Trotternish Ridge, Isle of Skye

(I seem to have cleaned up my phone enough for the auto-focus on the camera to work again. Yippee.)

Day 1

I camped in Staffin last night and seemed to be the enigma that got people asking me questions. I’d shown up with only my 25l pack on my back and a small bag of shopping in my hand. They were amazed to see me pull out a tent and start setting up camp.

The Trotternish Ridge from Staffin

It didn’t stop the campground owner from warning me against the teeny walk to the bay – I’d sink into the bog in the shoes I was wearing. LOL!

So this morning I set out first to Staffin Bay from the back of the campground (hardly any bog and only up to the soles of my shoes!) and then along to see Dinosaur footprints (!) and Staffin beach.

Then it was a long road slog to Flodigarry and the start of my ascent into the Quairang. I did enjoy looking up at the ridge as I ticked off the road kilometers – lovely vegetation colours and rock formations.

The ascent was straightforward. I think we went through the lower levels of the Quairang last time, but this time I ascended all the way and headed north to be able to tick off the entire ridge. Lovely clear views! But it was certainly windier than I’d been expecting from the weather forecast.

Now I turned south and went along the ridge. It was a mess of wide mud tracks. And full of enough people dancing around trying to keep their shoes clean that I was annoyed. What an eyesore the mud slick was in this beautiful area.

My plan had been to camp near the Quairang road, just as I’d done last time, but I quickly changed my mind when I got closer. It was heaving with people and had a food truck too. I assumed it would be a popular sunset spot as well, so simply moved on. Clearly this region is a lot more popular than 9 years ago – the Instagram effect mayhap?

At the top of the next summit I had reception so checked the weather forecast as I wanted to know about the winds and gusts. They were higher than previously forecasted – I’d have to make sure I found a sheltered spot for the night. Not long afterwards, as I descended, the weather came in – the rain started and the wind picked up. It looked like it was settling in! I’d just passed a running stream and soon found a relatively sheltered spot (still windy but not battering the tent so much) so got to setting up camp as quickly as possible. As I finished up the rain abated, doh, but 2 mins later it started again for a few hours. I’d made the right call – I hadn’t come up to slog it through the rain ;) Esp when tomorrow was meant to be dry and sunny.

Dinner tonight was random cold things I’d bought from the supermarket yesterday since I wasn’t carrying the pot, gas and stove. I would have had volume issues otherwise. One of the items I bought was a cheese and jalapeno roll. I don’t usually like jalapenos but I figured I’d want something with a bit of kick since I couldn’t make tea. Worked a charm.

Just before sunset the rain eased off so I went to collect water. There were some lovely colours in the sky to the west and I could see the outer Hebrides clearly. I got a fright when I came back to where I thought the tent was but it wasn’t there. I didn’t have my phone on me either or a map. Haha I need to calm down! I walked on another 50m and there it was.

I’ve just brushed my teeth and dived back into the tent as the rain settles in again. Early night for me :D I’ve set the alarm for early o’clock hoping for a good sunrise.

Day 2

This morning’s sunrise was worth getting up at 5:40 for! Cloud inversion galore :D But it was completely still – the midges would be out in force once the sun was up (and they were).

Today was a spectacular day. The views were even better with the cloud inversion, rising clouds, clouds over the sea, etc. I loved it. I can understand why I found it so tough 9 years ago with a 20 l pack – the ridge certainly was a constant up and down, but that wasn’t a problem this time around :D

Trotternish Ridge looking north

I was expecting The Storr to be crawling with tourists but it wasn’t, thankfully. We never climbed to the summit last time, but it certainly is a pleasant top.

I continued along the ridge from Storr all the way to Portree, ticking off the entire Trotternish Ridge. The final part was a bit tedious through farmland, but it was still an amazing outing. I only passed one couple on this section, and they seemed scarred from the lack of track. I was pretty happy with my nav through here – I took the time to try and see all the form lines.

I enjoyed my Sunday Roast at the local hotel for dinner. I was surprised they let me in given how muddy I was!

I am very sunburnt. Who knew Scotland could be so sunny?!

