A record breaking human power relay over every Scottish mountain over 1KM high!
The ARCHIE Foundation's Mountain Challenge
Katherine and I met as students in the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club, and have tried to maintain similar hill interests as time and opportunities become scarce. We try to divide things evenly, but it doesn’t always work out fair. We both had a few spare days of leave to use for Archie Running, and divided the weeks into his and hers, and relayed the kids between us around hill commitments. During my glory leg up Ben Wyvis, she had cajoled the kids into the mist, but we all enjoyed the Garve Hotel pub games. Sunday morning, I had a lie in, she got up at 4.30 for a run across the great wilderness to Kinlochewe. She got wind and rain, I shoogled with the kids over the Corrieshalloch gorge, then we all had a pub lunch in Kinlochewe. Paul had swapped the order of hills around to prefer rain on the Faserinan pinnacles of Liathach to rising winds and snow.
I heard the story of the gale and rain too strong to stand upright, and diminishing sense in the chat, two days later when a mobile signal was discovered. Katherine’s trip improved with a long leg over an unusual combination of hills tying together the gaps on the north side of Glen Affric, in sunshine and snow, with icy scrambling up steep ridges and here and there, proper reliance on the ice axe. Our share had been unplanned, I had the Rogan Josh, she had the full vindaloo.
Monday evening, home after a big paperwork day. The weather blattered at the windows just like a winter gale and a good excuse to light the wood stove. The tracker updated irregularly. Katherine and Nick were out on Sgurr na Lapaich; a big remote rocky hill above Loch Mullardoch. They seemed to stick for a while below the summit, then jumped over to the col beyond, 3 more updates and they were well on their way to the second Archie, and about 45 minutes from turning away from the wind and jogging down to the shore of the loch and back to the dam. The tracker jumped to an odd location south of the ridge, and stopped. The remains of the tea went cold, the planned administration faded from attention. The rational explanation of poor signal, or weak battery power in the cold and rain lost conviction. A throwaway remark on a facebook picture about avalanches stopped seeming impossible. The fire burnt down. Then the tracker jumped to the lochshore, and all was well.
I never get picked first for anything, so I didn’t know what to make of it, seeing my name against leg one of the Archie Mountain Challenge, up and down Ben Wyvis. I was sure I had explained that I could do a bit of slow hill running, and had emphasized the slow. When I do a hill race I tend to stand out from the crowd, a well nourished labrador among the greyhounds; I don’t think I have ever finished in the front half of the field. Yet there I was paired up with Paul Fettes, who would be cruising into the distance in first gear while I gasped and stumbled behind, and all in sight of the jamboree of families , supporters, sponsored walkers, journalists and cameramen assembled at Garve. In the week leading up to the start, the permutations of hill goers varied with every email update, but one constant fixture was Irving / much more athletic person. It was too late to train, I would have to do my best.
I met the Challenge campervans at the layby in Glen Torridon, and sorted out the route up Ben Eighe over fresh coffee. Nick was keen to jog round the path into Coire Mhic Fearchair, but I managed to persuade him that the direct line up the scree would be much more efficient. We nipped up and down in blustery sunshine and the odd snow shower, talking of mutual acquaintances and student days. On the top we skimmed round the edge of the magnificent cliffs to the 10th Archie summit of the weekend.
In front of the stove, Broughty Ferry
Ben Wyvis: Archie #1
I arrived late on the Friday night, and the news on the Saturday morning was that my running companions were to be Claire Hardie and Kirsty Duncan. I hoped they would be kind.
We met at the Ben Wyvis carpark, introductions made and filmed for the Courier. Crowds of children and parents fussed into cagoules and waterproof trousers. Wooly hats covered every hairstyle from 4 year old pigtails to 70 year old grey. The hills were clagged in but it was a good Scottish Summer Day; it wasn’t raining much and there were no midges. A shout announced the arrival of the cyclists. There were no formalities with the handover of Rabbie the tracker rabbit. He left a cyclist’s pocket and was strapped onto a rucksack, and we were off.
We zoomed off along the track, at parkrun pace. A sudden fear struck after a minute of this: “Are we going the right way?”, but we were, and pushed hard up the track through the woods. I managed to get my breath back when we stopped for cags and hats as the path rose into the cloud. The pace settled into a rapid walk and the summit ridge arrived quickly. There was good running here on the shallow moss and the firm snow patches. The summit appeared on schedule, with a well wrapped up Adventure Show camera operative, who requested a second arrival for the warmed up camera. Cold batteries and cold fingers fumbled through some summit selfies and we headed back. Down to the sponsored walk alarmingly close to the top, on down through to meet crowds of excited children. We handed over the soggy rabbit to a smaller group of cyclists, and prepared to put our feet up at Garve.