"You'll never walk alone
(The EFM team's Caledonian Challenge Walk Report)
We made it! More than 54 miles in just under 18-21 hours.
I don't think any of us would describe it as fun, and immediately
after doing it, we all swore blind "Never again!" .
But now.....just maybe?!?
The walkers (Cameron Glasgow, George Renouf, Jim Strang and
myself) set off from Edinburgh for Fort William on Friday night,
arriving at our B&B around 9.30pm. A brief walk up Fort William's
High Street that evening was as much training as Cameron or Jim
had done for the event, and was our first and last opportunity
to train together and discover our natural pace. I had approached
the event with more respect, hiking up Arthur's Seat the previous
Sunday. "Hah!" noted Cameron, "Tomorrow will make
that seem like a walk in the park!" How true. We terminated
our short training walk when we found the Highland Star Chinese
Restaurant, and fuelled-up on a couple of pints each and a chow
mein. Bed just after midnight, and up at 6.30 am for a quick cookie
before checking in for the start of the Walk.
The Walk began on Saturday morning at 8am from Fort William
and the first 12 miles were a breeze. However, our dismally minimal
team training began to show after two or three hundred yards...roughly
equal to the distance from the east end of Fort William's High
Street to the Highland Star. The team split into two, the hastily
developed theory being that it would be folly not to walk at your
own pace. We regrouped at Kinlochleven, the first checkpoint.
Wendy Cochran and her friend Pamela, had kindly offered to support
us through the event and supplied us with copious rolls, cakes,
drinks and sweets, and morale boosting chat.
The next ten miles, up and down the Devil's Staircase and
part way through Glencoe, was much harder than the first section.
Jim tore his knee ligaments and hamstrings coming down the Devil's
staircase. By now our team training regime was even more evident
and Cameron and I had disappeared out of sight. It was left to
George to single-handedly help Jim down the mountain. He managed
to call Wendy and Pam on the mobile. Fortunately, at this point
the West Highland Way is close to the main road, and Wendy and
Pam were able to cart Jim off to First Aid. Sadly he had to retire
although played an invaluable role later in the day as Chief Car
After a short debate, Cameron and I decided that the least
we could do under the circumstances was to wait for George at
Checkpoint Two (the Glencoe Ski Centre Car Park). Worn out by
his efforts with Jim, George and Naver, George's trusty black
lab (see, he wasn't really on his own!) appeared 45 minutes later.
Cameron had developed awful blisters and had to have his feet
patched before we could embark on Section 3 so we all got a welcome
rest and a chance to catch our breath.
Section 3 began well, with George, Cameron, Naver and I walking
together. However, after a couple of miles, Cameron discovered
that jogging was much less painful than walking, since it changed
the pressure points on his feet. Naver also liked the new pace
so Cameron and Naver disappeared over the horizon.
I felt bad for George that Cameron had stolen his dog, and
was fleetingly struck by a rare surge of team spirit. Consequently
George and I walked together for most of this section. Our blisters
began to worsen towards the end of this stage, but we were past
the half-way point which psychologically gave us a lift. George
stopped ahead of the last hill climb of the section, to have his
feet seen to at a first aid point. George urged to me to "Carry
on" at this point, and and after half-heartedly protesting,
I set off. If we'd been in an old war movie, it would have been
at this point that I'd have handed George my Webley revolver.
I reached Checkpoint 3 at Bridge of Orchy, only to discover
that Cameron had not only set off ten minutes earlier without
George or me, he'd left poor old Naver! To be fair, dogs weren't
allowed on the next section of the walk. It's worth noting too
that thanks to their jogging tactics, Cameron and Naver managed
to win the "Fastest Team with a Dog Prize", and established
a new category for "Fastest Man with another Man's Dog!"
George and I regrouped at Bridge of Orchy and after scoffing
a few rolls, bananas and Snicker bars, he and I marched off on
the penultimate stretch. This was 10 miles and we covered it in
2 1/2 hours, which was great going. We overtook a lot of walking
wounded and it was very noticeable how much fatigue had set in
all round. By the time we reached the final checkpoint at the
Auchtertyre Wigwams, we just wanted to get the whole thing over
I grabbed some soup, a roll and a banana. I stuck on a few
more plasters and changed my socks for the last time. George went
straight for a massage. A bit of executive relief was probably
just what he needed, because when he pitched up at the checkpoint
car park, Wendy had to tell him that his new Merc had broken down
and been abandoned at the last checkpoint. It turned out that
Jim had turned the ignition on to listen to the England game on
the radio, but had turned the key too far and had flattened the
Still reeling from the news (and his sauna....sorry, massage)
George was very keen for a bit more of a lie-down before the last
stage. With impeccable logic he'd also decided that after his
rest, if he could get up and walk round the car, he'd be able
to do the final 12.5 mile stretch! Wendy tried to distract him
in conversation..."so, what are you planning to do with the
rest of the weekend etc.?".
I was eager to end the ordeal, and with George's blessing
("Oh f*** off then!") I headed out into the darkness.
It was 11pm and cloudy so the full moon was hardly to be seen.
I teamed up with two HSBC people we'd met earlier in the walk.
