Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

TGO Challenge 2014 Planning

Well that’s that bit done, Strathcarron to Stonehaven; 312 km, 8800m ascent.

Just pushed the button to send off the Route Sheet to John Manning all there is to do now is wait from the vetters to do their bit, I’m hopeful that this will all go smoothly.

This year I’m planning on 3 resupply points, Fort Augustus, Aviemore and Ballater which lets me keep the weight down to a maximum of 3 days food. I’m not planning sending on food parcels just using the local shops; it does mean I’ve planned on arriving in town with sufficient time to do some shopping but I don’t like taking a day off and these shorter days will act as my rest stops.

There’s a probably a multitude of ways to tackle planning a long distance route, here’s the way I tackle it.

The TGO Challenge does have the added complication of starting and finishing around fixed dates so the walk does have to cater for the vagaries of the Scottish spring weather, there’s no way of forecasting the weather in 6 months time; baking sunshine, snow, wind, rain, swollen rivers, etc.

Having decided my start and end points I first look for suitable resupply points along the ‘straight line’ and preferably not too many days apart; this at least reduced the route planning down to bite sized pieces, 3 – 4 day chunks.

I then planned a‘Safe’ route (FWA) from A to B to C etc.  I’ve found a good resource for this part of the planning to be the book Scottish Hill Tracks but a lot of the information is also on the website Heritage Paths.  I’ve now plotted most of these routes into my Route Buddy library to speed up the process.


I used to use the now out of print OS Travelmaster Sheet 2 a 1:250,000 map of Northern Scotland for this stage and it does enable a good overview of the TGO area.  Once I have my ‘Safe’ route I’ll simply divide the distance between supply points by 25 km to check the number of days and get a rough idea of overnight halt points.

The ‘Bold’ route: I’ll pencil in hills I may want to visit, high level passes, etc. parallel with my ‘safe’ route; check mileages, determine overnight halts, etc.

Next: the devil’s in the detail, I find the 1:50,000 OS maps can be sometimes lacking in detail and they can sometimes be year’s out of date, so I’ll ‘walk’ any sections of the route that I’m unfamiliar with using the Walk Highlands GPS Planner, this has the most up to date OS 1:25,000 series maps; I’ll also check out Where’s the Path which loads OS map and satellite imagery side by side (note: the satellite imagery can also be years old), particularly useful in finding tracks that aren’t on the maps!  I’ve also found satellite imagery can be sometimes useful in checking out overnight wild camping spots, ruined farm buildings, animal enclosures, etc. only sometimes appearing on the 1:25,000 maps from experience I’ve found these can be good camping spots within a sea of bog and heather.  Another good topography resource is Geograph UK, the site has photos for most 1 km grid squares across Scotland, if someone has been there before you there’s probably a photo and even if there isn’t surrounding squares may have.

Still in doubt: I’ll check out the internet, TGO Challenge blogs often give detail about favorable camp sites, how boggy the route is, etc.

There’s usually a few iterations required particularly to get A to B days for ‘Bold’ and ‘Safe’ to somewhat match up, reasonable length of days, not end up ‘camping’ in the middle of a bog after walking 12 hrs, etc.

All there really is to do now is to stay fit over the winter, watch the weather as ‘the day’ gets closer and decide on a final packing list (is it flippers, sunscreen or spiky things?).


2 comments on “TGO Challenge 2014 Planning

  1. elteeoberonus
    November 29, 2013

    Great post Paul. I’m hoping to get on the TGOC in 2015 (I’m slowly getting ’round the wife!) and I’m already looking at routes and planning so your methodical approach seems very logical and helpful to a newbie like me. I hope you’re route passes thw Vetters unscathed 😉
    I see you started you’re backpacking experience in the NYMoors. Had my first trip and wildcamp there this past summer and thoroughly enjoyed it, a lovely part of the world. If you’d care to read my account of that trip you can find it on my blog elteeoberonus.wordpress.com 🙂

    • Paul Atkinson
      November 29, 2013

      Glad you appreciated the post. Don’t worry about the Vetters, they have an in depth knowledge of the potential routes and they’re only out to help you succeed.

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This entry was posted on November 13, 2013 by in TGO Challenge 2014 and tagged , , .

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