It was a pleasure, a few days ago, to receive the October (!!) issue of the splendidly revamped TGO Magazine. It includes an entry form for next year’s Challenge, which will be held from 11 to 25 May 2012, and short reports from ten of this year’s challengers that provide a flavour of the event.
I didn’t expect my small contribution to be published for the second year running, but it was. And if it’s good enough for TGO Magazine, it’s good enough for these pages:
“Hello Martin” exclaimed Markus as he set out purposefully from Culra Bothy on a wet and windy day in search of a sheltered spot for his tent, “that must be ‘Poor Michael’” – he pointed towards my bedraggled companion who was approaching the bothy.
I hadn’t seen Markus since cycling across the Alps with him last summer. He’s normally the only Challenger from Austria, but this year was joined by his sister Silke.
My companion, ‘Poor Michael’, was a first-timer like Silke. We were all searching for a sheltered spot for our tents.
“We don’t do bothies”, we all agreed. All four of us prefer the warmth and comfort of our tents.
“I’ve found a good sheltered spot for tonight” I confessed.
I’d discovered the back room of this well maintained bothy.
“Seems ok” everyone agreed.
So we installed ourselves, shortly to be joined by a rare species – Stefan, a German first-timer who had set off from Oban with a 24 kilo load. Today he arrived via the Munro, Beinn Bheoil, where he reported “the wind was worse than the wind that I experienced at the North Cape!”
My marginal decision to bale out of a five mile ridge walk had been justified.
We maintain regular contact with people like Markus, Silke and Stefan. We visit them. They visit us. There is great camaraderie amongst TGO Challengers. I know that anyone can walk across Scotland at any time, a point often made by non-Challengers, but even on an obscure route where few or no Challengers are encountered, the camaraderie remains. Life-long friendships are forged. Like-minded neighbours in towns across the UK discover each other and enhance each others lives.
It’s a simply wonderful event, sensitively organised by a team led by Roger Smith over the years, and now passed into the capable hands of John Manning.
Long live the TGO Challenge!
Martin Banfield (Challenger Number 15)
The header picture was taken by Roger Boston on 24 May. He had noticed me rummaging in the undergrowth, GPS in hand, after our 30km stroll from Ballater to Water of Aven, and recorded my delight in locating some ‘Medical Supplies’.
‘Poor Michael’, Roger and I were later joined by Silke and Markus for a cheese and wine party in the bright evening sunshine at Water of Aven.
Such are the happiest of days. Here’s what I wrote at the time.
Next year I hope to get Sue, the ‘Shortbread Lady’, on the Challenge again, but as she can carry only a light bum bag these days, the planning may be quite demanding in itself.
The TGO Challenge website is here.