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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon

Winners Comments

Once again the top teams on each course have given us their thoughts about the weekend – thanks! Not sure if they give away any top tips, but here’s your chance to see how they thought they did.

The Elite course

Elite winnersThe start. The usual pre-event insomnia was enhanced by low cloud, drizzle, and a sneaking suspicion that our navigation might be less than adequate being in a state of recent neglect. Saturday dawned if that was the word but exceeded expectation with a kind cloud base and general dryness. Most of the pre race time was spent in a happy blur of familiar faces, renewed acquaintances and bowel movements. Our course was fair, taking us from Lyne by easy ground, through the interesting, narrow and misty Bealach Coinich, and down to the broad green upper reaches of the River Oykel. From here we made our way over the south end of Ben More Assynt and launched up into the clag in the hope of finding a col. Just when anxiety began to nag, we spotted it, bagged the stream source control that was proving quite testing in the conditions, and shot off on a line that baffled the course planner but did seem to work for us, keeping us out of the mist and losing height gently for a long as we could. We deserved to end up in a pile of bogs but were lucky and trotted across reasonable ground before a messy interlude round Loch Bealach a’Mhadaidh, Some uphills and downhills later we dropped off the big iolls and into the beautiful hill loch scenery round Gorm Loch Mor. A dull bog flog waited for us, on which Kenny says he suffered like a dog, but I didn’t get where I am today by listening to dogs…We rose back into the mist near Beinn Leoid, and made good going over to the second last control. From this area we began to appreciate where the overnight camp was – the thin white line of the Eas a’Chual Aluinn behind, Quinag dominating the skyline the other way. We dug out the camera for a couple of shots before tumbling down a brutal slope of wet slabs, boulders, deep heather, gullies and bracken.

The camp. Stunning! Time to unwind, good ground for the tent, breeze to deter the midges, brilliant views. We chewed through piles of noodles, cake and custard, and provided Neil the piper with a dram for his efforts as Martin’s organising prowess had surprisingly overlooked this traditional form of payment. The camp was alive that night with flapping nylon, mindless chatter, bodily function noises, then premature breakfasts. Another typical LAMM night. 20 minutes kip gave a total for the weekend of…20 minutes.

Sunday. Less tip top at 5am, low mist and drizzle making it a navigator’s day, and leaving us feeling that we might squander all and more of yesterday’s time cushion.

North at first into the mist and down to the cloudy blackness of Gleann Dubh. Our nuts-and-bolts style of navigation took us round our controls here with a few deviations hesitations and a minor repetition. The breeze rose to lift the clouds an we came round the eastern slopes of Beinn Leoid, and back across the bog flog of the first day. The sun shone through showers, rainbows shimmered on the heather before us, deer thundered by within 50 metres, quartzite hillsides gleamed in the mist as we neared them again…another typical LAMM day. Somewhere beyond the flog we reconnected with the hills and some rough ground below the east side of Beinn Uidhe. We slowed, legs tiring, brains drained, we stumbled round a couple of controls more by luck than skill, aware the pursuit would be closing the gap. 3 miles left, couldn’t go wrong now could it? We climbed into the cloud to pass over the northwest ridge of Beinn Uidhe, dropped to a path, and trotted off to the penultimate control, a re-entrant on the upper slopes of Cnoc an Droighinn. Out of the mist, I switched off a little too soon, messed it up, took us too low, and we spent 10 anxious minutes undoing the damage of a few seconds carelessness. Loch Assynt was a helpful feature for re-orientation but also a distraction as we just wanted to stop, sit, and enjoy the view. Finally we could hurtle down towards Inchnadamph and the end. Our efforts for the day had not been spectacular, but over the weekend it was enough.

Another great venue, great spirit all round, and more fine memories of effort, fun and reward. Well done the LAMM team on your persistently top organisation and imagination.

Alec Keith and Kenny Riddle

The A Course

A Course Winners

Up-and-over became the theme of our weekend. Through the bealach on leg 2 proved quick although we didn't think so at the time. An adventurous traverse of Ben More Assynt was made more exciting by wind rain and fell shoes, but it was great fun. The objective, control 3, would have been a demon in that fog without an altimeter. Traversing southwest from here led to fantastic running down Imir Fada, through control 4 and right up to the slopes of Beinn Leoid. I hope the planner and controller were rewarded for their efforts by spectacular views from this summit. In the fog, we were glad just to reach the top. Fast orienteering was needed on leg 7 which must have been negotiated well by Jon and Dan Gay who set a fast split. The final decent to the path revealed the glorious location for the mid camp, and the first path run of the day.

