Paul A. Dudchenko from Linlithgow, West Lothian
1) Be flexible
On the first day of this year’s Challenge, the weather was wet and windy in Knoydart. I’d planned to wild camp near a high lochan, but with a midday start to my walk (following the ferry crossing from Mallaig), I arrived at Sourlies bothy at sea-level by late afternoon, with the hills above socked in.
I opted to cut the day short, pitch on a perfect spot near the bothy, and enjoy the fire and chat within.
2) Wet feet are OK
It’s not possible to have dry feet when the trail is streaming with water. No matter. I always kept a dry pair of socks to sleep in, and that knowledge gave me confidence that at the end of the day
I would be comfortable.
3) Bring a good hat
I have this windproof fleece hat that is a life saver. Rain, wind, whatever – whenever I put this hat on, I am warm. Sub-lesson: my hat also helps keep earphones in when, on occasion, listening to a podcast helps the miles go by.
4) Make sure your tent is well-staked
On a windy evening in Glen Feshie I staked out the tent fully, and added boulders from the river on top of the stakes. Later that night the winds came roaring down the Glen. It felt like someone was outside the tent shaking it with all their might, but it remained stable, and I slept well.
5) Hike your own hike
In the States, this is one of the mottos for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, but it applies equally well to the Challenge. On the first day of this year’s event, the perennial discussion of shoes vs. boots arose with another Challenger. Later that evening, arriving wet and slightly bedraggled at the bothy, it was clear that everyone’s footwear was soaked.
So, it didn’t matter what one was wearing. In my Gore-Tex trail running shoes I had a happy and blister-free crossing, and I am sure others, in boots, also were happy with their footwear choice.
6) Always be eating
I stopped at every café and pub that I could. Meeting other, like-minded Challengers, and sharing a coffee or a pint is fun and allows you to talk about one of the favourite Challenge topics – the weather.