I cant believe that its eight weeks today that we will be all packed and heading to Sheil Bridge on the West Coast to start our walk across Scotland.
It was last october when we sent away entries from TGO magazine in hope that my partner Lynn and I would be accepted for this years event, then in November we were delighted to recieve an email to tell us that we had a place on the challenge.
We have been doing some training for the walk- not so much distance, but more importantly getting used to carrying big packs and finding out what equipment works and what doesnt.
I caught the wilderness backpacking bug a couple of years back when we did a few overnight winter trips to Bothies and it progressed to wild camping in glens when spring finally came!
My favourite trip to date has been getting the train into the remote Corrour station and backpacking over the Ben Alder hills. It was hard work carrying a heavy pack over the summits, but the rewards and satisfaction I gained from doing that were immense.
The Challenge is a yearly event which is now in its 38th year and has proved very popular with people taking part from all over the world and the number over people taking part is capped to 300.
Its not a walk where 300 people walk together on one route- that could cause a lot of problems, namely accomodation for a start!
There is a choice of ten starting points on the West and you can finish anywhere on the East between Fraserburgh and Arbroath- all you have to do is pick your starting point, plan a route through some of Scotlands great scenery and then submit your route to the challenge vetters who are on hand to give you any advice etc on your chosen route.
Being our first ever challenge and biggest ever walk carrying all our camping gear etc, I chose a reasonably straight forward route through glens and over a few mountain passes.
Our route takes us through Glen Affric, over the Corrieyairack Pass, through Glen Feshie to Braemar, over to Glen Esk and finishing at Montrose.
Although I have already walked parts of our planned route before- the attraction to me is linking everything up together to make the walk of a lifetime possible- its quite interesting to think that years I cycled from Fort William on the West to Rothes which is almost 15 miles from the north east coast in a day, and every wednesday with work I drive from Buckie in the east to Oban in the west and back in one day! Our walk will take us almost two weeks!
Most nights we will be camping which will be a mixture of wild camping and staying at campsites on Villages we pass through when we need to restock on food supplies, camping gas etc.
My attention has also turned to our equipment for this trip. I’m not quite at the stage of becoming an ultralight backpacker, but Im slowly making the transition- the lighter the better especially for a 185 mile walk!
Boots- I hardly ever wear my leather boots now, great for plodding though snow covered hills during a winter hill walk but way to heavy a clumsy in my opinion for backpacking.
This past year I’ve been using my Meindl Minesotta Pro GTX boots which are lighter than my leather boots and more comfortable, but I now want to go even lighter. A lot of people have gone down the road of wearing trail shoes for backpacking which I have tried, but Im not concinced as yet. I have ordered a pair of Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX which Im hoping to use on this walk. They are basiclly trail shoes with a higher cuff around the ankle. Im pretty confident these will be perfect for the challenge, but will need a few test runs first before I decide whether I will be wearing these or the Meindls on the challenge.
Clothing I will be wearing for the challenge is sorted out, but depending on the long range weather forecast- it may vary what I will be taking at the last minute. Lets hope its a heatwave, but it is Scotland and by what I’ve read on previous challenge reports- be prepared for anything!
Accomodation will be our Tarptent Scarp 2 Tent which I bought last Autumn. Previously to this we had a Terra Nova Polar Lite Micro 2 tunnel tent- which was a cracking small tent, but it was small. It could stand up to all sorts of weather, was easy to put up quickly- but it was simply to small for two people.
I had been looking at the Scarp 2 tent for some time and one evening my partner Lynn had found a second hand one for sale. It was in good condition and had little use, so I just had to buy it!
So far I’ve been pleased with my purchase, its far roomier that the previous tent. We now have a porch each too!
The tent weighs in at a respectable 1.8 kilos and it came supplied with the optional 2 cross over poles for use in winter and very windy conditions- these poles take the weight of the tent up to 2.3 kilos. If the long range forecast looks good for the challenge, then I intend to leave out the extra poles for the challenge thus saving even more weight- every gram counts! Instead I’m going to do what other Scarp 2 owners have done and make a couple of additions/modifications and add a few extra guylines which will make the tent more secure in high winds at a minimal weight gain. I was hoping to get these modifications done today, but the high winds have put stop to this plan!
I have only one worry about the trip, which is an on going ankle problem I’ve had for years. After walking considerable distance especially with wearing my heavy pack, I get this pain under my left ankle bone and it is more pain walking when the uphill slope is on the left of my foot. I always wear superfeet which do help to a degree and I do wear custom made ones in my walking boots.
I read with great interest in the latest edition of the Scottish Mountaineer magazine, a gentleman who also had problems with his ankle, he too had tried Superfeet Insoles- but this didnt cure his problem. Then he consulted a podiatrist who soon diagnosed his problem and got custom Interpod Othoritcs which has given this gentleman an 80% improvement. From what I have read in this article- I think these insoles would help correct or alleviate my problem to a big degree. Im now waiting to hear back from the local Podiatrist to book an appointment- fingers crossed they can help.
Im looking forward to this walk for various reasons- meeting all the like minded people along the way, two weeks doing what I love the most, the achievment of it all and of course the craic in the pubs along the way with other challengers and Lynn when we stop over at campsites in villages! Although lots of people will be walking in pairs and on their own- its quite a socialble event Im lead to beleive!
I will be posting on here over the next few weeks on our progress of our training, more about gear we will be using, if I get my ankle problem sorted and of course my tent modifications!
We have also decided to use this opportunity of this walk to raise money for SARDA Scotland- Search And Rescue Dog Association.
The Search & Rescue Dog Association Scotland:
- Is a volunteer organisation which trains dogs and their handlers to search for missing persons
- Is used by Police and Mountain Rescue to locate missing people in the mountains or low ground areas, including children and people with dementia.
- Has handlers who are experienced mountaineers, and trained in casualty care.
- Covers all of Scotland, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Please take a minute or two and clink onto our link below to find out more about our fundraising- thank you.