The nerves at the start of Day 2 boosted us up the first hill: up and over again. I paid for this initial effort later on. On leg 3 Andy Spencely the planner reckoned on skirting Meallan a' Chuail to the north, while we went south. Alex Pilkington and Jon Murfin got the fastest split here and I'd like to know which route they picked. The weather by now was grim, both ways round. Fast running through control 4 towards the slopes of Beinn Uidhe sapped our strength and on reaching control 5, perched high above the glen the cold started to creep in. Painfully slow across the slabs to control 6 I could feel the onset of a bonk, which Matt cured by shovelling food into me. Failing to find my hat in my rucksack led to panic that kit checks would be failed and it would all be for nothing. Thanks to Matt for not giving me an earful. (The wayward hat was later found warm and dry in my sleeping bag.) Cresting the ridge, we could smell the finish and taste that Wilf's stew. Steadily into the tricky control 7, via a chain of lochans left a rough downhill that tired legs made a right meal of. Having been one of those teams that ran past the final control last year, we were certain not to bypass the control on the bridge before the run in. A lesson well learned.

Thanks to Andy and Angela for two great courses. Thanks also to Martin and all his other helpers for a top weekend.

Tom Horton

And as a footnote from the cook and caddy, who remained blissfully unaware of where we’d been, and were going, but concentrated on thinking up innovative recipes from limited ingredients (I bet I left the self raising at home again) for the midway camp, and hanging on to the shirt-tails of Tom, a big thank you to all involved. You really made it a fabulous weekend, and we appreciate all the organisation required. The area was magical and the running superb. As for the midway camp, I could have comfortably spent a week there exploring the area. It certainly made the drive halfway to Iceland worthwhile.

See you next year

Matt Scriven

The B Course

B Course WinnersAssynt, what an amazing place. I’d been here before, well not quite. Near anyhow, at the Old Man of Stoer, and looked in on this wonderful mountain range. Giant beasts that stand alone with huge plains in-between.

So to the LAMM. The evening before was quite the same as any other LAMM I’ve been to, although we arrived a bit earlier than I had on Mull the previous year. The social at the event centre was as exciting as ever, everybody gearing up for the next two days. Registration and then heads down, an early start in the morning. Up at just before 7am, breakfast and a few midges, goes with the territory. Organise our final bits of kit and then its off to the coach, pick up the map on the way, and we’re inside travelling to the start, looking over the maps wondering where we are going. We stop and we’re out, on our way up the track to the start. Its warm and raining, we pass through the start control and drop behind a wall, trying to get out of the rain because its causing a problem with the permanent pen and the laminated map. Lawrence marks the controls on the map, I shout out the grid references. Then we’re off. We are faced with a route choice instantly, do we go round the spur and up the burn, or over the top and drop onto the control. Over the top, as its more direct and we’re out to win this weekend. Each control decision is much the same and each time we take the most direct route. The route to the 3 rd control gives us the option of a few gullies, and we have no idea what’s at the top of each as they’re in cloud, so we make an educated guess, it’s a gamble. Other teams are going wide to the left, but they may not be on our course even. As we reach the top we are faced with a moderate scramble up granite outcrops and big block scree. Its pretty hairy but we top out unscathed in between 2 summits. Ben More Assynt (one of the only Munroe’s in the area) is to our right, and our route takes us this direction. We are only 30m off the summit but we traverse round, we don’t need to make the ascent and as I’ve said, we’re out to win this weekend. Down the ridge across loose limestone scree and blocks, which are slippery from the cloud and light drizzle. This area is interesting from a geological point of view, it looks like it has been put in a giant mixer and tossed around as you have Limestone under lying Granite which is topped by yet more Limestone, which is apparently what has happened, so a geologist student informed me at mid camp. We rocket along now, after the 3 rd control, across true Scottish tussock grass and hummocks. One control leads to another until we find ourselves on top of the Stack of Glen Coule and I am hit with a rush of adrenaline as we see the event centre and the sea loch we are about to camp next to. A quick route off the side of the stack, we are at the wide track that leads to the mid camp. The 7 th control is picked up and we’re flying into mid camp, Lawrence is holding back the last bits of food he ate as it tries like hell to come back up. As we finish for the day I notice how few tents are here, surely this is a good sign and at least we can get a good pitch.

