After a year’s absence the LAMM returned in style with Strathcarron hosting one of the most spectacular venues to date. The area offered a bird’s eye view to the great Torridon hills of Liathach and Beinn Eighe, provided interesting and technical terrain with an abundance of lochans, rocks and deer!
When Martin first mentioned having the LAMM here, without a moment’s hesitation I wanted to start the longer courses on the famous Applecross hills. A start in the valley would have meant far too much climb so the Elite and A competitors were bussed off the event map, to a starting height of over 600m above Bealach na Ba. Beinn Bhan is an amazing but dangerous hill with most of the buttresses impassable without climbing gear, so the routes along its ridge ensured a safe descent off the hill but gave competitors a feeling for the great mountain. This area was covered on a smaller map and then once over its summit competitors joined the main competition area and got taken into the hills above Tullich.
The nature of starting the B course at Tornapress led to the courses being pretty much a straight line to the overnight camp, any wild deviations would have led to a very long and tough day. Also when Martin suggested this start point I didn’t appreciate how imposing Sgurr a Gharaidh is, from the south it looks like a heathery mass but on the northern side it’s a network of cliff faces which limited options to traversing the hill. So - apologies for the deep heather early on. But once past Sgurr a Gharaidh the terrain more than made up for this grotty start.
The C, D and Score classes all started above Tullich, we did think about starting at Coulags but this would have led to the competitors covering the same ground or similar ground on the second day. The D course proved very tough. The climb up Maol Chean Dreag was more than most of the competitors had bargained for. The B climbed this on day 2 and a few competitors mentioned it would have been risky in bad weather conditions – if there was bad weather this checkpoint would have been removed.
The nature of the area being long and thin made courses quite hard to plan. I tried to minimise the amount of ground which was covered on both days. Taking the elite, A and B further north on day 2. The C and D had the more traditional heathery terrain to the east at the beginning of day 2.
This year the penalty on the score course was reduced to 1 point per minute instead of the usual 2. This had an effect on the overall result as it made being slightly late a greater temptation and a tactical decision. Any feedback would be appreciated.
Planning in this area was a joy, (apart from the usual dog owner loses dogs scenario) I enjoyed all my trips north with a wide variety of conditions - a very wet recce at new year, a very snowy one and even perfect conditions at Easter. My theory is that wherever I sent you on Saturday everyone would be happy, with wall to wall sunshine and amazing views you couldn’t go far wrong. Even the midges at the overnight camp were thoughtfully absent …..
I’d like to thank Martin for letting me loose on the hills again and arranging near perfect conditions, to Andy Spenceley (the controller) for setting me right. Ali Welsh and Adam Ward for facing up to the extra challenge of locating kites with the aid of only 2 maps, between 4 of us! The 10 event maps we needed in the week before the event didn’t make it to Strathcarron. We only had 2 proof maps between us which were cut up and shared between the four of us so that we could site the controls. Thank you to all of the people who helped collect in the controls at the finish.
Finally I hope to see you all at the LAMM in 2015 somewhere north of the border. And if you want to learn about the area, check out Clach nan Con-fionn, used as a score control. A standing stone where the controller suggested I tie my dogs for the weekend to relive the myth.