Monday 9 December 2013

It does my head in, but it's worth it! TGO 2014

Decisions, decisions?

It really does do my head in!

Deciding on a start point for the 2014 TGO Challenge.

Will I take the easy options, on start points, or, go for the not so easy? A start point next to a train station does take a lot of the pain out of deciding.

Will I manage to get some more yet-to-climb-Munros in on my route?

Will I put together an interesting route?

Will my Vetter laugh at the absurdity of my route plan?

And many, many more questions.

I remember at one stage I had to stop looking at possible start points as I did get a headache!

Dercision made!

Last May I started from the most northerly start point, Torridon.

This coming May I'll be starting from the most southerly start point, Ardrishaig. It's not so easy to get to. It involves a long bus journey from Glasgow, but it is the furthest South and there's a logic in spreading out the start points.

I will try to avoid going back to where I've been before in future years. Although I did especially like the Strathcarron start point on my first TGO in 2009.

I guess your first experience is memorable!

I will finish at Dunnottar Castle, just South of Stonehaven.

Click the image to visit our 'Visiting the Castle' page.

I've finished in Montrose, once and St. Cyrus, three times and have had to sit down and write out 100 times: I must finish at Dunnottar Castle.

The perils of planning

It looks pretty straightforward on the maps. Just join up a few pointy bits and hit a few watering holes and, after a couple of easy steps, reach the finish point. 

Unless you've been over the ground previously, you have no idea. And, even if you have been over the ground before, weather conditions can change: that trickle of a burn can become a totally impassable torrent!

I cannot understate the role of the Vetters on the TGO Challenge. They have such a wealth of knowledge and their advice is invaluable. They seem to have read your mind and already done the route you submit for vetting!

I remember last year musing over a camp spot where I knew it was mainly scrub and devoid of water. My Vetter gave me a grid reference for a spot where it would be just fine to pitch.  Flat and with a spring nearby. I just hoped no one else would get the same advice! But, as it turned out, I didn't go that way.

Not all plans come to fruition!

Roughly the way

My route stays fairly southerly and is quite a long one. If all goes to plan I'll climb six new-to-me Munros and 9 that I've been up before.

This time it's the first few days that will test me - all before I climb any Munros.

The first day involves getting to and past Carron bothy. On the map it looks simple; just follow the tracks and a path. Trouble is the path is completely impassable where it hits the forest before Carron bothy! The way around this is ok if you know where to go. If you don't you can get very lost! Thankfully, a good number of the vetting team determined to test out the best way of reaching Carron bothy back in 2009 and there is now a preferred route for this first day.

I don't climb my first Munro until I leave Beinglas Farm on the 4th day. After that there are a fair few to cover as I wend my way over towards Kinloch Rannoch. From here it's on to Blair Atholl before I re-visit some of my favourite Munros as I wander to the right of Glen Tilt. I divert over towards Spittal of Glenshee to have another attempt at some more Munros that will see me very happy if I get up them and down into the hotel. For the second time I will make my way from Spittal of Glenshee to Clova, but, this time I am determined to take the high way! (ok, weather permitting).

I'll pop in to Tarfside before another I-must-go-this-way-must-do-it! decision that will get me up high and over to the Fetteresso. Not an easy opt out to St. Cyrus: much as I love St Cyrus.

My route through the Fetteresso is well trod and I will arrive at Dunnottar Castle on the last Thursday.

I haven't booked the Dinner in the Park and this leaves open my options. My thoughts, just now are to camp on the coast before going down to Montrose on the Friday.

From here on

I hope to get in some backpacking trips before May; as well as day trips and will be looking out for some decent snow too.

I'll be backpacking around the Derwant Watershed before the Snake Pass Inn TGO Re-union meeting in March.

I'll update and repeat my TGO gear list, which has proved to be my most popular post to date.

This time I'll be using pretty much the same gear, but, I'll add a few more bits about why I chose the gear I use.

For backpacking you can get away with very little, as long as you know what your limitations are, and, more, especially, the limitations of your gear.

Anyway, that's the planning and vetting over.

It does my head in, but it's worth it. 


  1. To date, I've not had a problem deciding where to start. It's the FWAs I dither and agonise over in the planning process. This year I've got around the issue with a route with just one (4km-long) FWA. It's not been vetted yet, mind, as we are still waiting for our numbers to come up.

    1. The FWAs are a pain. One year I will realise that heading for pointy bits is not a good idea. But, I'm optimistic.
      I hope you both get in his year.

  2. I enjoyed my route starting from Ardrishaig (2013). I had a good mix of flat bits, pretty bits and hilly bits - although I don't collect hills on lists so that's never a deciding factor when I am planning my routes. I have finished at Stonehaven and was too lazy to walk the short extra distance to Dunnottar! Maybe I'll see you at Spittal of Glenshee in 2014; if not, maybe in Montrose. Have a good crossing, Gordon.

    1. Hi, Judith.
      I'm looking forward to starting from Ardrishaig. I always put pointy bits on my route, but, my record of getting to them on the Challenge is none too good.
      I had a very inspirational chat with a very experienced Challenger, a little while back, and he gave me some useful thoughts. I just hope I can get over ..... and out to Dunnottar.
      I hope to be in Glenshee on the Sunday - avoiding the Cateran Race on the Saturday. Hope to see you there or in Montrose.
      You, too have a good crossing, Judith.