Sunday, 29 May 2011

Final thoughts

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…)


Alan R said...

I think you should name the said chappy!
Probably his first name is Wally. Second name unprintable.

It takes a great deal of strength to do a walk like the chally and especially so on a first time. You will be elated and it will take ages to come down from the high.
You overcome some harsh conditions to say the least and you should be very proud of yourself.

Alan Sloman said...

How dispiriting to hear of that last mean-minded person. It's sad but in every walk of life there's someone who wants to pee on your strawberries, but thankfully, on the Challenge they are precious few such idiots.

Everyone that has met you will be delighted to hear that you will *probably* be back (that will change to *definitely* in the next few weeks, I'm sure!) as you are fun, feisty and determined.

Well done Louise. Just ignore the tosser. (You could let me know by email who it was?)

Louise said...

Alan and Alan,
Thanks to you both.
It's funny really, not so long ago I would have been devastated by such (reported) comments, but I'm beginning to get an inkling of my own strength as a person, so if I ever meet said chappy, I'm going to have a bit of fun before I reveal my identity. It won't be vindictive or cruel, but I will enjoy it!

Gayle said...

An absolutely fantastic write-up of the two-weeks' events, if I may say so. I was reading them as they appeared yesterday, eagerly waiting for the next installment.

Very impressed that you got them all written and posted within a day - I've not even downloaded the photos yet!

Louise said...

Hi Gayle!
Oh yes, demon typing and TTS in charge of food, drinks and uniform washing, what a star!

Glad you enjoyed it, I do love writing things up, just never sure how much I get across.

stan appleton said...

How disappointing that somebody should be so negative. As a fellow-first-timer I really enjoyed your company and your humour even in the face of problems. We all need a bit of encouragement and motivation at times and there's nothing wrong in that. I know that Stuart , Maria, Emma and I were delighted to see you so close behind us at Torgyle Bridge, having slain all the demons that may have been troubling you. Here's to next year.....!

Louise said...

Hi Stan!
Thanks for dropping by, how lovely to hear from you.
I think it was a testing time for all and I for one really apprectiated all the help and encouragement along the way. It's quite unusual for my sense of humour to be of benefit and not get me into trouble though!
Hope to see you all again somewhere, one day... x

Mike Knipe said...

I know who it was - a Mr Soul. Not sure of his first name but it begins with "R"
We all knew you'd do it anyway...
Just try to stop following people with ventilated trousers as they get a bit nervous...

Andrew W said...

You most certainly have been on the Challenge Louise, and a tough one at that.
If someone did say that about you, then they are the one who should not be on the challenge. Everyone is a first timer once. Some folk forget that.
Anyway, look forward to seeing you on the next one. (you know you want to).
Originally I thought it was a walking event with a bit of socialising, but over the years I know it as a social event with some walking stuff.

Louise said...

The ventilated being person followed gets a bit nervous?! And thanks, the trip to the Borders set me up a treat for the Challenge.

"A social event with some walking stuff", yup, I'd say that was about right. Pretty sure I'll being doing another. Sooner rather than later... And it'll be my turn to be kind to first-timers. Probably make quite a good job of that.

-maria- said...

Congratulations Louise, well done! I have now finished reading your trip report, and I enjoyed every word of it! The weather was certainly not the best possible... The TGOC really seems to be a great event, with lots of nice people along the way (and one - hmm... - not so nice chap, it seems :/ )

Louise said...

Hi Maria and thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed my report, I tried to give a flavour of the ups and downs. The best bit was meeting so many lovely, like-minded people, you really must give it a go when you get the chance!

Martin Rye said...

Blisters, soaking wet, big rivers to cross and confronted by the big landscape you stuck in there and made it. Big well done from me. As for the idiot ignore the twat. What you need to do is reflect on what you found out about yourself. You made it across in a year when things were a tad on the challenging side. I reckon Alan is right it was a lot of normal Scottish weather on a lot of days . The Mondays turned out to be very bad and the last one damn right scary at times. Yet you kept going and made it. I enjoyed the read of the adventure. Hope its the start of many more.

Louise said...

Thanks Martin. When I was planning this 'Adventure' I didn't realise how apt the title would be! The weather was, well, weather I'm used to, but not necessarily so persistently and That Monday, my mood ranged from slightly anxious to distinctly frightened, but actually, when we arrived safely I was so exhilerated! A Challenge indeed and yes, I'll be there again, sometime.
As for the numpty, his problem, not mine!

Andrew W said...

Go on now, tell us who it was.
Then we can do the Pub Landlord bit and all shout ........
"Shame on You! Shame on You!"

Louise said...

Oo no sir, we don't want to do that, that would be lowering ourselves to others standards and we is rising above it we is.

Mind you, sounds like fun...

Gordon Green said...

Hi Louise,

A bit late - but I'm so pleased I came across your blog when trawling around some of my usual reads.

What a pleasure to read your TGO Challenge account! A fair part of your route was the route I took on my first TGOC in 2009.

You certainly had a much harder experience on your first crossing than I did on mine! And your write up of the experience was excellent!!

I knew the ending (as I sang happy birthday to you - along with 299 others!) but I was still rushing to get to the next day to find out how you coped with your feet and shoulder.

We didn't meet this year, but, I hope to meet you at some stage on your next TGOC - it is somewhat addictive.....

Meanwhile, I've added your blog to those I enjoy reading.


Louise said...

Hi Gordon!
What lovely comments, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the read, I certainly enjoyed reliving my experiences. I'm looking forward to doing the Challenge again, perhaps even next year if I'm lucky, and it will be great to meet all these people again and make some more new friends, I'll keep an eye out for you at the Park!

James Boulter said...

Oooh that chaps comments made my hackles rise. Have some cruel fun with him if you ever bump into him! I think that everyone who got across this year is brilliant, first time or tenth. One of the biggest challenges I have ever done thats for sure!

Louise said...

Thanks James, I have been storing away a few cutting remarks in case I ever meet the chap, but then decided it just wouldn't be me (mainly because the witty quips never come to the tongue tip when required!) His loss, he'll never get to enjoy my scintillating company (?!)
It was a Challenge, no doubt, and I'm really chuffed with myself for getting across. Loved it and can't wait to do another one.