Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Meall a Bhuachaille

The Cairgorm Mountains from the banks of Loch Morlich

The view of the Cairngorms from the sandy bank of Loch Morlich is real shortbread-tin-picture-postcard stuff. Today the clouds were low, just skimming the tops of the dark peaks and their patchy covering of snow. Tired from lack of sleep and heavy legged as well as on a bit of a time deadline I settled on a lap of the loch to start with and having convinced myself that it was cold (I could see snow so that means its cold right?) I piled on the layers only having to stop and peel them off 10 minutes in. Feeling decidedly less than bouncy I decided that a quick-ish paced trail run probably wasn’t going to be on the cards so took a quick change of direction and headed up the wee tarmac road behind the visitor centre then a sharp left on to the track leading to Meall a Bhuachaille (2657ft). I managed a fairly decent pace up to the junction of the path between Meall a Bhuachaille and Creagan Gorm (2401ft) passing some cheery volunteers who were busy working on footpath repairs. The final push up to the summit was a bit slower and it grew noticeably more cold and windy with patches of ice and snow on the path as I resisted stopping again to pull on all the clothes that I had removed earlier.
Loch Morlich from the flank of Meall a Bhuachaille
The view across to the Monadliath Mountains
The summit was pretty busy with walkers and mountain bikers. Maybe they, like me, were steering clear of the big mountains on such a chilly grey day.  The wee sheltered area created by the semi-circle of rocks was jam packed with folk munching on sandwiches and pouring tea out of thermos flasks. I peered over and decided that there probably wasn’t really room for another one so I quickly took a few photos before descending. I stopped at the junction of the path leading to Creagan Gorm and glanced wistfully at its summit but I really was on a bit of a time limit for this run and I was already cutting it fine so I quickly trotted back down the hillside then along the grass verge of the road leading back to the car park on the banks of the loch.
The ridge between Meall a Bhuachaille and Creagan Gorm
The summit of Meall a Bhuachaille
I arrived just as the car park and picnic area was getting busy with families and just in time to watch a small child being mugged of his sandwiches by a large group of ducks (is that a flock? A herd? A gaggle? Who knows) It was like a certain Hitchcock film. Only slower. And closer to the ground.
I quickly got changed and drove back to Aviemore and the Spey valley cinema where the Aviemore Adventure Festival was taking place. I had decided to go and see the talks and films about trail running and I was surprised at the size of the venue to accommodate spectators in what is really a bit of a niche sport. 

The first film was of the Cape Wrath Ultra, a 400km multi day event starting in Fort William and finishing at the very tip of Scotland, Cape Wrath. The second was a film that followed Lakeland runner Nicky Spinks as she attempted her double Bob Graham round of 84 Lakeland Peaks covering 132 miles and 54,000ft of climb in less than 48 hours. Both of the films were beautifully and professionally shot although condensing a 7 day stage race into an hour’s film really is going to gloss over a lot.

Finally there was a talk by Ultra Runner Paul Giblin as he described to the audience his attempts, some ill-fated, at what is the probably the most iconic distance race on the planet, the UTMB in France and his record setting exploits on the West Highland Way in both summer and winter. The most positive thing I took away from the talk was that although these top runners and race winners often make things look easy it really isn’t the case and Paul described well his failures as well as his successes and the rough patches that he experienced in races. I was also impressed with how he left his 9-5 day job (or as he says his 7-7 day job) to concentrate on his running and to set up a coaching business which seems to be rapidly gaining clients from all around the world. It is most people’s dream to work for themselves doing something they love but few ever take that huge leap into the unknown.

It was all very inspirational stuff. But I’m not sure it’s quite inspirational enough for me sign up for any of these very big running adventures just yet!
Here are links to both films and the West Highland Way podcast which contains a recording of Paul Giblin’s talk (fast forward to about 31 mins)
Post run tea and scones

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