Posts Tagged ‘OMM’

The Great Storm of 2013?

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

"Britain is braced for a repeat of the devastating Great Storm of 1987" screamed the newspapers. It could only mean one thing – it was time for the OMM. Could we be in for a repeat of the ill-fated 2008 event? There was only one way to find out.

This year was a return to the Brecon Beacons, where it was last held in 2004, not an area I was familiar with. I'd heard horror stories of bogs and tussocks, surely they couldn't be as bad as the Elan Valley?

The weekend's weather started relatively benignly, there was even some sunshine, but the clouds had already gathered, occasionally lowering over the hills.

As usual we'd opted for the long score class, where we had 7 hours on day 1, and 6 on day 2, to collect as many points as possible. A 40 minute walk and 30 minute bus ride eventually took us to the start, and half an hour later we were off.

There were 2 obvious starting points – a loop to the south, or a loop to the north. Since the southern option seemed to have a break midway without any controls, we headed off north. We began cautiously, to allow for being slowed by the promised tussocks and bogs, but the terrain turned out to be mostly friendly. So making faster progress than expected, we changed plan completely a couple of times and ended up looping back to the south of the map. Here we met Alan and partner, also doing long score. They were running up hill so we didn't chat for long!

Undecided how many controls we had time for near the finish, we opted for a zig-zag that allowed us to visit as many or few as we could. In the event, a long there-and-back detour allowed us to mop up the whole area, finishing with a final sprint and just under 3 minutes to spare, for a score of 290 and 31st place out of 141 starters.

With impeccable timing, the heavy rain had arrived about 20 minutes before us, but we just about managed to keep the inside of the tent dry while putting it up. We'd invested in a new one for this year, a Nordisk Telemark 2. Only 880g, but a genuine 2-person tent (unlike the standard Laser series, which weigh a little less but are only really big enough for 1). Three hours later, the rain stopped and we briefly emerged from the tent to find that we'd somehow made the chasing start (the top 5 mixed teams are included) and our start time the next day brought forward by over an hour.

This was just as well, as a problem with the pegging of the tent meant that one of the pegs came out, and we woke up at 5am with wet feet. Moral – try a tent out at home before taking it on a mountain marathon!

The forecasts had apparently changed slightly, and the Great Storm was now due to arrive on Sunday afternoon, rather earlier than initially predicted. The organisers had therefore wisely opted for the bad weather courses; for us, this meant a time limit of 5 hours instead of 6. This meant that some controls were now too far away to justify.

Again, we adapted our plan as we went. The streams were swollen after the overnight rain, so we decided against a loop to the west for some high scores as this would have mean crossing a stream that was marked on the map as difficult when in spate. Also, there was a strong westerly wind with some occasionally heavy rain, and we didn't relish the thought of battling face-first into it. So instead we headed up to the top of the map, heading up and over the impressive summits of Mynydd Du on the way.

A final sprint back through the forest, already churned up into a mud bath, brought us to the finish over 20 minutes early (there were no more controls close enough to get to in that time). We were slightly disappointed by this, but turned out to have done better than the day before, finishing 26th on the day with 190 points, and also 26th over all. Alan also did well, finishing 61st overall and 7th veterans team.

All that remained was to get the car out of the camping field, a task that for most of us was only achieved with the help of the farmer and his tractor!

And what of the Great Storm? It never turned up. The storm's path stayed further south and in any case it didn't arrive until much later. The headline writers didn't seem to want to mention this though!

Some links:
a superb tent

The best OMM for years

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

This year's OMM was held in the Breadalbane area of Perthshire – little visited by walkers other than those slogging up Ben Chonzie, one of the contenders for the most boring Munro. The area had never before used for mountain marathons – too often there is a very good reason for this! But it turned out to be one of the best events for a while.

As the weekend approached the forecast was for persistent heavy rain, gale force winds, and low cloud all weekend. In other words, perfect conditions for those of us who can navigate reasonably well but aren't fit enough to do much running. The event centre was at Cultybraggan Camp, an old WW2 POW camp – very different from the traditional marquee-in-a-field! We didn't get to see much of it though, as we arrived well after dark on Friday evening, and had an alarmingly early start the next morning, catching a bus at 7.15.

The first surprise as we crossed the start line and collected our map is that other than a final compulsory 10-pointer, all controls on the long score course were worth the same, 20 points, so there was no obvious incentive to go for the outlying checkpoints. This had the effect of spreading teams out rather more than usual, there is often an obvious line of high scoring controls to take, but this time there were several equally likely-looking options.

