Tuesday 13 February 2024

Things to Do Before the TGO Challenge


TGO 2023 Bynack Lodge Camp

When you take part in the The Great Outdoors (TGO) challenge there are several skills and attitudes that you must either acquire or develop and you must hone these to a fine edge sharp enough to slice a frozen mars bar into sufficient pieces to share with four friends, supposing that you have four friends. So, to this end, I have started to sharpen my winter-blunted edge and am searching for something to slice, particularly since my diabetic nurse looks askance at any suggestion of the inclusion of chocolate-based delicacies in my diet. Mind you, she is a bit puritan when it comes to scoffing or drinking anything at all which might be vaguely enjoyable. I tell her that it won't extend my life, but it will definately seem a lot longer.

A TGO challenger camping somewhere at the top of Glen Tilt
Not so long ago there was a famiss legend and  TGO Challenger going by the name of Alan Sloman. Now each year, a month or so before the TGO Chally, he arranged a "Daunder". This was a few days backpacking somewhere nice with a group of individuals and during which some rules applied. One of the rules was that a chap from (I believe) Morpeth timed the group's progress across the landscape and, should the speed exceed 1 mph, he had the power to stop the group and order a brew-up. Apart from anything else, this ensured that nobody got left behind. Camps were mainly wild(ish) and, generally, fun was had. Puritans and specialist nurses might ponder if such a relaxed attitude was the Right Thing, given that the TGO challenge can be a bit tough at times. But, that's the thing, see...  much of success in 2 weeks walking across the country in, sometimes, less than ideal weather, is in the mind. If the brain is elsewhere, success is unlikely and a bus home from Pitlochry (or similar) is the most likely outcome. Unfortunately, Alan passed away last year, and nobody has popped up with a similar event.
On a long walk in Weardale

So, as I usually do, I'm doing my own thing anyway. 

So, one of the things that needs to be done is to get the psychology right. Several things need to be practised and one of the most important of these, in my 'umble, is to relax. There's no point in worrying about how far there is to go and that everybody else seems to know what they're doing and am I getting left behind, and where are my teabags (I once lost these for three days before they turned up)

February Camping near Arkengarthdale
And, of course, you need to be able to walk reasonably long distances with a pack that's a bit heavier than normal, fuelled by unhealthy dehydrated food, sometimes with a blister and a hangover AND not fall off anything, get washed away in a river or acquire the squitters.
Ringo distributing bits of a chewstick and dog spit on my sleeping bag
So, I'm doing the following things:

A short backpacking trip each month with each one getting a bit longer in distance and the number of nights. This produces all sorts of advantages such as not bothering getting up when it's snowing heavily against the tent door, resisting the 3:00 a.m. attentions of Mr Bladder, never passing a tea-room, cafe or pub and trying to get radio reception in English that doesn't fade in and out all the time. You also learn what is nice to eat and what isn't and the most efficient way to make porridge AND whether or not the tent holds up in a strong wind and if it leaks anywhere.

ALSO (There's more) - Once a month, with pals, I'm doing a long walk - 20 miles or more, although not much more.

The only difference is that I am accompanied by Ringo the dog, who has settled in to the rhythm of very long winter nights in his woofbag see link below) He doesn't snore and he doesn't move and he carries his own food, and the rubbish that camping produces. He's not allowed on the Challenge and will be spending Challenge time on holiday in Derbyshire with his pal Merlin (my son's dog)

I've done all of this in previous years

My feet in the North Sea TGO 2023

December camp oooop Weardale
Whether or not any of this actually works is, perhaps a moot point. My point, though, is that it does help with the psychology of the challenge and, sometimes, it's quite good fun. 

I know that some people like to weigh everything, down to the last gramme, evangelise about their particular choice of equipment to the extent that they may suggest that if you don't have the same, you're clearly an idiot and they report walking 20+ miles a day for several days and finishing well before everybody else. They produce gear lists with weights and bristle with electronics. 

Dawn on a ling walk by the Tees (this is a flood, not the River Tees)
My method is just to think in little compartments - tent (plus pegs and poles), sleeping, cooking, washing, eating, lighting and in-tent entertainment. My only nod to ultra-lightness is to walk in a kilt - just got a new one - and thus the requirement to pack 3  pairs of undies is dispensed with. So, I can enjoy a nice breeze on a hot day, have a wee without , apparently moving at all and receive compliments, except at Tarfside - see previous post hopefully a more mature attitude might have developed. - Although I do have to invent the names of various Scottish clans and it does attract the attention of American tourists who declare that it is their "first kilt", ask for pictures and demand to know which part of Scotland I'm from. They never ask the obvious question.

I'm not sure I should have written this by the way. Usually, if I write stuff like this, everything goes badly wrong. It's a temptation to failure. If I get to Arbroath in 2024, I will have completed my 19th TGO challenge. I have a 5 day section in the middle of the Challenge with no shops ner nowt, so it's not going to be a pushover. If you comment expressing confidence that I will succeed, you'll only be making it worse

Dog snoozing in the sun Sleightholme Moor
Woofbags, sleeping bags for dogs hand-stitched by Chrissie Crowther (Ringo loves his!)  link below. Get one for your best friend. (Provided your best friend is a dog)