Earlier this week some of the participants in this year’s TGO Challenge passed through Saddle Mountain Hostel. For those who don’t know, the Challenge is organised annually under the auspices of TGO magazine. A total of 300 walkers have to make their way on foot from the west coast of Scotland to the east coast. There is a set selection of both departure and arrival points, but otherwise the participants have to set their own route, for pre-approval by the organisers.
The event has been taking place since 1980 and those taking part have to complete it this year between 12th and 26th May. Although obviously it is possible to spend some nights in hostels, the Challenge requires at least some wild camping, and therefore the carrying of a very heavy pack. It also requires navigation skills, since there is no marked route as such.
This year eight of those taking part stayed with us for a night, over a two day period. They had started from points such as Mallaig and Inverie and were heading to the likes of Dunnotar Castle and St Cyrus on the East coast.
It would be fair to say that they were all very happy to reach “civilisation”. We were able to provide them with a comfy bed for the night, hot showers, the chance to wash some clothes, and the all-important food parcels which they had sent ahead to themselves. After two or three days on the trail all of them were pretty tired, and some arrived having had more challenging days than others. We hope that they all left us suitably refreshed, though.
As big fans of the concept of long distance walking ourselves, we have to salute those taking part, hauling their heavy packs over terrain without marked paths, and all in the fickle Scottish weather. It takes a special kind of person to choose to endure the experience. We have found, though, that several of our guests have taken part before, and have done repeatedly over a number of years.
At the time of this blog going to press, the challengers still have almost half their walk to go. So spare a thought for them this weekend as they march ever onward to the east. Imagine how good it must feel to finally reach the North Sea and dip your feet in the water. Inspiration for next year?