Hmmh.. thank God I didn't hear those horror stories before I used garnome. It worked fast and quite reliably. Installed everything flawlessly. I recommend it. You'd end up cursing if you'd try to manually compile/configure them - a.k.a Dependency HELL.
I did a garnome install in a third the time it took me to install KDE 3.3. You do a make paranoid-install and a few configs afterwards and that's it. Gnome 2.8. Tried and tested
To get 2.6, log on to a cooker ftp mirror close to your site, add that as an alternate source, and install the gnome packages with 2.6 in the version. Dependencies will be resolved, XORG installed, and that will be all. Tried and tested.