Monday, 27 June 2011

Caledonian Challenge

This month, along with 600 other people, I took part in the Caledonian Challenge.  This is a charity event which involves walking over 50 miles in 24 hours along a section of the West Highland Way from Fort William to Tyndrum.
For an ‘auld yin’ like myself this is quite a tough challenge.  Actually it is pretty tough for anyone.  It includes walking through a mountain pass on General Wade’s military road which is very rocky and hard walking.  It also includes climbing steeply into the hills above Kinlochleven and over the Devil’s Staircase into Glencoe as well as walking across Rannoch Moor, the most deserted place in the United Kingdom.
I was taken with just how spiritual some of the whole experience was.  I have always thought that Scotland was pretty awesome and the best of the scenery majestic.  But walking into Glencoe at dusk, from high up above the Devil’s Staircase was beyond awesome.  The sheer scale of Glencoe is breath-taking – an over used word but truly applicable here!   Glencoe also comes with an eerie atmosphere of malevolence.  This is untamed nature and a sense of history hangs heavy in the air, a feeling enhanced by a distinct mix of light and shade with various hues of grey which enhance the formations of the mountains and the jagged ridge.
After Glencoe we turned across Rannoch Moor.  Being a 24 hour event this meant we crossed it at night with head torches.  We were aware of the silhouettes of the hills around us and the stillness of the place as we moved through the midsummer twilight you get at this time of year.  The experience was made more mystic by the sight of other head torches moving through the night all around us.
Finally, after being fed by the army at Inveroran on Loch Tulla, we moved out into the mist and the emerging dawn to cross the hills to Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum and home.  When I crossed this point I was greeted by the most magnificent sun-rise at 5am as the sun rose in a perfect fireball above the clouds hugging the valley floor below me.  This was Scotland at her most stunningly beautiful!
The whole thing was exhausting as the energy drained from my legs with each passing mile.  However, the team experience was rewarding as we bonded together to get across the wilderness.  The wonderful Tania leading our support team was particularly good, dispensing tea, pasta and good medical advice for our disintegrating feet.

Along with my team, a lot of money was also raised for charity.  The event supports the Scottish Community Foundation which supports a range of charities and causes throughout Scotland including support for old people, children and Eco projects.   

I doubt I could ever do such a thing again but it was a remarkable experience - way beyond just the physical feat!   

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