2014 Rab Mountain Marathon

This year’s Rab Mountain Marathon was in the East of the Lake District, in the bit between Kendal and Shap that’s not that often visited. That bit of the Lakes seems to like to borrow placenames from more famous bits, so the event centre was in Borrowdale, there’s a Lord’s Seat and Wasdale made up one boundary of the map. As has been the case (I think) for every Rab I’ve done, the weather was pretty good, with glimpses of sunshine, but cloud down on the tops at times.

This year I was running in the Long Score as a solo again, determined to improve on last year. That gave me seven hours on day one, and six on day two. Unfortunately, it also meant there was nobody to take pictures!

The first day start was in Crookdale, and I planned out a longish but hopefully high-scoring route. I headed up the valley at first and onto high ground to the North of the start. There the controls were in the cloud and I had a couple of small misses with visibility less than 10m. Eventually, after a brief view of the Day 1 finish, I dropped down into Long Sleddale for a 4km road run down the valley before climbing back onto the fells above Staveley, almost in sight of Sterling Central, where I’d spent the night before (thanks!). Then back North, through Kentmere and over the hill into Troutbeck and up the old Roman Road that leads from Ambleside to Penrith over High Street. This easy going didn’t last long and was followed by a very steep climb up Ill Bell, by which time I was feeling pretty tired. From there, things looked familiar as I traced the Kentmere Horseshoe path and managed to get running again, before dropping down to a 40 point control above Small Water. From there I had a little under an hour to climb over Gatesgarth Pass and down to the camp site in Long Sleddale. Unfortunately, a cramp attack on the climb, and a complete lack of energy meant that I couldn’t make it to the finish on time, and I ended up with 7 points deducted for being late. Not too bad, except that I’d also had to abandon a 15 point control that was not far from the path on the descent.

Happily, despite the points I’d dropped, I was in third place overnight, just behind Adam and Andrew, who I’ve raced against many times, and Stewart, my partner from the LAMM a few years before, who had a ten point lead at the front, and it looked like had chosen a route with a lot less distance, but perhaps more big climbs. The campsite was one we’ve used before, at the top end of Long Sleddale in a beautiful spot.

The campsite
The campsite (although this picture is actually from the 2010 Saunders MM).

Day 2 involved more clusters of controls, and it was pretty clear that the route was to travel South down the West side of Long Sleddale before crossing the valley and collecting a few points on the East side and around the finish in Borrowdale. The only question was whether to do a biggish climb at the start to get a couple of controls in the North East, or whether to do a bigger loop around the top of Borrowdale at the end. I elected to do the latter, but most of the top runners seemed to opt for the former, so again that may have been a mistake. The advantage of my route was the opportunity to pick up extra points near the finish if time was available, but in the end I couldn’t do the route fast enough, and got in with just a minute to spare and a ten point control close to the end that I couldn’t get to.

I lost one place on Day 2, to end up 4th overall, but 3rd solo runner. I’m pretty happy with that – I don’t think I could have done any more (I was totally exhausted at the end of both days), and given the limited opportunities this year for long days in the mountains, I’m pretty pleased to still be competitive with the top runners. As for the event, this year’s courses were excellent – I still don’t know what the best route was on day 1, and the contrast between the big climbs and long legs on Day 1, and the shorter more technical stuff on Day 2 was good. The event centre and camp site were well organised, and I particularly like the new policy of giving seperate prizes for solo and team runners.

My route on day 1 (in blue) and day 2 (in red).
My route on day 1 (in blue) and day 2 (in red).

Rab Mountain Marathon 2013

This has been a chaotic year for us, and with one thing and another I hadn’t got to do a single mountain marathon all year. Since we usually do at least four, that’s quite a change! I got a last minute entry to the Rab Mountain Marathon (thanks Adrian), and since Rachel wasn’t so keen, opted for a solo entry.

