Needed to squeeze in another hill day without overcooking things too close to the Fling, so it was off to the Monadh Liath today for a round as runnable as any of last week’s Drumochter Munros and a wee milestone in notching up my 200th discrete Munro on Carn Dearg. Not perhaps a big deal when it’s taken me over 30 years to collect that lot, but it’s approaching three-quarters of the total when I’ve also got nearly two-thirds of the Tops (just have to make things difficult for myself by maintaining that the Munros without the Tops are Munro-lite!) and maybe starts to bring the endgame within sight should I choose to really start attacking the rest instead of constantly repeating those I’ve already done. So of course I was tempted to extend today’s round to pick up the western outlier of Geal Charn (926m version and not the 889m or 766m ones you see on the map), but not tempted enough to stretch my 17 miles by another 10 (!) with the Fling just six days away, and that one got left for a rainy day with a pleasant run out through Glen Banchor ample compensation for the spurned opportunity. Amazed that today’s three-Munro round (at less than 3,800 ft ascent) was once a five-Munro round before the demotion of Carn Ballach and Carn Ban to Tops but, while I’m largely sceptical about tinkering with Munro’s Tables except where responding to new survey data, I’d have to agree they’d have been the softest of full Munros when there are many more significant Tops and typical of the anomalies you can only really reconcile by doing the lot!
24 April 2011
22 April 2011
Time for the wee hill running trip I’d promised myself this week, but where to go when all the most attractive rounds I had in mind were looking too big and/or strenuous to be taking on between the Highlander and the Fling? No real need for a decision till yesterday with a couple of days’ rejuvenating cycling (Monday/Tuesday) and a wee trail run (Wednesday) being what my legs, feet and brain seemed best able to agree on as ‘recovery’ but, with my Easter holidays in danger of running out while I quietly went nowhere, the Drumochter Munros finally sold themselves as starting high and being about as runnable as hills get (think straightforward trail running at 3,000 ft and you won’t be far wrong). So that’s where I went, and nearly turned back in disgust after my sensible decision cost me a cracked windscreen (chance stone thrown up by an oncoming car on the A889 to Dalwhinnie) before accepting that snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat (!) would be helping nobody and I might as well get what I’d come for. Which was a 15.4 mile/4,300 ft round of the hills to the west of the pass yesterday afternoon followed by a 16.3 mile/3,500 ft round of the eastern group this morning, with intentional diversions to Mam Ban (which Irvine Butterfield lists as an unofficial Top), Meall a’ Chaorainn (the deleted western top of A’ Bhuidheanach Beag) and some other minor bumps, but an unnecessary encounter with the great rift of Cama’ Choire caused by the kind of lazy navigation (aka running towards Am Meadar in the haze without checking map or compass) I’m (say it quietly!) still sometimes guilty of when running alone in benign conditions. So that’s about 77 miles of off-road running and 40-something of cycling over the past week, and I’m still not sure whether my Fling’s going to be a race or just a big run (a similar dilemma after an 82-mile running week just before the Cateran last year ultimately resulting in something closer to ‘race’), but hoping for one more good hill day before toning things down a bit next week (back at work Tuesday) and taking the same two days’ rest I had before that (NB I’ll be tapering properly for the WHW again). As for the windscreen (my beautiful heated windscreen!), things could be worse at ‘just’ £75 excess for glass, but that’s still £75 to get back to the van I had yesterday morning and I’m not expecting Autoglass till Wednesday because they’ve had to order it specially.
18 April 2011
Just back from the Highlander Mountain Marathon at ‘Ullapool’ (the true centre given away by the T-shirts as Dundonell), where Jon and I came a slightly disappointing 15th from 22 starters in the A Class but still had a cracking (= hard!) weekend’s running in stunning surroundings…
Saturday’s course took us from Druim nam Fuath above Little Loch Broom back past Shenavall Bothy to Dundonell, although the optimum route (missed by half the class) on a day when we were permitted to visit the checkpoints in any order apparently skirted An Teallach to the north rather than south. But our real disaster came much earlier than that when taking completely the wrong line between our first and second checkpoints then compounding the error by making things ‘fit’ cost us about two miles of extra ground including some thigh-deep bog swimming! So that was us playing ‘catch up’ almost from the start, with a pretty decent run over the later stages sadly being more about damage limitation (lying 16th overnight but closing on those immediately above) than any kind of glory and my subsequent quick/crude calculation of our track (drawn from memory in the appropriately-named Memory-Map) suggesting about 38.6km/2,000m against the route planner’s ‘optimum’ 33.0km/1,540m.
