Tuesday, 21 June 2011

TGO CHALLENGE 2011: DAY 14: Roger, Over & Out


You can see from the map that today is a gentle doddle down to St Cyrus. I walked it as I had started this year’s Challenge, with Andy, and so Dave, Andy and I made short work of it. Loads of Challengers were already on their way up the cliffs at the coast as we were making our way down but there was plenty of time.
Here are some pictures of the finish:


So, photos taken down on the beach, we took our time climbing  back up the cliff path, having another of Andy’s miraculously appearing beers and finishing off a hefty fruit cake on the ‘halfway up’ bench. It was good to sit there in the peace and quiet with just the sound of gulls and rushing winds, taking it all in.

This year’s walk had indeed been quite a tough one, mainly because of the weather. The weather was only really rotten for one day, the second Monday but it had been tough because there were so many days with continual soakings and heavy winds; each day not in itself arduous but cumulatively they add up to a bit of a struggle.

The winds had been high and some river crossings particularly memorable. The buffeting had taken it’s toll of some very experienced Challengers; there’s not a lot you can do if you have damaged your leg or back after taking a tumble because of the high winds. However, I am sure they will all be back again next year, if pulled from John’s hat, to have another crack at it.

This was a year for the triumph of first-timers: Those who made it across in these conditions really deserve great praise as I am sure there must have been times when it was all getting a bit too much. It takes grit and a bit of character to get through those days.

Andy & I shook hands, hoisted our packs again and made our way to the bus stop to join a dozen or so wind-blasted smiley Challengers on their way to Montrose for the big party.

Dave left us at the Park Hotel, to start his drive home, at last sitting in comfort, rather than staggering about on his blisters. I think we broke him. But he’s a regular guy and made of the right stuff. Shall we see him applying next year for the proper job? If he can get through two nights ferocious drinking at Braemar & Stan & Bill’s and then toddle all the way on blisters, I reckon he should be ‘up for it.’ We shall see!

I toddled off to Montrose campsite (quite a nice place really, even though it is overlooked by a monstrous great grey factory) to be treated to cups of tea and biscuits from Ron Reynolds and a bit of a lie-down. Ali Ashton popped her head into Wanda and noticed my horribly swollen ankles with nasty purple bruises:

One of the bi-products of seeing the hospital consultant a few days before the trip (apart from being given a list of foods that would surely do me in) was a change in medication, which had caused severe swelling of my ankles. Doc Ali noticed this and told me to go back and ask for “Lozozoz” (or something like that) instead, which wouldn’t make my ankles look like those of an elephant. (And Indeed I did, Ali, and they recognised the name from that phonetic approximation and have subsequently switched me to that wonder drug and now my ankles are slowly returning to their original gurly slimness.)

So it was back on with the shoes after a shower and shave, and off to the party at the Park Hotel.


This was the last time that Roger Smith was to co-ordinate this wonderful event. Roger was the very first editor of TGO Magazine – or “The Great Outdoors” as it was then known. Thirty three years ago he was approached by Hamish Brown – an inspirational figure in the outdoor world – with an idea for a self-supported backpacking event across Scotland. Hamish had all the details worked out and Roger ran with it. He has been the coordinator of this magnificent event for twenty of those years.

There were speeches from Hamish, Cameron McNeish, (the recently retired editor), John Manning (who is taking over as co-ordinator), Emily Rodway (the new editor) and John Donohoe, on behalf of the loyal band of Vetters.

A bunch of ordinary Challengers had got behind a great idea from Humphrey Weightman: At every start point on the west coast, Challengers were invited to sign an A4 piece of blank card and donate a little cash to go towards a ‘thank you’ to Roger Smith. These dozen bits of card were then carried, some a bit battered and occasionally getting a soaking, all the way across Scotland to be bound together by Humph at the Park Hotel at Montrose: Surely an appropriate way for the Challengers to thank a wonderful man.

The card was presented to Roger by Ron Reynolds (the senior finisher this year with 23 crossings under his belt), Louise Evans, (a first-timer whose birthday it was today) and Humphrey himself, who had just completed his tenth Challenge. Roger was also given a gift – a glass artwork etched with the simple message:

“To Roger, with all our love from your Challenge family. May 2011”

Humphrey & I would like to thank all the collectors from each start point, who made sure this all happened. We managed to collect a tidy sum that covered the cost of the presents to Roger (& Patricia, his wife) with a little left over.