This year the Rab had a great event centre at Newlands Adventure Centre, and the start was at the foot of Catbells. I opted for the long course, so had seven hours the first day, and six the second to collect as many points as possible. Watching a slow-moving line of “runners” heading straight up Catbells, I instead opted to start with a fast path run around the edge of the hill past Little Town, then over a ridge into Little Dale, and on to Hindscarth Edge. This part of the route was clearly unpopular – I didn’t see another runner for about an hour. After that I rejoined the crowds for a couple of controls above Honister Pass before dropping down to the pass and up to Grey Knotts and a group of five controls around Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

I’ve never been along the ridge on the South of Buttermere (featuring the famous Innominate Tarn) before, so it was nice to run along there, especially given the gorgeous sunshine and clear views. Unfortunately, the steep and rocky descent to Scarth Gap, followed by the two very steep climbs up High Crag really did me in, so I wasn’t very fast along the ridge. From there, my chosen route dropped down towards Buttermere for a few more controls, and then up Rannerdale Knotts before a fast descent down Rannerdale to the finish. I ended 17 seconds late, so lost one point!

Looking down to the head of Buttermere (and the field we were supposed to camp in during the cancelled OMM of 2008) from Scarth Gap.
Looking down to the head of Buttermere (and the field we were supposed to camp in during the cancelled OMM of 2008) from Scarth Gap.

Day Two was just as sunny as Day One, although windier on the tops. The controls were mostly North of Newlands Pass this day, and I started with a poorly judged steep climb through waist-deep heather to the summit of Grasmoor, followed by Hopegill Head and a steep descent into Hope Beck. From there I headed East to a control below Grisedale Pike and then over the ridge into Coledale. All of this was quite slow because of the tall vegetation – much harder than the good running on Day One, so I was far behind my planned schedule and had to change my plans for the second half of the day, collecting a bunch of controls near the finish rather than heading back to the Southern half of the course. I ended up finishing 40 minutes early having run out of points to collect.

I was 10th on Day One, and 11th on Day Two, but somehow that worked out to Eighth overall – not too bad considering I haven’t done a mountain marathon since October, and haven’t managed nearly as many long runs as in previous summers. However, there’s clearly room for improvement – I could barely stand up at the finish, and struggled to walk the morning after!

Struggling to walk on the way back from the finish.
Struggling to walk on the way back from the finish.
Yes, the flag is holding me up!
Yes, the flag is holding me up!

The A course at the OMM

Why did I enter Richard and I for the A course at the OMM? It was a really long way and almost resulted in a failure of our sense of humour on numerous occasions!

The weekend started well. I took Friday off work, so we had a leisurely day and managed to arrive in Sedbergh well-fed and relaxed. We got to registration well before it closed and had a sociable evening before heading to the campsite for an early night.

We woke up on Saturday morning to dark, clear skies. The wind was blustering around the valley and the temperature was sub-zero. Just before heading off, I realised how cold it was and decided to put on another long-sleeved top; this was very much the right decision.

Queuing up in the A course lane I was still fairly relaxed, then we got the maps. I saw the route, then I checked the map scale and realised… this was going to be a long day.

We set off over Arant Haw. The conditions were beautifully clear and the early morning light was fantastic.

Pretty and pretty cold!
Looking over from Arant Haw we spotted this lake seemingly showing us the way… except it wasn’t; our route was much hillier!

It was also very very cold. I was having difficulty slurping water through my platypus tube and then I realised that I was slurping water through a tortuous mosaic of needle-shaped ice crystals. Still, the scenery was pretty and the wildish ponies were lovely :-).

Pretty ponies on the fell

As the day progressed, I took less pictures, mainly because it was too much effort to get the camera out. The course halfway point was approximately coincident with us crossing the road from Ravenstonedale to Sedbergh. After this point, there was certainly no point in taking pictures because I don’t particularly want to be reminded of the endless slog across the moorland over Wild Boar Fell, Holmes Moss Hill and Baugh Fell. The terrain was exhausting to run over and just went on forever. It was also mentally exhausting because the crossing was only 2 km from our mid-camp, but we were taking a 17 km diversion to get there!

