Saturday, 30 October 2010

Threading the Forest of Atholl

The Highlands of Scotland is (or should that be “are”?) a pretty big place. Stand on a top somewhere in the middle and the hills just roll away in every direction for ever and ever. Occasionally a hill  stands apart (and to sort out all the arguments, the pointy one is always Schiehallion) but generally the scene is a vast sea of rolling waves and breakers. The size of the place is truly magnificent.

Somehow, when plotting a route for the TGO Challenge, you need to find a way through this ocean of mountains. The first time you try this, you begin to realise that there are a few corridors handily placed to help the walker wander in generally an easterly direction. And splendid routes they are too. Glen Nevis, the Corrieyairack, the Feshie/Geldie, Glen Tilt.. You soon realise that these are the superhighways of the Challenge. When you walk your route, you bump into loads of other Challengers, all of whom have discovered these routes for themselves.

Keeping the Challenge fresh shouldn’t be that difficult: There are a dozen or so start points on the west coast and you can finish more or less anywhere on the east coast, leaving the choice of routes seemingly limitless.

I have been across quite a lot of times now and have found the trick to keep it ‘challenging’ is to search out new ways of threading your way across in new territory - new places to discover, new places to stand and goggle at the vastness of it all.

For me, planning the route is usually shared with my mate Phil but this year I have been playing about with the route earlier than usual. I start by planning little bits of interesting threads through the hills – often having some twenty or thirty little strings of ‘routelets’. Then the fun part comes in trying to link them all up in a fresh and interesting way.

For what its worth, here is a routelet for next year, should I get a place.

 GOC2011 routlet(You can click on it to make it bigger)

It’s through the Forest of Atholl, a few miles to the west of Glen Tilt. As usual, its my Foul Weather Route – the fine weather route is immediately obvious, taking in Beinn Dearg. It should be wonderful wild stuff. So – Please, Uncle Roger – Can I have a place? Pretty please?


  1. That looks interesting and acceptably challenging, Alan.
    Funny how the right forefinger strays to the Anquet button at this time of year, isn't it? I've just been puzzling over the Forests of Glen Tanar and Birse...
    Have fun, and here's hoping...

  2. It gets the legs twitching just looking at it.
    Best of luck - hope your in the final cut.

  3. Are these routelets in the same class as the Marquess of Bath's wifelets?

  4. Hi Brian - it is inviting. I get drawn into finding more adventurous routes each year...

    Hi Martin - Glen Tanar is absolutely gorgeous in nice weather - the tress are a wonderful mix.

    Trevor: Have you ever thought of having a bash at the Challenge?

    Humphrey: The Marquess of Bath has probably never had to lay all his wifelets end to end like I have to do my routelets. But, there again...

  5. I hope lots of peeps read this and realise that there isn't a TGO route, not until it's signposted and waymarked "To Braemar/Tarfside/North Water Bridge/St Cyrus"
    You won't be going this way, obviously, Alan.

  6. I have certainly thought about it - problem is that I have also got lot's of other various challenges already in the pipeline.

  7. Mike: ""To Braemar/Tarfside/North Water Bridge/St Cyrus..."
    Excellent idea! Those signposts should be erected at every signing out point on the west coast.

    Trevor - ah - g'wan! You know you want to....

  8. Nice looking graphics, very illustrative. I have no problems reading contour lines on a map, but this is quite nice.

    Having small kids, I have no chance to take part in the TGO Challenge for many years to come (if ever?), but it is still enjoyable to follow other's preparations for the walk. And read the reports afterwards.

    So for purely selfish reasons, I do hope you get a place in the Challenge next spring, I'd like to follow your preparations and discussions after the walk!

  9. Hmmm, if we get on then our paths could cross somewhere in this neck of the woods - day and time permitting of course!!!


    Word: snodismo!

  10. Some of those contour lines look quite widely spaced. Ooooooh dear.

  11. Oooh look at all those jolly, blue handrails :) I assume you'll be avoiding prickly wire fences. Tarfside has to be on my route - I've not been there yet! Hopefully see you in Montrose.

    The word is ouncen - and i'll be just bouncen across those hills. Ok, so it's time for the medication

  12. Maria: Thank you! Please keep your fingers crossed for me! There will doubtless be more on the upcoming TGO Challenge on here soon.

    His Holiness, the Incredibly Irreverend Dave: Snodismo indeed - and from a man of the cloth! Three "Hail Marys" and no whisky for you tonight!

    Lord E: "those contour lines look quite widely spaced." All the better for falling over in - a softer landing for the fizzog.

  13. Ooh - hello Tony! (Missed you there as I was posting my previous comment). If you haven't been to Tarfside, then this is the year. I understand that there will be a new recruit to the lady's excellent team at St Ddrostan's hostel - Michelle Pielady will be donning her pinafore to pamper to every Challenger's every need.


Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!