Re-facing one of my toughest days out

If you ask me what my hardest hiking day out has been, I’ll tell you it was the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, in 2010. It’s a truly stunning ridgeline, and also rather undulating. I did what I’ve seen other people since do, I sat down and said I couldn’t walk another step. I really didn’t think I could. It was the second day of our overnight trip up the Quiraing and along the ridge to the Old Man of Storr. I’d just gotten to the top of another hill and could see another one before me. I was out of energy, my feet felt like lead and I honestly sat down in despair wondering how I was going to get out of where we were. If only clicking my heels three times worked. At this stage we were almost out of water¹ and the only road we crossed was first thing in the morning. What a sorry mess.

After sitting down for some period of time, my companion told me that the hill before me was the final one. Eventually I found the willpower to stand up and he helped me get my heavy pack back on. It was about 20kg. I descended the current hill and ascended the next one. I was devastated to see another hill before me. M had lied to me. But it had worked. But now I was sitting down again and wondering how I was going to continue. He assured me that this was *now* the final peak. After much time I got up again, he helped me get my pack on and I helped him with his. We descended and ascended. I was staring at another hill! Whaaaaahhh.

It went on and on. I’m not sure exactly how many more hills I had to ascend after those two but it was many. We descended to the Old Man of Storr carpark on the last rays of sunlight. We’d run out of water hours ago (the guidebook said it was a 6-8 hr walk and we’d been faster on all the other walks in the book – so we hadn’t anticipated this one taking us 12 hours). We only had a can of soup left for dinner. The midges were so bad we couldn’t handle heating it up so we ate it cold in the tent. Creamy mushroom soup :| We camped next to the bus stop so we’d be on the first bus in the morning to Portree and liquid.

What did I learn? That when my brain told me I couldn’t walk any further, I could. And for several hours. That trip shattered a mental wall in my head, which was a turning point for me. It has allowed me to do some pretty epic adventures since. I’m curious to know where the next mental wall is. I ran my first 100km race trying to find it but never did. It’s why I want to run 100 miles one day…

Tomorrow I’m going back up to do the trip again. I’ve got my overnight kit packed and I’m heading out alone. I’m curious to see how tough I rate it this time. My pack’s a lot lighter these days, at most 10kg. There’s an additional 10km with more undulating hills I can add on to the end to take me from Storr to Portree if I still have the legs for it ;)

¹Almost out of water?!?! Scotland is teeming with water! I clearly hadn’t been introduced to the concept of drinking from streams yet. I’m staring at the topo now and laughing at all my drinking water options. My I’ve come a long way. I couldn’t read a topo map back then either :p

Glenfinnan to Knoydart

(I dropped my phone in Inverness which broke the camera casing on it, so no photos on this trip as the camera’s not focusing anymore :( Maybe B will send me some pics?)

B has a buck’s party this weekend in Knoydart, where Britian’s most remote pub is. One can catch the train, bus and then ferry there. But of course, we found a more exciting route – running in from the Harry Potter bridge over the course of 3 days. The weather forecast didn’t look great but hey ho.

This is part of the Cape Wrath trail. Again we planned to avoid most of the bog by going up and over Munros. At this time of year one also has to call the local Rangers to find out if the stalkers are out culling deer in the area. Thankfully not where we wanted to go this week.

We alighted from the train at Glenfinnan about 1pm and it was raining. We set off with the crowds towards the famous viaduct. T’was rather impressive from an engineering perspective.

(The one photo I’ve been sent for now)

After the fire trail ran out we started ascending Sgùrr Thuilm (ask the internet to pronounce that – tres funny!). Great views from the top and lovely ridge tops to be seen. We could also see our bothy for the night, Glenpean. Instead of taking the ridge to the NE and then fire trails around we simply straight lined it for the hut. Awesome.

There was another couple and their dogs already there when we arrived. They thought we had gotten lost – why else would someone be coming down the mountain straight towards the bothy?!?!

The midges were out in force so we collected water and sheltered inside. Finally we had time to do a crossword together. Sadly my knee was cranky with me from the half marathon on Saturday. Why did I run so much road?!