Oh, I forgot to mention, Cameron had left Checkpoint 4 about
an hour before George and I arrived, but then you probably figured
that out by now!
Not far into the last section, my two new walking companions
were beginning to toil. I bade them (and their head torches and
map...crucial point this) farewell and carried on up the hill.
I passed the 10 miles to go marker, 9 miles, 8 miles, and at this
point the track was smooth so I broke into a jog and kept this
up for a couple of miles. However, the 6 mile marker never came,
and the track seemed to peter out. Eventually, I saw the two other
walkers up ahead. "Thank goodness, are we heading the right
way then?" I asked. Sadly it turned out that we were all
lost; no head torches, no map (I'd dropped mine earlier).
We hunted up and down for the trail but it was nowhere to
be seen. Eventually, we heard a river that we figured would lead
to Loch Lomond (which was where we were to finish) and that in
turn led us to a road. I walked and jogged in on that, no longer
caring about the state of my feet. I passed a drunk sitting bent-double
outside the Drovers Arms being sick and nearly joined him. With
considerable relief, I finished, two minutes before 3am, 18hours
and 58minutes later. Technically, I was on the wrong side of the
loch, having missed a turning but did I care! Cameron had finished
about an hour earlier and George, against the medical advice that
he received at the final checkpoint, finished the course at around
It was hellish, but I'm glad I did it and the others feel
the same. Jim was genuinely very unfortunate. Other colleagues
are already talking about getting teams together for next year
and are debating who's up to it. Are YOU?
Thank you very much for your sponsorship - cash/cheques to
The Scottish Community Foundation please.
by Angus MacDonald of The Kilted Foursome
(printed in The Scotsman 26th June 1999)
It was never going to be pleasant, a twenty
mile stroll is exhausting, double that and you are in real pain
with the last 12 taking you into the realms of something you intend
never to repeat. The literature showed a kilted fellow with two
mates smiling as they strolled along in the sun. That picture
was taken last year after the first 17 miles, and will probably
be used next year too. The Caledonian Challenge is billed as a
52 mile sponsored walk down the West Highland Way from Fort William
to Loch Lomond non stop. It didn't mention the fact that the weather
might be more a combination of a tropical storm and a west coast
gale. Before we had even started we were drenched, and 10 teams
didn't even cross the start line. A rousing send-off by Clanranald,
the chieftain of the Macdonald clan, with extensive safety brief
by the exhausting organiser David Fox-Pitt saw the 517 starters
strike off up Glen Nevis. 17 miles later we reached Kinlochleven,
our first checkpoint, where the beloved soldiers and even more
beloved support teams plied us with tea.
My portable came in useful on the Devil's
Staircase above Kinlochleven, when we had to summon the army helicopter
to rescue a fellow with cramp. We had already lost at least a
dozen walkers who felt it was all too much. The arrival at Kingshouse
at the entrance to Glencoe was like a scene from a horror film.
Acres of cars with valiant support teams trying to drape plastic
sheeting over weary walkers, with over 30 miles to go. Of the
4 members of parliament only John McAllion was still hoofing it.
Walkers were falling like flies. Apparently, as the founder, participants
had placed a couple of contracts on my life, an incentive to move
Rannoch Moor was next, a section during
which 15 individuals were picked up by the motorcycle dispatch
riders and carted off the hillside. It was now dark but still
bucketing it down. The Merrill Lynch team from Edinburgh, booked
in as the hobbling herd was going strong, as were
the 11 walkers from Stewart Ivory, the fund management company,
led by the well-known John Thomson, who along with Angus Tulloch,
both aged 49, were to finish.
Cazenove, the blue-blooded bankers, from
London were 3 hours behind us as their plane had been delayed.
The American Factset team had got off the sleeper at Fort William,
turned up in good time to register but were tempted away by McDonalds
hamburgers, to reappear 30 minutes after we had all set off.
The fourth checkpoint beyond Tyndrum, Auchtertyre
farm, saw everyone absolutely exhausted. Our wives valiantly served
us up lashings of bacon and eggs before pushing us on for the
last 14 miles. Lord Aberdour told us that one member of his team
had dropped out and hitched a lift at 2 am, to be dropped off
at Crianlarich. Unable to persuade anyone at a B&B to take
him in he curled his soaked body into a ball in a church and dropped
off to sleep.
At 11.59, Drew Mackin of the Clydesdale
Bank had run in to the finish, 52 miles in 11 hours made us all
feel very humble. Compaq Computers were in a 4.15 am, and then
came the Edinburgh bankers Noble & Co, led by the obnoxiously
fit Henry Chaplain.
My own team, the Kilted Foursome, limped
in complete at 8 am, with the backs of my legs lacerated by the
swing of the wet tartan. Heroic walkers staggered in throughout
the day, with the last at 5 pm. 67% of the starters completed
and we believe some £300,000 will have been raised for small
needy causes throughout Scotland. Some big amounts were raised,
notably by Andrew Gobourn of Reuters and the teams from Kenmore
Group and Stewart Ivory. I said to Alastair Dempster who runs
The Scottish Community Foundation, the charity who distributes
the money we raise, Never, ever again, you said
that last year he said, and the year before that.
Return to Challenge Menu