The things we do for fun…

June 12th, 2008 by Simon C

A gazillion hungry midges, hundreds of bloodthirsty ticks, blisters on top of blisters, aching legs, sore feet, and a night spent with 2 people squeezed into a 1 person tent, woken at 5am by a bagpiper wearing a midge net.

Yes, it's the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon, and great fun it was too, in a retrospective sort of way.  YAC was represented by Carmen and me doing the B class, and Simon F & Debra (on her first mountain marathon) doing D.

This year it was based at Glenfinnan, to the west of Fort William, and headed northwards towards Knoydart, with the mid-camp in Glen Dessarry.

Saturday started with an attack of the midges, followed by a coach ride about 10 miles west to the far end of Loch Eilt.  Here we unwisely removed midge nets, only for the wretched things to descend again as we were marking up the maps;  luckily they disappeared as we set off, probably due to the unbroken blue skies and associated hot sunshine.

The first 4 controls were quite straightforward, with easy navigation (given the good visibility) and no major route choice.  The next leg was a long one though (took us just over 3 hours), going round and/or over a couple fo substantial hills.  There were three main route choices – the planner's recommended one, the one taken by the winners, and the one we took!  Hard work but worth it, with beautiful scenery round Loch Morar (and a fine looking bothy, now on the list for a future visit).

After that, the route choice was again limited, and the controls easy to find, before a final fight through a forestry commission plantation brought us to the mid-camp.

Our target for a good time was 8 hours, we took 8 hours 5 minutes and 10 seconds, which we were very pleased with.  Still only managed 45th out of 74 though – the course very much favoured the runners rather than the navigators (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!).

The overnight camp was on the only flat land for miles around – a microlight landing strip!  Luckily there was a slight breeze which kept the worst of the midges away, so we were able to lie around soaking up the sun for a few hours before bed.

It rained a little overnight, and when woken by the piper at stupid o'clock the hills were still hidden by clag, and there were occasional spells of drizzle to remind us we were still in Scotland.  We set off shortly before 8, this time heading further east, towards Gulvain.  I managed to find a good quick line up the first hill, and then proceeded to throw away any advantage this might have given us by looking for the control in the wrong place and wasting 10 minutes finding it.  After that though, everything went quite smoothly, and better still, the sun came out and the midges went to bed.

After control 3, everyone else went up and over the NE ridge of Gulvain.  This would have involved an extra 250m ascent, so we decided to traverse round the ridge instead – quite risky as there were crags marked, which could have involved lots of faffing to avoid.  As it turned out, a series of terraces meant we made quite fast progress, and we arrived at the next control at about the same time as a couple of faster teams who'd taken the short-but-steep route.  Result!

From there onwards it was fairly straightforward, with a bit of traversing, a bit of ascending, and a lot of descent, before lashings of stew and cake at Wilf's rounded off the weekend nicely.  34th on the day, and 39th overall, about the same as usual – even though we're not improving, at least we're not getting much worse!

Having had a week to recover (and forget the worst bits), I'm now at the stage when I can say I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It gave us a chance to re-visit some places we've been before, but also to see areas that most people never go – not only were most of the hills not Munros, some of them weren't even Corbetts!

You can find our photos here, and more details of the event here – where you can sign up on their mailing list to be informed when entries open for next years event.  Go on, you know you want to…


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One Response to “The things we do for fun…”

  1. pebbles says:

    "woken at 5am by a bagpiper wearing a midge net."

    I hope he was wearing more than just that!

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