Tuesday, 14 June 2011

LAMM 2011 - Beinn Dearg

Thursday lunchtime last week, and the old F5 key took a bit of a bashing as I kept refreshing the LAMM web page to find out where I was going for the weekend. I'd more or less worked out that it had to be out near Ullapool or Gairloch based on the travel times, but it was great to get that confirmed and spend some time checking out maps and photos of the Beinn Dearg area - very excited by that point.

And it was a great weekend. I managed not to be too traumatised by the inevitable childbirth stories on the car trips and the girls were great travelling companions - thanks so much to Fiona for doing all the driving. Still, it's a long and winding road and I was glad when we reached the campsite and even happier to find M1nty who already had the tent up meaning that there wasn't much for me to do except register, buy a spork (I'd managed to forget mine) from the shop that sold everything you could need, and go for food and beer before bed.

We were woken by the sound of a piper in the morning and after breakfast, it was off to the bus to be taken to our starting point. I'm planning a longer blog post with more analysis, route details, lessons learned etc (as much for my future reference as for anyone else to read, but some might find it interesting) so for now, I'll just say that we set off for what turned out to be a tough, demanding, but highly rewarding day in the hills. There seemed like a lot of steep climbs, difficult terrain, river crossings etc., but the pay off was some fabulous views, a Munro (Seana Bhraigh) to be bagged, the company of a good friend and brief chats with many nice people. Throughout the day, I took on the role of navigator and marched off through the heather with map in hand and M1nty following a few steps behind. I think he was suffering more than I realised at the time, but kept pushing himself on - a great effort. By the time we were heading for the last couple of checkpoints - with mid-camp in sight - the weather turned against us and I made a couple of navigational errors, so we were delighted to get to the finish and get the tent up. My feet were cold and wet so I got into my sleeping bag as quickly as possible to warm up and then didn't get up until the next morning (cooking was done in the porch of the tent, greetings to Rhino and Fiona were done by shouting through the tent wall, and thankfully I didn't need to go to the loo so was able to stay cozy).

My bladder finally needed some attention at about 4am on Sunday so I was up early and got the water for cooking breakfast while the sun was still low in the sky but it was a beautiful dawn. At 5am, Martin (event organiser) started telling everyone about the sunrise (through a megaphone) and soon heads were popping out of tents and massive queues were forming for the toilets. Breakfast was cooked, the tent was struck, bags were repacked and we were away soon after 6:30, ready for another long day of scouring hill tops for orange flags - or so it seemed. After the first wee (relatively) climb, M1nty admitted that he was struggling with the terrain and wasn't sure how long he was going to be able to continue. We had a short break to talk it over and decided to continue, taking advantage of a path round the hill which was slightly longer but still got us to the first cp in good time. That was followed by a couple of km on a good track (we actually ran a bit here) before another steep climb and then I made a mistake which meant we overshot the cp. At this point, M1nty decided he really wasn't going to manage to complete the day - from a guy who has completed two 50+ mile races this year and who has shown his strength and determination many times, I knew it must have been a hard decision for him, but it was the sensible option so we plotted a route that would take us down a track to the road and back to the event centre - it continued to be a pleasant trip with chat and some lovely views of An Teallach. We were passed by a few pairs from the score class, including two lovely old ladies who I think had a combined age of 133!

Back at base, we did what we do best and tucked into some food and a couple of pints of beer until the prize giving - something I often don't get to see in races! As the prizes were being handed out, Liz and Jo finished strongly - they'd made up a few places from their position on Saturday and did brilliantly for a couple who claimed to have almost no idea how to use a compass. M1nty decided to go and thumb a lift to Inverness so we said our farewells, he set off, and the three of us who were left had some more beer, took down the tents and waited for Rhino and Fi to finish. They managed to stay out in the hills just long enough to get us worried, but just in time to get photos taken before the flags were removed. They'd had a tough time looking for one of the controls and were tired and a bit emotional but soon, we were on our way home.

So, strictly speaking, another dnf, but the way I see it, it was a fine weekend out in the hills, surrounded by stunning scenery, and in the company of good friends, and it just doesn't get much better than that!

(Pictures on this page courtesy of M1nty - my pictures here)
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