Posts Tagged ‘rainbows’

Another 24 hours

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Lowther HillsThe Marmot24 is a 24-hour mountain marathon, though with a 12-hour option available. Open to pairs, solo runners, or teams of 4, this year both courses started together at noon on Saturday, with the 12-hour finishing at midnight and the 24-hour at noon Sunday. It's a score course, so you can visit as many controls as we wanted, each one scoring the same, 10 points. Finishing late incurred minor penalties at first, ratcheting up to a loss of all points if half an hour late!

It was possible to return to the event centre for a sleep, food, dry clothes, etc, and the position of the event centre made it quite easy to plan a route to do this. Some people carried tents with a view to camping out on the hill; others bivvied to save weight. There were even tales of people stopping for a pub meal in the evening. But the truly certifiable stayed out and on the move for the whole 24 hours.

Before the rainAfter last year's inaugural event, my blog entry concluded "I'm really glad we did it, but next time I think the 12 hour course may be a better choice, I wouldn't do the 24-hour again." And so, 12 months on, we drove up to Durisdeer in the Southern Uplands to compete in the 24 hour class. Inevitable really. We'd been to the Lowther Hills for the 2007 OMM, but couldn't remember it at all, so it was to all intents a new area for us.

After a leisurely start (we had our big tent, so plenty of room to cook a bacon, egg and bean breakfast) we picked the map up at 9am, giving just under 3 hours to plan.

OrchidThe southern half of the map contained what appeared to be relatively gentle hills, though with a lot of the controls looking potentially difficult to find (re-entrants, isolated crags, etc), and a few long gaps between them. The northern half was a lot steeper, with controls closer together and on more obvious features (stream functions and summits). We guessed that this meant that the running was easier in the south, rougher in the north.

Like last year, we decided to go for the harder navigation first, while we were fresh, and so worked out a route looping south to start, with various options for a smaller loop back north at the end. We intended staying out all night (last year's return to the event centre for a rest didn't work out very well).

It was slightly disconcerting at the mass midday start to see the clear majority of people heading off north! But we had a plan we were confident in. Last year we played cat and mouse with another team for the first few hours, but this year we found ourselves on our own after only 5 minutes. Despite occasionally seeing a few people in the distance, and crossing paths a few times with some, we pretty much stayed on our own for the whole event.

Evening sunThe first half dozen controls went smoothly though mostly without paths, until after a couple of ours the rain started. No problem we thought, the forecast was for dry conditions with occasional scattered showers. It didn't stop raining for about 6 hours! Apparently the northern part of the course stayed dry. So it goes.

What looked like a good track up the valley in the south east corner turned out to be a bog, slower going than it should have been and getting quite chilly in the rain. We stopped briefly at Burleywhag Bothy to escape the rain, dry off a bit, and have some food – if we'd known about the bothy in advance we might have planned a nap!

Last year I felt sick after about 10 hours and had trouble eating for the rest of the event; I put this down to not having eaten or drunk properly earlier on. So this year we'd supplied ourselves with plenty of food, including lots of home-made coconut ice, a packet of jaffa cakes, some bombay mix, 2 pasties, and a pizza! No, really.

RainbowsA couple of hours and 3 controls later it finally stopped raining, the sun came out, and gave us a series of rainbows. Missing an outlying control as it looked to be over the other side of a tussocky hill, we found ourselves with a bit of spare time before dark, so added in a spur-of-the-moment dogleg for 20 points. Unfortunately one of these involved a there-and-back knee-deep stream crossing, which didn't start the night off well.

By now dark, we headed for the Southern Upland Way, which we'd planned to follow through the night on the assumption that it would be easy to follow and it took us to some simple-looking controls on obvious features. It quickly became obvious that this was no Pennine Way – a narrow boggy path kept disappearing and reappearing, and gave us some of the hardest going of the event! At least it followed a fence line all the way up making navigation easy.

Sunset over Green LowtherNearing the top of Lowther Hill, the SUW path took an unexpected detour away from the fence. Not sure exactly where it went (it's not marked on any map) but it seemed to involve rather too much height loss that we then had to regain. Perhaps it actually stuck to the fence, and I was hallucinating.

Unfortunately the cunning food plan had made no difference and my stomach was suffering, but I battled on, groaning bravely throughout.

We eventually reached the summit, with its incongruous golf ball, tarmac road, and street lights, all part of the national air traffic control system. We followed the road to a control on the trig point of Green Lowther, unable to run even the downhills. The last 4km, that looked easy on the map, took us an hour and three quarters, and it was getting cold. I'm sure there was some frost among the dew.

DawnAfter a couple more controls, it was at last light, and the head torches went away. It didn't take long until the sun came out, the best weather of the event, though a chilly breeze meant the waterproofs stayed on. At last we could start thinking about the route to take back to the finish.