We set off with a rough route in mind, but were going well after a couple of ours, well ahead of schedule, so added on an extra loop. This almost worked well, but after wasting 15 minutes looking for a control in the clag we were forced to miss out our final intended control. Still running short of time we made a very long sprint for the finish, covering the final 5 miles in just under an hour to finish with 30 seconds to spare out of our allotted 7 hours!

It had rained pretty much all day, but just after we'd got the tent up it got much heavier, and we ended up staying put for most of the night, glad that we'd opted for our slightly heavier but much more comfortable tent. All our clothes were either wet or damp, as was my sleeping bag (the waterproof bag wasn't). We were 45th out of 144 starters and 137 finishers (24 other teams entered but for some reason never turned up), and were one of 12 teams all on 210 points. The first 5 mixed teams were all taking part in the chasing start, luckily we were 6th so escaped the added pressure (and super-early start).

Sunday's weather was better than Saturday – still low cloud and windy, but only occasional showers and even some sunshine. The controls reverted to tradition with different scores for each, and we chose to start by a long climb up a hill behind the camp for a 30-pointer followed by a descent back almost to where we'd started. After this, all went more-or-less according to plan, until we were ambushed by a camera crew filming for a forthcoming documentary of some sort. Despite my streaming nose they decided to point the camera at me, so after muttering a few inane sentences I duly led us off in the wrong direction, and we ended up at the wrong control, a mile or so from where we'd been meaning to go. At least they didn't capture that bit on camera!

This detour meant that we didn't have time to get tempted by a final extra 10-pointer (well I was tempted anyway but luckily Carmen's caution won out). We eventually finished with 13 minutes to spare and a score of 180 – 41st on the day, and 40th over all.

We really enjoyed this event, the terrain was interesting with some difficult navigation, and the route choice extensive. Although we never got to the top on our course (some courses had a control on the summit), Ben Chonzie failed to live down to its reputation – most of those who call it 'boring' probably choose the normal ascent via a long landrover track that goes almost to the summit, missing out entirely on its cliffs and corries.

Full results here.
No more photos – although I carried a camera round all weekend, other than a handful of shots on Sunday morning I never turned it on!

Tussocks tussocks everywhere…

Friday, November 6th, 2009

We always did like a challenge so on the back of several years of running I felt reasonably confident about it all, and Graeme Shaw is a bit of a mountain goat anyway so reckoned we'd be ok. Well we were lucky to camp in the dry after a 4 hour drive to Wales on Friday night after work where we had a good meal and a beer, so when we got up on Sat morning for our bus ride to the start we could afford to feel reasonably positive. Remember to bring separate tents and bags and gear for this as you will want your rucksacks to be tightly and lightly packed with all other stuff; food, headtorches, cooking utensils, lightweight tent, energy regime, sleeping bag and mats and extra clothing, water proofs and gadgets.

The start was quite exciting with queues and klaxons sounding as we watched teams head off into the murk. We were nicely sheltered and warm and well hydrated, things were looking good. Finally it was our turn at the relatively benign time of 11.40 and we were off. Graeme's knees were a little poor from over training and possibly a touch of tendonitis so we took it easy and it was thoroughly enjoyable, you can't help but get caught up a bit in it all, after all it is a race. Our clothes bore the brunt of early squalls and strong buffeting winds but we were more than happy.

Unfortunately as the route wore on, us being on the C class half marathon per day event, we struggled quite badly from a poor route choice borne out of a hasty decision and then compounded by going for a checkpoint that turned out to be further than we thought and through a deep valley when we could have skirted round the top on a path! Under such circumstances our general fitness and positiveness helped us through but then we missed a checkpoint that we didn't think we'd got to just yet and had to go back and fetch it. This was followed by me falling into a bog up to my chest in driving rain. The balance of warmth, comfort and positivity can be upset by such factors but as a testament to our tenaciousness, despite it being touch and go for a while, we bore the brunt of increasingly bad weather and appalling terrain as it became knee deep bog for 3 to 4 miles.

Thankfully we finally reached the campsite a little the worse for wear but essentially with our spare gear remaining dry. Once in the tent we ate our sardines with pasta or noodles, drank litres of sugary tea and generally warmed up and dried ourselves out, i.e., wet baselayers dried in the sleeping bag overnight and we both had a good night's sleep.

Sunday we made no mistakes of course, once bitten twice shy and we couldn't sustain making it harder than it needed to be again. Graeme's knees were getting worse, and a cold he had started with became poorer too. We could only walk the second day but the weather was lovely and it was a joy to be on the hills with the wind at our backs and the end in mind and eventually in sight. Despite dramas and mistakes we learnt enough to have another go next year, and next time we might not get carried away by the 'feel good factor'. I think we came 197 out of 267 pairs, but we probably would have settled for just finishing.