Roger Smith: The True Challenge Legend.


  1. Alan, I have enjoyed your series of posts on this year's TGOC. Well written with some amusing bits thrown in!

  2. Hi Alan
    It looks as if I timed my reading of your TGOC antics to perfection - I started reading just as you made this last posting. Very enjoyable despite the depressing diversions into the UK's energy situation.
    A labour of love.
    Hoping that you manage to find some dryer venues and for the rest of your summer, though I see that you have chosen a waterproof jacket to test!
    Cheers, Martin (and Sue says hello)

  3. I wish that I had been able to go to the park on that Thursday night. My last couple of days were bloody rubbish. On my own from Aboyne to Aberdeen, blown off course by the wind. Aberdeen is a crap finish point by the way. Highly not recommended. I was meant to be at St Cyrus!

    Jolly good adventure all in all though eh?

  4. That's good stuff Alan, I think anyone that made it across this year was doing well!

  5. MarkWB: Hi there. There are always amusing bits on the Challenge - it's full of larger than life characters who make your day. Try it!

    Martin: Now that you are home from your travels I shall nip over to your blog: I quite fancy that walk myself (almost managed it earlier in the year, but life got in the way)

    James: I know map reading can be tricky... but Aberdeen is a very long way from St Cyrus! ;-)

    Ken: All ready for next year now? You should have said 'Hi' in the Fife Arms! Good luck with your planning.

  6. Hi Alan,

    Nice read indeed. Thanks for sharing. I liked your photo's also. But strangely enough nobody seems to be looking West. Very odd



  7. I very much enjoyed reading this AL.
    Makes me realise I must get mine written up now that I have finally finished the photo's.
    It has also reminded me of several bits I had forgotten or at least forgotten to write down.
    Despite the weather it was an excellent Challenge with great memories, and in some ways the weather made it all the more memorable, and indeed all the more of a Challenge.

    As ever it was a pleasure to walk with you (memo to self ... I must improve punctuality to stop the bugger nagging me)

    Great stuff.
    I'll start writing!

  8. Hi Rolf: Looking west would have been a real pain this year as the wind & rain were lashing in from the west! Best to look eastwards in those conditions. :-)

    AndyW: Thank you, kind Sir. I might now nip over to your excellent picture site and lift a few piccies to insert into the blog where mine are a bit lacking. I'll credit them to you of course! :-)

  9. Help yourself Sir.
    If you want any of them original size rather than the downsized Picassa ones, let me know.

  10. Great read Alan, pnched some ideas for future roots and thanks for the opportunity to be a part of thanking Roger. And having over 300people sing happy birthday to me, that's never happened before.

  11. Oh lor' 'pinched' and 'routes'. Shoot me now before my Pedant catches up with me.

  12. Hi Alan,

    may not be relevant comment, but the following may be of interest to you

  13. Many thanks for the link, Bob. I read through that this afternoon (Chris Townsend pointed to it on Facebook). What it shows is that there is very little land left now where turbines are not going to make a major visual impact on wild land - not withstanding the damage they have already done, of course.

    It should prove to be valuable information for action groups fighting wind farm proposals. A typical example would be the wind farm proposed for the south east shoulder of Ben Wyvis - A National Nature reserve, for goodness sakes!

    Of course the developer, Falck Renewables has called the wind farm Clach Liath (a very minor place name buried deep in a wood) and there is no mention of Ben Wyvis - a Munro of 1046m stature.

  14. Hi Al,
    try and keep your young apprentice
    [AW]off the roads and regular in his
    ablutions.It seems he needs some guidance in the art of punctuallity.
    regards Stormin'.

  15. 'Ello Stormin'
    Young Andy is writing up his account on his blog: You can find his story HERE
    Of course his is mainly the deluded fiction of an alcohol fuelled brain high on the delirium of adventure. (and his Granny's sloe gin)

    You would have thought his Gran's Sloe Gin would have kept him regular...


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