In the morning, the other couple warned us about the bog we’d have to cross to get to the road. He was pointing at B’s socks and worried they’d get wet. LOL. It was nothing like the bog we’d crossed the day before. Bahahahaaa.

Around to A’Chiùl hut we headed. On the way we saw something from a distance that looked like a target and wondered if it was for shooting practice. Then we saw one up close and noticed it had a camera/sensor and was a feed dispenser. Nearby was a tiny shack with a small hole and a side door – it was a lure to attract deer for culling. We saw many more.

We continued on, climbing up to Sgúrr nan Coireachan, the first of our three Munros for the day. We met a 67 year old man on the way up who’d travelled up from England for some Munro bagging. He’s done over 100! The winds were getting stronger as we climbed so we finally stopped to put our Goretex on. We were thankfully for this as it was blowing a gale at the top with sidewards rain (sleet perhaps?). We started off towards the second Munro but quickly called it quits – it was too strong a headwind and just too dangerous on the ridge.

B lead the way cross country to the valley trail. Watching the lines he takes on our trips over here I’m starting to get better at seeing the smaller detail on the maps here. It’s going to be tough going back to Aussie topos! (Now I understand why he’s always complaining about them.)

The rain was not abating so I offered for B to go ahead to the bothy. He’d freeze going at my pace. On we went separately. The rain got steadily heavier but never too heavy. At times the wind was strong even in the valley. I watched as the side creeks started to swell. There were no issues on today’s leg – we had a bridge where we needed it – but tomorrow’s bridge still wasn’t built! (The old one had already been taken down.) Hmmmm!

I was thankful for the bridge when I got to it – no way that creek could have been crossed!

I found this leg quite entertaining. After the pass B and I seemed to be descending at around the same pace. Every time I saw him I coo-eed down to him but got no reply. Sometimes he’d take a photo pointing straight at me but it turns out he never saw me! He was surprised when I entered the bothy not long after him – he’d only just pulled the stove out of his bag to boil tea water.

The bothy was full – a group of 3 Scotsmen and a solo French woman. They had all arrived at 1pm before the rain started. (Smart) They were quite bemused by how soggy we were! This was also the smallest of the bothies so it was a struggle to keep our wet stuff contained in such close quarters – we were hoping no one else turned up!

The boys had been napping but now were trying to start a fire. They kept saying to put another map on, which I found weird. I asked what that was about. Turns out this was night 2 of their 8 day trip on the Cape Wrath trail. They were over it! They planned to exit tomorrow and hence were burning their maps. LOL.

The French lady had a different story – the airline company had lost her bag. She waited in Glasgow for 4 days before buying herself new outdoor kit. But this only left her 3 days for hiking before her return flight. She’d thought to do the Great Glen Way now but someone had recommended Glenfinnan to Knoydart to her. Poor thing didn’t have a stove or her usual camping food. Not that she was phased – she seems like a tough nut.

We got up early to be able to cross the river (2km away) at low tide, to give us the greatest chance of getting across without a bridge. It had rained so much during the night!

We arrived to find an almost finished bridge, which we gladly used. (We later learnt that there is an official opening scheduled for tomorrow. It’s not that close to finished!?!?!) The river was def up but I know I could have crossed it. We had reasonable weather for climbing the pass but it was clear something was coming in as the tops disappeared. Today was forecasted to have gale force winds too, so we decided to skip the two Munros we had planned. Sensibly we put on more clothes before crossing the pass – strong winds and rain on that side!

We ran down the other side and arrived in Knoydart at 10:30am. So this is how the day plays out when one leaves early ;)

We ate and ate and ate at 3 different places. And we put all our things in the drying room. Woohoo dry feet! Cool little town of only 100. Now for a good night’s sleep before I have to disappear tomorrow before all the guys show up for the buck’s party weekend!

Nairn half

The Nairn Highland Games were on this weekend. If you’ve never heard of Caber Tossing before, look it up for I was amazed!

I decided to run the half marathon with another 200 odd people, signing up an hour beforehand. Since I usually only run trails and that involves run-walking, I wanted to see if I could run continuously for 21.2km. There was no excuse to walk as the course was flat!

