday, not something to be endured. There is no point in planning an ambitious route if you end up over-tired, injured and miserable. So, my aim was just to have a wee wander across Scotland, without worrying too much about knocking off Munros or covering huge distances in a day.

I’m lucky that I can get shoes (and boots) that fit. I haven’t had  a blister for more than 20 years and I didn’t do anything daft and injure myself. I deliberately chose a ‘trade route’ with some classic Challenge experiences – Ault-na-Goire, Glen Mazeran, Mar Lodge and Tarfside.  I spent more time talking to people rather than just pressing on as I did in 2013 and that was definitely the right thing to do.  So I had a great holiday, revisiting familiar parts of the country and getting to some places that I’d never been to before.

Dennis having breakfast outside his tent in Strathfarrer

Dennis having breakfast outside his tent in Strathfarrer 

Lousie snapping Laura hugging a redwood tree (but her arms weren't quite long enough).  They apparently did this regularly all the way across.

Lousie snapping Laura hugging a redwood tree (but her arms weren’t quite long enough). They apparently did this regularly all the way across.

Does my pack look big in this? Robin in the Monadliath - his pack really wasn't that big.

Does my pack look big in this? Robin in the Monadliath – his pack really wasn’t that big.

Camping in the sunshine at Mar Lodge. Certainly the lushest camp site of the crossing.

Camping in the sunshine at Mar Lodge. Certainly the lushest camp site of the crossing.

John and David - their first experiments at Tarfside with innovative uses for Primula cheese.

John and David – their first experiments at Tarfside with innovative uses for Primula cheese.

My gear was all tried and tested and worked without problems although I made the mistake of taking socks that had already done a couple of hundred miles. They didn’t look warn but as I was walking through the Larig Ghru, I noticed that my feet felt is if they were taking a pounding. Luckily, I had taken last year’s freebie socks as a spare pair and when I changed them at the Pools of Dee, I really noticed the difference in cushioning.  Next time, I think I’ll buy a new pair before I start.

For the first few days after it was over, it was nice to be back in ‘civilisation’. No need to blow up your bed every evening, cook in a single pot, wear smelly clothes or dig a hole when nature called. Everyday comforts such as sit-down toilets, chairs and electric light, which we take for granted, were a delight. Then, it began to pall – the simplicity of the Challenge seemed very appealing compared to tedious phone conferences and emails on topics I couldn’t care less about.

I think it is the simplicity is what I like most. Life is eating, sleeping and walking (with a wee bit of social drinking of course) with no need to worry about the complexities of modern existence. So, I’ve started to wonder what it would be like to do a really big walk over a couple of months rather than a 2-week Challenge although, domestically, I think that would be about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit.

Last year I wondered if the Challenge was a one-off – an itch I had to scratch – and once I’d done it that was that. I wasn’t sure I’d come back in 2014 but I thought, last September, I’d stick the form in and see what happened.  I’m delighted that I did and now, like so many others, I guess I’m addicted and, all being well, I’ll be back.

7 Responses to “TGOC’14: Reflections on the crossing”

  1. […] « TGOC’14: Reflections on the crossing […]

  2. Andrew W says:

    No.. Robin’s Pack really was that big!

    Good crossing.

    To my mind, it is a social event with a bit of walking in it.

    Good stuff Ian 🙂

  3. alan.sloman says:

    Ah.
    Hooked then.
    🙂
    The I started wondering about the Big Walk thing after my second Challenge as well. But at the time I had school fees to pay and a business to run, so it took me another ten years before I was able to do a really big one.
    I think you’re spot on about the attraction – backpacking in wild country is a distillation of what really matters in life.

  4. ………and great company you were to walk with, too.
    Some spooky similarities with my own thoughts eg it’s a holiday. For me just getting across is quite sufficient a Challenge. That I can do this and experience some beautiful places in great company (or alone) is sufficient.
    As for a longer walk, I too, have been thinking of this since I got home. Not certain how I would create the time, or sort out dog sitting, but currently I am toying with a circuit of Wales via the Welsh Coast Path and Offa’s Dyke, or the GR11 in Spain. No idea whether the vague thoughts will turn to reality.

  5. Louise says:

    Ooo! A photo of me I quite like! Speaks volumes about me and Laura and our slight nuttiness…

    The Challenge is an extraordinary experience. It can be whatever the individual wants it to be, pitting yourself against nature and the elements, a mental and physical struggle or a gentle amble through the glens. Whatever the individual wants to make it.

    Whatever, it’s an addiction.

    So, 2015 then…

  6. My head is a-buzz with plans, and my years are curently woefully short of enough holidays. I may need to be a section hiker or trail walker for a few more years before I can tackle another really big one. The Emerald Isle West coast appeals, or E8 Dublin to Cork.

  7. AlanR says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your philosophy. The sharing whisky was one of the best bits. (But not for breakfast).

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