We finished day 1 in 6hrs 53 and arrived at the midcamp to windy, but dry conditions. We ate and warmed up in our sleeping bags and even managed to be a little sociable before the cloud came in and the misery of the midcamp in a one man tent commenced. The OMM camp is miserable. It’s usually wet, in fact everything is usually wet, it’s dark, it’s cold, you can’t find your friends amongst the thousands of competitors and to add to the misery, the end of British Summer Time means that is prolonged for an extra hour! Our only source of comfort was watching the lights of A course competitors still coming in over the fells late into the night; I was very grateful to be at the campsite, rather than still out there on the fell.

Midcamp misery.

Sunday dawned. I was hoping for a nice 6 hr run along ridges to the finish. Guess what? It didn’t happen. We started the day with a short loop on the nasty terrain to the east of the Ravenstonedale to Sedbergh road, then we headed west of the road and climbed a 200 m hill to reach a control, after which, we descended losing all the height gained. This set the scene for the rest of the day. There were at least 6 very steep climbs all with around 130-150 m height gain and all with really steep descents. We were basically traversing the side of a huge hill and each of these ups and downs were spurs coming off the hill. Looking to the north, the ground was flat and a number of times I looked over and thought, “We could just hitch a lift back from over there”. It turns out that Richard was also wondering if there was a bus. At one point I declared that my morale had reached about 2/10 and Richard responded with a similar comment. We were feeling particularly miserable at this point because the course did a loop on itself, so we knew that we were going to visit this exact location sometime later. To matters worse, that section took forever with a few steep climbs and a tricky control in a re-entrant.

One of the 150 m climbs on the second day. This photo does not do the steepness justice!
Another of those 150 m climbs … and yes, we had to go straight up it!

Once out of the loop, and after another 3 km of slog, we reached a control and Richard declared that there was only 6 km left and one hill. It was quite an elongated hill, but nevertheless the end was in sight. And the last 4 km went really quickly as we ran down the final hill looking forward to soup at the finish. Whilst I was hoping for a shorter day 2, we were actually out on the hills for exactly the same length of time as day 1; 6 hrs 53.

Richard and I at the finish (thanks to Dave Ellis for the photo, and thanks also to him and the rest of the Mountain Rescue Team for braving the weather and being on stand by in case of any incidents)

The download from our GPS tracker showed us running 38 km (23.6 miles) on day 1 and 32.2 km (20 miles) on day 2. We don’t know what the height gain was, but the estimate on the courses was 2200 m on day 1 and 2300 m on day 2.

20121029-OMM2012

And onto the results. This is the A course; we were competing against some of the best. There were nine mixed teams and we came 5th! We were 17th overall out of 29 that finished… 11 teams retired and 12 teams were disqualified.

It’s too soon to reflect on the weekend yet. I’m really glad we finished, but it was a really long way.

Rab Mountain Marathon 2012

This year the Rab Mountain Marathon started from Wooler in Northumberland. This event is ‘score’ format, meaning that you have 6 hours on day 1 and 5 hours on day 2 to locate as many controls as possible. The controls are worth varying numbers of points, and the largest point count wins, so tactics and planning are important.

Saturday dawned bright and clear and in no time we were at the start waiting to go.

Day 1. The start

An hour into the event, things were not going as planned. Poor mapping in one particular area, meant we had to take a longer route than expected, which resulted in us losing around 10 minutes, and then I got trapped in a (not very vicious) animal trap, which was fairly amusing. The next two hours were a bit of a slog; I was pretty knackered and just couldn’t get moving. After about 3 hours, I started to warm-up and moving across the terrain became a bit easier, but by this time we were choosing which of our planned controls to miss out, which was a bit frustrating.

Following Richard… mostly what I did for the whole weekend 🙂

We made it to the mid-camp 10 minutes early and with 245 points. We were in 30th place and 6th mixed team overall (including the vets) and 3rd mixed team (taking into account just the youngsters). Not the greatest day out.

