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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon

Planner's Report - Angela Mudge

First and foremost, I’d like to apologise for the adverse weather conditions on Saturday. When planning the courses I didn’t anticipate Winter conditions in mid-June. Some competitors complained of being unable to find the kite, due to it being camouflaged by the snow!! Well done to everyone who braved the snow, wind and rain and for those who of you that had to retire bad luck and I hope this hasn’t put you off for next time. Several people dropped out with the early stages of hypothermia and I hope a lesson was learnt, that even in Summer pack for Winter conditions in Scotland! If it’s any consolation I resembled a drowned rat 75% of the time spent on the area.

The event area, Loch Carron contains some of the most remote hills in Scotland and some spectacular views, even if you didn’t get to see them! Many people give this area a miss choosing to climb the Torridon hills etc instead. I planned the courses with this in mind, I wanted competitors to experience the remoteness and appreciate the impressive views. The B, C, D and novice courses started at the foot of Moruisg to minimise the amount of ‘dead’ ground traversed before hitting the hills. The courses were planned with route choice in mind, I didn’t want a snake of competitors tramping across the hill and hoped that the available route options were used. Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions fewer competitors, than expected, went for the up and over option on Maoile Lunndaidh.

The D and Novice courses proved quite hard to plan, I struggled to keep the amount of climb down with a realistic distance. This was due to having Moruisg in the way, All courses had more climb than usual, but I cut down the distance travelled to compensate, I love climbing and found that legs involving contouring on several of the hillsides was not an option if I wanted route choice. The B and C courses used Maoile Lunndaidh as the main feature, with the long legs over it optimising the number of route choices. I hoped you’d see the views over Loch Monar and south from here, but it wasn’t to be! I apologise for the River Meig river crossing, this got to be quite dangerous, but after checking it out on Friday where the river came to just above my ankles I thought it would be fine if it did not pour down overnight. A number of competitors had difficulty finding the stream/re-entrant on the A and D courses, sorry, I think the control description should have been clearer.

The A and Elite courses started near Lair, catching the train to Achnashellach and paddling across the river. Blame Martin if you didn’t like getting wet feet, but I could not keep him away from using the train! These courses traversed their way across the area, giving options of up and over, or contouring round. A few people went flying down the steep hillsides, but in ‘normal’ conditions the traverse is relatively easy and the paths more obvious. I was going to finish the elite with a climb over Moruisg before entering the overnight camp, but decided that this entailed too much climb, but after seeing how the lead pairs flew round day one it may have been appropriate.

A plus of the foul weather was that the midges were in hiding for most of the weekend, this made the overnight camp almost pleasant!

Day two, the Novice and D courses took the most direct route home, This took them (and the C) over Sgurr na Feartaig and onto Crag a’ Chaorainn, a very complex area. The features used here were those that were obvious on the O.S map, the area contained several additional features (lochans etc) not mapped. The features used could have been located whatever the weather, but unlike other planners I was praying for clear visibility or else some of the less experienced teams would still be out there. Ask the controller about his foray!

The B, A and elite courses went south over Beinn Tharsuinn and then on towards Beinn Dronaig (bar the B). These are some of the most remote hills in Scotland. The hills were steep sided and I was surprised to find the amount of contouring that went on, I’m always in favour of the up and over option. The running was quite fast throughout, with the final legs being on rougher heathery ground, again the elite flew round. Unfortunately the lead pair ‘missed’ a contour and were disqualified, however their performance should still be noted as their speed was awesome – well done and bad luck.

I hope everyone appreciated the spectacular views across Loch Carron coming into Achintee, it made the hard work worth it!

The winning times for most of the courses were around those expected. The C was longer than expected but I blame the controller for not putting me right on that one! The Elite shorter than planned, but I thought they need a ‘soft’ option for a change! Timings were hard to predict as I’d only hopped round the area beforehand suffering from an injury. This is the first event I have planned (and maybe the last?), I learnt a lot and I hope you all ENJOYED the courses if not the weather.

Finally thanks goes to Martin for organising the event and taking it to such a spectacular area. The drive north is well worth it. Thanks to all the marshals who aided with the smooth running of the event and helped collect in the controls.

See you in 2005 and may the sun shine!!!!!

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event