The aim was to hold a steady, easy pace for the full distance and to not be broken afterwards.

I met a lady called Lyn shortly after the start and we ran the first 5 or so miles together (I’ll leave you to do the maths, like I had to). She was also a trail runner so we distracted ourselves with lots of conversation. At some point Lyn had to go off for a toilet stop so I continued on my own. It was much harder now to stay at a chilled pace, when my thoughts drifted I either slowed down or sped up.

About the 16km mark was the last drinks stop and it was hard for me to start running again after stopping for a drink – I think my legs had had enough of road pounding!

I think the issue was that there was no variety in my step, which I’m used to with trails. So I was using the same muscles the same way for a long time and they had enough. Whenever there was any grass on the side of the road I ran on it. Not your usual road race approach! With 2 km to go I realised I could probably make a 2hr finish so I sped up a tiny bit – coming in at 2h and 30sec. My knees felt like they had been well pounded. Don’t feel any desire to do a full road marathon, that’s for sure!

The goodies bag included a ginger bread man in a kilt. Hehe.

Spent the rest of the arvo parked on the hill watching the Highland Games. T’was fun.

Scottish Highlands 3 day fastpack

We’d planned to do 4 days on the Cape Wrath Trail, but the weather wasn’t playing ball. We just didn’t fancy crossing rivers when they were in spate. So we planned a shorter adventure with many options to bail.

We alighted at Achnashellach at the early hour of 1pm. The later train was half the price of the peak hour train leaving Nairn. We decided we’d bag the Beinn Liath Mhor Munro before circling back to stay at Easan Dorcha bothy described in the book as being more like a shed and cosy for 2 – better for stopping by to cook up a tea than overnighting at.

The climb up to the summit was a good one and the views were very rewarding. So we threw in the Munro, Sgòrr Ruadh, on the other side as well before heading off to the hut. Somewhere in there the sun came out.

The bothy was the perfect midge refuge and was more than big enough for the two of us. There were some cascades nearby but I wasn’t feeling well enough for a swim after collecting water for treating, etc.

Our second day was to Bendronaig Lodge via the low route. We were planning to go over the tops but the wind was epic! We were being pushed down the valley and were finding it tricky to stay on our feet and dodge the rocks. We were also wet through – too much rain even for our goretex. This all sounds pretty bleak but it was actually really wild and fun! Mostly because we knew their was a bothy at the end with fireplaces (4) and wood supplied.

It was great to be able to dry ourselves and our clothes. Definitely my kind of 5 star hotel.

On the third day we exited to Strathcarron. Lots of views and no rain. Such a good adventure :D

World Rogaining Champs 24hr

We arrived in La Molina on Wednesday afternoon, well before Saturday’s race. We were looking forward to doing nothing for a few days! (It’s been a good trip – but we’re ready to be lazy for a few days.)

We’d seen some dodgy characters on our Spanish train when we boarded inside the French border. Nothing happened to us, but they stole the suitcase of another Rogaining couple as the doors were closing. Thankfully none of their passports were stolen, but that suitcase contained her Rogaining shoes!

On Friday we did 2.5 hours on the Model course, which is a mini-practice version of the rogaine outside the embargoed area. It highlighted that this would be more like a 1:25000 orienteering map than rogaining map and that the controls would be more specific/harder. We had a funny chat with a taxi driving waiting to pick up passengers after completing the course. Why are you out here, he asks? This looks just like La Molina where you are all staying. Why drive 15km away?? Hahaha it took us awhile (language barriers) to explain that we weren’t allowed to practice in La Molina and it was good that these hills looked a lot like those hills.

The forecast for the event was terrible but thankfully the worst of it happened while we were planning. Maps were released at 9am and we needed to be through gear check and in the start pen by 11:30. This was later adjusted to 11:40 because of the thunderstorm :|

The map was detailed and large. It wasn’t immediately obvious what route we’d choose nor where we wanted to be for the night section. But it was clear one needed to think about how to cross from the top to the bottom of the map with a major road and train line that we could only cross in a few places.