So, it’s the tent up, and this is the first time I’ve pitched it. Nothing like good preparation, but the weather is good and it’s easy to pitch most tents once you know how. Then food on and into our stomachs within 20 mins to aid recovery. Brew’s next and people are filtering in. Lawrence had a blow out on his shoe; luckily he manages to find a needle and some tough nylon thread, thanks to Lowe Alpine’s Pack department, who are here in force. We spend the next 2 hours sewing it up between us and it looks stronger than it did before. In between time we check the times/positions sheet and see that we are 1 st. Gulp! That means the chasing start and now the pressure is on, so we have our dinner and socialise for a while, as the weather is kind, only a few quick showers through-out the evening. This is a most wonderful mid camp, such a special place. And so to bed for a good night’s rest.

We awaken just before the Bagpiper plays his morning tune, brew’s and breakfast on, out of the tent, collapse the tent, pack bags, and we’re off to the start. I feel sick with apprehension. We screw up the start by not going to the dibber clearer first, run around manically trying to find it, sort that, off to the start again, each second lost on the start brings B2 closer to us. Through the start correctly this time and off up the track, now it’s me who wants to puke, but I can’t lose my breakfast, need the energy for the day. We leave the track for our 1 st ascent towards the 1 st control. With that found we’re off to the second, into the cloud again, now we feel the pressure. 2 nd control found, we’re doing well, but don’t speak to soon as we race across non-descript ground we go off course and foul up the next one. We nearly descend into a valley, realise our mistake, back track and we’re on course again and we’ve found the 3 rd, but we don’t know whether or not B2 have passed us whilst we floundered off course. No time to think of such things though and we’re off to the 4 th, we drop out of the cloud & then back up into it, 4 th control found. The wind picks up, the rain starts again and we start a long traverse up to two Lochans. The upper one is where the 5 th control is, we find it but we’re cold now. Out of the cloud comes another team, it’s the 1 st pair we’ve seen for a while. As they come with-in ear shot one of them say’s “you want to know whether we’re B2 or not don’t you"? We answer “yes”, knots in our stomachs and they answer “no” with wry smiles on their faces. Panic over. Just 2 more to go and we’re home. We move fast and find the Deer Stalkers track that takes us toward the 6 th, we are flying now, everything seems great until Lawrence hurls himself into the air in a spectacular cartwheel, which ends up in him gouging his knee on the limestone path. I stop to help and look at his knee, it’s not too good as I can see his kneecap through the open 3cm gash, no blood though but it looks sore and his knee will probably swell. In an instant its all over in my mind, surely we can’t hold our lead if we still have it! I patch Lawrence up and suggest that while he hobbles down the path, with two kind retirees, I’ll nip off and pick up the 6 th control, which isn’t more than 300 metres’ away, and meet him further down the track so we can hobble in together. I set off and look round a couple of minutes later to see Lawrence charging up behind me, he a bloody machine this lad!! We find it and off back to the path fast. Straight down from here, we can see the event centre that we only left yesterday, even if it feels like a week ago. We have the 7 th control and we’re running down the final ½ km when we pass Andy Spenceley, the course planner, he asks what class we’re in, to which we shout ‘B’ and his reply spurs us on. He thinks we are the 1 st B’s to pass him. We fire on down to the finish and it’s all over. Two wonderful days on the hill in the blink of an eye. We ask if any other B class are in yet and the answer is ‘NO’. We’ve won!! Elation and relief. I have our kit checked and Lawrence is being looked after by the mountain rescue and a very kind first aid lady.

So Assynt 2006, an amazing place, a great course, good navigation and ok weather. Was it harder or easier than last year? It’s so difficult to tell, we have another years practice and training under our belts. The weather could have been nicer, but then it makes an interesting race when the cloud is down, it really tests your Nav skills. We had a great time and we were so pleased to win and of course we’re looking forward to next year’s secret location in the Scottish Highlands.

Charles Sproson (and Lawrence Friell)

The C Course

C Course Winners Had a week to recover now. What an excellent area. Rocky, interesting and remote. . . . and some mist. Marvellous. Been caving at Inchnadamph ten years ago, never thought I'd be back ! Wasn't sure how my newly acquired stand-in partner was going to perform - but he 'done good', only slowing markedly when on a big dodgy boulder field on day 2. (Bad route choice by me I'm afraid)

Thanks to all the team - Sue Denmark supplied a particularly high standard of entertaining 'banter' this year !