Don't by any means let our exploits put you off, if you're reasonably fit and half decent with a compass it really is a lovely w/e away in the hills. We had soup and tea waiting for us on finishing and once the buses had collected us, albeit a long hour's wait but thankfully in the sunshine, a lovely meal provided at the end. There are several events other than the one we did, four routes of varying distance, C class being the easiest and B, A and Elite the hardest, followed by orienteering score events of three difficulties. For all classes it was about £45 each to enter. There have been other entrants from the club over several years and they are clearly enthused by the events, so roll on next year, it would be nice to stay fit to do it again.

Further info at:
and more photos here.

Armchair orienteering

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

With the prospect of bad weather and a poor night's sleep on the Friday night before the OMM, Rob secured us a room at Chez Julie over near Cockermouth, along with John Byrne and Pete Wright. Friday morning dawned too early for the drive over to the site. All went well until the queuing traffic at Seatoller. A quick repack of gear (more substantial tent) and we arrived at the start with 2 minutes to spare (to be honest, this is the most time we've spent at an OMM start line!).

There wasn't really a lot of route choice for us 'not so fast' teams, so we planned for some early points up above the start, then a route through the no-mans-land in middle to bag some controls on the way to the finish. Rob stormed ahead on the first hill and we both quickly realised my legs weren't up to the job this year. The first 3 controls went without too much trouble and with 90 points to our name we descended into Stonethwaite to take the quicker paths and lanes over the  valley and up to the Dalehead region to bag some more controls and head on in.

As the gradient increased, my legs slowed down once again and I was playing catch up. Once out of the valley we were confronted with the real weather of the day. Initially a tail wind to the next control, but when we turned around things became much more difficult. By this point my overtrousers had given up the ghost and with cold wet legs they started cramping up. I was moving at about the same pace as I was being pushed back by the wind, occasionally being knocked over by the gusts. Rob couldn't walk this slowly as he'd get too cold so kept up a good pace ahead, then walked back to re-group and stuff some food in. The noise of the rain on the waterproofs was immense.

The control eventually arrived and we pressed on with more of the same, finally coming to a small knoll to shelter behind. Once food was stuffed in, we made a hasty retreat down to Honister pass to get out of the weather and get a fast route into the finish. The view across the valley was amazing, as every stream was a huge white streak down the hillside.

We arrived outside the Honister slate mine cafe for a bit of shelter to find the place rammed with runners. Someone informed us the event had been cancelled, and it didn't take long to head inside to change clothes and get a brew. Luckily we bumped into Julie, who'd abandoned their course and was getting a lift back home, so we were soon in a car heading to the finish to check in, then out of the hills to chill out.

An hour or so later we were back on dry land with dry clothes, tea and biscuits thanks to Julies team mate Geoff. Occasional checks on Sleepmonsters for any event news revealed it had made News 24, and the reports that followed were astoundingly factualess. At one point it was charity fun run that had gone wrong, but however they described it there was still 100s lost and needed rescuing. The ones that had made it down and were sheltering in the slate mines cafe were preventing paying customers from using the via ferrata – how inconsiderate. It was very bizarre hearing this in the media, having been out there during the day, but all things considered this was probably the most comfortable OMM we've every done! Shame we didn’t finish it, but there’s always next year…

Unaccounted for ? AK's OMM

Friday, October 31st, 2008

A brief OMM report. Alan Kitchener. Long Score.

Spent Friday night at Seathwaite in Will’s!

8.20 start..very windy but not raining…yet!!

Big up from the start to our first control near Glaramara summit. Then sw to Esk Hause avoiding the very tops and getting two more controls on the way. Then ne to a control near Sprinkling tarn and on down to Styhead. Conditions now atrocious, both of us blown off our feet.. North and a rising traverse to a control near Base Brown then ne along high ground past Brandreth. Had to link arms to make any progress. Two more controls and an exciting waist deep crossing of Warnscale beck. Avoid the temptation of getting more points on Haystacks and decend the path/torrent to the campsite at Gatescarth.

Pleased with our efforts (175 points) but disappointed to find event cancelled.
Set off to walk over Honister but almost immediately managed to thumb a lift to the top of the pass. Passed some amazing sights along the road. Walked down into Borrowdale and along to the campsite through waist deep water. Another relatively luxurious night in the campervan followed by a push off the field and an uneventful drive home.

Much concern from family on return home following crazy reporting by media. I have written to the BBC to complain about their coverage.

Definitely not a day for the hills

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Approaching the startSo said Andy Mayhew's excellent Mountain Weather Forecast for last weekend, at And in most people's view, he'd have been absolutely right.

