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Sunday, 12 November 2017

TGO Challenge 2018: A cunning plan...

In 2013, for his tenth TGO Challenge Lord Elpus assumed full control of planning our route across Scotland. Mad'n'Bad and I had one or two issues with his plan; At the time, I wrote:

"Now tell me if you think I am a curmudgeon but it would seem logical, that given we’ll be starting on the west coast, if we want to finish on the opposite side of the country it would be a good idea if we were to head in an easterly direction. Well, of course it would. But in our case, we shall be heading west..."

This year I have had a cunning plan...



We are starting at the mainland's most westerly cafe and lighthouse: Ardnamurchan Point. According to good old Google, there is sod-all west of here for some two thousand miles, apart from seawater and fish, until you arrive at Newfoundland. 

CLICK TO ENLARGE

It follows that the only direction available to us is East. 

After enjoying a civilised cup of tea in the cafe at Ardnamurchan Point our plan is to then walk in an easterly direction for two weeks until we arrive at another wonderful cafe at the east coast. To add a spark, a frisson of excitement to our endeavour we have elected to walk within a tightly observed ten kilometre wide corridor, bounded by the OS Grid Northings 60 and 70. 

This voluntary constraint (Miss Whiplash tells me in confidence that Lord E enjoys a little constraint) at times requires very careful planning to ensure we don't inadvertently stumble over the thin blue lines to find ourselves horrifically out of bounds. This means that on occasion we will be found tumbling down and up steep valley sides instead of enjoying airy perambulations around the heads of glens. Public houses will be tantalisingly out of reach.

This is an expedition like no other we have attempted in the past. There will be suffering, howls of anguish. We are taking this challenge on for you, dear reader.  

Below, you'll find an overview of our route. It's three hundred kilometres long. 

NB: You can click on each of the maps to blow them up. However, if you right click on them you are given the option of seeing them at full size in a new tab. For those of you who enjoy RouteBuddy's full strength mapping, I should warn you; This is hardcore and should only be viewed in the company of consenting adults.

TGO CHALLENGE ROUTE OVERVIEW [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

The next four maps show our route in a little more detail.

DAY ZERO TO DAY THREE [CLICK TO ENLARGE]


DAY FOUR TO DAY SEVEN [CLICK TO ENLARGE]


DAY SIX TO DAY TEN [CLICK TO ENLARGE]


DAY TEN TO DAY FOURTEEN [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Lord Elpus has been busy: Our transport up to the West Coast of Scotland is all arranged and Bed and Breakfasts are booked. All that remains is for me to finish the route sheet and persuade our Vetter that "it'll go."

Oh. There's also the small matter of walking three hundred kilometres of tick-infested bog next May.

What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, 20 October 2017

Eleven

Time marches on.

A few days back the blog passed its eleventh birthday.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Then sings my soul. Helegant walks LEJOG

It's been over ten years since I finished my LEJOG and lately I have been out of touch with the goings on in that wonderful community of daft buggers who want to walk from one end of mainland Britain to the other. Until a week ago. 

I received a note from Helegant, a lady about to set off on her own LEJOG. Casting around for advice she had contacted a lovely chap who had done the walk. Twice. I had the pleasure of walking with Daryl May for a day on his second end to end, that time from John o'Groats to Lands End. He in turn put Helen on to me. 

Helen's no stranger to walking, and has completed Wainwright's Coast to Coast (mostly) and the Ridgeway National Trail However, she's about to take on one of the UK's biggest walks. She estimates her route to be in the order of 1,400 miles, which is slightly longer than most. 

She has set herself a few rules, which I have copied and pasted from her blog, below:

  1. Run, walk or crawl all the way.
    Is that too obvious? I’ll be using transport links, personal and public to move between the start and finish points of each day’s walk, but I’ll restart where I left off.  Bridges are OK, ferries, helicopters and piggy-backs are not.
  2. I’m doing this because I want to, so rule 2 is “Enjoy the journey.” At least, try!
  3. Stay within my own capabilities. I inhabit an internet world where extreme achievements are normalised by some amazing people. I am in awe of you all, but can only work the body I have. Remember this on tough days.
  4. Leave no trace. “Take only photographs, leave only footprints.” I’m taking this a bit further because our land is precious. This means I’ll carry a rubbish bag and aim to deposit other people’s cans, bottles, crisp bags, sandwich and gel wrappers etc in waste bins as I find them. Won’t it be nice if I find nothing to collect? Hmmm.
  5. Visitors/fellow walkers are welcome (especially Fetchies – you know who you are).
    If you have positive comments and encouragement to offer, or you want to join in then please contact me, but standard rules apply.
    a) If you are an axe murderer, leave the axe at home.
    b) If you are an Eeyore/Henny Penny/Puddleglum/drain-person (as opposed to a radiator person), you are still welcome, but please don’t try to convince me that I’ll fail.

It appears from this list that Helen has got things spot on.

She is setting off from Lands End on Tuesday 24th October this year - that's in just five days time. She's splitting her walk into two parts; This October she'll be supported by her husband so she won't need to carry her camping gear and have to worry about putting up the tent in the dark - the clocks change a few days after her start - and next year, for the second part she'll be solo.

