May 07

Some running in the coe

I got out and about on the hills at the weekend. Buachaille Etive Mòr is really a ridge of four tops and Buachaille Etive Beag, the smaller twin, is a couple of tops. They are probably normally tackled as two day walks, but they aren’t too savage and fit quite nicely together.

Since this was one of my first days out this year I was keen to make sure I felt strong, so I took it pretty easy up the tourist path. A few weeks ago I felt awful on an abortive Arrochar run and I wasn’t keen for that again. It’s pretty straightforward, if rocky, climbing which pops you out just below the top of Stob Dearg. Feeling fit, I cruised along the tops on the ridge (more likely because there’s hardly any ascent…) and back again to the Allt Coire Altruim for dropping down to the Lairig Gartain.

From here, I headed up on some wetter ground to get the Wee Buachaille’s tops. My lazy winter legs were feeling tired, but some food sorted that out and I was soon enjoying the awesome views to the north, taking in the Ben, the Grey Corries and the Mamores which are all part of a big day out I’m wanting to do later this year: Tranter’s Round. More on that later, but for now – see the note.

After absorbing the views for a while (and a few Penguin bars), I had a nice cruise back down to the Lairig and then more gently back to the car, all the while feeling like a fit mountain machine. I can’t kid myself, this was a pretty easy paced and gentle run, but that was point after the dismal attempt in Arrochar and things just felt right. In fact, I was totally psyched all the way home, marred only by getting yet more tick bites – I hate those little bastards.

Note: I’ve shelved plans to run Ramsay’s Round this year. I could say that since I’ve started going out with my totally snazzy new girlfriend, I haven’t been out as much, and I guess that is true, but to be honest I think realism has taken hold. Or is this all just a handy excuse to be soft?

Sep 06

Loch Treig hills

Another weekend, another day in the hills. The weather was awesome for a round of the Loch Treig munros – I got a suntan while my friends in Edinburgh were contending with fog. Wicked.

Looking down Lock Treig

The second third of Ramsay’s Round was a total contrast to last weekend. Setting off from Fersit, I trudged up the pathless, boggy and heather covered Stob Coire Sgriodain (which has lovely views to Loch Treig, once you get to the top), then nipped over to Chno Dearg. I descended by the stream near Meall Garbh, but I think I will try just dropping down the ridge, or maybe the stream, from the top of Chno Dearg next time – it would probably be about the same and would shave a little off the distance. Climbing to Beinn na Lap was gentle and straightforward and I expected to have the top to myself. Instead, I arrived at the same time as a party of about fifteen who went on to celerbrate someone’s last munro. I politely declined the champagne and headed down through more bog towards the fireroad and rail tracks below.

From there, a lovely few kilometres of scenic track got me to the bottom of the vague ridge that climbs Stob Coire Easain. Really, I was a bit dumb – I should have carried on along the track until I got to the bottom of the Stob Ban descent, so that I could have climbed the same route as when running the whole round, but I was starting to feel it a bit and I just wanted to get back to the car. As it turned out, I was hit with a severe bout of tiredness on the climb, like I experienced on Ben Macdui a few months ago. After some food and five minutes off (and some digestion time) I felt a bit better, but it felt like a long climb up into the clouds. Stob a’ Choire Mheadhoin, the final hill, was nice and easy but the descent was not. It involved far too much traversing for my liking, which game me a really sore ankle. Eventually, enough was enough and I dropped down to the east and ran round the dismantled tramway back to the carpark.

So, mixed reactions to the day but generally all positive – made me realise that I really, really need to sort out the eating/food situation for longer runs and I would like to work out a better descent route to Fersit too. On the other hand, I wasn’t that tired when I got back to the car, having done a little over twenty miles and about 7500 feet of ascent, so I’m definitely getting fitter. Which is just aswell, because I’m starting to realise that this Ramsay’s Round thing, even without a time limit, is an absolute monster!

Route profile

I suspect the distance is over-estimated. I should really be using an SVG here, but some folks use IE (and I doubt they’d want to install the plugin).

