My Challenge 2011 has been an extraordinary experience. There’s no one thing that could sum it all up.
The incredible kindness and support shown by complete strangers was astounding, new friendships born out of adversity. I learnt that I can push myself further than I’d ever imagined and I can probably push myself further still, I can achieve more. I met some lovely people, those that I knew ‘virtually’ and finally met in the flesh and those that were completely new to me. I also heard some interesting things about people, some about myself that took me by surprise. *
The weather was unusual and at times, extreme. I have witnessed extreme weather, I remember well being lashed by the tail end of a hurricane just a few years ago here in Scotland, but I didn’t venture out in it. The weather that particular Monday was quite extraordinary. By the time we reached Tarfside, I felt quite exhilarated by it, we survived our beating with style! And a little help from some kindly gentlemen that happened our way.
Certainly my choice of gear played a part in my experience and on the whole, I feel that what I chose suited me and performed well.
My tent, though basic and cheap, was solid and water tight. I know of others, far more expensive and well respected, that failed. The sleeping system worked for me. I love my Thermarest and Gayle’s Rab sleeping bag was just brilliant. Thanks again Gayle!
My various merino items were, as usual, the best thing since sliced bread. My beautiful, hand knitted flip flap mitts (Alan, they are beautiful) kept my hands mostly warm and functioning. Even on That Monday, my hands were still working despite being lumps of ice. I certainly didn’t have to resort to the handwarmers. My three Montane jackets, especially the Dynamo and Antifreeze, were brilliant. I may consider changing my Quattro for longer treks, but I think any waterproof jacket (except perhaps Paramo, which were highly praised) would have wetted out in those dire conditions and my baselayer did remain dry and warm regardless.
My boots got a good soaking, there’s no doubt and I did suffer a cracking blister on my right heel, but this is the heel with the dodgy lump on my Achilles, so I’ll reserve judgement.
I had little food left, a few hot drink and soup sachets, along with some trail mix and oatcake crumbs, so I’d managed my food well. I love my Jetboil Flash, there were a few people envious of that! It was easy and efficient .
What else is there to say? I’ve been asked so many times, during the Challenge and since, would I do it again? Initially, my response was '”Not on my own, I’d rather be with The Trusty Sidekick.” Having completed the Challenge in those exceptional conditions, I’ve come to realise that I could probably do it again, alone, so the answer now would be “Probably.” Maybe that application form will be finding it’s way into the post in a few months…
Thank you to anyone and everyone who helped and supported me with this, my Big Adventure, before and during the event. Your advice and encouragement has been invaluable and is greatly appreciated.
*Apparently, there was a chap I never met, proclaiming that I was an ‘irritating first-timer, latching on to unsuspecting Challengers’. This amused me as it couldn’t have been further from the truth. I may be irritating and a first-timer, but I didn’t ‘latch on to’ a single soul. Two solo walkers elected to keep me company, on separate occasions, and look after me as they felt I needed it (I was pleased to have company to ford a tricky burn in spate), a lovely couple asked me if I’d like to walk with them a while as they enjoyed my company and Laura, well we walk together anyway, so as she had to change her route and went my way, it would have been churlish not to! I didn’t appreciate the misrepresentation, but those that got to know me (and therefore matter) know better, so that’s that! (Of course said chap could have been misquoted…)