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TGO Challenge 2015

By Greg Lindstrom 2015.03.14 in Fjällräven

TGO1

I noticed a nice Rab hiking jacket on an elderly gentleman while waiting out a sudden downpour last fall.  It’s amazing how a simple comment of “Nice Jacket” can add a new path in your life.  It was during the Fjallraven Classic.  I was waiting for my Polar teammates to arrive at camp before the start when I started up the conversation.  He explained that it was purchased during a trek called “The Great Outdoors (TGO) Challenge.”   It’s a coast to coast hike across the Highlands of Scotland in 15 days.  It’s that simple.  You can’t use any motorized transportation except the ferry across Loch Ness.  You can wild camp (it’s like Sweden with very open access to camp anywhere) or have the comfort of Bed & Breakfasts as you sleep.  Carry 15 days worth of food or stop at every pub along the way.  It’s your choice.  The challenge is that it’s limited to 300 people and most are from the UK.  While most first timers are wait-listed I was glad to hear a few opportunities would be given to those outside the UK.

I submitted my outdoor resume of climbs and treks and anxiously waited for an email.  I was excited to see “Welcome to the 2015 Challenge!” from Sue Oxley & Ali Ogden, the TGOC Coordinators, from the Newtonmore Hostel.  The journey begins in May and you can start  at a dozen locations on the west coast, from Torridon to Ardrishaig.  From there you plan a route that suits you, from climbing Munros (Scotlands highest mountains) to crossing the Cairngorms National Park.  Your trek ends when you reach the eastern seaboard between Fraserburgh and Arbroath.  Now comes the fun part – planning your exact route.  You must fully plan the path you’ll take, complete with Foul Weather Alterative routes, and submit it to Highland experts who go over the path with a fine tooth comb.  My first attempt at a route followed a previous participant based on his great photos.  I soon discovered that he followed paths not on any charts I could find.  So, I purchased a book called Scottish Hill Tracks from Amazon, picked up an Ordnance Survey of North Scotland off eBay and downloaded RouteBuddy (1:25,000) Coast 2 Coast (C2C).   Using the book I plotted a string of hikes across the country.

I knew I wanted to climb several Munros, travel past old castles (some my ancestors lived in) and through deep forests during this first trek.  I chose my start at Dornie, home of the famous castle Eilean Donan.Eilean_Donan_Castle,_Scotland_-_Jan_2011  This iconic castle was featured in the movies Rob Roy and Highlander.  The first day will a long one with a side detour to the Falls of Glomach.  Day Two is “one of the finest ridge walks in Scotland” covering four Munro peaks.  The map at the top shows my final approved submission for the trek.  I’ll end at St Cyrus on the east coast.

I had hoped to keep my total pack weight at 20 lbs which included food and water.  As I’m solo, crossing many streams and rivers without bridges and climbing – the gear needed just kept adding up.  I have my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, poles, pegs, backpack (TBD model) and ground cloth at only 3.7k (8 lbs).  A mixture of clothes due to the potential for snow and many rain days comes in at 2.3k (5 lbs).  So far, so good.  It’s the camera, GPS, crampons, Spot3 Emergency Communicator, iPhone (we must call in four times to Control during the trek), large battery to charge as I’m wild camping, and cooking gear that add up.  I plan to restock food every 5 days so that means carrying about seven days of food with me.  I had hoped to use my Osprey Exos 48 but the comfort weight will be exceeded.  My Gregory Baltoro 65 will be too big (and heavy at 5 lbs) so a new pack is in order.  I’ll post my gear list with weight as soon as it’s finalized.

Only 54 days to go…

 

Paragliding – First Lesson

By Greg Lindstrom 2014.05.20 in Paragliding

After graduating with my Master’s degree this past weekend I decided to give myself a present – a paragliding lesson.  I researched a few schools in the area and went with “Let’s Go Paragliding” (www.LetsGoParagliding.com).  It was only an hour south of me on Mt. Brace and had good reviews.   I had to drop my mother at the airport at 6am so I ended up showing up at the school two hours early.   The first thing I see are five tents and six travel trailers.  As I’m pulling up I notice someone attempting to remove the morning dew from his ground cloth.  I introduce myself and he mentioned they had a great day of gliding yesterday and several club members spent the night.  I later find out this is quite common, with many people staying for the entire weekend.

Groundhog Paragliders

Groundhog Paragliders (FlyOzone.com)

I can tell immediately that this is a hands-on club as a group of five individuals were trying to determine the best way to paint a bulls-eye on the Land Zone.  Apparently you must be within a 25’ of the target as a requirement for your first pilot rating (P2).  In the end, small rocks were painted white for the circumference with a winking smiley face in the middle.I finally met Benoit Bruneau, the founder and head instructor.  He’s running a four-wheeler up the path to the top of a hill where I spy someone with a strange looking pack.  I later find out that he’s “kiting”, a technique to test new equipment on the ground and also for beginners to learn; as I was about to find out.  The wind was blowing hard and steady like the top of a mountain peak which I assumed was great for paragliding.  A club member explained that too much wind acts as a counterbalance to moving forward and could push you backwards from your launch point into the trees.  Ok, that makes sense – landing in trees is bad.

