Every year, around the second Friday in May, 300 people embark from the west coast of Scotland with the intend of reaching the other side of the country within 14 days, all under their own power.
This year, The Great Outdoors Challenge (TGOC) will start on Friday, May 8th. Having started in 1980, the 2009 Challenge will be the 30th. In celebration, Roger Smith (Challenge Coordinator) and the Challenge Control have upped the limited number of participants to 380. In addition to the physical challenges involved with walking some 200 miles, participants must also plan their own route and supplies. Unlike the States, where hikers need to stay on designated trails to avoid trespassing, Scots Law protects walkers with the Land Reform Act of 2003, allowing them the freedom to roam as a public right. Because of this, Scotland has less a system of national trails and more a loose system of paved, gravel, dirt, and single/double-track paths. This presents the need for TGO challengers, especially those not from Scotland or familiar with the terrain, to spend months pouring over maps, planning and re-planning routes before the submission deadlines at the end of January and February.
With my nine Landranger maps from the UK's Ordinance Survey, I've spent the last three weeks meticulously looking them over, planning both my Main route as well as my Foul Weather Alternative (FWA) route. The progress I make will be uploaded to Google Maps under the user name grun0177. The direct link is here.
Currently, I am on semester break from college. Tomorrow I start work full time for the next three weeks, at which point I will return to Duluth and to college. With a loose schedule and classes on only two days of the week this coming semester, I will hopefully have ample time to finalize my plans for this trip, as well as ample opportunities to spend some four-day weekends out getting physically ready.
If all goes well, in five months I will be boarding a plan for Scotland.