Building balloon beds at the mid-camp
Cous cous… yum!

The camp was lovely, despite the rather dubious drinking water source and we had a nice evening… that was until we went to sleep…. it was rather cold and we slept fitfully. I’d forgotten that the Rab MM was two weeks later than usual this year and our lightweight sleeping bags were not quite warm enough. In the morning we woke to frost and frozen socks that were stiff as cardboard!

We got going quickly if only to get warm!

After the first hill, we warmed up, and felt good and we flew around the first 4 controls in about 1hr 10. We then headed back through the same valley that we camped in and started our journey to the finish, meandering across the hills to collect as many points as possible. Compared to day 1, we ran lots more and passed lots of people, which was satisfying. We also had to add on more controls to our planned route as we were going faster than expected :-).

Day 2: Following Richard still
The last control!

We arrived at the finish about 15 minutes early, where Richard collapsed for a short time before we walked back to the event centre.

Richard ‘resting’ at the finish

We scored a total of 255 points on day 2, which boosted our placings somewhat! We haven’t seen the final results yet, but whilst we were beaten by a couple of mixed vet teams, we came first out of the mixed teams! 🙂 Even better, we won some fantastic prizes, so thanks Rab!

Prize giving. The first 3 mixed teams.

The GPS track suggests we ran over 60 k, so not a bad weekend’s exercise… it’s a good job it’s cake day tomorrow at work!
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Björkliden Arctic Mountain Marathon

We’ve always fancied doing the BAMM. It’s 200km North of the Arctic circle, and has always sounded like the greatest adventure of all the mountain marathons. This year we decided we had to do it, even though Björkliden is a full day of travel each way from Stockholm, and the whole trip ends up being rather an expensive proposition.

The race has a few quirks compared with British mountain marathons – it runs Friday to Saturday, features a mass start on the first day (with a prize for the first team to the top of the first hill), and the short course runners (30km) had their tents and sleeping bags transported to the mid-camp by helicopter! We chose the 50km version, so had no such luxury – in fact our bags were heavier than usual as the required kit includes a sleeping pad, and balloon beds, our usual, are expressly not allowed.

Björkliden itself is in a lovely location, on a hill above a lake, with fantastic views of the mountains around. We shared a cabin with Peter and Johan, a couple of friendly Swedes who were doing their first ever MM – I think they were hoping for people who had done it before so they could get some tips! So were we!

Peter, Johan and Rachel at the entrance to our cabin.
Peter, Johan and Rachel on the steps of our cabin.

The start was straight up a ski slope for around 700m, and with the mass start, was pretty crazy, made even worse by the large number of people using Nordic walking poles, and a few teams that were bungied together! After that it settled down to being pretty much like a UK event, until we rounded a saddle and met our first glacier, complete with a herd of reindeer galloping across it! Needless to say, we slowed down to watch!

Running up the first hill.
Running up the first hill.

The terrain was a lot different to UK events, with much more running over glacial moraine and broken rock. There was virtually no vegetation taller than a few centimetres, so footing wasn’t too bad, and it was surprisingly dry – we’d been expecting mile after mile of bogs! The tricky part was the map – with 20m contours, quite large cliffs would often not be shown at all, so we got a few surprises in picking our route. At one point we got to the top of a steep descent to a col only to watch some teams in front turning back from a cliff, so we climbed an extra 80m over a peak to avoid the steep ground, only to then see other teams going down it.

Reindeer on the ice.
Reindeer on the ice [picture: Stuart Fludger].
The foot of the big glacier.
The foot of the big glacier.
Running past glaciers! We were forbidden to run on them!
Running past glaciers! We were forbidden to run on them!

Overall, the first day went very well for us, we were just behind the leading group for the last long leg, and cut through a saddle while they went around the hill to the last control, gaining us just enough time to be first team on our course overnight. Our triumph was only tempered by the ice cold river crossing right at the finish, and the fact that Rachel fell just after we took the lead, and took a big chunk out of her knee!