Sep 06

Ben Nevis to the Grey Corries

Last weekend was glorious weather so I dodged home early from the pub and went running in Lochaber on Saturday. The plan was to run about a third of the Ramsay Round as a recce for next summer and just a good day in the hills.

I woke later than planned (didn’t dodge away that early) and only managed to start running from the Ben Nevis car park around 11am. The Ben seemed even busier than usual, with around a hundred people on the summit who were hip-hip-hooraying about something, so I was really glad to start dropping down to Carn Mor Dearg. After going off in a spak direction, I got to the arete which was rocky so I took it easy (I’m a bit soft when it comes to running on rocks). Steeper terrain leads down and then back up to Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag (water available at the bealach), which provided a great view of the approaching Grey Corries and the Mamores, which are the final stage of the round. Descending from Aonach Beag provided a bit of steepness and could perhaps be tricky to find in poor weather, but the Grey Corries involved less vertical action and were straightforward, despite the rockier ground and me feeling tired, until coming down from Stob Choire Claurigh when I got lost on a grim boulder field. Climbing Stob Ban was short but a three steps forward, two steps back affair and I was very glad it was the last hill. On the home stretch now, dropping down to the lairig was a complete joy – soft earth and heather made for a fast and delightful contrast to the rocks from the rest of the day, which just left the 7km downhill firetrack to the road.

As I approached the road, the light was fading fast and my plan to hitch back to the Fort (and the car!) was looking dubious. I was especially concerned as I realised I had left all my money in the car and that my phone had no battery left. I wasn’t really looking forward to having another ten miles to cover. Fortunately, I spied some walkers just getting in their car.

“I wouldn’t normally do this” I lied, “but I was wondering if you can give me a lift to Fort William.”

They were a little taken aback, but fortunately they were cool and had recognised me from the ridge (they were going the other way and had decended from Stob Coire Easain). After a decent chat about hills, I was back at the car and went direct to the chippy then necked a can of Red Bull for the drive home. Forty-five minutes later I was asleep in a lay-by. I woke up at 2am, headed home and sunk into my bed – I was knackered.

Aug 06

Cairgorm 4000ers

I ran the 4000 foot hills in the Cairngorms yesterday (Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui and Cairn Gorm). It’s the classic and most obvious round in the Cairngorms and was one of the best days I’ve ever had in the mountains. Brilliant running and definitely recommended.

Although it’s far from being a properly long run, it was a spot on introduction to longer distances in the mountains for me. I took it steady, but felt pretty good and definitely had some more miles in my legs (although maybe not too much more ascending…). I’m totally hyped for this stuff and I’ve got some cracking monster days out in the works for next summer.

The Scottish Hill Runners website reckons it is 25 miles and 7600 feet of ascent, but I parked a bit closer and so probably did a couple less (but I also took in Sgor an Lochan Uaine, which I don’t think they counted).

What an excellent day out.

Jun 06

Ring of Steall

Mike coming up An Gearanach

Ran the excellent Ring of Steall with Tweedley yesterday. It starts from Glen Nevis, goes through Steall Meadow and up onto the ridge behind the waterfall, taking in a bunch of tops before dropping back down into the Glen. It’s been on my hit list since last year so it was extra-great to get it done. We both felt OK fitness wise, but the start the ridge was a bit too rocky for decent running (although Mike seemed to manage to float over the rocks on the descents pretty well).

The only real let down was that Mike’s knee started playing up on Sgurr a Mhaim, so he dropped back down to the glen early (or not as it turns out). I necked an energy spunk and went up Stob Ban and down that ridge instead, mistakenly taking in an extra munro. If I’d bothered to look at the map, I would have realised there was only one more on that side of the ridge and headed over that way while I was up there (shrug).

It was a quality run though and I’m pretty psyched for more.

Here’s a Flickr set for some photos. Mike has a few words and few more photos too.

