Monday 6 May 2019

The 40th TGO Challenge starts this week. Looking back to the first.

Later this week I'll be setting off for Lochailort to begin the fortieth TGO Challenge. I've chosen Lochailort as that's where I began the first Challenge back in 1980. I couldn't have imagined then that I'd be back there in 2019 or that the event would be thriving and would have become so important to so many people.

In 1980 the event was called the Ultimate Challenge, after the sponsor, long-gone tent maker Ultimate Equipment, though it was organised and run by The Great Outdoors.  For that first year it was three weeks long. I was the only one of the seventy or so Challengers who took more than two weeks. Poor Roger Smith, TGO editor, sat in the Park Hotel in Montrose for a week waiting for me. Since then it's always been two weeks long. I'm going to take a similar route this year but shorter with fewer Munros - there's no way I can do in two weeks what took me three in 1980!

Journal entry for the first day of the first Challenge

Back then I was on my first round of the Munros, which I was mostly doing in a series of long backpacking trips inspired by Hamish Brown's first continuous round of the Munros, described in his superb book Hamish's Mountain Walk. Hamish also came up with the idea of the Challenge. When I saw the quarter page ad for the first event in The Great Outdoors I was grabbed immediately. A coast to coast walk seemed a great idea and I realised I could incorporate many Munros I hadn't yet climbed into it.

Gear list for the first Challenge - continues over the page. Back then I listed every item in first aid and repair kits!

Reading my journal from that first trip there's an air of youthfulness and excitement. I was going into unknown country. I hope I can capture some of that this year, on what will be my sixteenth Challenge.


  1. Aye Chris, I remember it well. Naturally I was sure two weeks were long enough!

  2. The Ultimate Tramp. It defined what tents were for a generation. Still got my Phoenix Phantom of that design.