Thursday, 16 October 2014

Arran , Skye and The Ben

Well it's that time of year again and I am sitting back in Scotland wondering what's next. After a truly amazing summer , training , exploring and racing I am now currently at home not really ready to be resting and all I am doing is thinking about what to do next.

Anyway it's almost two weeks since the Lakes 80km and I am still feeling strong. My running has eased off a little but I have still been out in the Scottish Highlands due to some rather strange stable weather. I made a trip over to the Isle of Arran to do a little circuit there I have always been meaning to do. Normally I like the loop from the ferry slip , Goatfell , Saddle , Cir Mhor , A'Chir Ridge , Glen Rosa and back to the boat home. This time however from the top of Cir Mhor I headed north up to Caisteal Abhail , over the witches step and along the ridge down to Sannox Bay. It's a cracking loop. The run up Goatfell is always brilliant. I love the normal trail up there as it's never too steep and you can run the entire line up.

Summit of Goatfell looking out towards the rest of the days peaks
The summit was a touch blustery but as usual the North Goatfell ridge and down to the saddle was tremendous with some techy terrain and a bit of scrambling if you stick true to the crest. The steep haul up Cir Mhor is always a good workout and even pushing on up to Caisteal Abhail was tough on the old legs. The next section along the ridge to the witches step is a joy to run. The descent down into the gap below the step is pretty damn steep and for sure you don't wanna trip.

Running along this is awesome
The climb up the step direct is about an easy Diff climb but seeing as it was soaking wet and the hardest move is on a slab with zero handholds I chose the option of the easier scramble on the north side. Once past the step the ridge line all the way along is great with a cracking narrow trail all the way to the last peak. From there it's a direct muddy , boggy , horrible descent down to the Glen Sannox trail and back to Sannox bay and the bus back to the slip or you can choose to run the 6 miles back to Brodick but since this consists of nothing but road I opted to sit by the edge of water and wait for the bus to arrive. All in all a cracking day. Sunny morning then a pretty cold and rainy afternoon.

Another Goatfell summit selfie
My other couple of more notable days out here since I've been back have to be Nevis and Skye. On Monday I headed up to Fort William with the idea to run up Ben Nevis assuming the weather was okay. I didn't have a route in mind but was going to see what it all looked like once up there. I arrived at the north face car park around 11am and the sun was out. I grabbed a very lightweight set-up and threw my 7mm 30m rope , harness and a sling into my running back and set off. My plan was tower ridge. I have done tower ridge a few times in the past so I know the way up. I took the gear in the off chance something went wrong and I could escape but to be honest given the ridges fierce reputation it really is not hard. For sure the average walker would have a nightmare on it but even an average scrambler would be fine on the thing assuming they don't mind exposure. I think the difficulty of the route is built up way way too much but it keeps it quiet.

First Chimney of Tower Ridge
Don't get me wrong here it's not just a walk but as I said , if you scramble fairly competently or rock climb at all then Tower Ridge should not pose any problems(the gap is awkward but not hard) when conditions are good. In winter however it can be a different story. Anyway I ran up and was at the base of the ridge in around 45-50 minutes. From then it's up the lovely first little chimney then it's time to run again until the little tower is reached and the good fun begins. From just after the little tower a lot of the route started to get very very frosty with ice in many places. I managed fine on this stuff but my pace really slowed as I was just being safe. The climbing was easy but a slip would not have been nice. Especially the big blocks heading up onto the great tower. Then it was over to the gap. Again this is not hard but very exposed and the whole place was covered in frost and incredibly slippy in a pair of Salomon Sense. I love these shoes , they are simply the best fit of any trail runner I have ever had , they are so so good for technical terrain and super light but not the best when you need lot's of grip and I for sure couldn't run 100 miles in one go in a pair but they are my go to training shoe and for any races up to 50 miles.

