The coronavirus crisis cancelled last year’s Cateran Yomp, but there are bold plans to run the epic charity trek in June. Veteran yomper Gayle gears up for the challenge.
Tackling the Cateran Yomp is no mean feat – it’s a tough, gruelling challenge, physically and mentally.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the 2020 event to be cancelled, but organisers promise this year’s hike – on June 5 and 6 in the foothills of the Cairngorms – will be extra special.
Teams of three to six people start in Blairgowrie and walk or run a stunning circular route which takes them through Kirkmichael, the Spittal of Glenshee and Kirkton of Glenisla, with rugged, hilly terrain adding to the challenge.
If the 54-mile gold route seems too daunting, there’s also a 22-mile bronze route or 36-mile silver alternative.
It’s a chance to experience some of the area’s most breathtaking scenery while raising vital funds for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
Having tackled the Yomp five times, I can honestly say it’s one of the most inspirational (and challenging) experiences of my life.
I’ve never been brave enough to attempt the epic 54-mile gold route, although colleagues have done this and lived to tell the tale, blisters and missing toenails aside.
Mind you, I’m pretty proud of my 36-mile silver successes, achieved in 2015 and 2016.
I’ve never yomped in the hope of breaking any speed records as it would be a shame to miss out on all the brilliant diversions – a disco and a dancing Elvis in the woods, a “mocktail” bar on the side of a loch, clay shooting, archery and, of course, the seemingly endless supplies of food and drink laid on by organisers.
But adrenalin kicks in when you’re undertaking such a mission. Energy levels, which would normally be flagging, seem to soar.
I found this to be the case as I plundered on into the night in my mission to reach the 36-mile checkpoint at Kirkton of Glenisla.
Head torch burning through the darkness, my legs seemed almost mechanical as they marched on through the wilderness. A very strange sensation indeed.
I clocked in around 10pm, just under 14 hours since I’d set off in the morning.
To think a few super-fit runners have conquered the 54-mile route in just over 11 hours!
I’ve yomped in all weathers – 2017 sticks in my mind as the “year of mud” when the heavens opened and the route was an absolute quagmire.
My team’s sights had been set on doing the 22-mile option and as we trudged through oozing sludge, we were very glad we hadn’t been aiming for the 54-miler.
The fantastic sense of camaraderie got us through what could have been (in some eyes) an unrelenting squelch-fest.
The best advice I can offer? Start training soon, building up your fitness gradually, bearing in mind any Covid restrictions.
Worst case scenario, walk somewhere from your house and back!
Another absolute must? Make sure you take at least three pairs of spare socks in your bag.
Your feet are guaranteed to get wet – there’s a lot of boggy ground and a few burns to ford – and the joy you’ll experience when you slip into a fresh pair of socks is indescribable.
Steve Oatley, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity’s head of national events, is excited to be celebrating the Yomp’s 10th anniversary in June after last year’s hiatus.
“We have a full Covid-19 plan in place with the safety of our participants, staff and volunteers being the number one priority,” he says.
“We look forward to seeing our supporters face-to-face as they hike round the Cairngorms to raise money for the Army family.”
Army veteran Andy Garthwaite is the Yomp 2021 ambassador.
Andy, 33, was almost killed in a rocket attack in Afghanistan in 2010 and now has a bionic arm powered by his brain.
He sees being ambassador as his way of repaying the Soldiers’ Charity for the amazing service it gave him.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he says.
“I’m fit, well, healthy and quite independent. The charity has changed my life, so I want to give something back.
“It’s going to be a great feeling getting back to some normality, and while I can’t currently do the training weekends in Northumberland I’d hoped for, I’m spending time walking around my local area to get the steps in.”
In 2019, 1,000 yompers, including serving soldiers and veterans, signed up for the event.
There are no plans to limit numbers, but that could change depending on how and when restrictions are lifted and what rules may be in place by June.
- Since 2010, the Cateran Yomp has raised more than £3.8 million for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity – funds which have helped thousands of veterans, serving soldiers and their families. For more details see soldierscharity.org