The C course was one of the best of any courses I can remember running. Andy didn't shy away from giving us some potentially tricky control sites. Excellent. Day two was a tad long, but we would have been twenty five minutes quicker if we hadn't encountered a 1200m boulder field (marked on the 1:40000 but not on the 1:25000  that I was using) This didn't agree with my partner, Martin, but we got across it eventually. Up until then my shoe repair had also survived well.

Incidently, a cunning ploy by Andy was to stand at the final 'bridge' control and engage me in conversation. As Martin scanned the horizon for 'Indians', I discussed our choice of route options. On spotting another team on the horizon we legged it down the track, only for me to suddenly forget whether or not I had punched the control at the bridge ! I had to leg it back up and punch again - cost us 6 minutes. Stupid or what. Needless to say, I had punched before.

Thanks again. Your hardwork, and that of Debbie, Andy, Angela and the team are very much appreciated. I hope you've not had any whingers. . . .the event was great.

Do you know, it'll be 10 years next year since you introduced Bry and I. On Jura I seem to recall. . . . .

. . . . hmmm. . . . . 10 years. . . . Jura. . . . .hmmm.

Best wishes Andy Creber (and Martin Skinner)

The D Course

D Course WinnersResounding to the tunes of Broom FM we arrived at the event centre on the Friday night and promptly fell asleep! We woke to the sound of bagpipes and after badly making some porridge stood in the rabbly line for the bus trying to fend off the drizzle. The bus journey had a great air of excitement which was enhanced by an interesting incident involving the bus side luggage hold opening while we were driving. Soon We reached Kylestrome from where we started. Setting off in the second wave of competitors we were away. The weather had now dried up and we decided not to mark up our map at the start rather mark it as we went along. We began running along the LandRover track and were soon ambushed by a photographer from By the time we reached the first control the views were dramatic. The weather had brightened up but still large clouds drifted over the tops of the highest mountains in the distance. As we approached the second control some how we both managed to misjudge the jump of a narrow but deep stream and ended up to our waists in water, better getting wet earlier than later we thought. As the day worn on and the number of controls left to punch decreased the cloud rolled in and we approached the day’s high point. On the ascent we found a lost looking pair doing the Novice course and after a quick chat established they had come off the wrong side of the hill in the cloud. Making a mental note not to do the same we reached the main ridge and ran the few hundred yards to the spot height. Feeling very cold we descended to last few controls and as we punched the last control before midway camp the sun came out. Descending down the hill to midcamp was fun to say the least but we were now finished for the day. However, the hill had the last laugh when I realised I was covered in ticks and had to spend a good 20mins in the tent pulling them out with tweezers after I had washed the majority off in the sea! As midcamp began to fill up so did our stomachs as we ate our warm ‘just add water potato, ham and pea meal’.  After which we had a wee wander bumping into people we knew or just recognised from previous events. Soon feeling shattered we retired to bed ready for our place second in the chasing start.

We woke up the next morning to the sound of bagpipes rain and cloud ‘aka Scotland’ and were before we knew it setting off for another day. Again choosing not to mark up the map extensively initially proved a mixed blessing as were charged off in the wrong direction ! Soon we were back on track in front of D1. They gradually caught us up and from then on the competition started. Overtaking them again after the first point, 'the highest waterfall in the UK which was full of water, they snapped at our heels. As we began to climb to the highest point of the day they overtook us disappearing into the mist. Shattered we continued climbing into the cold wind and cloud. A few meters below the top my body started noticing the temperature and exertion. Feeling both mildly hypoglycaemic and hypothermic my vision started to blur and I started seeing stars but we pushed on to the top and after a large lug of Kendal mint cake, chocolate covered of course, we were ready for the descent. As we descended we manage to over take D1 as they overshot the control, we were in-front again. With the finish in a few miles a fast and furious race down a bracken-covered hillside emerged between D1 and ourselves. After over 8hrs of running over two days we finally reached the finish crossing it only 2mins before D1. Thanks must go to all the competitors and organises who made the whole weekend so great. We are also glad to report that we sustained no permanent injuries during the weekend other that a complete and potentially dangerous addiction to mountain marathons - see you next year !


Ben & Tom Rowley


Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event

Lowe Alpine Mourne Mountain Marathon