After a week in Scotland walking and enjoying the mountains, saturday was the first Mountain Marathon of the year, the Highlander, in Cannich, west of Inverness. We missed the Highlander last year when it was run in heavy snow, but did the D class the year before in clear but very cold conditions. This year we were lucky with the weather again, with cloud on the tops on the first morning, but otherwise gorgeous weather all weekend, and thankfully not as cold as 2007.
This year we’d chosen the B course, and disappointingly we were the only mixed team on the course (in fact, Rachel was the only woman in either the A or the B). Saturday started with a bus ride to the power station at the start of Glen Strathfarrar and then a steep climb through the heather onto the shoulder of Beinn a’ Bhathaich Ard (however that’s pronounced). We then got a lovely run along the ridge north from the summit, through the cloud, and occasionally over snow still lying on the ground, almost to the shores of Orrin Reservoir before turning back and returning to Glen Strathfarrar.
Apart from a couple of little wobbles, we had a pretty good day navigationally on saturday, and came home in second place, 20 minutes behind the leading pair.
The mid-camp was in a lovely spot between Loch a Mhuilidh and Loch Beannacharan, with a gorgeous view of the munro at the end of the glen, as well as of a couple of hills in the middle of the glen, one with a single large tree jutting from the summit. Unfortunately, it also seemed to contain every tick in the glen, and we spent quite a bit of time keeping them off us, out of our tent, and off our gear.
One of the highlights of the Highlander is the Ceilidh at the halfway camp, and this year was no exception, with a fine band and plenty of dancing. As usual however, we (and most others) were crawling into our tents by 9:30.
Sunday dawned bright and clear, and we were off at 7:20. On the way to the first control we (alright, I) chose a route straight across the river, which was about waist deep and bitterly cold—the perfect start to the day! We were fast to the first control but then made a mistake at the second, and chose a slower route to the third, and were overtaken by the team behind us. The day seemed to alternate nice long runnable legs with horrible climbs, and featured a visit to a beautiful forested lochan that would make a lovely wild camping spot.
Coming in to the finish we were pretty pleased with our effort, despite being passed. Unfortunately, despite both the teams ahead of us making mistakes on the last two controls, we couldn’t catch them and finished about 6 minutes behind the leaders. Once again we were the second fastest team on the day, but ended up third overall, but still first (only) mixed team!
The prizes were great, thanks to the Highlander’s sposors, Dare2b, and once again we can’t recommend the event enough—the scenery is gorgeous, the organisation great, the people are really friendly, and the ceilidh in a marquee tent in the middle of nowhere, with a muddy dancefloor and people dancing in lycra and plastic bags on their feet is simply unforgettable. Anyone thinking about doing a mountain marathon should seriously think about this one!
On a serious note, the Highlander is looking for sponsorship to ensure it continues in future years. If you’re looking for an event to sponsor, get in touch with the organisers:
Sorry, no pictures this time as our small camera ran out of batteries. We may be able to add some later, but in the mean time, here are a couple from earlier in the holiday.