Pubs and chips, it is the run that has everything! Well, assuming that your life revolves around eating and drinking. A swift pint in KB, then off over Blackford Hill to the Merlin, then Bennetts (with chips), then Waiting Room (or whatever it’s called now), then a long slog to the finest alfresco pub in all Edinburgh – Le Oz. Situated on a summit of the Braids, Le Oz serves the finest Pimms in all Edinburgh! Perfect for a summer’s evening! A flying run down to The Stables completed the official festivities for the evening, partly because the usual final pub has been replaced by student flats (booo!). Throughout the evening the rain threatened, and fell, but generally the run was dry and full of cheer. After the Stables Bar the social drinkers to disengaged from the serious drinkers, and headed home with a spring in their step and a fuzzy warmth to their thinking. The serious drinkers took a leisurely run to Leslies, for the usual post-Pub n Chips pint(s) of beer, and then some more, and then finally home without any memory of how they got there. Three cheers for beer (and chips)! And people! Hurrah! Many thanks to Oz!
If there's no races on or you're all raced out. If the weather's bad and you need an incentive to get out, or if it's great and you fancy somewhere a bit different, there's often a run to join in led by a Carnethy member.
Some are long standing institutions such as Nigel Rose's journey runs, Keith Burn's alternative John Muir Way and the Circumnavigation of Edinburgh. Others are more ephemeral; but they are characterised by encompassing all abilities of running and being very relaxed, the more alcoholic ones (like the Whisky Chaser) extremely so.
Where was everyone? Just two of us turned up for the start of the Trossachs journey run. Alan and I set off up through the woods and into Glen Finglas. Although the weather forecast had been bad we had little rain throughout the day. We left the Glen Finglas reservoir and headed up the hill track into Gleann Casaig. On the far side of the valley we could see another track leading up to a small hydro dam higher up the valley. Near the dam we spent some time looking at a tiny dam on our side of the valley, up the hillside from the track. It was only a few feet wide and seemed to catch a small trickle from an area of boggy ground above. We couldn’t work out what it was for.
Near the top of the valley we came into the thick mist that hung over all the hill tops. When we reached the ridge between Ben Vane and Ben Ledi, Alan said he wanted to test an electronic gizmo. He wandered round in the mist holding a small box with an aerial above his head. Actually, I think he was trying to contact ET – didn’t work though, just made the rain come down heavier. We were very glad of the line of rusty fence posts that guided us along the ridge to Ben Ledi. When we couldn’t see more than 50 yards ahead the ground looked disturbingly lumpy and disorientating. When we eventually reached the summit it was surprisingly calm and mild so we sat on a grassy knoll for lunch.
We continued down the tourist path for a while, occasionally meeting walkers looming up out of the mist. We left the path part way down and with a combination of compass bearings & lie of the land we stravaiged our way down the hillside. Soon we came below the cloud base and could see our objective of a gate in a deer fence. This led to a path through a deciduous woodland plantation and out though another gate at the bottom. It was much easier than the climbing of deer fences I had to do during the recce. We were now on The Great Trossach Path which took us on a lovely high path overlooking Loch Venacher, all the way back to the car park. If we had gone a few days earlier, this is what it would have looked like. On the very last bit, just before the car park, the ground was totally blue – covered with a carpet of bluebells.
Short version – where the hell were you? Numbers were low this year, possibly due to Stuc, with just a dozen of us venturing out from The Steading. Even stalwarts like Nick, Gordon and Shane were missing.
More fool them. Personally, I think Oz excelled himself this year, with a set of ridiculously good malt whiskies and the finest weather ever experienced on a Chaser. Even better, despite multiple drams at each stop (for those that wanted them), there was still enough left to auction off at the end, for the benefit of the Friends of the Pentlands. I shall enjoy the remains of the Kilchoman all the more for knowing I outbid The President for it. Thanks Oz!
For the full story – read on.
It turns out Willie doesn’t think any one of these is an adequate reason to avoid dipping a toe into mountain marathoning.
Edinample was a great introduction into what is involved for a novice like me. In actual fact, it isn’t 26.2miles and Willie has a selection of spare tents.
The location was great (see picture of view from camp site), the company was lovely, the hills were spectacular and the lack of washing facilities liberating!
I would definitely recommend any worried novices like me give an event like this a go.
Thank you to all who put so much into making it a success- from Andy from marking the course, to Willie patiently trying to teach me to navigate, to Helen for lending me warm blankets.
I admit my navigational skills leave a lot to be desired, my fitness level could be better, and my limited camping equipment has seen better days; but after a bath and an uninterrupted 10.5 hour recovery sleep last night, I feel quite positive that I could be back to try again….
