Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Lochaber Cow Hill Race

For the benefit of the uninitiated Mountain Festivals are usually presented by people who do extreme ‘ard as nails stuff to an audience full of ‘ard as nails people who do extreme ‘ard as nails stuff. And I sometimes go along too.
Usually the talks are all about climbing and the big scary adventures that climbers get up to but this year Fort William Mountain Festival held a hill running night.
First up was a film about The Dragon’s Back, an epic multi day mountain race along the mountainous spine of Wales and it really is as tough as it sounds. In fact it’s tougher than it sounds. Only 30 of the 100 plus entrants actually finished and these were the crème de la crème of long distance mountain runners and, in true mountain festival style, there were plenty of pictures of breath taking scenery and sharp intake of breath injuries, mainly to feet. Come to think of it even the winners looked more exhausted than elated on crossing the finish line. It was a stunning film and did have quite an inspirational affect…maybe one day…Reality check required!


If that whets your appetite then the dvd can be purchased through the Dragon’s Back Race Website

Next was Manny Gorman talking about his self powered round of all the Corbetts in Scotland over a couple of months in the summer of 2009, These are hills of between 2500 – 3000ft and there are 219 of them, they are much more widely dispersed throughout Scotland than are the Munros just to make things more difficult. Manny was backed up by partner Brenda and the trusty campervan and as this trip was entirely self powered it entailed cycling between the hills where the distances were too great to run but fortunately someone talked him out of the idea of sailing between the Scottish islands in a dinghy and he used a proper sailing boat. Manny put on a very entertaining talk about his adventures with plenty of pictures of breath taking scenery and sharp intake of breath injuries (can you see a theme developing here?) including a borderline case of trench foot although I was very glad that there were no pictures of the intestinal parasites. Yes really. You can read all about it in his book which is available from http://www.mannygorman.co.uk/

Buy Manny's book at www.mannygorman.com (no, i'm not working on commission...)
 Finally there was a question and answer session with Finlay Wild, the current record holder for the traverse of the Skye Ridge in summer, and with Donald King and Guy Steven who were part of the team that holds the record for the winter traverse of the ridge. (happily no gory injury photos here just plenty of breath taking scenery photos)

It was a great evening of tales of adventure followed by an equally great evening in the pub in Fort William.

One day I will run up Cow Hill and it will not be raining. One day. Despite an unpromising downpour earlier in the morning it was dry enough to abandon the waterproof jacket by the start of the race… so needless to say it started to rain mid race. Although there seems to have been masses of snow on the high mountains this winter there seems to be very little at lower levels and Cow Hill and the Glen were totally free of snow. This was a great little informal race held by Lochaber AC for those who had come up to Fort William for the mountain festival and who were suitably inspired by the heroic hill running stories of the previous evening. Turn up, pay £1 entry fee and run, no prizes, dead informal. Perfect.

on the way up the hill

Starting at the car park at the leisure centre the route zig zagged up the hill before joining a level track running along the side of the hill then a climb over a gate and a stumble though the boggy open hillside to the summit and the radio masts. Arriving at the top well out of puff was enough of the reality check that I required regarding any future potential participation in the Dragons Back race!  Next the route followed a long stretch of landrover track before joining a well made path leading back down the hill. Amazingly I actually passed two people on the descent which doesn’t often happen so I did finish feeling rather pleased with myself. Admittedly though this wasn’t the gnarliest of descents :-)

 There was a good Lochaber AC turnout as you might expect and a good Lomies turnout with Colin and Joan (a little fragile from the night before) and Gus and Jean Bowman. 

Colin coming into the finish
Gus approaching the finish line
The Finish
Jean had taken a bit of a tumble on the descent so in true mountain festival style I am able to post photos here in this blog of breathtaking scenery and sharp intake of breath injury…

 * Thanks to Steven Fallon for his great race photographs. www.stevenfallon.co.uk (the shaky blurry finish line photos are mine!!)

1 comment:

  1. Nice report Louise - reminded me of what a good weekend it was - Thanks !