A record breaking human power relay over every Scottish mountain over 1KM high!

The ARCHIE Foundation's Mountain Challenge

Glas Tulaichean, Beinn Lutharn Mhor and Carn an Righ ‘A Grand Day Oot’  (9th June)

Russell Duncan and Matthew McCullagh


I set off from Perth at about 7am, having agreed to meet Russell at the Spittal of Glenshee at 8am. I knew Russell from a previous run in the Lomond hills several years ago and knew he was going to be a great running partner. Like so many of the other ARCHIE athletes I met, he is such a positive guy with a beaming smile and a love of the hills that it’s easy to feed off his ‘keep on keeping on’ attitude – just what I needed having shared a particularly tough run with Barry Maguire exactly 7 days earlier. Luckily, the weather was set to be warm and sunny with very little wind – it really is amazing how different the conditions were compared to just a week earlier.

We had a bit of time to catch up with each other and chat through our leg before eventually started our shift at about midday, taking Rabbie from Craig and Jamie who had cycled him down to the Spittal from Glenshee ski centre. Being generous souls, Craig and Jamie had agreed to lend Russell and me their bikes to ride up the track as far as Glenlochsie Lodge. I say generous, because this meant them walking along the same track to retrieve their bikes from the where we had ‘dumped’ them by the lodge. During our brief ride, there was a quirky moment when we crossed a small ford at Glenlochsie farm. I was leading and didn’t want to look like a Jessie by getting off and pushing through the ford, so sped up intending to swoosh through it without a second thought. Unfortunately I hit a big lump stone almost as soon as I rode into the water and ended up sitting in the burn next to my bike (sorry Craig/Jamie!) looking at Russell who was wearing his most patient and ‘don’t worry – it could happen to anyone’ face.

Anyway, we summited Glas Tulaichean without any further trouble. I have to admit a real sense of relief and joy at bagging my first ARCHIE. Whilst at the summit we met a group of hill walkers from Blairgowrie who had been following the challenge in the Courier. One of them even had Graeme Gatherer as his GP!

Then on to Beinn Lutharn Mhor, passing and chatting to a couple of D of E groups from Edinburgh. Russell was running incredibly well considering he had already put in a really impressive shift the previous day, running 7 ARCHIES in the Cairngorms with Jay. At the top of our 2nd ARCHIE, Rabbie did a short Highland dance atop the cairn which we managed to catch on film and post on Facebook later.

We retraced our steps off Beinn Lutharn Mhor before swinging west to climb Carn an Righ. Half way up the ascent we began to feel the heat and realised that we needed to take on more water than we were averaging to this point if we were to keep sufficiently hydrated, so once we summited our 3rd and final ARCHIE we headed for a stream source a few hundred metres down, only to find it completely dry. Again, I have to stress the incredible shift in conditions in the 7 days since my run with Barry, where we were bog trotting for most of the day and wading through deep snow for the rest…..bonkers!

We eventually found water at Allt a Ghlinne Bhig on the way to Fealar Lodge, so stopped for a good drink and a look at the map. Then it was a hard slog to our rendezvous with Callum and Steve at the Falls of Tarf. We were both feeling a bit wabbit by this point so took it in turns to lead and encouraged each other through the last couple of km. Earlier, Russell had used the phrase ‘keep on keeping on’ which had reminded me of a song of the same name by a band from the 80’s called the Redskins. It’s a bit of a left-wig rant against Maggie T, but well worth a listen if you’ve got access to Spottify/Deezer/YouTube etc….

We reached Falls of Tarf about 4 ½ hours after starting off and met Callum, Steve and the pocket dynamo that is Amy. They had ridden up Glen Tilt from Blair Athol so we jumped on their bikes and rode back in the opposite direction. It was a bit of a bumpy ride on tired legs but way better than having to run all the way back.

My one single enduring feeling having taken part in the challenge is that I was so fortunate to have met and interacted with so many positive and capable people. I cannot express how humbling it was to watch (on the tracker) team after team putting in such Herculean efforts again and again. Thank you to Paul and everyone else for the opportunity to join one of the most special events I think I have ever taken part in – never has the phrase ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ seemed so apt.

Matthew.

Archie Mountain Challenge Reflections