There were two other first timers (one I’ve seen on TV if I’m correct) and two others from New York City with a previous weekend of experience.  We were provided with helmets, harnesses and finally our Groundhog gliders from Ozone to start learning.  The gliders are 22.6’ in length when laid flat on the ground.  There are dozens of cords but it basically comes down to a left and right side red strap to control lift/speed, green to support and yellow to break.  The right side is attached to your left harness and left to your right harness to start.  The yellow webbing has a circular strap snapped to it which provides for hand control of braking.

To start, I put my index fingers under the red cords, while holding the brake strap, and gently lift.  The kite suddenly shoots straight up over my head and dancing all around.  It crashes to the ground.  Ok, that would not be good if I was at 1,000 feet.   Benoit explains that when it dips left, move left like on a tennis court, and pull the left brake.  I struggle to get the glider back flat on the ground and try again, and again, and again.  This is not easy.  As it was chilly at the start of the lesson I layered in Fjallraven clothing.  That quickly changes to sweating with all the work.  As I’m in a harness I can’t remove layers so I just unzip my outer layer.  Benoit sees this and says I’m working too hard and points me towards a more advanced student.  He looks like he’s ballroom dancing with the glider.  Ok, I get it – work smarter.  I first learn to use the wind to flip my glider into position on the ground by a combination of braking maneuvers.  That save me a lot of time and frustration untangling cords.  Next is learning to dance.   Suddenly I have the glider above me for a solid minute without crashing.  I’m excited and it’s time to break for lunch.

Student Kiting

Student Kiting (Let’s Go Paragliding)

The lunch area is by the travel campers and there were a few advanced pilots sitting around tables hoping the wind would die down.   Even though it was outside, there was a microwave, sink and a radio.  Everyone was very talkative and helpful with tips.   One gentleman named Jerry was in this 3rd year and travelled over 70 miles from the launch site during a cross-country trip.  He soared to over 4,000’ using thermals and landed in a field.  He packed up the glider and walked to the nearest town and found the local pub.  He called his wife, waiting at the launch site, who drove and picked him up; along with other pilots who landed along the way.

After lunch I successfully get some control and Benoit says it’s time for the next phase, getting into launch position.   With the glider in control above you, you quickly turn clockwise, bend forward like a skier, and put your arms straight behind you like a ski jumper – except you’re still holding onto a 23’ giant kit moving all around.  I start walking forward glancing upwards to the left and right while moving my hands up and down to keep the glider from crashing.  I walk the length of the landing zone before it crashes.  Now I’m really excited.  I spend the next few hours practicing the technique but never fully mastering it.  I’m hooked.  Despite graduating with my MBA I need to finish up my thesis and we have two weekends of classes left.  I’ll sign up for the Pilot training program in July or after the Fjallraven Classic in August.  I can’t wait to finally get more than a foot off the ground.

Lagom

By Greg Lindstrom 2014.05.05 in Dogs

Swedish for “Just Right”

Life is a balancing act. Work, love, and adventure done “just right”

This site is dedicated to those working towards Lagom

Tied to a six-foot chain for his life and starved to the point of being seized by authorities, how could I not rescue him?  Thus began our life with Wolsey, our third rescued dog.  The first time off-leash he hurt himself trying to run – another trip to the Vet ER.

Wolsey

Wolsey

Today,he’s 135 pounds and faster than my 72 pound shepherds.  He’s learned to love the outdoors again with long walks through the fields, keeping bears off the property and swim.  As I begin this blog on Outdrr you’ll hear and see a lot of my dogs.  They are part of our lives.  Rescue #4 came exactly a week ago as a plea for a “dog whisper”.  No one could foster this small shepherd mix who reportedly acts like a fierce full-grown shepherd.  Know known as Elle she took her first walk through the fields the very next day and even saw her first bear.  Within the week she was fully integrated into the “pack” and loving life with no issues.  She’s a sweetheart who started off with a rough life and will be a part of our hiking life.

Elle

Elle

Finally, the first two – Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (cream reddish).  Henry is “Mr. Outdoor” – he loves to play, leap to astonishing heights to catch balls and took 75+ porcupine needles to the face.

Henry and Anne

Henry and Anne

Lagom – four rescued dogs – “just right”

About

Welcome to Lagom, a blog about living life "just right". My name is Greg Lindstrom and I love adventure in many forms.

Once an avid mountaineer I moved to more hiking, scuba diving, photography and travel. I love the outdoor life with my wife and four rescued dogs. Some highlights of my outdoor life include climbing Aconcagua 22,835' solo via the Polish Glacier Falso route, Eiger via NW ridge, Mt Rainier, Zugspitz, Jungfrau and half the Colorado 14,000'ers. I'm an avid Scuba Diver (PADI Advanced Open Water) and recently participated in Fjällräven Polar 2014.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on LindstromGregory@gmail.com.

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