Rachel at the mid-camp.
Rachel at the mid-camp.
Sunset over the mid-camp.
Sunset over the mid-camp.

The mid-camp was in a brilliant location, with no access except on foot, and even better, featured cinnamon pastries at the finish!

Pastries at the halfway camp!
Pastries at the halfway camp!

Day two featured a wade back across the river to the start, and a chasing start 15 minutes after the mass start for the slower teams, so we had a huge crocodile of teams to follow up the big climb to the first checkpoint. The men’s teams quickly sped away from us, but we had a 5 minute lead over the next mixed team, so were hoping that would be enough. Unfortunately, they came striding past looking very strong on the way to the fourth control, and from there it was neck and neck, with first them, and then us getting a small lead, with the race made all the more difficult by low cloud making route choice harder.

The first hill on day 2. We didn't have time for pictures after this.
The first hill on day 2. We didn’t have time for pictures after this.

The last long leg featured a steep descent, short climb and then a long descending traverse. We chose to climb more, while the other mixed team took a lower but longer route. Ours turned out to be very slightly quicker, and we started up the last hill with perhaps a minute’s lead. Fortunately, we’d spotted the control as the cloud had momentarily lifted earlier, so we were able to go straight to it, and then we had a frantic dash down to the finish, all the way expecting the other team to appear behind us at any second. Happily they didn’t, and we managed to hold on to 5th place overall and first mixed team.

Our GPS tracks are below. They are a little ‘bumpy’ in places, but they suggest that we travelled around 42 km on day 1 and a further 31 km of day 2… so significantly more distance than the straight line 50 km! We certainly deserved a beer afterwards!

day 1 bamm

bamm-day2

Enjoying the finish BAMMburger!
Enjoying the finish BAMMburger!

Unlike British mountain marathons, the distance to get to Björkliden is so huge that the organisers plan for everyone to stay overnight afterwards. We had a huge banquet in the evening, and loads of prizes, with a proper podium for class winners! As well as our class prize, we also won for being the team from furthest away, the prize for which was a whole leg of dried reindeer meat! Definitely the most interesting thing we’ve ever won!

Overall, we had a brilliant time. The other competitors were really friendly, and we’ve made plenty of new friends. The organisation was also excellent, and we particularly liked the prize-giving and banquet. We weren’t the only British team there – there was a team on the 30km race men’s podium, and one on the 70km men’s as well! We’d recommend the race to anyone – the terrain is really different from the UK, and it really feels like you’re out in the wilds.

Prize-giving!
Prize-giving!
Alastair and Jonathan take third in the men's BAMM30.
Alastair and Jonathan take third in the men’s BAMM30.
Chris and Frances take third on the men's BAMM70.
Chris and Frances take third on the men’s BAMM70.

Our prize included a free entry for next year, so hopefully we’ll be back for another go at it! Next time in the 70km race!

Saunders Mountain Marathon 2012

Friday of the Saunders MM dawned with gloom; it was horrendously wet and I was feeling pretty rough. This was unfortunate because I had a mountain marathon to run and I was running with Mark, who is mid-way through his (self-imposed) challenge to run 12 marathons in 12 months for The Meningitis Trust. Luckily, from Friday evening onwards, things got better on both counts and our adventure was a success.

Mark had not run a 2-day mountain marathon before, and in fact it was my beckoning that probably got him interested in the first place. But when he asked if he could join me on on a MM for one of his 12 I was happy to oblige. I chose the Saunders MM because it’s usually sunny, there are drinks at the mid-camp and it’s usually quite sociable. I decided to choose the Kirkfell class because my memories from that course weren’t too bad. I had neglected to take into account that memories fade (as I’ve just noted from reading my report from 2007), that Mark wasn’t used to moving over terrain, and that the event this year was in Wasdale; an area that is characterised by the roughest Lakeland terrain possible (although at the time of entry, the location wasn’t announced).