This was B’s first 24hr rogaine and I had no idea if my foot could handle so much time on feet with so much elevation yet. Therefore our plan was to loop back through the Hash House (i.e. start/finish) during the night and see how we were both fairing. It was clear from the map that this wasn’t the most efficient route – but we knew it would be the best for us. Plus the added bonus of hot food and drinks would be welcomed then and also we wouldn’t have to carry all our race food from the start.

Soon we had a ~16 hour plan that tried to minimise climbing contours and would have us back at the Hash House around 4am. The thunder, lightening and heavy rain was quite atmospheric. Please stop before the start!!!

Thankfully the rain was light as we waited in the start pen after our gear check. I started removing some goretex as I knew I’d get hot as soon as we started.

And then we were off. We found 24 easily enough. The route down to 53 was quite slippery in the rain. Then the detail of the map hit home – we thought we were taking a track all the way around to near the control but suddenly we had a “sea” of waist high stinging nettles in front of us! A squint at the map revealed that the track actually stopped at a contour and started again on the other side….ye-ouch.

After 79 I got on the tow rope and B got us to the top quicker than I’d have managed on my own. (Yes, I’ve finally been convinced to try the tow rope.) 73-95-50 was led by B taking us efficiently (mostly straight-line) through the terrain then we had a decision to make. I wanted to go via 55 (a more gradual climb and easy nav) to the top ridge and B via 85 (pretty steep, harder nav but also more points). We went with 55 in the hope of keeping my foot happy. We came into 55 to find a male participant peeing into the bush right next to the control. This was to be seen many times over the event. Do some men just not think? I can’t imagine any woman squatting down right next to a control to pee!

B was doing a super job as teammate. He popped me on the tow rope for the climbs. Took my poles so I could eat when needed on the climbs. Took my poles so I could stare at the map when needed on the climbs. It’s certainly not easy rogaining with poles – but needs must.

By now we could finally ditch all the goretex and we hoped we’d have dry weather from here on in. 105-45-75 were all straightforward. Our plan was to next smash it down the road to 107. You know how we didn’t get that 80 pointer before Nicole? Let’s go add 63 and 29 on the way to 107. The creek looks lovely to run along. And it was… until the nettles started… hahaha

We stopped at 63 for a timer photo together and a Nutella and banana crepe (thanks Toni!!) We were going great guns!

The leg 63 to 29 involved some climb and negotiating around cliffs. There were a fair few bushes to climb through too. It felt like it took ages to go from 63 to 29 but it only took 16 minutes. B checked in at the control and then I looked down at my wrist in horror at the realisation that my SI Air wasn’t there anymore. The unremovable wrist strap I’d been given to secure it clearly wasn’t unremovable! I wanted to cry – we were now disqualified and we were only 4h20m into the race.

:( :( :(

What should we do? Hunt for a needle in a haystack? Or continue on and pretend it hadn’t happened. I couldn’t narrow down any sections where I knew it was definitely still on my wrist, other than punching the last control.

We agreed we’d loop back and re-do the leg from 63 to 29 in the hope we’d find it. We also agreed to only spend an hour looking. Sadly we didn’t find it so we carried on regardless having lost 50 minutes. This certainly affected my headspace.

As we headed to 107 B had a great idea – why don’t we take a photo of me at every control to prove I’d gone there. He was carrying a camera (our phone was inside a tramper proof bag). (I’ll include some of these photos below. It was cool looking through them all after finishing. Maybe we should do this every rogaine?)

Then 107-83-87, with hail coming down on us as we approached 87. Eeesh. Noone really wanted to get wet again – not much time to dry out again before nightfall. 77-88-W-108. All of this was fine but there were a hell of a lot of farms and electrified fences to climb over/under and cow poo to dodge. We took the roads around to 97, it was kinda fun to run through civilisation. Roads again to 60, where we heard a fair few people struggling to find this control but we got it easily enough.

It was now pizza and head torch time. Roads again to 106 as we started going up up up to wind our way back through the centre of the map and some high pointers. There was even a bit of a trod into 106 by now.

I was using my poles a lot from here and not really assisting with the navigation. Plus I was struggling to stay awake. Thankfully B was all over it. 86-96-56.

