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The Great Outdoors Challenge Preperations (TGO)

My husband and I were selected to participate in The Great Outdoors Challenge, a west- coast-to-east coast cross-country backpack across Scotland. I am super excited and honored because only 300 participants are selected each year with only a handful from the United States. The annual event is May 9 – May 23. The Challenge is sponsored by The Great Outdoors Magazine (much like Backpacker Magazine in the United States), in partnership with the outdoor company, hanwag.

A few years ago, I read Trail Ambassador’s Philip Werner’s account of his experience and challenges hiking in a foreign country across wet and demanding terrain in this event called the TGO. I remember thinking, “How cool would that be!”

TGO Challenge Logo

Challenge Logo

The TGO is entirely non-competitive (although, upon finishing, Challengers receive a special badge, certificate and T-shirt). A maximum of 15 days is allowed for the crossing. Most people take between 12 and 14 days to cross, and the average length for a crossing is about 289 kilometers (180 miles). The Challenge demands a good level of competence in navigation, survival techniques, campcraft and general hillcraft that requires crossing rivers, climbing Munros (peaks over 3,000 feet), walking through peat bogs, being prepared for rain, mud, and boulder fields. There are no pre-blazed trails, just hill walking. The event is very organized with due dates, rules, and a cool get together at the ending point, Montrose. The event is renowned for its sociability, support, community, and camaraderie.

Be sure to check out part 2 of this post

18 Responses to The Great Outdoors Challenge Preperations (TGO)

  1. Martin Rye May 5, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    The snow is gone, and forecast is a bit of wind and rain first few days. Welcome to Scotland. I hope you get some views.

    The key to mastering a off-path route in Scotland is to be able to navigate wild, tussock and bog terrain in the mist and keep on track. Master and it’s easy.

    Have a great Crossing and all the best. I will tell my friends on it to too look out for you and say hi. They are should we say an eccentric mix of well know Challengers.

  2. Editor May 5, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    “Eccentric” is an understatement. Check out the party in Braemar on Saturday night or the one at Tarfside, but avoid the whiskey rebellion at Loch Callater Lodge (although do pop in for a bacon buttie and tea).

  3. Paul Alderson May 5, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    I hiked 77 miles from Kingussie to Morvich last week via the Corrieyairack Pass and Glen Affric. There was no snow on the trail. There was some in higher gullies and sheltered faces on the peaks where it had accumulated. Have a great trip.

  4. Laura May 5, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    I might leave the umbrella behind unless you want to be like Mary Poppins! It almost never rains here without the wind blowing

  5. Ian Beswick (@Beswickian) May 5, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    All the very best to all the challengers. Especially those on a restricted diet. I’m a Coeliac myself so i’d be interested to know how you get on with it?

  6. David May 5, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Hi, I’m starting at Shiel Bridge too and heading to Fort Augustus like you. Hope to see you en route but in any event have a fabulous time!

    David Williams

  7. al May 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Hi, I’m starting from Shiel Bridge on the 10th, like your goodselves. Have a great trip if I don’t see you although chances are our “paths will cross”!

  8. VolpieWillem Fox May 6, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Have à splendid crossing! See you in Stonehaven (or before)

    • Editor May 6, 2014 at 8:31 am #

      Christy – Willem is another rogue, though a very civilized one compared to the ones from the UK, that you must meet. He can be seen wearing Gossamer Gear packs. Hello Willem!

  9. alan.sloman May 6, 2014 at 2:10 am #

    Have a wonderful walk.
    From looking at your route it appears we’ll bump into each other in Fort Augustus and Braemar.
    It’s a walk you’ll never forget.

    • Editor May 6, 2014 at 5:21 am #

      How could you forget it Alan? This must be your 20th year hiking the Challenge! Christy, be sure to say hello to Alan for us. He’s the tall skinny guy chasing the windmills. You can’t miss him. Love you Alan. Have another great walk!

      • alan.sloman May 6, 2014 at 8:17 am #

        It is indeed my 20th TGO Challenge, but alas, one of them doesn’t count as it was 2001 – the year we had a foot and mouth outbreak here in the UK. There was a “mini-Challenge” that year, starting at the A9 and finishing on the east coast, but a few hardy souls did manage to arrange, with the landowners, a complete crossing from the west coast.
        So, should I manage to haul myself across this year, my Official 20th TGO Challenge will be next year.
        Love to you too, Sweetpants!
        Mwah, mwah!

  10. Neil May 6, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    Hi Christy,

    Glad you are using RouteBuddy software and our custom TGOchallenge maps for the The Great Outdoors Challenge 2014.

    Should you prefer to utilise UTM, rather than OSNG, and use the same OS or Harvey maps in our mobile software RouteBuddy Atlas, then just choose that option in Atlas.
    (You can switch between UTM and OSNG with just one click; or Lat/Lon.)


  11. Rockin' May 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Thank you so much everyone for the well wishes. I hope to meet many of you on the crossing. We are flying out tomorrow, hitting the dirt on Saturday, and are so excited for such a new experience.

    • Martin Rye May 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      Weather forecast for Saturday for west Scottish highlands:

      Saturday 10th May

      “A bright start but rain will spread into all parts during the day. The rain will be heavy at times with extensive hill fog developing. The rain will fall as sleet on the top of the Munro’s where it will feel chilly in the moderate to fresh winds”

      Welcome to Scotland.

      • Editor May 7, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

        You’re just grumpy because you’re not out there too.

        Christy, the weather during the second week is often very good but the first week can be dodgey. You have plenty of time to make the crossing so don’t feel rushed. When in town, try to find “Soreen” in the shops. It’s a wonderful malt cake that Eor (Martin) introduced me to last year.

        Have fun!

        • Martin Rye May 8, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

          Soreen, and Pringles, plus Jelly Babies will be all you need :) Weather is mixed but looking to clear monday hopefully.

          Philip already plotting next years route.

    • thehikinglife May 8, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      All the best to both you and Dan. Have a wonderful time and I look forward to hearing all about it upon your return.

      – Cam

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