A good friend of mine has a wonderful expression for the increase in the traffic and 'noise' on the TGO Challenge website of late. He refers to the modern, noisier Challenger as 'Digital Challengers.'
He 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. These are his 'Digital Challengers.'
Well, happily, of course they do make it across and very quickly, their appearances on the message board becomes more measured and savvy with each passing year. I think this is what comes with time and used to be called 'experience.'
The first time you plan your route for a two week walk across great swathes of map that only appear to have brown squiggly lines in ever greater heaps of madness, there is a great feeling of uneasiness; a mounting apprehension.
On the walk itself you find you are suddenly on your own: Your partner has had to drop out and you are faced with a wall of mountains and high passes between you and your next camp spot and the clouds lower, the wind gets up and the rain starts to lash in your face as you struggle across thigh deep torrents, all very, very alone in the great wilderness.
When you finally make it to the North Sea and the sun is beaming down on you, perhaps with a new friend you have collected on your route, you think back to all the perils and frights that are now behind you. It will seem like a year ago.
We all start out in our walking life as Digital Challengers: Nowadays the web is a wonderful source of inspiration and a colossal source of help and encouragement. It is a great thing, a beast with fantastical power.
But by the end of your first Challenge you become an old sweat, with tales of heroism and great luck. The digital message board is just a thing of fun - It is not real. Scotland is the thing. The bogs, huge towering black cliff faces, the roaring foaming burns that crash about at night the other side of your thin tent wall. The hiss of rain in the waist deep heather and the smell of the dark black earth beneath your boots.
But by December, there we all are, all on the message board, banging on about gear and bealachs, socks and shoelaces.