A brief scare when Carmen thought it was 8.00am was quickly resolved when it turned out to be 6.00 after all – we're not used to being up this early! So we had plenty of time to pick off a group of 5 controls close to the event centre. In fact we had so much time left that we were forced to add in two more as well, adding a steep 200m climb just at the point we didn't want it. All that remained was to sprint quickly/stagger slowly (delete as applicable) back to the finish.

6.20 amWe'd scored 300 points in 23 hours, 36 minutes, and 35 seconds. First mixed team, and 5th overall (on the same score as 4th place, but 10 minutes slower). The winner scored 360 so we were at least in touch.

Yet another really great event, and one that I'd urge anyone else to try (if you like mountain marathons of course!). Don't be put off by the epicness of the 24 hour event, most people take the sensible option of either the 12 hour course, or stopping for a break somewhere on the 24 hour version. They need numbers to increase if it's to remain viable in the future, so don't puit it off too long or you'll miss the chance!

Finally, thanks again to Shane (organiser), Gary (course planner), and everyone else involved.

More photos here

Results here

The Cabin

Friday, June 10th, 2011

This year's late May meet was to Balgowan (near Laggan), and a new hut for the club – The Cabin.

As usual, Carmen and I went up a week early, to take advantage of the good weather that's guaranteed in May. Unfortunately they'd used up all the good weather in April, so we were left with a week of rain and gales.

There looked to be a brief weather window on Sunday and Monday, so we decided to take advantage of it. Setting off on Sunday morning from Old Atholl, we cycled up Glen Tilt to Forest Lodge. From here we walked up the glen to Tarf Falls, and took in the remote Munros of An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir before descending to the Tarf Hotel bothy. It was mostly sunny but with gale force winds making progress difficult; showers late in the day gave some good rainbows. A final wade across a knee-deep river took us to the bothy. Somehow, over 25 years of walking in Scotland, I'd managed to avoid staying in a bothy before – I hope they're all as good as the Tarf Hotel!

The forecast was for a dry start the next day, with rain and hurricane-force winds arriving in the afternoon. So we set the alarm for 6am, intending to walk back out over Carn a' Chlamain to Forest Lodge before the weather broke. Unfortunately it broke early and the rain was torrential and horizontal, so we went back to sleep until lunchtime. The bothy had acquired its own moat overnight, which at least meant we could collect water without leaving the hut. Then the rain stopped and the sun came out so we made a break for it. The eye of the storm lasted for less than an hour, and we were soon wet and struggling to make progress in the wind, despite some shelter from the hill. We admitted defeat at 800m and contoured round the summit to pick up the stalkers track back down. The cycle back down the glen was straight into the wind, and several times we had to get off and push the bikes downhill in order to make any progress.

We now abandoned all plans of camping, and headed for the hut, which fortunately was empty so we stayed for the week.

The best weather was usually to the north and east, so we planned accordingly. A walk up the Corbett of Corryhabbie Hill north of Grantown was followed by climbing at Logie Head – good climbing, and good for the ego as almost everything is grossly overgraded. We made the most of a slight brief improvement in the weather with a walk up the four Strathfarrar Munros – cloudy but mostly dry.

The rest of the club now arrived (Peter, Rob, Annie, Simon, Debra, Mike and Sharon), but sadly didn't bring any better weather.

Rob and Peter provided Annie with her traditional near-death epic, by taking her up an easy scramble in the rain on the east ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn, while Simon and Debra did some Corbetting near Aviemore, and Mike and Sharon went mountain biking in a tea shop.

Fortunately we've already done everything near the hut so were able to head north east again, for a sunny (but very windy) walk up Ben Rinnes. This hill is a bit like Simon's Seat, in that there's a massive path to the top, which has lots of granite tors – perfect for scrambling and climbing, but with no recorded routes and no sign of any ascents. We did a bit of scrambling below the main summit, but the chief challenge was not being blown over so we mostly just looked. A number of isolated blocks looked like fun, but none had any easy way off so any route up would need to be down-climbed, and the easiest looked a bit too hard! The much larger face of the Scurran of Well looked to have promise – and probably does, but the cracks were wet (and vertical) and the faces protectionless.

On Sunday, Rob continued to break in his new fell shoes with a long very wet traverse of the Monadhliath hills in moderately foul weather (for some reason there was nobody else on the hill). Most of the others opted for something a little lower, and even fouind some sun on Druim an Aird. Meanwhile, we went climbing at Cummingston – a bit like Scugdale by the sea, and again with some very flattering grades. And also with a knee-wrecking VS chimney called Kneewrecker Chimney which duly wrecked my knees before I retreated.

Finally, as is becoming the norm, the sun came out on the day we were due to head home. Peter and Annie did some climbing between showers at Kingussie Crag while Rob got sunburnt ticking some of the Munros east of the Drumochter Pass. Carmen and I climbed at Polney Crag just outside Dunkeld – reminiscent of Tremadog with several 1- and 2-pitch routes and lots of trees. A really good crag, pick of the routes was Carmen's lead of The Groove (VS 5a ***), a rare example of a route that is easier for the short.

More of our photos here.
And Debra's