The Great Outdoors has been linked with the famous Scottish coast-to-coast walking event from the beginning, over 40 years ago – so much so, it’s even named after the magazine! Here, we take our annual look back at this year’s challenge, hearing from several hardy ‘Challengers’ to find out what makes it so special, and what to look forward to next year.
This year’s The Great Outdoors (TGO) Challenge lived up to its name, one participant summarising it perfectly as “wild, wet, windy and wonderful”. Recent years have been blessed with benign weather but this year’s Challengers, especially the early starters, got a reminder Scotland’s climate is not to be underestimated.
As they walked from west to east coast, they faced day after day of torrential rain, high winds, waterlogged ground, rivers in full spate and the consequent challenges of keeping everything dry.
The determination and adaptability of even the most experienced was tested; but there’s also a perverse pleasure in persevering in such conditions. Moments that aren’t fun at the time become memorable in retrospect from the comfort of the tent or bothy, and give a real sense of achievement.
Equipment took a fair battering too. There were many tales of broken tent poles and failed waterproofs, which will no doubt lead to re-evaluation for future adventures.
Unsurprisingly there was a higher incidence of minor injuries and sore feet, which saw 20% of Challengers retiring early; but the rest reached the east coast in remarkably fine spirits with many eager to return again.
One of them was Graham Brookes, who became only the second person ever to complete 30 crossings. We have no doubt he’ll be back for number 31!
The Challenge is purposefully non-competitive, and every crossing is valued whether through the glens or over the tops. This year’s weather forced most with higher -level routes into the glens, but a hardy few still managed to take in some summits.
One Challenger celebrated his tenth crossing by climbing all of Scotland’s 4000ft hills, whilst another pair squeezed 50 Munros into their route – although we suspect they didn’t see the view from many of them!
Next year’s Challenge: New Adventures in 2023
Looking forward to 2023, the TGO Challenge should return to a more traditional format now the threat of Covid-19 restrictions is behind us. For the last two years the co-ordinators have had limited places for new entrants due to the backlog from those unable to participate in 2020/21.
But first-time Challengers are the life blood of the event, so the organisers are delighted to be able to welcome more new faces again. Do you want an adventure in 2023?
Visit www.tgochallenge.com for more details and to enter. Apply between 19 September and 23 October 2022
Event dates: 11th – 26th May 2023