Finding control #96 was probably my favourite of the night as I watched B in action. “How are we going to find a specific crag without a spur or gully to lead us into it, and in the dark?!” I asked him. “We’ll go along the road a further ~200m after this road/creek junction and descend to a boulder, use it to contour across to a crag and then climb a few contours above to find the control.” Riiiiiiight…. ! To my amazement we left the road and hit the boulder bang on. The rest was easy after that. Helps having an orienteer in the team :D

We were now feeling pretty cold! It was about 1am and there was a hut nearby with a water refill point. We didn’t need water but we figured we’d head there and get out of the wind to put all our clothes on. I stepped inside and someone asked me “Would you like soup?” YES!!!!! So.good.

I took over on the nav. 68 was tricky but we found it after first being in the wrong ditch :D

We were going to straight line it once we hit the fire trail around to 90 but the terrain didn’t look as the map suggested so we took the road. Shortly after this control I struggled big time – I was so tired. I stopped and took a No Dose tablet (caffeine!)

We decided I’d navigate the next one (#93) to wake me up. I guess I should have read the control description and looked at the map properly before taking off – thankfully it wasn’t too much correction to find the control…

Somewhere on the way to 43 I woke up and was good to go again. Or maybe the dinosaur terror woke me up? ;)

43-33-48 and then back at the Hash House for hot drinks and food at the crazy hour of 4:50am. Apart from losing my SI stick, it’d been a good session.

Coke! Chips! Soup! Pasta! Lollies! Nom nom nom. We sat down to feast. An official came over to us and asked to check our wristbands/SI sticks. I told him what happened and about the photo evidence. To cut a long story short, they then got another official to come over, said I had to go and get a new stick from the Information Building before going out on the course again. Bleh. Then that only our points collected on my new stick would count. This is not the headache I wanted to deal with at 5am. Between that, changing our shirts and socks and eating we were at the Hash House for an hour. Waaaaaaay too long! I was freezing and shaking from the cold. Finally, we headed back out. It was still too early to ditch the headtorches. And miserable to know the bulk of our points wouldn’t count.

We had 6 hours to go and not a clear plan after the first 4 controls, as we’d have to watch the time. We headed off to 24. B was out ahead of me for the first time but I knew we were both pretty cold and needed to warm up! Now the plan was to take the mtb track up towards 71 and cut across from the bend. B put me on the tow rope and we sweated in all our goretex! There were many switch backs, which we were not expecting. At some point B was exclaiming that we shouldn’t be on this track – I didn’t understand why. This was the plan and I wasn’t looking at the map. Turns out we hadn’t seen a track around and through the valley that would have skipped some climbing (that’s how detailed the map was). And he must have figured out that the mtb trail wasn’t mapped correctly, which I’m only seeing now as I look at the gps track. B started contouring over as we exited the mtb track and was swearing at the bushes. I wasn’t sure why he was being so uncommunicative and grumpy all of a sudden. I asked and he said his knee was grumpy. Why the hell did he offer the tow rope to me?! I wasn’t going to use it again.

B was up the next hill and waiting for me again. I felt like I was really holding him back now, which I hadn’t felt during the first 17 hours of the rogaine. I was determined to get some communication happening again so I made a suggestion to contour around to 62. B snapped that that was adding too much distance. I regretted listening to him as we made our way down a steep section and back up the other side. I think he regretted it too as he stopped to take pain killers for his knee. Oh dear, this is not going well.