The routes taken by most people are below, uncharged watches aside, Ross Christie got most points both days with a fantastic 360 Day 1 and 270 Day 2. Alasdair Hood and Gordon Eadie won the oldies award with Alasdair celebrating his 59th birthday on Saturday with 220? points and 120 on a escape early day 2. Helen Wise was out on her own day 1 (230 Points) and with Fraser Day 2 (170 Points). Willie, Patricia and Tracey had a good Day 1 (120) and were joined by Jason Coombs for day 2 (110). Joel was out day 2 (180 points) , Cali and Bob got the OAP prize Day 2, and Jeff and Helen did Day 1 on Day 2. All in All a great weekend.
Ross Christie’s Report
With the LAMM fast approaching I needed to practice my navigating skills as well as spending a good amount of time on pathless, open hillside and carrying my pack. The Carnethy weekend at Edinample came along just at the right time, one month before the LAMM and on a rare free weekend. I set off at Midday on Saturday from the campsite with the intention of hitting as many controls as possible – in the end I think I hit all but 3 or 4 and totalled 360 points. The shorter navigational runs I’ve done over the past few weeks really helped! There were some great hidden spots on the route, particularly Lochan A Chroin below Stuc and Lochan Na Mna which I’ve often admired from the summit of Ben Vorlich.
A night around the campfire with plenty of beer and whisky was a great way recover but maybe not the best preparation for day 2!
The second day controls were dotted around to the west of Lochearnhead around Glen Kendrum and Glen Ogle. Again this was a great way of seeing some less visited hills and the ridge North West from Meall an t-Seallaidh was particularly dramatic. I managed to collect 270 points with some higher scoring controls tucked away in some farther flung locations.
I’d highly recommend a weekend like this for people looking to get a taster of mountain marathons as there are plenty of experienced people to show you the ropes but it’s also a great way for experienced mountain marathoners to sharpen navigational skills and explore new places.
Thanks to Willie for organising and Win for the excellent campsite.
We should do more of these!
So, the (hastily thrown together) Carnethy Winter Social Ultra Series finished with the Alternative JMW on Saturday! Hurrah!! It really does take a lot of organization putting-on something like this, i.e. basically adding an ultra-distance run among three already-established journey runs. Don’t you dare thank us! Having done a few of them, I can honestly say It was an excellent way to spend some of the winter months, and an excellent way to keep up the miles in some pretty awful, and also fantastic, weather.
So here’s a quick summary of those who completed each of the runs:
Completed on foot: Jeff, Mark, Lee, Alan Hogg, John Ryan, Dave Harrington, Sarah Robertson, Billy & Dorothy, Willie, (and loads others)
Completed on foot: John Busby, Jeremy, Dougie, Alan Hogg and Jim
Cyclists: Keith, Jonathan
Sea To Summit (26miles)**:
Completed on foot: Jeff, John Busby, Mark, Rachel Newstead, Jim
Completed on foot: Jeff, Lee , Peter, Nick, Nicola, Jeremy, Jim
Duathletes: Dorothy & Billy, Keith, Mark, Hilary.
Well done to all! Jeff Roberts gets the greatest kudos of all, as he started all of the organized runs, completing three and partially completing one. From rough calculations he covered just under 100miles (97.3) on foot. Nice!! Mark also ran all four in part, completing two. The abysmal conditions on the Sea To Summit run was in complete contrast to the AltJMW, which was like running along the Mediterranean coast, bathed in sunshine throughout. Glorious!
Jeff, Mark, Jeremy, John, Lee, Alan Hogg, Jim, Keith, Dorothy & Billy all get a beer for completing at least 2. Nicola Dunn has made an excellent case for getting a beer too (one completion, another partial, plus an ultramarathon distance of 30miles with the AltJMW). I’ll bring them along to the handicap on Wednesday. And then drink them if you don’t appear. Feel free for anyone else to argue their case!
So, the runs included: beaches, rivers, hills, railway lines, country parks, towers, castles, moors, estates, rubbish tips, harbours, golf courses, tramlines, dams, promenades, links, canals, canal feeders, garden centres, building sites, viaducts, aqueducts, fields (planted and grazing), woodlands, roads, sand dunes, and maybe the odd section of good ol’ generic mud.
Weather included: Rain, snow, sleet, gales, and glorious, glorious sunshine!
Food included: Bacon rolls, egg rolls, sausage rolls, cakes, coffee, naan-pizza, tea, juice, beer, crisps. i.e. nothing healthy.
Expletives included: “What the **** are you doing on this building site? How did you get in?! F*** off!” (Sea to Summit)
I don’t think you’ll find a more varied series. Many thanks to Mark Hartree for pulling most of this together, and forming a nice wee Sea To Summit route, too!
