2014 TGOC Scotland Cross Country Hike
What is it:
The Great Outdoors Challenge is an event hosted by The Great Outdoors Magazine each year. It is a challenge, not a race
, to cross from
the west coast of Scotland to the east coast on foot in two weeks. TGOC is a really unique event in that there is no defined route.
There are many possible starting and end points.
Challengers must create their own path on existing trails, jeep roads, and cross country through the Scottish highlands.
Scotland is a wide open country with few trees, so you can walk almost anywhere.
You can even walk across private property legally in Scotland. The only limitation is your route must be vetted and approved to make sure it is
safe and realistic.
Practically no two routes are exactly the same, but you will still cross paths with many other challengers along the way.
The average route length is around 200 miles.
Participation is limited to around 250-300 challengers each year.
The event is held in May each year. I hiked it with Matt Favero, and our friend Steve Kaiser from May 9th to May 21st 2014.
We completed in 13 days.
What it is like:
The hardest part of TGOC is probably planning it. Since you have to create your own route it takes a fair amount of time pouring over
maps, Google Earth, and prior year challenger's blogs. Matt did all of our planning so Steve and I got off easy!
The hike itself was alot of fun. Our route was a mix of trails, dirt roads, and cross country high routes. There are no markers or anything,
so we were just following our maps and we occasionally had a peek at Matt's GPS to make sure we were on track.
On the cross country sections we could walk almost anywhere we wanted.
The landscape is wide open with grass, soft shrubs, and 'peat hags' which are like muddy pits where the soft ground has eroded away.
The ground is very wet and squishy most of the time. A fellow challenger suggested that Scotland is not a country,
but rather a giant sponge floating in the North Sea. Our route passed a fair amount of ruins, castles, and other historical
landmarks including Loch Ness.
Logistics / Resupply:
Our route came down into villages to ressuply every 2-4 days. Part of the adventure is
visiting quaint towns, and socializing with other challengers at the local pub. The main logistical challenge is planning it all out.
Navigation is all up to you since there is no trail.
Water is everywhere so you don't have to carry much.
TGOC is what you make of it. We did alot of high routes
including summiting Scotland's second highest peak, Ben Macdui.
Our route involved peat hag jumping, fence climbing, and steep ascents, however it was broken up by less strenuous sections through
scenic valleys. Some challengers try to stay up high and bag as many munros (peaks) as possible, while others road walk the valleys and
stay at Bed and Breakfasts almost every night. If your planned route is up high you have to also plan foul weather alternatives down low
in case the weather is too bad.
May in Scotland has notoriously crummy weather. A typical day might be between the 30's and 50's F, and it is often rainy or even snowy.
I was expecting to be walking in 40F rain for two weeks, but we lucked out and it only rained about half the time!
We even had a couple bright sunny days to dry out.
It can be really windy on the exposed peaks, and you need to be prepared to camp in that. It can be foggy making route finding difficult.
It went below freezing a couple times at night. Other years they have had snowy days.
The Great Outdoor Challenge Scotland Gear List:
This is the gear list that I would take if I were to do any three-season thru-hike today.