Wednesday 4 February 2015

TGO Challenge Training in the Snow

Helvellyn from Arthur's Pike

This blog is just a gratuitous excuse to post some photos taken on a couple of smashing walks I did this week in the Lake District.  The weather here has been winter at its best – very cold, dry air, and quite a decent amount of sunshine and brilliant blue skies, following a few days of snow.  This makes a wonderful change from the usual cold, grey and damp that is all too common at this time of the year. Views have been spectacular.  For the last couple of days the wind  has been moderate.  This is just as well, as when I left my cottage yesterday it was still minus six degrees at half nine in the morning. In these conditions the mountains are just fabulozy.

Looking over the Vale of Eden to Dunn Fell and Cross Fell in the Pennines

A Panorama over Ullswater from Helvellyn to Blencathra

As a weirdly obsessive maker of lists and keeper of records, I always log my walks in the hills. But these from the last two days have also been put down on the list of my training walks for the TGOC (The Great Outdoors Challenge).  This May I will be doing my third TGOC, walking coast-to-coast across Scotland.  If all goes to plan my chosen route will see me walking for fourteen days, a total of 322km (daily average is 23km) and climbing 9679 metres (daily average is 691m).  My longest planned day, distance wise, is 32 km but probably the toughest will involve 27km with 1172 metres of height gained.  This may be nothing to the tyros, but to me this really will be a challenge. 

I guess all Challengers will have their own approach to getting fit for the event.  Some will (or claim to) take the devil-may-care approach of going to the pub regularly, and will leave getting fit for the Challenge itself.  I reckon if I tried that I would be giving up by the first time I reached a place with public transport.  Others walk regularly enough in the hills with their backpacking gear not to need any special regime.  And others will do some form of training routine, its nature partly dictated by where they live and how easily they can get to the hills.

Blencathra from Arthur's Pike
For the past two years I started my training proper in the January before the event.  I probably averaged a training walk a week from January through to March.  Nothing spectacular or hard.  By ‘training walk’ I mean one where I put a pack on my back weighing about 10kg , with the weight provided by various tins of baked beans, tomatoes etc.  I tried to build up distance, time walked and height gained, although the latter was not always successful, given one of my favourite walks was along the Llangollen Canal where the only inclines are next to the locks.  Once the evenings started to become lighter (I am not in to lying in a tent for 14 long, damp hours in winter) I also managed a few nights out backpacking in the Lakes, including the 2014 memorable Pre- Challenge Daunder organised by Alan Sloman (who wrote up the experience as he imagined it to have been on his excellent blog, which can be found by following this link). An accurate account ie my own can be found here.  Few of my training walks reached the typical daily distance or height climbed on the Challenge.

A rare chance to practice in my crampons
I almost certainly didn’t do enough training in 2013 or 2014 and found the first couple of days on the Challenge quite tough.  But I did finish, so the routine just about worked for me. This year I was going to do more but, surprise surprise, so far I haven’t.  However, I am now trying to ratchet this up, and these fabulous short walks in the snowy Lake District Fells have spurred me on.  I will leave you with some more photos of my efforts…….

Hyperdog Moss admires the view from Arthur's Pike

A roll in the snow

The North Western Fells over the Vale of Keswick


  1. Training...wash your mouth out!!

  2. Cracking pictures David. It's just breathtakingly lovely up there at the moment eh. Just don't train too hard though eh. Wouldn't want to risk missing the crossing through injury, as selfishly I'm not sure I could cope with the disappointment of no fellbound TGO blog!

    1. Hi Steve

      There is absolutely NO chance of me training too hard.

  3. I'm with Steve.
    Steady now.
    Gorgeous pictures.
    It's important to train that right arm, Sir. The Chilterns could help there.

  4. Lovely photos David. Haven't needed my crampons so far this winter, mores the pity. Can't beat the sound of that scratch and crunch on ice. Even if you close you eye's and forget the views, simply the sound of walking in winter makes it special.

    1. Hi John

      I could have avoided the worst of the ice and managed without the crampons, but given the fact they aren't worn that often it is good to remind oneself of the slightly different style of walking they involve. On my second walk I took my Katoola Microspikes instead. I've had these two years and carried them a few times but have never needed them. But I wore them this week on some gentle, but very icy slopes. They were absolutely brilliant. Also much lighter to carry and far less of a faff to put them on and take them off than crampons.

  5. Had a couple of days in the Lakes myself, last weekend. Saturday was OK, Sunday was exceptional. The MWIS forecast said 30, 40 or 50 mph winds and minus 20 wind chill which is what I planned for. It was calm and about as perfect a winter day as you can get.

  6. Hi James I was out on the Sunday and yes it was a superb day.

  7. Excellent photos David, and keep up the training.

  8. I always look forward to Feb as being dry and sunny (but cold which I find very hard to cope with personally). We were up in Grasmere about a week later and most of that snow had gone unfortunately.

    As for training, I don't have to distance train particularly or 'get fit' as I hillwalk at least a bit all year - but I certainly have to 'pack train' as I never carry much weight out walking normally.

  9. I too hillwalk all year, Carol, but normally for shorter distances than the typical TGOC day and certainly ot carrying the weight. Hence the attempts at training.