TGOC 2014: Reflections on my crossing

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.

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Dennis having breakfast outside his tent in Strathfarrer 
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Lousie snapping Laura hugging a redwood tree (but her arms weren’t quite long enough). They apparently did this regularly all the way across.
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Does my pack look big in this? Robin in the Monadliath – his pack really wasn’t that big.
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Camping in the sunshine at Mar Lodge. Certainly the lushest camp site of the crossing.
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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.

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