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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon

Planners' Comments

The LAMM certainly gets to parts which other MMs don’t reach, to paraphrase a once well known advert !  How many other MMs could consider such a remote area as the north of Glenfinnan ? The good bit for me was the chance to spend days wandering over empty, remote hills in the superb weather of May – can’t remember meeting another person in many days on the hills – but several adders, load of deer & two golden eagles!

However, it was a very hard area to plan decent courses, with two lochs (Loch Morar and Loch Arkaig) cutting into the middle, steep sided glens with long ridges (east-west in most of the area, but north-south east of Glen Finnan) and few routes through. It was always going to involve a lot of climbing over the ridges, so hard to get winning times right, with a couple of the courses perhaps slightly too long in the end – not helped by people suffering in the heat ! Even putting out controls was hard as the only easy access was from the south, plus the long windy road up Loch Arkaig to the east of the area.

Since the map had a long baseline to the south along the A830, we spread the starts out to make full use of the area. The Novice and D courses started to the east at Fassfern and had a less mountainous first day (though with a tough finish with a ridge to cross or go round to get to the campsite), which allowed the classes to get into two different areas without making the courses too long. The Novice came back over Streap on day 2 as the Streap ridge was basically on a straight line back. One novice spoke to me at the midway camp with the comment that there weren’t any real mountains on the first day and too much bog. Well, knowing what day 2 involved I couldn’t say much, but hoped the ascent of Streap and superb ridge that followed satisfied him. The D class followed a similar philosophy with the second day heading up a munro. I think it’s always good to go home knowing you’ve been up a mountain rather than 2 days traipsing through bogs. It did mean that Day 2 of the D was fairly long, but once the summit had been reached it was basically downhill back.

With the C course being that bit longer than D, I was able to get them into the remote area to the south of An Stac on day 1, with good views to Loch Morar. The long leg back towards Strathan gave the most route choices of the day. Many did the high level route over the two munros; some over one munro; some took various contouring routes (probably the fastest); while quite a few even down dropped to Glen Pean and then climbed back up. All good stuff. Interestingly the path bend (control 5) at the beginning of that leg was a late change as when I was out marking the controls I realised that the original control site, which was a near-by spur, meant some severe scrambling on what looked the obvious line from the previous control (number 4) – might have been alright for the Elite but not the C !  Day 2 of the C went east, which gave the initial challenge of getting over the first ridge and later the chance of a ridge run down one of the north-south ridges (from the corbett, Braigh nan Uamhachan). C turned out to be a very exciting race; the first 8 teams were within 6 minutes and that was after the first 3 teams from day 1 had messed a control on day 2 and finished outside the top 10!

The B class started west on Day 1 and had good views of the interesting Loch Beoraid. Most people ran to the north of Meith Bheinn. Despite the path to the south of this hill, the north side was definitely faster. Leg 4 to 5 was the longest leg and gave quite a few route options. It was actually quite good to head east from 4 up the glen and then eventually drop down the stalkers path and cross Glen Pean. Quite a few dropped down to Oban Bothy and then either along Glen Pean or further round Loch Morar. Day 2 for the B was similar to the C, but had extra climb high up on Gulvain – not sure if anyone went over the top, but it was an option.

A and Elite had the pleasure of a scenic train ride to begin the day - all 15 mins of it. This meant they had later starts than the other classes as well as longer courses. However, at this time of year in Scotland it is not the same disadvantage as it would be at, eg, the OMM. Amazingly every team who started the A class on day 1 finished day 1 (and only 2 teams dnf’ed on Day 2). The Elite statistics were almost as good, considering how tough it was, with only two teams not finishing (one due to a mismarked control on Day 1).

The A class had a similar leg as the B class over Meith Bheinn, with the north side being the fastest, while the Elite headed further north onto the Druim a’Chuirn ridge. The south of this ridge was good running, but I notice quite a few teams went on the north side or even stayed pretty much on the ridge despite the extra climb. The Elite also had a mega long leg, 5 to 6, which gave lots of options. More than half the teams crossed Glen Pean and climbed over the Carn Mor ridge, but even then there were differences in how to descend into Glen Dessary. The rest of the teams went down to Loch Morar. The A Class had a shorter leg and the best way was via Kinlochmorar, although preferably using the stalkers path to get down into Glen Pean rather that down the crags. Day 2 of the A had the option of traversing Gulvain and a ridge run from Streap to the finish that those I spoke to enjoyed. The A winning times were about right, although the Elite was a bit long on Day 1, even a short visit to the superb hills to the north of Glen Dessary pushing the climb and distance up. But Day 2 was about right (or would have been if legs hadn’t been tired from Day 1 ! ).

In summary, I hope that whatever class you were doing you felt that you had achieved something special and had an excellent (and enjoyable – even if retrospectively !) couple of days out in the hills travelling through this superb area.

Thanks to the controllers, Dave Coustick and Angela Mudge for their feedback, advice and efforts at putting out controls. Also, thanks to all those who volunteered to collect controls – a massive job but they were amazingly all in by the Monday (party due to the perk of a boat ride up Loch Morar to Oban Bothy). Finally thanks to Martin Stone for trusting me enough to let me loose with the map – again!

Andy Spenceley

Climate Care

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event

Lowe Alpine Mourne Mountain Marathon