Part of us is glad TGOC21 is behind us as the continual uncertainties and changes of plan were rather draining but there were a lot of positives too. Not least the loyalty and support of Challengers, both old and new, but also their ingenuity in planning routes to deal with more challenging times. It was good to see too that the Challenge camaraderie not only survived but flourished despite social distancing and lower numbers and the more back to basics Challenge was enjoyed by most, less so the midgies . . . For those that weren’t able to join us this year there will be some excellent reports in the October issue of The Great Outdoors magazine which will be available from 10th September.
As we turn to the 42nd TGO Challenge that loyalty and the positive aspects of 2021 stay with us. We also need to borrow a bit of that ingenuity to accommodate all those who have supported us over these last two difficult years. We therefore want everyone who missed out in 2020 and 2021 as well as those who walked this year to have a place if they want it, but we also don’t want to overwhelm any of the villages and towns that welcome us or to have Challengers walking nose to tail along popular routes. Although we anticipate far fewer restrictions in 2022 Covid-19 isn’t going away so spreading ourselves more evenly across Scotland in both time and place seems a good principle again this year so we won’t be returning to the normal format quite yet. We will though be returning to our usual time slot in the hopefully midge free second half of May.
So, the plan for 2022 is:
- An increased number of participants, 450-500, with priority given to those who had 2020/21 places and those on the reserve list, Challenge volunteers (mainly vetters) and sponsors places
- Those guaranteed places will be invited by email (or post) to claim their place by completing the entry form between 20th September and 11th October 2021.
- Any spare places will be offered to other entrants from 12th to 29th Priority will be given to walking partners of those with guaranteed places and a draw will take place if needed in early November.
- The fee will be £80 for those who participated in 2021 and new entrants, £40 for those who deferred to 2022 after 31st December 2020 and there is no fee for anyone who had 2020/21 places but deferred before this date.
- The start will be staggered over 4 days (Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th May) with a maximum of 125 starters per day from 9am onwards. Should any day be oversubscribed there will be a draw. First and second start date preferences will be requested on the entry form.
- Participants will have 15 days to complete their crossing so, for example, anyone starting on Tuesday 10th must finish by Tuesday 24th It will remain possible to start later than Friday 13th May but with a shorter period to cross as TGOC22 will finish promptly at 5pm on Friday 27th May.
We think these arrangements should spread the load for Challengers, Highland villages, Challenge Control and The Park Hotel whilst allowing everyone to enjoy the Event with a sense of space. It does mean that if there are Challenge friends you want to meet up with, you will need to plan carefully which start dates you apply for.
We know the social side of the Event is very important to many Challengers and many of the places that offer a special welcome to Challengers will be open again:
- The Sutherlands at Ault-na-Goire welcomed Challengers this year and will do so again next year.
- Melanie Pocock at Cougie is looking forward to offering hospitality once more having been closed in 2021.
- Bill Duncan will also reopen Callater Lodge but with a few changes. Numbers have become a problem here prior to the pandemic with severe overcrowding. There will therefore be limits on the numbers inside the building at anytime and no sleeping accommodation in the Lodge.
- Newtonmore Hostel won’t be available for accommodation as it is now a self-catering unit with a minimum 2-night stay but we will offer refreshments in a large tent on our lawn and hold parcels as usual.
- Unfortunately, The Burn in Glen Esk can’t accommodate us this year but the Dovecot Caravan Park, at North Water Bridge are looking forward to welcoming back Challengers. Camping on the playing field at Tarfside will be possible again and St Drostan’s will be open but with much more limited hospitality.
Tarfside has become another conundrum. The volunteers at St Drostan’s have made a huge success of the gathering there and it has become a Challenge institution but in a way it has become a victim of it’s own success. Over the last few years, we have seen numbers rise from around a third of Challengers to nearly two thirds passing through the doors of the hostel. Without Tarfside this year there was much more diversity of routes exploring the hills and glens to the east and west which has been good to see. The ever-increasing numbers have utterly exhausted the volunteers who have worked 7am to 10pm (or later) every day and there is a dearth of new volunteers to replace those who want to retire. But on the other hand, it seems wrong to abandon the village altogether without an alternative meeting place further down the glen. So we have been in discussion with the church and the current volunteers and agreed to scale it down in order to reduce its popularity. 2022 participants should bear in mind while route planning that it should be somewhere to visit occasionally – not on every crossing.
- Beds will be available, as usual, on a first-come-first-served basis but only residents will be allowed in the building in the evening. Self-catering facilities will be available to residents.
- Hospitality will be limited to light refreshments during the day and there will be no meals provided. You will need to bring your own evening meal and breakfast and eat it in your tent if you do not have a bed.
- There will be no alcohol available, and the Mason’s bar will not be open.
- Names and Challenge numbers will be recorded by volunteers, as usual, and passed to Challenge Control every evening.
- The number of volunteers will be reduced from 6 to 4 and will be able to rest in the evenings.
2021 has taught us that people can still enjoy the company of Challengers in smaller numbers and at less formal gatherings. Those who attended the much smaller dinners at the Park Hotel largely appreciated the less frantic and crowded events and we think this should carry over to 2022 too so we are planning:
- Celebratory dinners at the Park Hotel from Monday 23rd to Friday 27th
- A maximum capacity of 100 per night.
- Celebration of 10th, 20th and this year hopefully a 30th crossing spread across these evenings.
- Dinner places can only be reserved when submitting your route sheet and will be confirmed during the second week of your crossing.
We know some may be disappointed by some of the changes, but we hope everyone will appreciate they are necessary for the good of the volunteers and the Event as a whole.
We’ll be in contact again in September when we open for entries and are looking forward to seeing everyone again.
Sue & Ali
Photos: Ian Cotterill, Paul D’Ambrogio, Gordon Green & Sue Oxley