TGO Problem: Route Planning Suggestions for Backpacking Throughout Scotland


The TGO Problem is an annual backpacking occasion that lasts for 15 days and includes backpacking coast to coast throughout Scotland, a distance of 180-200 miles. It’s been held for 40 years and is organized by The Nice Outdoor Journal which is a UK publication well-liked with hardcore hikers and backpackers throughout the pond. Due to the Web and social media, the Problem has grow to be more and more well-liked amongst non-UK residents and an growing variety of Individuals and Canadians take part annually.

Philip's 2010 TGO Challenge Coast-to-Coast Route
Philip’s 2010 TGO Problem Coast-to-Coast Route

The “problem” of this journey is to get from one coast to a different in 15 days. Whereas most individuals do end, they’ve been pre-screened and vetted to verify they’ve the mandatory expertise and abilities for backpacking off-trail and throughout mountainous terrain. You have to apply to take part because the variety of individuals is capped. Should you’re accepted, it’s a must to outline and doc your coast-to-coast route in excruciating element and submit it for overview to make sure it’s protected and achievable. The overview course of is staffed by native consultants who typically make precious strategies about good locations to camp, river crossings, foul climate bypasses, and different hazardous circumstances.

The remainder of this text supplies an summary of the way to plan your route with tips to helpful instruments, info sources, Fb teams, maps, and web sites. Planning a route of this magnitude was a way more difficult challenge and time-consuming course of simply 5 years in the past, however the brand new planning instruments and data sources obtainable on-line have made it a lot simpler to collate and set up. You continue to need to determine the place to go, what to see, and the way to do it safely, however getting the data required to make these choices is simpler than ever. There’s nearly an excessive amount of of it obtainable.

Starting and Endings

All challengers should start their journey at one among 14 begin factors on the west coast of Scotland and signal out to start out their journey. That is crucial as a result of, for security causes, “Problem Management” in Montrose retains observe of individuals as they make their approach cross nation. That is very hands-off and requires that you just textual content or name Problem Management a number of occasions throughout your journey along with your present location. You possibly can end anyplace on the east coast between Fraserburgh and Arbroath, however it’s essential to get to Montrose by 5:00 pm on the final day of the occasion to your crossing to rely.

TGO Challenge - Torridon Sign Out Sheet
TGO Problem – Torridon Signal Out Sheet

How do you determine the place to start out and finish? Whereas a number of the begin factors are extraordinarily scenic, they are often devilishly laborious to get to by rail, bus, or boat as a result of they’re so distant. Some begin factors are additionally extra well-liked than others, which might be good or unhealthy, relying on how social you wish to be. The place you begin will even considerably affect the route you’re taking in the course of the first week, because the geography tends to funnel individuals collectively in week two, which is often way more social.

Maps, Planning Instruments, and GPS Apps

OS Maps is the UK’s nationwide mapping company (just like the USGS) and so they promote paper and waterproof maps (however don’t presently ship to the US), and maps on-line. Additionally they have a cellular app and on-line planning instruments. Whilst you could also be tempted to hold paper variations of all the OS maps you want to your route, be forewarned that they’re huge, cumbersome, and heavy. The waterproof variations of those maps are additionally laminated and never printed on waterproof paper, which makes them even heavier than the paper ones. You’ll in all probability be higher off planning your route utilizing an internet instrument that makes use of OS Maps and printing that out as a substitute if you wish to cut back the burden and bulk that it’s essential carry.

OS Maps Web-Based Planning Interface
OS Maps Net-Primarily based Planning Interface

OS Maps has a easy however efficient on-line planning instrument that I like to make use of along with their cell phone app within the area along with a compass, however there are others obtainable as effectively together with Out of doors Lively and Anquet’s OMN3 which licenses the digital maps created by OS Maps in addition to others. (I don’t advocate Anquet as a result of the software program is sort of dated and clunky to make use of.) All of those instruments have import and export capabilities so you possibly can switch routes between them interchangeably.

