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The Connoisseurs Mountain Marathon


We had initial plans for the LAMM in this area, with an event centre at Inverlael, even before the 2010 LAMM at Arrochar as Martin had already made some contacts in the area, but decided it was better to wait a year to give more time to more time to plan and organise as it was a long way north and a remote area.

So it was a rainy day of low clouds last September when I walked across the hills to Strath Mulzie to have a look at a proposed mid camp. Even the very large adder that I nearly stepped on, near where the toilet trench ended up, was trying to get out the drizzle. It didn't look the most inspiring place in those conditions, but there was plenty of flat grassy land to camp, a lovely river (that I tried to imagine campers sitting beside in the sun!) and I knew that up in the mist was Seana Bhraigh and reckoned we'd get a good view of it from the campsite in good conditions. We'd considered various other options for the mid camp but this one fitted in best with distance to event centre and central enough on the map to allow access to most of the area for the courses.

Once we had the event centre and mid camp fixed I could get on with planning the courses. I wanted all courses to be able to get right on the tops as people travel a long way to do the LAMM and if you come form the south of England, Sweden or Spain you don't want to go home having spent the weekend at the bottom of valleys! One of the good things about the area that helped this was that once you got up high in the central area you could stay fairly high and the going was often very fast. Between Beinn Dearg and Seana Bhraigh the ground is above 700m all the time and don't go much lower round the northern side of Gleann Beag to Carn Ban and Bodach Mor. There was an area of dangerous crags and slabs along the eastern slopes of Beinn Dearg and Cona' Mheall most of which weren't mapped so I decided to avoid this area as much as possible.

I decided to sent the C and D courses over the Munros on the first day as, particularly for the D, it was too far to have reasonable routes over them on the second day. D also had to start from the event centre on day 1 as anywhere else would make the day too long. I could then send these courses over the lower ground to the north west on the second day so they had a lot less climbing, but to make up for that the control sites were more generally more challenging so you had to keep a close eye on the map. Both courses had two main climbs on day 1, both up (or near) a Munro summit. C had reasonable route choice on the first day, but D probably had less as the day was more about enjoying the high ground once you were up.

The B is long enough that I could use the high ground on both days, but I didn't want to overlap the area covered, so after an initial climb up Beinn Dearg (I hope they forgave me for that!) the course on day 1 headed north eastwards towards Carn Ban and then approached the mid camp from the east. Again there were 2 major climbs. This meant on day 2, the course could go over Seana Bhraigh and the high ground to the south giving two more Munros. I think there was quite a lot of route choice on this day and on one leg in particular I was amazed at some of the routes! I don't know if it was just tiredness but a lot of people seemed to make the last long leg from Eilidh nan Clach-Geala (106) to the spur (138) very hard by dropping too low - even right down into the forest for some teams! Here's a clue - if there are waterfalls shown on a map there is usually a ravine or steep ground below them, so best to cross above.

The A and the Elite both kept to the eastern half of the map on the first day so they could cover the central ground the second day. They both crossed Am Faochagach (with an option to bag the summit, if they wanted!) from different directions and ended up on Carn Ban/Bodach Mor. The Elite did have some rough going on a big loop east of Loch Vaich and a tough climb back across Gleann Mor, which some complained about, but I ignore those complaints from the Elite! After some comments from Elite and A competitors in previous years, I made sure they reached a few summits this year, mainly on the second day when they crossed the central Munros and had options of good ridge climbs.

The Score is always hard to plan as it attracts people from Elite standard to C (or even D ) standard and these are not realistically competing against each other. For the C/D people I had to make sure they could get to the mid camp in the 7 hours and home in 6 hours while having a good day out and picking up a few controls on the way and give them a chance to do a Munro or two. On day 1 I think most people reached the summit of Seana Bhraigh. The top Score people can cover a long way in 7 hours, so on day 1 they had the option of doing a similar course to the Elite day 1 (as the 5th place Score team did) or options on a loop from Am Faochagach, Beinn Dearg and round the north side of Gleann Beag before heading to the mid camp, as the leaders did. Because the controls cover such a large area in the Score class there is always a bit of an overlap over the two days. My planned "elite" Score route on day 2 was exactly what the leaders did (see RouteGadget), with the other main option to go west from the start and then head back east.

Most of the winning times were about right this year, perhaps slightly on the fast side, but if the weather hadn't been as good times could have been considerably longer.

Thanks to everyone who helped me, particularly Brian Jackson, Dave Coustick, Angela Mudge, for comments and advice on the courses and also for help marking and putting out controls. Also thanks to organiser, Martin Stone, for always being very supportive and always being open to ideas.

Andy Spenceley

Climate Care

Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

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