At the end of August, @TGOChallenge tweeted that the window for entries to TGO Challenge 2020 would open in two weeks time ….. and my heart fell. I had a total of 6 weeks to decide whether to enter. Did I really want to spend two weeks away from home? Did I want to do the planning? Comply with the rules? Get soaked through and exhausted whilst sticking to a route and schedule I no longer wanted to follow? The answer was No ….. but not a big enough No for me to turn my back on the event completely. My mind was in a muddle.
I did my 10th TGO Challenge in 2016 having missed only one year since my first crossing in 2006. I spent a week on Challenge Control in 2017 then completed another crossing in 2018. I found this one quite tough. I had things on my mind, I had a miserable cold, my feet hurt, and my heart just wasn’t in it. I had to dig deep to keep going and wouldn’t have needed much of an excuse to pack it in and go home.
This year, 2019, I did not apply for the Challenge. Instead I spent a wonderful week helping to maintain Leacraithnaich Bothy then watched Tranmere Rovers get promoted (again) at Wembley. Keen readers will recall that I missed Rovers’ 2018 promotion and heard the good news whilst photographing a stoaty/weaselly thing at Alltbeithe hostel.
Although not involved with the TGO Challenge this year I enjoyed reading the tweets about planning routes, choosing kit, and doing the walking part ….. but it all seemed a bit distant. I was pleased for the people who were taking part and getting so much enjoyment from the event but I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel sufficiently motivated to do another Challenge myself. I’d been there, done that, got the T-Shirt. 11 T-Shirts, actually, and I needed to do something else with my precious time.
In September, this year, I joined another MBA workparty; this time in Resourie, Ardgour. The walk in was quite hard-going. It was wet, very wet, and my rucksack was heavy with extra clothes and nearly a week’s worth of food…. but the mountains were beautiful. Even camping on the only dry spot amongst miles of neverending bog on the wettest day since time began ….. was amazing. This is where I belong.
The train journey from Fort William to Glasgow, on my way home, triggered so many memories. Places I’d camped; tea rooms I’d visited; evil forests; lung-busting, leg-withering climbs; gloriously empty glens; bogs I thought I’d never escape from; cuckoos; macaroni cheese; the simple pleasure of clean, dry socks….. and so it went on.
After my Resourie trip I spent a long weekend in a Lincolnshire caravan and spent a rainy afternoon looking at maps of Scotland. Possible routes were scribbled in my TGO Challenge notebook. There was some consideration of of the practicalities of reaching my 3 potential start points. Again, as I mentally wandered across the Highlands, the memories flooded back.
TGO Challenge 2020 application deadline day arrived and I’d still not applied. I was tipping more towards wanting to do it than not but wasn’t completely sure. I decided to apply and buy myself a couple of extra weeks thinking time. If I got a place I could withdraw at the payment stage and someone else would fill the gap. I think it was 3 hours before the deadline when I pressed the button.
Over the next week I found myself reading TGO Challenge blogs and really enjoying them. Whether the blogger had been having a great time or a miserable one, I knew exactly what he or she was going through. I understood the anxieties, the calmness, the simple enjoyment, the pain, the misery, the rewards. I needed to do this Challenge thing again!
This morning I received an email to say that I’d been successful in the draw for the TGO Challenge in 2020. I felt two emotions in quick succession; first, a buzz that I’d be taking part again, then a concern for all the others who’d applied. There were bound to be people who desperately wanted a place but weren’t going to get one. There’s no longer a standby list so any hopes of a second chance are shortlived as they depend on people not paying the entry fee.
However, I was pleased with my first reaction. I’ve got my TGO Challenge desire back. Planning for crossing number 12 is now full steam ahead.