OS Maps Cell App

Grid References

If you fill out your Route Sheet, you’ll want to make use of OS Grid References to point places on the map as a substitute of Lat/Lon Coordinates. These divide the UK right into a collection of squares after which additional subdivide these into smaller and smaller quadrants to generate an Ordnance Survey Grid Reference primarily based on the metric system. It’s fairly much like UTM coordinates used within the US. The one distinction is that everybody makes use of them within the UK.

OS Grids

Most on-line planning instruments present these coordinates with a click on of your mouse, which is one more reason they’re so handy to make use of.

Route Planning Choices

Scotland has a right-of-way regulation that allows anybody to stroll throughout non-public property with out prior permission, apart from sure properties owned by the Royal Household. This opens up the choice for wild and distant cross-country routes, which is likely one of the foremost points of interest of the TGO Problem and mountaineering in Scotland.

2024 TGO Challenge Route Sheet
2024 TGO Problem Route Sheet

When planning your route, you’ll wish to determine whether or not you wish to go excessive and climb loads of mountains or keep low and follow the valleys and lochs. Each are pleasing and most of the people do some of each. Should you do plan a excessive route, you’ll additionally need to plan out FWA’s for it, which stands for “foul climate alternates”, which is the low-level detour you’ll take when the climate is poor. These have to be specified on the route sheet you undergo the Problem route vetters. An instance route sheet is proven above.

Crossing Loch Ness by ferry

You’ll additionally wish to determine whether or not you wish to hike cross nation or follow well-defined paths, direct Land Rover tracks, or paved roads. You’re not allowed to make use of any wheeled transport on the problem though you possibly can experience the ferry throughout Loch Ness in case your route requires a crossing.

Some rivers require bridge crossings, so you might end up detouring to them for a crossing. Being spring, a number of the bridges marked out in your map might not exist in the event that they’ve been destroyed by spring flooding. You possibly can often discover this out by asking locals about present circumstances on the TGO Fb Group, which I counsel you be part of.

Lastly, you’ll wish to determine the place you possibly can resupply throughout your journey, together with whether or not you propose to camp out or keep in B&Bs, hostels, mountain bothies, or some mixture throughout your journey.

Route Sharing Websites

There are lots of methods to analysis mountains to climb and locations to go to alongside your route. However probably the most expedient approach I’ve discovered to type by means of the lots of of choices obtainable is to reference an internet site and skilled neighborhood known as WalkHighlands.

The WalkHighlands Website
The WalkHighlands Web site

They publish GPX information and detailed route descriptions of dozens of traditional walks which you can obtain and examine. You need to use these to piece collectively a for much longer route and relaxation assured that you just’ve hit the highlights within the areas you determine to hike by means of.

Walkhighlands publishes many detailed walking routes and maps.
Walkhighlands publishes many detailed strolling routes and maps.

Conventional Gatherings

Inebriated Challengers within the Braemar Resort Bar

There are just a few locations the place Challengers collect to socialize as they get nearer to the east coast. These embody:

  • Tarfside, southeast of Braemar, which a small village with a convent that serves meals and has a social corridor/pub that’s opened for the Problem. Dozens of challengers meet there and pitch their tents on the village inexperienced for the night time.
  • North Water Bridge, which is a campground simply west of Montrose, with showers and washing machines.

For dates and different particulars, inquire on the TGO Fb web page.

The Pleasure of Planning

Whereas collaborating within the TGO Problem is a wonderful scenic and social expertise, many Challengers discover monumental pleasure in planning their routes in the course of the winter months. I definitely rely myself of their quantity. Whereas this route planning information just isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it ought to provide you with sufficient info to get began. You probably have further questions, go away a remark beneath.

For extra details about the TGO Problem, go to the occasion web site. 

Concerning the Writer

Philip Werner accomplished the TGO Problem in 2010 and 2013. He hopes to finish his third coast-to-coast TGO Problem hike throughout Scotland in 2024.

Up to date 2024.

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