About 5 years ago, on a whim, I went to a talk hosted by Carnethy where Charlie Ramsay gave his presentation about Ramsay’s Round. Inspired by the talk I joined the club and started going along to Wednesday Social Runs and this was my introduction to hill running. Since then Ramsay’s Round has always been on my mind in one way or another and it was inevitable that one day I would give it go.
After good overnight recces of two key sections of the round, a decent race at the Lakes Sky Ultra in July and some well-placed words of encouragement here and there it seemed that the time was right to give it a shot. I sent out a few messages and emails, assembled a great support crew ready for the first weekend in August and hoped for a good weather window.
Leg 1 – Mamores
I set off on an anti-clockwise route at 11pm with a 23:55 schedule just as the last light was leaving the sky. We made good progress up the very wet lower slopes of Mullach nan Coirean and headed into the cloud as we reached about 800m. After tapping the summit cairn we continued along the ridge of the Mamores, passing summits and traversing the out-and-backs in a mixture of wind, rain, clag and the occasional magical moment when the cloud cleared to reveal the black mass of the next peak or the light of the moon. Mark had dropped back on the first climb so it was just myself and Jonny making our way through the dark and we were more or less bang on schedule as we ticked off the peaks.
Daylight started to make an appearance around An Gearanach and by the time we were on the summit of Na Gruagaichean the head torches were off and we ran along the broad ridge to Binnien Mor in the early morning glow. After Binnein Beag we picked up the lovely we track that runs along the hillside and enjoyed a little bit of actual running before the big pull up to Sgurr Eilde Mor. The descent from Sgurr Eilde Mor gave good running for the first 1.5km or so before cutting the corner of the river and heading over tussocky, bumpy ground to a bridge over the Allt Eilde where Pete Curtis was waiting to join me for leg two. We were very punctual, arriving almost exactly on schedule!
Leg 2 – Luibeilt to Loch Trieg Dam
Pete and I headed off following the Abhainn Raith towards Loch Treig, walking at first then picking up the pace once we were on the North side of the river. Sometime along this section I misjudged how much time I had to get to Beinn Na Lap and it wasn’t until just before the railway bridge I realised I was going to struggle to get to the summit on schedule. Pete pushed on and I followed but we were about 15 minutes behind by the time we tapped the cairn and headed down the ridge just as the rain started and the wind picked up.
The descent to the Allt Feith Thull was good but the climb up the other side felt slow and laboured and I knew I was lagging behind again. By the time we got to Chno Dearg we had lost another 5 minutes. We took the wrong line from the top in the clag and dropped a bit too far and had to climb back up to make the ridge, I was feeling low at this point as I was sure I was going to keep losing time and knew my schedule was tight. As we headed south on the ridge to descend to the dam the sun came out and we got a view down to the loch and over to the Easains which gave me a boost and we managed to claw back a wee bit of time as I chased Pete down towards the railway line.
We were greeted at the dam with lots of food and drink but with the schedule slipping I didn’t have time to hang around – just time to get some coffee and a few mouthfuls of chilli and chocolate before I was off along the track to start the next big climb.
Leg 3 – Grey Corries, Aonachs, CMD and the Ben.
I was joined by Jeff, Alex and John for the next section. Alex and John had been up to support another Ramsay’s runner who had abandoned his attempt earlier in the day – something I was grateful for as their support in addition to Jeff’s was to become invaluable as time went on.
We enjoyed a spell of good weather over the Easains and it looked like it was going to last for a while. Plenty of encouragement, lots of food and a “carrot and stick” approach meant I started to make back time from the first hill which, combined with the improved weather, gave me a real psychological boost. I started to find the first few minutes on a climb were tough but always eased off when I got settled into a rhythm. After the steep, grassy slog out of Lairig Leacach we picked up a good hill track and made quick work of the rest of the climb up Stob Ban. Anthony Hemmings was waiting at the lochan at the bealach and I said a very speedy hello as I passed, not wanting to lose any more time. John stayed back and picked up some food for me while I continued up the climb to Stob Coire Claurigh.
The Grey Corries flew past and there were a few moments where I know had a stupid grin on my face as we ran along the ridge, looking back over to the Mamores down to the Abhainnn Rath where I had been hours before.
As we contoured Sgurr Choinnich Beag the weather took a turn for the worse, the rain started to come down heavily and the wind picked up, I hoped it was just a shower but the stormy skies ahead said otherwise. We headed up Charlies Gully and round onto the shoulder of Aonach Beag – as we climbed towards the summit I was really worried we had lost lots of time again and I was having a bit of a crisis of confidence. I asked John and Alex and they reassured me we were now over an hour ahead of schedule but warned that we would need as much time as possible to get over the arete, the Ben and down to the Hostel, particularly in this weather.
The conditions seemed to get worse as we went on over Aonach Mor, down to the bealach and up the big climb to CMD but I knew the end was in sight and finally felt confident that I was going to finish within 24 hours. Alex guided us along the arete and we scrambled up the boulders to the top of the Ben – Jeff snapped a few photos of me looking a bit worse for wear before we headed down, taking the zigzags as we had some time to spare. The long descent was one final struggle for me but before long we had the hostel in sight and just had to switch the torches on for the last fifteen minutes or so. I made it down and over the bridge in one piece, tapping the hostel sign 23 hours and 23 minutes after leaving!
My grand plans of having a beer and some food to celebrate faded as my exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep almost immediately when I got back to my tent – thanks for Jeff for making sure I was okay!
Huge thanks to all my supporters:
Mark Hartree, Jonny Muir, Pete Curtis, Glen Roseberry, John Ryan, Alex McVey, Jeff Roberts and Anthony Hemmings. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you! Thanks to Graham Nash for some valuable route advice and some general guidance. I also need to thank the club for getting me out in the hills in the first place and for creating the running community that made this round possible.