I enjoyed this year’s TGO Challenge, which was such a relief after the misery and hardships of 2012. The first three days were very wet, which was similar to last year, but I didn’t have any nasty river crossings planned and although the rain wasn’t particularly enjoyable I managed to stay cheerful. Maybe 2012 made me mentally stronger as I now know I can cope with most things the Scottish weather can throw at me.
I wore my waterproofs for at least some time every day, but in the second week this was to protect me from the bitterly cold wind rather than keep the rain out. There were a few days with very pleasant sun but the weather was still quite cold during the day – although I found the nights quite warm.
Starting from Ardrishaig, which is the most Southerly of the current signing-out points, and finishing just North of Arbroath, I knew I wouldn’t meet many Challangers. I met one on my first day (his second) and one in the second week – although he wasn’t actually on this year’s Challenge! This might sound like a very lonely crossing but my regular phone calls to Control and the many tweets and text messages I received made sure that I continued to feel a part of the event.
I had wondered if the landscape and scenery to the South of the Challenge area would somehow be inferior to that in the North but I needn’t have worried – it was beautiful and wild with plenty of “up” bits.
My kit generally worked well. My new Osprey Exos rucksack is a vast improvement on my Golite Pinnacle. Yes, sometimes my pack felt heavy but it was usually fairly comfortable and it seems to be able to take a couple of extra kilogrammes, eg extra water and food, without making any difference to the comfort or balance of the pack.
One new piece of equipment which made a huge improvement to my camping comfort was a piece of B&Q laminate flooring underlay. I took around 100 grammes of the underlay, rolled up in the roll-mat straps on the bottom of my rucksack, and this was enough to carpet the whole of the tent. Once the carpet was laid I could then take my time unpacking the rest of my gear and didn’t have to sit on either a cold groundsheet or teeter on my Neoair mattress (which never works well as a seat as it relies on the body’s weight being spread along the whole length of the mattress). Thanks to Alan for the suggestion.
I’ll get round to publishing my Challenge photographs and writing up my trip report soon(ish).