Sunday was better, with the linear course (no choice of order) giving us a grand tour of the peninsula north of Dundonell before a final 40-knot RIB trip across Loch Broom back to Ullapool. But, despite a cracking start, we still surely lost time dropping too low too soon while skirting Beinn Ghobhlach to the north en route to a sea-level checkpoint at Camas a’ Mhaoraich, finishing 12th for the day (calculating 25.1km/1,300m against the nominal 23.8km/1,400m) and 15th overall. Physically a very hard weekend in increasingly bright conditions (NB arrived home 3kg lighter last night than I weighed on Friday morning), although both thankful for the good visibility when some of the controls could otherwise have been pretty tricky to locate and hampered by more muddy slips, slides and falls than I can ever remember while running! Also no question that Jon was dragging me round and, despite sometimes getting the better of him on training/fun runs (especially uphill), I’m not really fast enough to be competing with him at this level. But then again, neither of us are even on the same planet as the top guys, with the times recorded by the likes of Tim Higginbottom and Chris Near doubtless registering the same mixture of disbelief, awe and respect with most of the other also-rans as they do with me!
Think that’s most of what I really wanted to say said now, but mustn’t forget the number of mashed/bruised toenails (a regular problem with my truly weird feet) plaguing me today. Or the super-light, not-even-full, 20-litre weekend sacks that at least let us start feeling (and looking?) like elite athletes even if we didn’t/couldn’t behave as such in the end!
11 April 2011
No joint training for the Highlander this past weekend with Jon and me heading for separate weddings (his brother, my cousin) on Saturday. But, with a high-level circuit of Glen Turret (or Loch Turret if you prefer) to grab Auchnafree Hill and Ben Chonzie (my only ‘unticked’ Munro or Top in the Southern Highlands) not too far off my direct route to Edinburgh, you can probably guess what I did on the way! So you might spot some interesting zigzags in my track as I played ‘join the dots’ with multiple, hilltop cairns to give 12.7 miles/3,700 ft of ascent on mostly rolling heathery terrain (not forgetting all those peat hags on the north-east side!) and might be interested to know that I’ve never seen so many mountain hares in my life (now all on the turn from winter to summer colouring) but, apart a quick mention for the burning April sun, I think that’s about it for now.
3 April 2011
Another great training run for the Highlander with Jon yesterday, although we nearly canned our plans (to go ‘almost regardless of conditions’) for a two-Munro, three-Corbett circuit of Loch an Daimh after a night of wild weather and the MWIS forecast from hell. But a good thing we didn’t because, despite a fair breeze and a few showers, we were never fighting the grim battle implied by the forecast and conditions were both surprisingly benign and pretty enjoyable for most of the day.
Now, this circuit (cooked up mainly to let me ‘clean up’ Section 2 of Munro’s Tables with bonus Corbetts) proved to be a true runners’ round on rolling hills with well-spaced contours, straightforward climbs, largely carefree descents (periodically enhanced by lingering snow patches!) on gentle gradients, almost no ‘dancing’ through rocks or scree and only really a few awkward peat hags on some of the bealachs to impede progress at all. Should be pretty obvious from the maps where we went (NB the first shows the route I’d planned in blue and the second our actual track in red), but probably worth highlighting a couple of points in 1. our little triangular tour of the Corbett Meall Buidhe’s summit (where we changed direction to head for the cairn I spied as we arrived, then discovered another two with each one looking higher from the others!) and 2. our run southwards down the open scoop from the final Corbett of Cam Chreag (not what I’d drawn but a prettier shape on the map, right?). 21.9 miles and 6,900 ft of ascent all in, definitely a recommended running route and I still managed to hit 5:08 mile pace on a final ‘sprint’ down the last short section of track! :-)
Might just add that this was the first outing for my new OMM Cypher smock, which finally got christened on Cam Chreag after spending most of the day in my sack and looks like a great lightweight shell top (post edited 1 June 2011 by quoting email below!). Quite snug (but not tight) in a ‘large’ size (specified for height 5’10″ to 6’2″ and chest up to 43″ when I’m 5’11″ and would normally buy 42″ for 40″ chest), with a nice ‘drop tail’ and truly excellent hood which somehow manages to provide good protection while overcoming my normal dislike of hoods as making me feel ‘blinkered’. So perhaps I’m still not wholly convinced by the cuff/thumb loop arrangement, but can see a trivial modification to improve that later if I’m not getting on with it exactly as supplied. Didn’t take the Kamleika pants (ordered simultaneously), however, which just aren’t cut for me at all and will be getting changed for some other waterproofs that fit.
Peter Duggan wrote (2011-05-22 19:40):
> Just discovered today that the front panel of my Cypher Smock has
> started delaminating badly after being worn just a handful of times, so
> afraid I’m looking for a refund (might have got a rogue sample, but
> couldn’t trust the eVent fabric in any like-for-like replacement) and
> think you might also want to pass this on to OMM.
> So how do I go about returning it to you and securing a refund?
(Note: tried plotting both tracks on a single map, but didn’t like the look of that!)