For four decades the LAMM – the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon – was regarded by many as the best of all the MMs – always held in Scotland, in superb settings, with remote midway camps, it was an experience to savour. Unfortunately I only ever completed one LAMM, and so was very sorry to hear that 2018’s LAMM would be the last. The disappointment was short lived, as in stepped Shane Ohly’s Ourea Events to organise the new Scottish Mountain Marathon, to be held on the same weekend in June and with the same commitment to memorable mountain experiences.
I entered the SMM with John Rawlinson, who promptly dislocated his shoulder which ruled him out. (John is on the mend, I’m pleased to say.) It was John who found a replacement partner for me – on the internet of course. And so I teamed up with Andrew Sadler (who as it happens lives just round the corner from me, but is not a Strider, although he has now been subjected to a thorough exposition of the club’s huge merits). It was a slightly daunting prospect – teaming up with someone I’d never met before, to spend two days navigating across complex mountain terrain and a night in a none too roomy tent. When on the journey to Scotland he told me that he’d completed the Spine Challenger race (Edale to Hardraw along the Pennine Way, the first part of the same event in which earlier this year Jasmin Paris smashed the overall record for the whole Spine race) my doubts were amplified. I need not have worried at all – Andrew was an excellent companion and race partner, to whom many thanks.
The event was based at Attadale Gardens, near Strathcarron on the west coast of Scotland, about 80 miles (by road) north of Fort William. We drove there, although travelling by train would have been possible, as Attadale has its own tiny station 200m from the event centre. We entered the shortest of the linear courses, which involve navigating to several control points, and hence to the midway camp, and doing the same to return to the event centre on the second day.
The first day went well, with relatively straightforward navigation aided by excellent visibility, albeit across some pretty rough and very boggy ground. A couple of minor tweaks to our navigation and perhaps a bit more courage when faced with a fast flowing river to cross would have saved a few minutes, but apart from this we did as well as we could. We had some marvellous views – to the west to the Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye (which are undoubtedly the finest mountains in the UK) and north to the Torridon mountains, and in the far distance, An Teallach. At the end of the day we were in 21st position, out of 56 C course teams who completed day one.
The midway camp was in a great spot at the confluence of three rivers, with lots of flat ground and surrounded by hills and mountains. We had arrived in time to be tucked up in the tent before the rain came, the main effect of which was to make the small stream between us and the toilets impassable without getting wet feet. The rain gave way to a lovely evening and dry night. And no midges!
Day two’s course was only slightly shorter than day one’s, with one big climb to begin with, followed by a very runnable ridge and steep descent, and a good few kms traversing to the remaining controls. Again, a couple of navigational adjustments might have saved a few minutes. We finished in a slightly improved 18th position, of 53 teams, with another seven who retired or otherwise didn’t finish.
We took 9:38:17 to complete the two days. The winners took a somewhat improbable 6:08:07 – 72 minutes ahead of second place! They should definitely be encouraged to enter longer courses. The last finishers took 15:47:02
Full results are here: