Monday, 13 June 2011

Mountains and Molehills

The Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon 2011, Beinn Dearg, Northwest Highlands

The LAMM this year was tucked into the mountains south of Ullapool, on the Beinn Dearg massif. This is classic munro terrane: sculpted valleys with dreamlike rivers and waterfalls. Soaring cliffs set on a backdrop of one of the most sensational mountain panoramas to be found: Suilven, Canisp and the other instantly recognisable icons of the Wester Ross landscape. The LAMM has become a national treasure, and truly deserves its reputation as a conoisseurs mountain marathon.

Front runners in the B Class

Yet when all's said and done, this is one of the toughest of challenges, whatever class you choose to undertake. It takes a special kind of mindset to give the LAMM your all. And at the beginning, it's especially tough. It takes a while to chip off the layers of civilisation that say it's going to be cold, wet and midgified and the two hard days of the event hang over you like a shroud.

At the start of the Score Class

Slowly, but surely though, you eventually embrace what you have to embrace. The cold, the wet, the never-ending, punishing and relentless terrane.

Course-setter Angela Mudge's dog, digging at the start

And suddenly, you realise that there is less and less to worry about. The mountains open out to sensational panoramas and you realise you are experiencing something quite fantastic, somewhere where you may never set foot again.

Moving through awesome landscapes: the distant peaks of Stac Pollaidh and Suilven

On the LAMM, the low point comes at 5 am on Day 2, but this is deftly turned into the high point of the weekend with the cunning use of bagpipes. You awake from your half-sleep to the dulcet sounds of the Highlands' finest- an experience to treasure. It was, unfortunately, impossible to find a willing piper in the remote location of the overnight camp in Strath Mulzie, so we were left with the accidental droning feedback of Martin Stone’s loud hailer instead (which some, rather unkindly, thought was a good substitute for the pipes…). Some disappointed LAMMers in a nearby tent made up for the piper-less wake up call with a rousing rendition of ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers”, so we weren’t short-changed…

Descending the rocky summit of Seanna Bhraigh

Somewhere along the way, this tremendous mountain journey has allowed you to restore your sense of balance, to see what's important again. And all of a sudden, you realise your mountains have become molehills.

Day 2 start with the lovely backdrop of Creag an Duine

B Class womens' team winners (I think)


penny said...

Nice shots me dear, you've caught the atmosphere well, including the mad JRT! Still buzzing from it now!

Rhiannon said...

Yarzze, it was great, wasn't it?
I think you put it well- some of the best mountain scenery in the country, and magic conditions.
It was a thrill to be part of such a great event. Hoping for serious bagpipes next year :)

kate said...

brilliant post. you've managed to articulate what i've not yet managed but feel pretty much every time i come back from a few good days in the hills.

Rhiannon said...

Many thanks, Kate- I've long been an admirer of your blog- a brilliant blend of humour and perception. Maybe see you at one of these mad mountain events one day!
Thanks again,