The start was at Wasdale Head. At 08.00 Richard started on the solo klets course and Mark and I walked to the start for our 08.18 take-off. Our route was 23.4 km straightline with an anticipated 1434 m of climb; it was going to be a long day and I was navigating. Our first control was on the way up to Black Sail Pass. I slightly missed the first control whilst getting used to the map, but we soon found it. We then headed off around Kirk Fell to a control on the side of Green Gable. We then descended down Aaron Slack to Styhead Tarn and to a control on Granny Gill at the top of Lingmell Beck. After this we had a really steep climb up to the Corridor Route. This took quite a while, Mark’s running legs were finding the relentless climbs a challenge. Thankfully, Mark’s relentless sense of humour and cheerfulness was holding out! After the climb we traversed Lingmell to another control before traversing Scafell; a route which took us across the scree west of Black Crag. This was tough for Mark, but despite the slope and looseness of the rock he made it. Hooray! Our next control was a sheepfold in Oliver Gill and then we had a mammoth leg past Burnmoor Tarn and around Whin Rigg to a gill on the other side of the ridge overlooking the southwest end of Wast Water. This leg was absolutely horrendous. It started with a steep descent on bracken+rocks then whilst trying to contour and ascend Whin Rigg we became surrounded by man-eating gorse. The only way to get out was to contour and descend – the opposite of what we wanted to do. Eventually we found a route free of gorse, but the time was taking it’s toll, we’d been out for about 8 hours by this time. After the descent down to Wasdale we made good progress across the farmland and then ascended the other side of the valley near Buckbarrow. After traversing a huge bog we eventually made it to the midcamp about 10 hours after starting out!

The scene at the midcamp in Blengdale

We met Richard there. He’d had to retire after 2 hours because his calf had pulled, so he was suitably fresh to erect tents :-). Over the next few hours, Mark became increasingly horizontal and when food was passed into the tent, it seemed to disappear, which suggested he was still alive and kicking. He also became more communicative, which was a good sign, but he was pretty tired; as was I.

Mastication at midcamp – it was sunny, I got quite sunburnt!

On day 1 we had covered 28.5 km with 1822 m of climb (that’s 17.7 miles with 6000 feet of climb for imperial Mark – although I think his tracker suggested more).

On day 2 we opted for the Wansfell course, which would hopefully follow some slightly easier terrain. We employed Richard as our private photographer for some of the route, hence the photos! Prior to him joining us, he walked cross-country and came across Brian Layton at a control on a waterfall. Brian is one of the many friendly faces of the mountain marathon world. He’s always there and is a legend for completing vast numbers of mountain marathons – this was his 125th!

Brian Layton #mountainmarathonlegend

Our day started with an ascent of Seatallan via Glade How. This was a rather long ascent and it was foggy on top so we didn’t get any rewards. Once we started the descent however we were able to see Pots of the Ashness, which looked amazing. Richard took pictures from the bottom.

Seatallan Ridge

Mark only fell over once… or this is the only evidence we have anyway :-)…

Descent down Seatallan to Pots of Ashness

Our next control was on the side of Haycock and then all was left was a rather rough traverse of Yewbarrow, which eventually led us back to Wasdale Head, where chilli and flapjack awaited us :-).

Mark dibbing at Black Beck
Moving upwards along a wall in front of Yewbarrow
Mark on the bridge – day 2

Day 2 was 17.5 km with about 825 m of climb (that’s 10.8 miles, with 2700 feet of climb for imperial Mark).

Over the two days we traversed a huge circle around Wast Water, we went to a whole load of random places, we made some friends along the way, we saw some of the roughest terrain in the Lakes, we had a giggle and a few tense moments. The ascents, descents and rough terrain tested Mark to the max, but despite this he was relentlessly optimistic and cheerful and carried on regardless, which is just what you need when the going gets tough. Well done Mark!

Setanta Ireland Rogaine 2012

This is the third time we’ve ran the Setanta Ireland Rogaine; the lure of running/orienteering for 24 hours without stopping is somewhat attractive, but it’s not just the challenge that draws us back to Ireland, it’s also the bizarre and random things that always happen when we cross the Irish Sea. This year was no exception.

