TGO Challenge 2015

By Greg Lindstrom on 2015.03.14 In Fjällräven Hiking


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…


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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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