Just past the gap. Nice and frosty!
I managed to lower myself down into the gap admittedly with some worrying but I got my foot on the ledge below just as my grip started to slip from the hold. Once down in the gap it was an easy yet again slippy scramble up out of the gap and easy terrain to the end of the ridge. The sun was out and I ran the last couple of minutes to the trig point on the summit hitting it 1hr 35mins after I had left the bottom car park. The descent was down the tourist path to the little Lochain then over towards the CIC hut and back down to the car. Overall a cracking afternoon out. 18Km's , 1200m+ in 2hrs 30mins car to car. I was well pleased with this time and for sure could get that down when I next hit the ridge in proper dry conditions. It's a cracking ridge route and easily one of the best in the UK. Some people think it's overrated as the climbing isn't continuous all the way to the top but what climbing is there is quality and the situation of the entire line is impressive. I love it and it's a must do for anyone who heads to the Ben but don't be afraid to take a long sling to loop around the block on the gap and lower yourself down.

Can't beat the Ben on a sunny day
I left Fort William and headed for the Isle of Skye. I had a rather uncomfortable nights sleep in the car and headed off to get another mountain run in. Obviously whenever you mention Skye you think Cuillin Ridge but I have done it twice already and given it was again a blue sky day I quite fancied doing something else and something that gave me a good view of the ridge.

Bla Bheinn (Blaven) was the answer. I had a look at the guidebook and maps for the best lines to take then left them in the car and just headed off ready to pick my own way up. I left the car park at the head of Loch Lapin and ran off up a great trail passing some pretty impressive waterfalls until I got close up to the cliffs of the mountain. The normal line up goes up a very steep loose gully to the right. To me this way up looked a bit rubbish and unrunnable so I chose to just keep heading straight up ahead of me to the Col.

Heading up to the Col
A little bit of loose scree didn't cause any problems then I was on a broad ridge which rose all the way up to the west summit. The view going up here out to the sea and over to the Cullin ridge was tremendous. I popped over to the east summit to properly tag the peak and then headed down possibly the steepest and loosest gully I have ever ran. I must admit I loved going down it but I am glad I never came up it. Very very steep and loose with some seriously nasty fall potential. It was however a rapid descent and I was back at the car having done the loop in 1hr 36mins.

What a view of the Cuillin Ridge
The horrendous scree gully is just to the right of my head
It's been great having had these three great days out running in some of Scotlands best spots and to have the blue sky weather on Nevis and in Skye was pretty special. For sure I know I have been a bit spoilt all this summer and I know very well how lucky I have been to be able to run so much of Colorado and then come back to Scotland and get some great stuff done but now is time to go back to work and try to make enough cash to see me through winter and hopefully have some change in my pocket to get back to CO in June/July. This lifestyle will not/can not last forever but I am not willing to give it up just yet. I am not far away from wanting to have something more stable but there is just way too much more for me to do in the US. My name is in the hat for Hardrock and I will be putting my name in the hat for Western States also. Both races get drawn on the same day this year. December 6th so I will be glued to twitter watching and preying my name comes up in one of them and god I hope it is Hardrock. In the high chance I don't get either of these races I will go back to scouring the web to find one that sticks out at me. 100% I want to run another 100 next summer and possible even two. I will defo be going back to pace Leadville and Hardrock(if I don't get in) and would like to pace Run Rabbit Run or I may even run it again. I have nothing certain at the moment except from Transvulcania in May which I am excited to be kicking off my running season with. Races are now over for this year and I will continue to go out exploring and taking it easy until the snow arrives then it's time to ski!

I need to give a big shout out to Larabar , Nectar Fuel and For Goodness Shakes for helping me out this past summer with my nutrition. Their products fuel me through all these epic races and training days and long may it continue. Thanks guys!!!

And finally I managed to get some of Woody's Colorado pictures off of her so I have attached some at the bottom here for y'all to have a look........

Canyonlands , Utah

This picture makes me smile every time I see it

More Canyonlands epicness

The Needles area

Probably the best mornings run ever

Running up Mt Sneffels in the San Juan's CO

More Needles area

Canyonlands. Pictures just don't do this place justice!!
About to embark on my 2nd 100 miler. What a race it ended up being.
Bring on 100 miler number 3 next year.

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