Our tales of the rogaine had tempted Steve and Tim from the Dark Peak Fell Runners to enter this year’s event and so we met them at the airport in Dublin on Friday morning. After shopping for essential rogaining food (sausage rolls, quiche, currant buns and cereal bars), we headed down to the Wicklow Mountains. After an afternoon walk around Glendalough we headed to the An Oige (Irish YHA) bothy/hostel in Glenmalure on the off-chance that they had space for us to stay. To our surprise, the place was bustling with people when we arrived, but it turned out that everyone had come up to the hostel to watch a performance charting the hostel’s history! The performance was in the common room of the hostel, which was only large enough to hold about 12 people, so the ‘friends of Glenmalure Hostel’ performed twice! Just when we thought they had finished, they announced a third sitting to which we were invited, so our introduction to the hostel was a ghost story about the key figures who endowed the cottage to An Oige. It was really very good and was a great welcome to Ireland.

The Glenmalure youth hostel with the ‘Friends of Glenmalure’ awaiting the next performance

After cups of tea and chatter about the day ahead we had an early night, but not before being perusing the map and being truly grateful that it was ‘detailed’ .. for sure navigation.

We need good navigation ‘for sure’

After a large breakfast we arrived at the event centre at lunchtime and started the race at 2 pm.

Richard and Rachel at the start

Over the next 24 hours we travelled around 90 km (56 miles) on a course that had about 3360 m of ascent. The route that we choose covered most of the Harvey’s Wicklow Mountains Map as you can see below.

The route

I’m not going to describe the whole route in detail because it’s very long, but I’ll mention a few memorable points.
1. It rained extremely hard within 30 minutes of the start of the race. I could almost feel the raindrops doing straight through my waterproof!
2. We saw the Dublin lights in the dark and mist

Sometime late in the evening with the Dublin lights in the background

3. We had tried to choose a route that allowed us to run on the road during the night. Unfortunately this didn’t quite work out, and we passed this section whilst it was still light. This left us with some fairly tricky navigation in the dark. One of these bits was up an extremely steep hill, which took about 1 hr 10 mins to climb. It was so steep that it was almost vertical and it was covered in heather and crags. It was so bad that Richard almost lost his sense of humour and we even considered re-tracing our steps down to come up another way. Nevertheless we persevered and eventually emerged at the top.
4. Our next navigational challenge was a boulder in the middle of nowhere, which we had to find in the pitch dark and fog. Richard took a bearing from a known location and I paced, and amazingly it was exactly where we expected!
5. At 4 am in the morning we ran down a minor road in the middle of nowhere and saw a structure on the road. Richard deviated to check it out, and it turned out to be 4 young blokes who were preparing to skateboard down a really steep hill! Very very bizarre! They didn’t even appear to be drunk!
6. At 4.30 am we ascended the next hill and Richard and I very nearly fell asleep whilst walking.
7. After a beautiful run down a ridge in the early morning, we choose to descend into a valley via a logging track. As we descended, the gorse got denser and denser such that when we got to the bottom, we were well and truly prickled from the waist downwards. I pulled a 5 mm thorn out of Richard’s foot the next day!
8. We slowed down a lot towards the end and we ended up getting back to the campsite 1.5 hours early – there were no more controls within reach.

Overlooking Poulaphouca Reservoir on the first afternoon
The sun finally shines on Lough Dan at 6 am on Sunday morning.

After we finished we feasted on the BBQ supplied by the event organisers and then awaited the results.

It turned out that Steve and Tim won first place! And we won first mixed team (second overall). A great effort by team GB!

This event is legendary – both for impenetrable vegetation (in places) and for a great great challenge. Many thanks to the organisers for putting on a great event and in particular for putting out and collecting in the orienteering controls from literally all over the Wicklow Mountains. I think we might go back and try again at some point.