Now we said we’d contour around to 82. B was off again and I just couldn’t look at the map and keep up so I put my map away. Not that I could keep up without a map either! He then asked me where I wanted to go after 82 so I tried keeping up and figuring out a route for the rest of the rogaine but couldn’t keep up at all. We got onto a small section of mtb track and then back off again as the attack point into the control. There was a lot of rock around and a nice big cliff, and there was only one set of cliffs marked on the map. The control we were looking for was at the foot of an 8m cliff, which was basically what we were looking at but there was no control. B threw a tanty here, the biggest I’ve seen from him in any scenario, and it finally dawned on me that he was tired and not on top of things anymore! I should have realised much sooner!! He was swearing at small bushes before!! I felt fine, just still couldn’t match his pace. I hadn’t been watching the map and assumed he was in the right place so I had a scout around but it wasn’t there. Which meant there was a shit tonne of rock not mapped. B was over the control and wanted to blow it off and go and get 92. I was not going to do that – one we couldn’t be far from the control and two I was not handling his change in mood at all. I suggested going back to the mtb track and trying again and his snappy response was not pro to this idea at all. I did it anyway and saw that we had not gone far enough. So we kept contouring – I was feeling guilty for dragging him around with a sore knee and tiredness, esp since the sore knee might have been because of having me on the tow rope. I knew he had a 30km run next weekend pacing his friend who was running his first miler – so I felt I should back off and cut the rogaine short. We hadn’t seen the control yet and I was doubted my navigation so we sat down to have a rest and talk about going back early. This gave me a chance to think … I had observed many teams climbing up the hill but not right near us … surely the control wasn’t far away. Another 10 paces and I saw it. We’d made such a shambles out of that!

From here I told B we’d just head back to the Hash House and finish early. It’s not like we were competitive given the stick searching, hour at the hash house and now having a series of route choice blunders. His knee did really look like it was giving him a lot of grief now. So we took it easy getting down to the road and then along to 69. We were trying to remember the forbidden hours for using the mtb tracks: was it 7am-10pm, 10am-7pm, or something else?! Why wasn’t the time written on the map?! It was on my phone but that was back at the hotel…

Control 69 was dead easy. For 38 we decided to avoid the mtb trail since we couldn’t remember the times, and in hindsight the route we chose wasn’t the best one. I had in mind what we’d do but B was off in front again. This is the gully to which I told him I didn’t think we’d been far enough but he convinced me otherwise. But the nagging voice in my head made me question so I looked a little further along and realised that no, we hadn’t been far enough. When we found the gully it was very defined! From here it was straightforward down to 25, our last control. Which had human faeces next to it :( I presume it was a non-participant unimpressed with the flag there???

We ran a little of the flat streets – I was very impressed at how my legs were doing. Then we rounded the final, uphill street to the control. B wanted us to run it ?!?! I think he was disappointed when I started walking half way up. We were 1h15m early, why did we need to run?!?! So we walked until most of the way and then he convinced me to run to the finish. If I’d know he was going to do that, I would have made him go to more controls ! Hurrumph ;)

When we finished at 10:45 in slightly frustrated moods they told us they’d allow our score if the gps proved we went back to search for the stick! Yay. We later learnt that we weren’t the only ones to lose a stick either. Third place in the Junior men’s did too – they didn’t bother going back to search and were still awarded their score and place because the person who lost his stick was also carrying the gps. Another team lost their stick when changing shirts but thankfully noticed.

So, in summary, it was pretty epic! We’d executed a good 16 hour route – but need to work on the final hours. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop at the Hash House before the finish ever again! Too difficult to get started again. We did just over 70km with 4000m of vert and came 115th of 386 teams. We came 34th from 142 mixed gender teams. Not bad for B’s first 24 hr event, finishing early, and searching for a needle in a haystack. And I could still walk the next day!! Longest day out in 2 years :D

We headed back to our hotel for a shower. On the way B was looking at me strangely as I burst out laughing for no apparent reason. I’d just had a rather funny conversation in my head. Something along the lines of “Gosh I’m feeling a bit tired today and in need of a nap, I wonder why” to which I answered myself “Durr, you didn’t sleep last night”. Hahahahahaaaaaa.






Boating down the Aare

C still has the rubber boat I gave to her when I left Bern years ago. She wasn’t sure if her puncture repair was sound after its last outing 2 years ago (!) but we decided to take the boat out regardless.

There were a fair few others preparing to launch, but not as many as I’ve seen in the past. I guess the forecast just wasn’t warm enough.

And we were off – 3 hrs floating down the river and only needing the paddles 5 or so times to negotiate bridges. Plenty of time for grapes and beer.

So much fun !

