Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A Walk In The Park - Part 1

My plan had been to take part in a Mountain Marathon next year, but then I found out about the Grampian Mountain Challenge and wondered if it might be fun. And then I saw these photos and had a good look at the map and decided it could be a lot of fun - it would mean chickening out from the "battles of the shanksis" at the Aberdeen Fetch Mile, but that was OK. So all I had to do was find a partner (or at least someone I knew to chat to at the camp), a tent that would withstand some dodgy weather and a sleeping system that would stop me freezing to death overnight. Unfortunately, the likely candidates were all busy that weekend (or so they tell me!) so it wasn't looking good, then with a couple of days to spare, Bruce mentioned that he'd been talking with the organiser about it, and he agreed to team up with me. Suddenly, it was all back on, and instead of looking at a bumbling jog across the hills, I was teamed up
with a speedy hill runner and experienced Mountain Marathoner. Gulp! On the plus side, Ian the pimp agreed to let Big Agnes come with me, and Thelma help to keep me warm. Those girls plus my old sleeping bag, liner, and extra clothes would hopefully be enough to prevent hypothermia despite Ian's grave predictions!

After a week of constantly changing weather forecasts (snow, rain, sun and high wind with 90mph gusts had all been predicted for the area), it turned out to be relatively benign on the day which was good. Bruce had a dodgy calf and I had a sore toe which was not so good but we registered and headed for the start in good spirits, looking forward to whatever the day would bring.

Day One, Part One - 1:10000

At the start we were given an orienteering map, and a sheet of paper to explain what the heck all the colours on the map meant, and so we set off into the forest with the simple task of trying to follow a path to near the first control - within five minutes we were on the wrong path (the right path took a left without letting us know) but a quick adjustment took us back in the right direction and the orange and white flag was soon spotted. Checkpoint 1 successfully dibbed (is that the correct word?), a look at the map says we need to go thattaway! Up that ludicrously steep looking hill? Errr, yes. Eeek. Not for the last time, we set off up a steep slope with Bruce easily pushing ahead and me scrambling to catch up - I'm really not sure how this partnership would have worked if he'd been fully fit. Anyway, we found the next couple of controls easily enough and were soon down at the transition point without much further incident.

Day One, Part Two - 1:40000

New map, different scale, different symbols and longer distances between control points. I had to laugh as I marked up the map - we'd given Ali (GMC planner) a lift to the event, and I'd asked him about how high the course would take us. "Fairly high up" he'd said, not giving away that we'd have to get to the top of Culardoch at 900m, the highest point in the whole area. But that was three control points away so off we went into the mountains. Along the tar road! Which may sound a bit like cheating, but one thing I learned over the weekend is that roads and tracks are quicker to move along than knee-deep, snow-covered heather (who'd have thought it?). So, we made our way up to the control which turned out to be in the middle of a muddy bog which I managed to step into, up to my knee. Bugger! This let water get inside my SealSkinz socks which was a bad thing and contributed to me feeling like I was going to get frostbitten toes. I hit a real low on the way up Culardoch - the cloud had come down a bit, my feet were cold, and energy levels were low. Bruce made sure I was still eating and drinking and helped by rubbing some warmth into my foot which helped a lot, but not as much as finally getting to the trig point, dibbing the control, and seeing the visibility improve. Then it was a fun but tiring charge down the hill through knee deep snow to the gate in the fence and on to find the last control point of the day - I think we missed it by a small margin but didn't lose too much time curving back round for it before heading for the path down to the camp. It was great to see the marquee and a few wee tents springing up as we jogged down towards the wee rickety bridge and across to the finish. It was even better when we were told to go and upload the times in the lodge where they had a log fire going.

To be continued....
Post a Comment