The soreness in my feet is almost gone. So that probably means too much time has passed to offer a brief wrap-up of the The Great Outdoors Challenge 2014–the hike I took across Scotland. But of course that won’t stop me.
Nearly all of this information comes from John Manning, the coordinator of the Challenge for the last three years. He kindly provided me an early look at his much more detailed Final Report.
Three-hundred twelve people started the hike and 263 finished it. The number who “retired” (as they term it here) was 49–an unusually high number. There isn’t a clear reason. The average age of the people who started was 57 and of those who didn’t finish, 59. So age doesn’t seem to have been a big factor.
Of the retirees, 14 were uninjured and stopped because of personal or family exigencies, because a walking partner was stopping, or because they weren’t having fun. Eleven people stopped because of blisters, six because of knee injuries, three with colds, and the rest with a variety of complaints, such as achilles tendinitis and shin splints.
There were three falls, “at least two of which resulted in broken bones,” Manning reported. One person fell 300 feet down a mountainous slope, avoiding death of grievious injury (I heard someone say) because of the cushioning effect of his pack. He had bruises and several lacerations and was able to hike to safety, with the help of others, over eight hours.
Jim Taylor, the 91-year-old man I had the privilege of spending parts of two days with, finished one day ahead of me. It was his 20th crossing. He said it was harder than before. (He once did 32 miles in a day). He got a traditional Scottish whisky-drinking cup and the record as the oldest Challenger. Then he took the bus home.
Me, I’ve stuck around to see a little more Scotland. And to tell a little more about what I see, if anyone is listening.