2014 has been a bit of an odd year. I’ve not been able to get out as much as I would have liked, with only four trips. However, with the TGO Challenge, I have managed a total twenty one days backpacking, so not too bad overall.
The first trip of the year was in April to the Monadhliath with Alan and Andy. It was a lovely introduction to the area, with a gentle walk along the River Dulnain. Despite not particularly brilliant weather, it was very enjoyable. Hopefully, I will be revisiting a short section on next year’s TGO Challenge.
If you haven’t yet been to the Monadhliath, I suggest you try to visit next year as the area is under very serious threat from planned wind farms. The Loch Ness side is already being despoiled. Unless there is a change of mind, Stronelairg and Allt Duine are next in line. If they go ahead, it will largely destroy the Monadhliath as a wilderness area.
My second trip was a two day pre-Challenge shake down on Dartmoor. I’ve really grown to love Dartmoor over the past few years. In terms of backpacking and wild camping, it’s possibly the finest area in England. Although it lacks spectacular hills, I love the openness and the ability to wander wherever you want (assuming there’s no firing on the ranges).
Strong winds and heavy rain proved to be a good test for my Challenge gear. It persuaded me to take my Scarp rather than the Trailstar. It didn’t rain all the time and there was some enjoyable walking. For me, the great joy of Dartmoor is the wild camping. If you know where to look, there’s some brilliant places.
Obviously, the highlight of the year was the TGO Challenge. Although the weather for the first three days was not great, for most of the rest of the time it was good. While it was quite windy, it was generally mild, especially compared with the previous year.
Once I got into the swing of the Challenge (about day 4), I relaxed and really enjoyed myself. I was very pleased with the route I chose, which had a decent amount of wilderness walking and camping, but wasn’t too arduous. All in all, everything went exceptionally well.
If I had to pick some highlights, the first two days from Strathcarron and along Loch Monar were terrific, despite the weather. Crossing the Monadhliath via Glen Mazeran was excellent. I enjoyed the traverse through the Cairngorms both for the scenery and the company. I thought nearing the end might be disappointing, but Mount Keen was a highlight and I loved the camaraderie at Tarfside.
What makes the TGO Challenge special is the people you meet along the way. As a solo walker, I had the best of both worlds. I had times of solitude and times of enjoyable company. It’s good to meet with like minded people from all different backgrounds. I had so many interesting conversations on a whole variety of topics.
I had intended to do some trips in the summer. In particular, I wanted to do a week on Dartmoor in August, when there’s no firing on the ranges. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, it didn’t work out.
My final trip of the year was to the Lake District in September. This had a dual purpose of getting our daughter to university at Manchester and giving me a well earned break on the Far Eastern Fells. Despite taking the wrong inner for my Trailstar, I improvised and had a great trip.
I achieved a long held ambition of camping in Deepdale, which must be one of the finest wild camping locations in the Lake District (perhaps not quite as good as below Scafell, though). Although I only had two full days of walking and not very arduous ones at that, it was a good trip. I was blessed with good weather and some fine walking.
I made some preparations to visit Dartmoor in October/November, but, again, for various reasons those plans had to be abandoned. The only thing fixed for next year is the TGO Challenge in May. I’m hoping to start my walking year with a February visit to the Lake District and get a couple more trips before the Challenge. With a more ambitious route, I’m going to need to improve my fitness levels.
Wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!