You can find Helen's very well written and organised blog by clicking on the link below:


Helen is walking for a charity that is close to her heart, Pancreatic Cancer Research. Her Just Giving page can be found by clicking the link below:


In case you lose the link as this post slides further down my blog, you'll find a link to Helen's blog on the right hand side of my blog under the heading "BETTER PLACES TO VISIT." Then click on "Then sings my soul"

I'll finish by adding my very best wishes to Helen. As an old friend once said to me as I set off on another day of my LEJOG, "Tight Laces," Helen.

Friday, 22 September 2017

TGO Challenge 2018: The problem of team selection...

Ernest Henry Shackleton
Henry Cecil John Hunt
Christian John Storey Bonington

Three generations of inspirational British explorers. For chaps of a certain age, these names conjure up images of heroism and derring-do. Each have their rightful place in history as leaders of men that accomplished extraordinary feats. Whilst their names are part of our vocabulary, the names of their team members are less likely to be on the tip of the tongue. Who now remembers Burley, Wish, Shute, Jungle, Constant and Prone? Quite. Yet without these unsung heroes Shackleton, Hunt and Bonington would be obscure footnotes in the pages of British history.

*****

For each of the last twenty-three years I have been a team member in expeditions to cross, on foot, from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland: The Great Outdoors Challenge. Putting together a team that is able to place a man at the east coast is a tricky affair as I'm sure Ernest and John would testify, if they were still around. 

THE RANKLING-LA [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Every year hordes of hopefuls apply for the limited number of places on the TGO Challenge. And who can blame them when there is the prospect of views like these; see above and below. Some prefer to take the Challenge on alone. Others pair up or travel in threes or fours. I've walked by myself, in pairs, threes and fours. This year we have opted for a tried and tested threesome, but not before a fair amount of soul-searching.

BEYOND THE RANKLING-LA [CLICK TO ENLARGE]




Other people are odd. They are very different indeed. Tiny foibles, that in the Axe and Compass after a few beers appear to be mere trifles, are enough for a fight to the death after two weeks in the empty quarter, as Gary Larson - the sole survivor of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was to discover. 


Once again, we've decided to throw our caps into the ring and have applied for next year's Great Outdoors Challenge. Which brings me neatly to the matter of our own team selection. 

It's important that prospective team members are of good character and sociable. This results in a well functioning team, a cohesive unit. I decided to search my extensive archives, including my little black book of people who have pissed me off, the inter-web and as many Criminal Records Office files that I could hack, until my unfortunate discovery, to track down the sordid details of each our team members. 

The first chap, referred to here as 'me,' appears to be a saintly soul, a Grandfather and all round good egg. An extensive search produced just three photographs that cover this adventurer's lifespan. Yes. He definitely gets a place in the team.

ME, SGURR NAN COIREACHAN, 2010 [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

ME, THE PENNINE WAY, 1976 [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

ME, CIRCA 1964, BRACKNELL CHURCH HALL 

I had a great deal of difficulty tracking down the details of the next member of our team - a certain Lord Elpus of Lord Elpus Hall. He has obviously spent a great deal of time cleaning up his murky presence on the worldwide-web. Just when I thought I had found something this was the usual result:


However, the scoundrel had forgotten about the Wayback Machine which produced these honeys.

LORD ELPUS, 2001, ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY

LORD ELPUS, CIRCA 1953, CAMP III, RUM DOODLE




LORD ELPUS - RECENT PICTURE, YORKSHIRE

From the little detail available it appears the character is ageless. His name has been linked to Brink's-Mat, and the Great Train Robbery. They say the true mastermind of those heists was never found. The only clue to his whereabouts is a ferocious black cat the size of a baby seal, colloquially referred to as 'Doodle.' 

I had, however, no difficulty at all in finding the low-down (and dirty) of our third man on the rope. Stories and images of Mad'n'Bad appear across time and space. It is said his image is being carried on Voyager 1, now some thirteen billion miles from earth. Fortunately NASA declined to take a recording of his electric guitar solos, preferring instead to take Chuck Berry and Bach. 

MAD'N'BAD, NORTH WALL RUM DOODLE, 2010

MAD'N'BAD. COULD BE ANYWHERE, REALLY...

MAD'N'BAD. HE HAS A WEAKNESS FOR THE BLACK STUFF.

What can I say? This chap has a record of broken legs, helicopter rescues, walking companions carried away, sobbing or threatening murder. And yet...

And yet we love the rascal to death. He's promised, should we gain a place, to put rubber stoppers on the points of his flailing walking poles and to walk in a polite line on the correct side of the road, facing oncoming traffic. He has promised not to stand with his hands on his hips and harrumph loudly at a distance of a mile further ahead. He has promised to carry a rucsac full of sloe gin and life-saving cans of beer.

There you have it. I give you our team. No one in their right minds would pay for them. We're good to go.    

And if Christian John Storey Bonington is reading this and would like to tag along, I'm sure he would be most welcomeWe could do with a decent leader...