Scotland Bound – The Great Outdoors Challenge

To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.
~From the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Scotland's The Great Outdoors Challenge 2014
BIG news… my husband, Dan and I were selected to participate in The Great Outdoors Challenge 2014, a west coast-to-east coast cross-country backpack across Scotland. I am super excited and honored because only 300 participants are selected each year with only a handful from the United States. The annual event is May 9 – May 23. The Challenge is sponsored by The Great Outdoors Magazine (much like Backpacker Magazine in the United States), in partnership with the outdoor company, hanwag.

The fun and difficult task of Challengers is the responsibly of planning their own routes across the entire country passing through Scotland’s Highlands, Monadhliath Mountains, and Cairngorm Mountains.

The TGO is entirely non-competitive (although, on finishing, Challengers receive a special badge, certificate and T-shirt). A maximum of 15 days is allowed for the crossing. Most people take between 12 and 14 days to cross, and the average length for a crossing is about 180 miles. The Challenge demands a good level of competence in navigation, survival techniques, campcraft and general hillcraft that requires crossing rivers, climbing Munros (peaks over 3,000 feet), walking through peat bogs, bad weather bypasses, mud, and boulder fields. There are no pre-blazed trails, just hill walking.

Our route plan is due February 15th to an experienced vetter, who will offer comments and assistance in final route approval. The detailed route plan must be flexible enough to provide alternate/safe detours if the weather is bad.

I should add that Dan and I applied for our first passport ever. Fitting that we will hit the ground walking the minute we land in a foreign country. Love it.

It is going to be super helpful that the event is renowned for its sociability and camaraderie. We are looking forward to experiencing Scotland’s beautiful landscape, culture, and hiking community. Oh and I might add, the event has a VERY informative and encouraging message board.

The Challenge begins.

Example of Participant Created Routes across Scotland
Example of Participant Created Routes across Scotland


  1. Hi Rockin’! I stumbled across your blog when it popped up on a random TGO-related web search and am glad to see you have got a place on the Challenge this year. I believe that is my track from last year in red on your example routes map above 🙂 It sounds like you are all set for your first Scottish hillwalking experience. Good luck and enjoy every step of the crossing – I’ll be sure to check back in to see how you got on!

  2. I am so excited for you both! I’ve been to Scotland, and loved the people, landscape, history, and those wonderful wild places! May your planning go well. I’ll be following your messages and waiting to hear of your big adventure!

  3. Wow! Happy trails to you. What a wonderful adventure.

    • Thank you Tricia. It is usually the planning process of a trip that I love. The planning for this trip by far is the most challenging I have experienced. It is going to be awesome when it all comes together.

  4. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! How exciting! I would just like to put in a plug for “The Packa” as an amazing piece of rain gear. It’s now available in a variety of different weights and fabrics depending on your budget and needs ( I’ve used their standard model and made one of cuban fiber as well, and have found them to be a tremendously versatile piece of gear for all sorts of weather. I’ve used it in various configurations to protect myself from severe cold, gale force winds, sideways rain and even ravenous hoards of dive bombing mosquitoes, not to mention milder versions of these kinds of weather. It’s plenty roomy enough underneath to be able to pull out your tarp while still wearing it and set up in a downpour without getting any of your other things wet. It’s also perfect to leave your pack in under your tarp to keep it off the wet ground and covered up, and you can stand your pack up in it in the open end of the front your tarp to keep sideways rain from getting in as well while still being able to access your gear. You can pull it on or off without breaking your stride, and with a modification of four to five velcro dots along the length of the zipper fly you can tack it closed in various configurations rather than zip it up in warmer weather to stay dry yet allow even more ventilation in lighter/warmer rains. I’ve also pulled it on when taking breaks at high windy points to keep from cooling down and stay totally comfortable in it despite being sweaty from hiking. I’m just sayin… Have a fricken blast on your trek!

    • Thank you for the recommendation. This piece of gear looks very interesting especially for the AT or rainy Oregon and Washington. I LOVE cuben fiber!

  5. Congratulations! I am so excited and happy for you & Dan. What an amazing life adventure to share with each other!!! Thanks ahead of time for all the amazing sights and stories you will be sharing with us.

    • I am hoping to post as I have usually done, during the trip, and have been looking into WiFi and cell service and how all that works in a foreign country. Lots of new stuff. I am hoping AT&T will be helpful.

      • I know rates are better than they used to be. iphones are great for international use because you can do so much on wi-fi. Our oldest son traveled to Germany and Spain and was able to use his iphone without ever occurring any international charges;That being said he was with family friends and had no need of a phone. But he was able to talk to anyone in the United States that had an iphone and he was able to post on Facebook, Twitter, etc…
        I always find international phone use to be the scariest part of traveling, so Good luck with it!