We set the boat up to dry at Eichholz and then floated up the river for gelato and walked the 1km or so back with it. Lovely day out :)


I’ve written about this adventure in the past. Today we alighted at Wimmis and summited the Stockhorn. We didn’t see a thing from the top. But we certainly enjoyed watching many baby marmots play – what a treat. And who can’t resist hiring a scooter from a farmer at the top of the mountain and descending 1500 vm to the train station where one simply leaves the scooter on the side of the road in a designated area. B loved it. Welcome to Switzerland!

Lairig Ghru race – Cairngorms NP

We were picked up at early o’clock by someone from the local running club, who was already giving another person a lift. This saved us having to catch public transport the night before. The weather was lovely and the views along the 2hr drive were stunning.

We’d been warned not to expect the race to start on time. After everyone has arrived, done a gear check and collected their race numbers, they get everyone together and then call out the race numbers one by one to double check the number of starters?!? Thankfully this year they simply moved people from one side of the roundabout to the other – last year they lined people up along the road and had to move them every time a car came.

On queue it started raining as soon as the start was announced at 10:03. Only 3 mins late this year (for our friend it was 30 mins when he did it 2 years ago).

I was rather worried about the 1.5hr cut-off to the 14km drink station. I basically had to maintain 10km/hr even with the 250m of vertical ascent. Not something I generally do. That would give me a small buffer of 6 mins should I need it.

I chose to start 3/4 of the way along the pack and tried to stay there. The logic being, so long as I’m not last I should make it.

The crowd around me were doing about 5 to 5:15 min kms, so I found myself being overtaken a bit but managed to hold most of my ground until Mar Lodge (~6.5km). It was only a gradual hill so manageable. But my ITB was grumbling from the ~5km mark (uh-oh).

My entertainment was the number of people already taking stops to pee behind any clumps of trees we passed.

Now there were the odd sharp climbs. And my ITB wasn’t settling unfortunately. I would have slowed down if I wasn’t worried about the cut off. On one section I cracked out my poles and someone immediately asked me if they really were allowed and made some mutter about cheating. Puh!

More and more people overtook me as I continued on. I was really looking at the watch and doing the maths now – the back of the pack couldn’t be far off! It was a good distraction trying to convert “miles to go” into kilometres to go.

Thankfully I made it to the drinks stop with 5 mins to spare. Phew! I could now back off the pace a bit. Incredibly I saw a whole bunch of people after the drinks break. It seems a lot of other participants were chilling out now too – and just walking now that they were on single track and past the cut off!

In recent days I had had a conversation with B about this drinks cut-off – I couldn’t understand how one couldn’t make the 6 hr overall cutoff if they made the 1.5hr at 14kms cut-off. Yet last year a good 15 people finished between 6 and 7 hours. Only time would tell what time I’d do.

Heading up the climb I started ticking people off and would continue to do so all the way until the pass summit.

The weather was quite atmospheric with cloud about and the views were still grand. T’would be good to go back on a sunny day and see it without the clouds too. It was also lovely single track on the climb, and at a small enough gradient that I was able to run a fair amount of it. A number of participants were stopping to put on more clothes as there were rain spells and a bit of wind, but I felt like I was just warm enough not to need to stop.

Nearing the top I was doing less running and so I cracked out the poles again. There were quite a few people looking on with envy as I overtook them – someone even asked how much I wanted for one pole. Hehe.

Right near the top there were some small boulder fields to negotiate but it was all pretty straightforward – I guess I was expecting something much harder in my head. Soon I was across the top and into the full ferocity of the wind! Eeesh. Now for a casual 14km of downhill, while being blown uphill.

There weren’t too many people around me and the occasional intersection so I got my map out to stay on route. Unlike races I’ve done in the past, this one was very casual with no markings. It was on my head to know where to go! I liked it so.

Soon I was back in the forest and overtaking a number of blokes suffering from cramp. Soon I would join them as my ITB aus enough is enough at the 37km mark. It was a struggle fest to keep running the final 5km but I managed it. Managed it in 5hr25mins.

I was quite achy that evening but now feeling fine again. Lots of rest now. Starting with my German host mum the next 2 nights and then the wedding – so lots of eating and socialising!

Some photos below from B: