With new jobs, half of our lives still in boxes and the other half spent out a little more than we used to be, the TGO has crept up on us quickly. A few tweets have reminded me to share our route for this, our first challenge event a little more.
So, the Route: Around 276.5km distance, 7,361ms of ascent, over 13 or 14 days. That's if the weather is good, which of course it won't be. However, we can all rest assured there will be Some Weather. If it does get a bit moody on that front, there will be more mileage but less ascent.
Waymarks: Dornie - Glen Affric -Balmacaan - Drumnadrochit (B&B, bounce box 1) - boat over Loch Ness, Inverfarigaig, Findhorn, Aviemore pizza buffet, Coylumbridge (campsite and clothes wash, bounce box 2), Lairig Ghru, maybe some tops for a day, Braemar but not stopping, Lochnagar, Sheilin of Mark, Mount Keen, Tarfside, Northwater Bridge, St. Cyrus.
Why this-a-way and not that-a-way: Complicated. I have about 4 other half finished (or half started) routes in the virtual map case, and in each instance I was frustrated after about 3 days by hitting a road or conurbation. I wanted to do the Five Sisters on day 1 but T had other ideas - honestly! Me, unrealistic? Of course, some of this is just plain ignorance. A big part of the reason to do the TGO, as many 'vets' point out, is that it provides a great opportunity to get to know the country better. We're new here, and at the beginning of the journey. That said, as always the plan is to minimise road and town interaction and get as much 'high and wild' under our belts as possible, whilst trying to be at least vaguely sensible about it. This route isn't the highest but this is our first time across, and it does allow some side trips to the tops if the weather allows.
And in particular.... As soon as I saw Andy Howell's pictures of the Balmacaan I knew I wanted to visit - hammer horror spooky but in the best way. James Boulter's pictures of the Findhorn were equally inspiring - images of pure calm. The Ghru has long been an ambition - if you backpack, how can it not be? Depending on the weather and our timescales we may end up going over the Cairngorms rather than through, although my eye has clearly been bigger than my tummy on more than one occasion before, so... We're a little shy of towns when backpacking, so Lochnagar and Mount Keen rather than the low routes in that area, although I have it on good authority from a man that knows that we might regret that - lots of bog. St. Cyrus because of the fine beach, and for no other reason. It's not a hugely original route and I need to make the appropriate nods to Knipe, Rye, Turner, Howell and Boulter. Of course, it all might change. It doesn't pay to cut your maps too fine...
The MindSet: Just because I did a big walk in the summer and am feeling fairly fit it doesn't mean that Scotland can't bite us. I'm wary of being a little blase about this - We've both been working right through the weekend and so don't have much prep time. The TGO also demands pace - inevitably there will need to be some long days in order to walk from coast to coast in one of the most mountainous bits of Europe, even if there seems to be a lot of tea, cake and whisky laid on at the village hall. In addition, the last twice I have been out I have forgotten fairly useful items, which was an inconvenience for short trips but would be a real hindrance on bigger ones. So, come Thursday it's sit down and shake down. Belt and braces time - everything gets checked 3 times over.
The Kit: La Sportiva Raptor, Keela Scuffers, and Aluminium Pacer Poles have been purchased, and tested to a degree where I am happy to take them on a two week trip. Gas will be used this time, which I don't like at all but is good for convenience and weight. I also asked Sean at Oookwerks to build us the first 2-up inner for the Trailstar in the UK. I'd like to say that I sat down with AutoCad and gave him minute and exacting specifications after many hours of stroking my architecturally styled goatee, but that would be big fat hairy fibs. Aside from a fairly lengthy email chain where I waffled on about not liking hot tents, and wanting a very sturdy bathtub floor, he sorted it all out for me. This is the first time I've had any interaction with a manufacturer other than 'my cash, your product', and so far it's been a real pleasure to kick a few ideas around with a tent tailor of quality. He has been infinitely patient, and is happy to make improvements on feedback. I think a 2 person inner for the TS could prove popular, and like many, I respect that his company is growing organically, sustainably (demand, not supply led) and is in the UK too - not an easy thing to do. Here's the first pitch on Sunday afternoon, in Glen Nevis campsite, a brief overnight stop for work:
We are also looking at packing a layer or two extra for this trip, as the weather may be even more mixed than usual at this time of year. I am thinking hard about synthetics which I am learning to love again. But no, I'm not taking crampons (axe is quite tempting though) and the gadgets, apart from phone and camera, will be left at home. No time for a full kit list, sorry, and I've got nothing exciting to tell other than what's above.
We leave on Friday 11th may, roll into the Dornie Hotel about 3pm, and sign out Saturday Morning. All this organisation is a bit quasi military for me, but you have to hand it to the TGOC staff and vetters - they have been nothing but smiles, and 300 people is alot of folk to look after.
If you're going, go well! If you're not, I hope you're out and about some too.