* Yes, I know that an ultra needs to be more than 26.2 miles. Who asked you, anyway?
**Arguably, nobody completed the Sea To Summit route due to extremely bad weather, but we all finished together and I guess that’s enough. Well, it’s enough for me.
The Alternative John Muir Way majors on scenic value and a variety of obstacles to keep you alert through dunes, beach, cliffs, boulders, barbed wire and electric fence crossings, a fortified castle to storm, breaking wave-leaping and a long dark spiral staircase to climb. A big anticyclone provided perfect conditions with sunshine and a light sea breeze to start. 21 appeared for around 55km of running and/ or cycling with the usual off/ on road variations for the cyclists. Patricia and Richard swopped very attentive sag wagon services throughout the route, Mark James having collected the van for us before rushing off to Norway. Read more…
The Autumn Equinox Run is well established now (and what a hoot it is!), so I thought it would be nice if its young upstart the Vernal Equinox could get in on the act. So I organised a run. My thoughts when doing this were that by the time it came around on Monday, 20th March, we would be looking at warm sunlight uplands, possibly going topless and sipping sparkling mead (that did happen) under birdsong. However the weather was Baltic (but it stayed dry, to be fair) and the next day saw snow blanket much of the north of Britain, so maybe we angered the Gods somehow. Digby had also pointed out (in his imitable style) that the clocks weren’t going to change until this Sunday, so we’d be better to delay it a week. But I was keen to make it on the day of the Equinox.
I decided on Cairnpapple, as it one of the most important Druidic sites in Scotland, and has an impressive structure on its top to prove it. More of that later. My only experience of the hill was running to its (almost) summit with Neil B when we did the comically-named Bathgate Highland Games Hill Race. I remembered it as basically a road race that had a bit of a climb. However, run leader Lisa assured me we’d be getting all down and dirty through woods and stuff, and so it proved.
I had hoped that someone from the Druid community in Scotland might come out to the hill to meet us, but they seemed very shy, but Jean, a lovely lady from the Pagan Network Scotland got in touch and sent me some words, which I read out on the run:
Most if not all of these belief systems celebrate the “ Wheel of the Year” which encompasses 8 festivals beginning on 31st October with Samhain/Halloween and ending with the Autumnal Equinox around 21st September.
The significance of Cairnpapple to most Pagans is that it is a burial mound. As modern day paganism is based on pre-christian beliefs, most Pagans would view Cairnpapple as perhaps a place to commune with the spirits of the pre-christian peoples whose remains are buried there. It was obviously a special place where the ancient people of Scotland may have held celebratory or funerary rituals. Pagans cannot and do not claim to know the exact format of these rituals, they can only guess. However the site has quite clearly been a fairly important one in pre-historic times.
And so to the run.
Lisa led the way up the hill from the Station into the wilds of the Linlithgow suburbs. We came to the edge of Beecraigs Country Park, where things got more interesting. There was lots of (gradual) climbing and it wasn’t long before we stopped to regroup and found ourselves pretty high, with good views over West Lothian.
Given the distance and time involved we were swithering at this point abut actually making it to Cairnpapple, as it’s a fair stretch from the start, but Jeff had stashed some sparkling mead in the gorse bushes near the summit that lunchtime, so that clinched it. In the end we adjusted our route to take in Witchcraig and Cairnpapple and we missed out Cockleroy.
The running was a mix of hard-packed trails through the woods, country roads, but also some minor hill climbs and mud. A good mix and Lisa kept the pace high. I think we all felt that we’d had a good workout by the time we sat down to eat. The Star & Garter were very accommodating and the food and service was good. A great evening and it’s been suggested we re-run the route in the summer again, perhaps taking in Cockleroy this time.
Some notes on Cairnpapple: Read more…
A quick scramble up next to a waterfall brought us out on a small rocky ridge on the lower slopes of Mount Maw. After a pathless trudge up the surprisingly dry hillside we hit the track leading to the summit trig where we regrouped and looked over one of the less viewed vistas of the Pentlands back towards the Kips and west towards the Cairns and West Lothian. The drop from Mount Maw to the dam at Baddinsgill is one of my favourite descents in the Pentlands, the dry, grassy trail at a perfect angle makes for speedy running right down to the reservoir.
We raced up the grassy embankment to the waterline and trotted over the dam to the road leading back to West Linton. We made a quick stop for food orders before following the Cross Borders Drove Road all the way back to the Village with a speedy last kilometer on a dirt road right to the door of the pub. Great food and beer at The Gordon Arms, I think the pate with tattie scones was the highlight of the night for more than a few people!
Thanks to everyone who made it down. There is one more night run to go, Cairnpapple Equinox on Monday at 7pm – see you there!