After my first four day weekend, I just sat down with my calender and realized that I haven't posted here in a full month.
Although, in that month I have been pretty busy. I worked full time for nearly four weeks while back home in the cities, stashing up just enough money to purchase my plane ticket. Which leads me to the next event. Prior to this past week, Challenge 2009 was still tentative. With the purchase of my plane ticket, there is absolutely no backing out now. It's either step up and do it, or take the $1000 hit I've spent on travel and accommodations.
Now that I have cemented my decision to do the TGO Challenge this year, I have tons of work left. The most prevalent of which is getting my route planned and submitted, where an esteemed vetter will look at my route and give me feedback on feasibility, safety, and underfoot. For this Challenge, the decision was made to have two due dates for route submissions. The first, which was the last day in January, was for an returning challengers. Clearly not me! The date I do have to worry about, then, is February 28th, when all other routes are due including my own.
The way the route criteria works is like this. Challengers fill out a Route Sheet, either a paper format or an electronic format, with the information of where they plan to go each day, elevation change, total distance in kilometers, and their stopping point for the night. In addition to my planned route, I need to plan a Foul Weather Alternative, or FWA. The FWA needs to be enacted to bypass any stretch of route that either leaves me exposed to severe weather, ascends above the 600 meter mark, or may become too long or steep. Most challengers take the logical path (no pun intended) and plan out where they want to go indiscriminant of FWA requirements. They would then plan the FWA as a backup to be used in case of severe weather where they are forced off their route.
Contrary to this I have been plotting my FWA from the beginning. My plan is to determine the most robust and clean-cut way across the country, which I call my Main Route. Rather than plan to take my high level route and switch to my FWA in times of need, I will follow the Main Route (my FWA) and switch to my High-Level Route only when/if the conditions warrant the more exposed route. This will lead to a more sure-fire bet that I will make it across, and will put me in fewer positions to have to make the decision to abandon a potentially dangerous stretch.
I encourage everyone to follow along in my planning process. I have been uploading route segments into Google Maps, where you can see the constant evolution of my route, and even leave comments if you think you see something I missed, either good or bad. Here's the link
TGO Challenge Route 2009
This is the part where I would usually try to be reassuring and tell everyone that this is in no way dangerous and that I will have no problem with this event.
That would be a lie.
The truth is this has the potential to be severely dangerous. Not only will I be on my own (for the most part), I will be navigating my way across a land I have never been to before, in possible conditions that trap even the best navigators. At the altitudes I'm reaching, It could still be snowing. Getting trapped atop one of the Munros would spell disaster. Anyone caught unprepared in these conditions would face numerous problems. Luckily, I will not be unprepared. I have plenty of experience in both long-distance hiking and cold-weather hiking. I've studied weather patterns and know how fast storms can come and go. I know my gear inside and out. Everything that goes on my or in my pack will be scrutinized and heavily tested before I put any faith in its abilities. In short, the set of skills I have are sufficient enough to help me make smart decisions and keep me safe no matter what region I decide to hike in.
As I finalize my route, gear, and other arrangements, I will post them here so that everybody can stay updated.