Tuesday, 12 June 2012

LAMM 2012 - Ben Cruachan

The Midges' Story

The midges of Argyll salute Lowe Alpine for their generosity to the local economy. We feasted on blood in the tents, one the field, by the Kinglass, and in the queue for the toilets. Mmm soft human flesh - more palatable by far than the tough skins of sheep and deer!

Craig's Story

Base camp:


I rarely venture up the west coast these days, and had completely forgotten one of my old golden rules: Don't camp in the west Highlands in summer. Before we even left the car at a field near the head of Loch Awe and saw the race marshalls in midge hats and gloves I remembered why. Our base camp tent was quickly raised - it heartened me to see a few other Vango Force 10s on the site, orange canvas as weathered as the checkpoints we were to seek the next day. I wouldn't want to carry a Force 10 up a hill, but the groundsheet is so solid you could row across Loch Awe in one. We checked in, and although worried our progress might be unacceptably pedestrian for what is, after all, a race, the marshall assured us this would not be a problem, so we stuck with the C course, rather than switch to the D course. A few pints from the bar, the sight of some faces last seen over a decade ago (hello Kirk of the Antarctic), and an early night.

Taynuilt Peak, Saturday:


Saturday dawned dull and breathless, a miasma of midges hanging over the field. The queue for the toilets was like a scene from a circle of suffering in The Inferno, one edited at the draft stage because it made Dante laugh too much. Oh for a midge hood! We expected rain, but by the time our bus arrived to take us to - who knows where? (not having experienced a mountain marathon before, we had naively assumed we would start from the campsite) the sun had triumphed and the weather was superb from start to finish. Navigation was easy as a result. We were decanted at Cruachan Dam - a spectacular starting point - and had a look at the checkpoint coordinates handed out to us as we stuck our dibbers in the start mark. Lots of contouring! The route went, roughly: Cruachan dam, contour up and round the base of the Taynuilt Peak, round to the Lairig Noe and up Beinn Eunaich, then down to Glenkinglas Lodge via Meall Beithe. At the first checkpoint we took a slightly different route to most others which worked well, but thereafter found ourselves largely following the crowd. This method had its risks however, as people wandered up and down the Allt Lairig Lanachan looking for checkpoint 4, 100m lower than it actually was. We were fooled into looking for it in this location as well for a while, until a glance at the map revealed we were wasting time.

Skull, near Allt Lairig Lanachan:


Speaking of wasting time - did any other teams stop for lunch or was that a tactical mistake? Having brought sandwiches we stopped and enjoyed them at the top of Lairig Noe, watching a brave pair attempt a contour around to checkpoint 4 instead of dropping 100m and taking the landrover track.

Checkpoint 4 was the fulcrum of this day, as just before and afterwards we slowed considerably, watching the trail of pain ascend the slopes of Beinn Eunaich. A great view from the top when we arrived, and relatively easy ground all the way back. What a fantastic area this is in good weather. We chatted to an Irish team who had done the C course four times and claimed this was the hardest yet. I heard a distant crackle of a walkie-talkie near checkpoint 5 but couldn't see the source. Later, a helicopter arrived, and on reading the LAMM website I realised this was for Thijs De Jong. Get better soon Thijs!

Beinn Eunaich view:


It was all downhill from checkpoint 6, though we were reluctant to arrive, conscious that the longer we spent on the hill, the less time we would have to spend at a midge-infested midcamp. But miraculously, a small breeze greeted us on arrival and we were able to get the tent up and have a dip in the river Kinglass unmolested! How fine it was sitting outside the tent, chatting to friends on the Score course, whose eyebrows raised as my partner Graham produced a bottle of wine from his rucksack to go with dinner. Unfortunately at that point the wind dropped, and we retired early to our borrowed tent, midges circulating freely within.

Checkpoint 6:


A word about camping. I have heard it bandied about by people who don't know what they are talking about that camping is supposed to be fun. This is missing the entire point about camping. Surrounded by 400 snoring runners and ten million midges, and hoping nobody completely unconnected with the race had decided, purely by chance, to have a nice remote camp in this exact area, I drifted off to sleep thinking of the great improvement this experience was bringing to our characters.

For Sunday - click here.

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

You make it all sound so tempting Robert.
Pity I,m too old :)
Good effort though.
Found out recently the ingredients of skin so soft have been altered.