Dec 05

Wales and some more hill running

I went down to Wales for a few days to visit my very good friend Kate the weekend before last and had a wicked time. She was at work on Friday which gave me a chance to get out on the bike. Unfortunately, Thursday night saw a dump of snow that was heavy enough to prevent me getting anywhere other than Penmachno, a purpose built 22km loop. It was a warm day so, although there was fair bit of snow, it was melting and the views were great but the trails managed the remarkable task of being like Glentress red but even more boring. In the evening we went to a Chinese for a meal with some of Kate’s pals who all seemed pretty cool. Much cooler than me: being the food hoover that I am, I managed to eat something with nuts in it which made me go home and feel ill for a few hours – boo.

Kate and me on Llandudno pier

Saturday and Sunday we hung about, drove round Snowdonia, looked at cool castles, watched the whole of Family Guy season one in one sitting, drank wine and ate nice food. Ace. Kate’s posh new house made me quite jealous though.

Kate was back to work on Monday and I managed to sneak a run in before my train back up north. Snowdon lived up to its name, but was still do-able in running gear despite pish visibility and me not having a map… Got some pretty strange looks from ice-axe and crampon equiped hill-walkers on the summit and then met another runner, as surprised to see me as I was to see him, who turned out to be a local policeman and general nice guy called Tom. If you’re going to get into crime, probably don’t do it in Wales – they have police hill-running teams and races down there! He was going back via a different, slightly longer route (we both came up the Llanberis path – but hadn’t seen each other!), so I decided to join him. Running downhill on snow was a pleasure and Tom gave me some useful hill running advice. Tom got a couple of cracking looking photos on the way down, which I’m hoping he’ll e-mail me. I got back to the car feeling pretty fresh, although it was a fairly relaxed pace. Guess not drinking vodka and Red Bull until 3am the night before (like the last time I went hill running) really does help.

Last weekend, Mike Tweedley and I went running up Schiehallion. The surprisingly steep ascent was over pretty quick. There was the expected snow and mist at the top, which made running over the jagged rocks of the summit ridge a hit and miss broken ankle affair, so we didn’t. Then we dropped down the (steep) back side of the ridge aiming for the summit of Geal Charn. After ages of squelching through bog in the mist we gave up, declared the map “pish” (although I’m sure we were to blame) and headed into Gleann Mor for the tough heathery run back to the car. Hard work, much harder than the 15km suggests, and not a recommended run, but we learned a fair bit and I’m super-psyched for some more running in the mountains. I really want to do some longer runs, but I don’t think this is the time of year to start pushing myself like that.

Oct 05

Ben Cruachan

Running on Ben Cruachan

Life has been even more busy than usual for the last couple of months. Way too much to talk about here (and some stuff I don’t want to) which is a shame, but it’s been great – I’ve been out partying loads and made some really cool new friends and the latest couple of things we’ve worked on at work have been really satisfying. I haven’t biked as much as earlier in the summer, but I have started to get more into running and I’m hyped for some hardcore swim-bike-run action this winter.

Turns out I’m not the only climber getting into running recently – I met Mike T and Tom from SC on their way back from a run in the Pentlands the other day. Mike L has been getting out too and we decided to go for a quick traverse of the Aonach Eagach last weekend as a nice introduction to scampering about in the hills (we’ve got a half baked plan to go for the Cuillin Ridge in a day next year). Unfortunately the weather forecast wasn’t playing ball and, since 40mph winds and skinny ridges aren’t the best bedfellows, we decided to go for Ben Cruachan instead. More like fast and light mountaineering than full on fell-running, but it felt wicked. Any big hills I’ve been up recently have been with a bike on my shoulder and in previous years a sack full of climbing gear. With a little Camelbak and running shoes it was bouncy, it felt like dancing up the hill. Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games – on the summit ridge we got the full brunt of the wind and the snow was really stinging our faces. It got pretty damn cold and did a good job of highlighting the chinks in my clothing armour! Despite the hour of grim cold, we had a good time. We felt like we’d stepped straight out of a North Face catalogue and I think we’re both pretty inspired for getting more done.

Lessons learned:

  • Fast and light is a great feeling in the hills
  • Running with a Camelbak is surprisingly good
  • Decade old pertex tops with the windproof properties of a tea bag don’t cut it
  • Neither do the wooly gloves Gran knitted when I was wee