Alan Sloman’s blog on 3 December – please do read it – most eloquently describes a process of preparing for a particular outdoors challenge, in this case the annual two week TGO Challenge walk across Scotland.
Through the ‘noise’ of the Message Board, The Digital Challenger “…wonders, if after all their detailed inquiries as to how boggy a path will be, or how rough a certain bealach may be or how heavy their pack should be or how much water they should carry, what sort of socks they should wear and the length of their shoe laces (round or flat?) if they will ever manage to drag their corpses from one side of Scotland to the other if it rains and their plimsolls get soggy...”
Next year will be my second year of doing the Challenge. This year I asked a few questions about food parcels and the ferry across Loch Ness, camp sites, etc, and received some very sympathetic and helpful responses to my naïve queries.
I have not yet planned next year’s route in detail. I want to do that together with Sue, when she has time, so that we can take joint responsibility should it ‘all go wrong’! However, after last year’s experience as a solo walker (the report is here) I have a clear idea of sensible daily mileage and ascent targets, and as it’s only my second challenge we can choose an excellent ‘new’ route without any duplication of last year’s ‘thin blue line’ (that’s reference to the line plotted on the digital map on the computer). We’ve had the first two days planned for ages, as Sue wants to bag the seven Munros of the South Cluanie Ridge.
This brings me to another issue concerning Digital Challengers, especially those from overseas. Mark Alvarez from the USA has actively joined the TGOC ‘fraternity’ and the message board is potentially of particular help to people like Mark who may not have first hand experience of Scottish hillwalking. It quickly became evident to Mark that questions of gear – waterproofs, footwear, tents, etc – are very much open to personal opinions, a wide range of which can be seen in response to a simple question such as “what type of waterproof?” So the ‘Digital Noise’ is fine, but it does sometimes have to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially where the writer is of the ‘Digital Macho’ type with a name like ‘LeonardoX’ or 'Boom Boom’ with no email address and sometimes extreme or controversial ‘angles’ on topics on which their writings show little evidence of expertise.
Here’s a message I sent to Mark concerning one of these peculiar little jokey messages:
One correspondent on the Message Board states:
"Mark, whatever figure you arrive at as elevation gain for your chosen route, the amount of climbing will still be the same.
And when walking, if you encounter a feature known as a Munro, then walk around it, rather than over it. That's what the old drovers did and they were clever fellows."
He or she is joking, obviously, but this could be misleading and whilst I don't pretend to understand the first sentence, I would point out that the 'drovers' had a completely different agenda to that of the modern-day Challenger. If the weather is good, and it often is in May, the high level ridges can be absolutely magnificent. It's pretty easy to work out from the map where high level camps may be feasible (the Message Board can be a help) and personally I would always give myself the option of a high level route, reserving the lower level, and often much boggier, midgier and perhaps tick ridden route for poor weather - the ‘Foul Weather Alternative.”
My advice is that anyone seeking genuine helpful assistance could do worse than contact stalwarts such as ‘Mr Grumpy’, Alan Sloman, Ian C, Derek Emsley, Ian Shiel and Phil Lambert (and there are many more) and treat some of the jolly jesters with the suspicion they deserve!
As regards gear, you could do worse than contact Bob and Rose (pictured above with Loch Ness on this year’s Challenge) of backpackinglight.co.uk for guidance. They are well informed as to what might currently be the best gear for the intended purpose and they can usually supply it at a competitive price. They are always happy to discuss the pros and cons of any particular item.
That’s all the Digital Noise you’ll get from me today!