  6. My Wife Vicky and I will also be crossing this year ( Mallaig to St.Cyrus). We are from St.Louis, MO. Our route has been vetted already, so if I can provide any information for you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

    • Skygzr, Thank you for the offer and will be emailing you with a couple advise questions. Your site is awesome and packed with information. Hope our paths will cross at some point on the crossing.

  7. This will be quite the amazing adventure! I have trouble even imagining that sort of trek. I can’t wait to follow your photos.
    (And I loved Walter Mitty by the way.)

    • Elise,
      Gotta admit it is overwhelming to me, but things are looking up. We now have a rough route planned, reservations for lodging and transportation done, and our passports arrived in the mail. There were so many things I loved about the movie and quotes our family is using at home. Thanks for your ongoing support.

  8. Great News Rockin’!!
    The Scots are wonderful people and you are both in for a treat. Please keep posting

  9. That’s Rockin’! I have been following the TGO challenge the past few years and my husband and I plan to submit an application for 2015. I am so excited to follow your blog for The Challenge and know that your experiences (gear lists, tips, etc) will be great inspiration for me if I am so lucky to be selected in 2015. Thank you for sharing your passion with us.

  10. Awesome! Excited to hear this!

  11. Marilyn McAlester

    This is so exciting! What a grand opportunity for you two. So looking forward to your updates.

    • Well hello Lady on a Rock! So glad you are reading! Would you be interested in an interview? I think readers just might be love hearing your story.

  12. Awesome news! Aren’t we the lucky readers. I also discovered your blog through Wired and regularly drop in to read. Just love your photography.
    Fingers crossed that all the bad weather is occurring now!

    • Hello Helen,
      Thank you for commenting. Wired and I were just discussing a couple days ago our rain gear options for this summer. I am hoping also for some nice weather. I have heard some bad stories. I love taking the photos and am glad you like them!

  13. What a chance of a lifetime! I’m looking forward to your posts and photos!

    • I know. Crazy huh? Our heads are full of information to process and to do something about. Just when I think I am organized, I really am not. 🙂 I’ll bet you are missing snow. I am.

  14. I am SO excited for you!! What a great adventure! Scotland’s on my list! But not until I concur some smaller tasks, first. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll be able to blog about this, so I can live vicariously through you!

    • I will be blogging away, you can be sure of that. I am even going to try and have a live map of sorts. The United Kingdom has some cool sites to post locations during a trip. BTW: small tasks always lead to big things. 🙂

  15. Woot woot,
    Sounds like an awesome time. I have read many a story of the TGO. Can’t wait to hear yours and Dan’s.

    • Okay Grin’n it is on my list to email you today for your current mailing address. A calendar is coming your way. The TGO is a crossing that walkers take year after year. I am told it is addicting and that I will be back. I can’t wait.

  16. Ach! Scotland! Y’er in fer a treat! If time allows, I hope you can visit Edinburgh – a wonderful city! This is EXCITING news!!

    • Thank you for the recommendation. We are flying in and out of Glascow and are planning on doing some tourist stuff for a couple days after we finish. My husband is a golfer, so of course we are visiting the old course, St. Andrews.

  17. Hi, first a word of introduction. I started following your blog after Wired mentioned you. I found Wired when searching for gear lists. I enjoy your postings (and Wired’s) very much. I also follow a blog – This person is also doing the TGO challenge and is posting updates on his preparation. (PS – I live in far northern Illinois and it is 15 below zero this morning.)

    • EEEEEEK 15 below. Serious cold. So nice to meet you David and thank you for commenting. Coincidently, I was just looking at blogpackinglight yesterday! I have so much to learn about hiking in new terrain in wet conditions. Thank you for the link.

      • Hey Rockin’! Congrats to you guys! I’m an Americano who lives in York, England. Make sure you have hearty waterproofs! I wear Rab/Mountain Equipment products out here, which is completely different (a little heavier, yet more durable) to the kind I’d wear in the States. But hey you’ll be in the know with the amazing forums. Good luck!

  18. Wow! You did say you had some big announcements. This hike would fit right in that category. Congrats to you and Dan. Go get’em!!

    • This IS huge for us. Just getting on an airplane for more than a couple hours is a big deal. It will be encouraging knowing that readers will be following along. I have more plans upcoming for 2014….

  19. Congratulations! This sounds fun hope the weather holds up 😉

    • You are so right. Everything I read about crossing Scotland is always prefaced with the words “weather permitting”. Last year’s TGO was very wet and cold. Dan and I are preparing for the worse and planning on climbing a few munros if the weather is good. 🙂

  20. Sounds awesome !! I can’t wait to follow this trip !

  21. CONGRATULATIONS!! Sounds like and awesome trek. Hope you post about it. I am training and planning on doing the 1250 mile Great Himalaya Trail this year.

    • I definitely will be posting details before and during the trek. The Himalayas!!! Man oh man what an adventure that will be. Congrats on that. Talk about a lot of required planning. That is the fun part!

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