But we and over 2000 others begged to differ, and so Alan, Rob, Pete B, Carmen, and I headed for Borrowdale to take part in this year's Original Mountain Marathon (OMM). The weather earlier in the week had been poor to say the least, with heavy rain and widespread flooding in the Lakes, and apparently on Thursday it was touch and go whether the event would go ahead, but in the end the all clear was issued.  

Saturday morningCarmen and I camped overnight at the event centre, Seathwaite Farm at the head of Borrowdale. The winds were strong, but not as strong as they were due to get later, when torrential rain and 110mph gusts were predicted. Our start time was 9.01, when the winds were picking up but the rain not yet falling. Carrying slightly more than usual due to the weather, we opted for a cautious route choice; we were doing the Long Score course, which gave us 6 hours (7 in a normal year) to visit as many controls as we could. Rather than doing as usual (getting over-optimistic, and ending up with a mad dash to finish in time), we decided to get a couple of high level controls to start, and then take the lowest route possible towards the mid camp (at Gatesgarth Farm near Buttermere) leaving plenty of time spare.

Near Styhead PassSetting off towards our first control, near Sprinkling Tarn, the winds soon asserted themselves, and making progress towards Styhead Pass became increasingly slow and tiring. After this, we quickly abandoned plans to head uphill to a high scoring control above the Corridor Route, and instead headed down towards Wasdale Head. A couple of good but easy controls on the lowest slopes of Kirkfell, and we headed up the path towards Black Sail Pass.

The 'missing' controlBy now, the rain was falling heavily and the winds increasing yet further, even when the wind was behind us it was sometimes hard to make much progress due to the effort needed to stay upright! After a brief detour at the pass where I started to lead us uphill instead of down (oops), we picked up another control before descending towards the upper reaches of Ennerdale. Or rather, we would have picked up another control, but it wasn't there! There was a marker post to show where it should be, and it matched the map, so we're convinced we were in the right place. Perhaps it had been blown or washed away.

The next problem was crossing the stream in the valley bottom, which by now was a raging torrent. We watched 2 people ahead of us link arms and cross together, the water was at waist height and they struggled before finally making it across, so we took about 1 nano-second to decide on a half mile detour to cross a bridge downstream. Even this was tricky, requiring a thigh-deep crossing of a side stream to reach the bridge.

We then followed another stream up to reach the col between Haystacks and Brandreth. This was another torrent, completely uncrossable until we got to the col, which was a shame as the path was on the other side! So we had to go up scree and heather on the left, nervously eyeing the drop to the water below. Uphill again, into the teeth of the storm, walking was by now becoming virtually impossible but we managed it somehow, and at lastmanaged to find a tricky control relatively easily.

Bridge crossing From here it should have been an easy descent down the old mine track to Buttermere. But first we had another river to cross, this one looked unfordable (2 people in front turned back), so another long detour up stream until it was shallow enough to wade – only thigh deep at this point, and 50 feet wide. Even following the mine track back down was slow and difficult, it was like walking down a river for most of the way, knee deep in places, with numerous stops to cross side-streams/waterfalls joining from the right.

We thought we had it bad until we passed the main bridge in the valley bottom – the bridge was deep under water with just the hand rails poking out the top, people were having to use these to haul themselves across, exciting stuff.

All that remained was a trot down to the midcamp where we arrived with 3 minutes to spare – only to be told that the event had been cancelled and we had to walk back over Honister Pass!

Our tent on Sunday morningTo cut a very long story short, the road was closed before we got going and so we ended up having a virtually sleepless night camped at Gatesgarth Farm in a tent that did its best to collapse, but somehow just about stayed up. The next morning we joined the procession of people walking over Honister Pass back to Seathwaite.

Approaching Honister PassSo in summary – definitely not a day for the hills, but it nevertheless managed to be one of the best, and certainly most memorable, days I've ever had in the mountains. My only regret is that the event was cancelled – Sunday was relatively dry and sunny, with only light gales!

Postscript.  Apparently there was another mountain marathon in the area at the same time, but it was very different. The one we were on, everybody was self-sufficient, and ran round in pairs, carrying tents, sleeping bags, spare clothes, and food for 2 days. Almost everyone got off the hill OK on Saturday, and the few who didn't spent a safe (but probably thoroughly unpleasant!) night camping in the hills before descending the next morning. A dozen or so had to be helped off by mountain rescue, mostly with minor injuries or mild hypothermia, everyone else got themselves down safely.
Descent from HonisterIn this other event, by contrast, 1700 ill-equipped runners were unaccounted for, and hundreds were trapped on the hills overnight. They were lucky to still be alive when they were finally rescued the next day. But you've probably heard about that one already…

Sorry about the poor quality of the pictures, it's hard to take good photos when you're being blown off your feet!

An appeal has been set up to collect money for the local mountain rescue teams – the majority of us didn't need them, but it's always good to know they're there!