Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon 2011

Beinn Dearg 11th – 12th June

Mark Lockett and Oliver Marner

We were picked up from Inverness Airport by our chauffeurs for the weekend Rich and Will Kromhout (QO) and transported to the event centre near Ullapool. The drive took us through some spectacular scenery, and the realisation set in that it was going to be a tough weekend. The last mountain marathon we had completed in the Scottish highlands was in 2004, it snowed and we took 17hrs 19min for the 42.6km 2610m on the B course it was an epic. Recently the LAMM have introduced a score class so it was nice know that we would only be out 7hrs + 6hrs, barring disaster. We registered, pitched our tent, had tea in the sun looking out over Loch Broom, before the rain forced us into the bar, we sank a couple of local pints before heading for bed.

Saturday morning dawned bright and fine (well I say dawned it never seemed to get dark!!) and we made our way to the bus, picking our event maps on the way. The maps were 1:40000 based on the OS 1:50000 and had all control points for the weekend pre-marked. We first stopped to drop off the B Class, before reaching our start along with C and Elite class competitors. There were four starts in all which meant that competitors were well spread out from the off. As we started we received our control descriptions and proceeded in plotting all the controls on our map quickly discarding some before settling on a route that would bag us 170 points and involve a climb to 1084m to a 60 pointer on top of Ben Dearg. We started with a run across a flattish, boggy area before our first river crossing only a km in, always a shock to the system, before starting the 300m climb to the first control it was a around 8am and was already worryingly hot. Next a 4km contour walk which was a real ankle tester, but all seemed fine, and a bit of good nav which saw us in and out quickly, too quickly we missed a 10 pointer in the valley. Now in its self not really an issue on a score class but it was to have ramifications. We dropped down to cross Loch Prille and across at its outlet, which would put us in good position to contour and climb above Loch Tuach around Cona’ Mheall and set us up for the climb up Beinn Dearg. Unfortunately this is where we found out the limitations of 1:50000 basemap being used, in that hillside was covered in scree and crags none of which were marked. This really slowed us down and we lost a lot of time crossing the slope. We eventually reached the summit the 4km leg had taken us 1hr 53min with a total of 4hrs gone. We descended the way we had come up and made our way to Eididh nan Clach Geala 928m, on the way I asked Oliver if he had taken in the view at the last summit, we were both shocked that after such a struggle we had simply punched, turned and headed back down, we did make up for it at the next summit. 5hr 20 gone now getting tight, but major climb done but over 10km left we could do with some fast terrain but not looking likely. We decend to the north but only find patchy running, at last we pick up a path but it’s short lived, we hope there is good running to be had along the river but we pick up the control at the river still searching for good ground. When we finally get some I am spent nothing in the tank and now it’s a damage limitation exercise. We finally pick up the track which will take us most of the way to the overnight camp, again the map lies to us and it starts a 1km further on than we expect. It was a long track and finally we make it to the overnight 55min 45secs late!!! We score the 170 points we set out for, but 112 penalty points means we end day on 58 points 79th out 89 finishers. We find the Kromhouts and pitch our tent, they have had a better day finishing in 7th position with 230 points. Soon we are forced into the tent as the forecast rain starts.

Sunday 0500.

The overnight camp is so remote that there’s not the traditional piper for the wake up call, just a man and a megaphone!! But he’s here to tell us to get out and enjoy the sunrise, which we do and are glad we did. We eat breakfast and pack away and make our way to the start. Any control east of the camp and south of the event centre don’t even get marked, we not going to be late again. And we are off we mark up a route to take in 160 points we make a mix up the way to first so miss out on a 10 pointer. We reassess at the first control and decide to miss the 30 pointer to the north west. Not a difficult decision, but would we have given it up so easily if we’d realised it was a 50 pointer!! So we head back to the 10 pointer. The route doesn’t have the climb of day 1 but the going under foot is fairly slow still (Plus I am knackered!!). Nav is difficult trying to pick out where the contour cuts the ground, glad its another clear day as nav would be tricky in low vis. A short track run gives us time to reassess and we agree to miss a 20 pointer to the north. Into a 30 pointer 3hrs 51 gone, 9km to go. Got lucky with decent into Srath Nimhe avoiding scree and use path to start climb. Long crossing with going hard work, get to control with 43mins to go, 5kms and 510m of decent, its going to be tough and we need a bit of help from the terrain. Off the top and pick up quad track, it takes us all the way to a fence line, not allowed to climb the deer fence but I see a river, and send Oliver to investigate, off comes his pack and through he goes, I pass the packs through and follow half in the river, its cold but it might be the difference. Through the trees and drop onto the track. 20mins to go, find a single track and the running is good, get to the compulsory with 9 mins left and 1100m and make the finish with 2mins 2 secs to spare. Really don’t understand the instructions at the download, to spaced out. We finished 31st on the day and 61st overall. Not to bad after the hash we made of day 1. We covered 52km with over 1700m of ascent in 13hr 53min. The Kromhout’s on Day 2…… well I think they should tell that story!!

I really came away with a new respect for those that lead their class; the way these guys and girls move through the mountains is amazing. I also leave with a renewed respect for the Scottish Highlands. Another great event in great terrain next up the OMM in October.

View Route Gadget here: http://www.lamm.routegadget.co.uk/