Whilst the country was basking in beautiful sunny weather I set off with Mist and my 2 brothers for our annual pilgrimage to Scotland and some big walking and climbing.
Having completed the Munros (which Alistair is trying to do) and not having the inclination (or probably determination) to complete the Corbetts (which Barry is trying to do) I now spend the trip which brother has the most interesting walk to do! As it turned out I went up 2 corbettes, Beinn Deargg and Ben Damh plus an excellent traverse of the stunning Liathach ridge but more of that later.
What we had not anticipated was that we had chosen to visit Torridon on the weekend of the ‘Celtman’, what is loosely termed an extreme triathlon. To understand quite how extreme it was these are the details:
2.5 miles swim in Loch Torridon
150 mile cycle ride on the roads and passes of North West Scotland
26 mile marathon run/walk over the mountains including an ascent of Beinn Eighe – a Torridion giant of over 3,500 foot.
Triathlons have been in the news over the last year or so, mainly due to the impressive feats of the Brownlee brothers, but in all honestly the Olympic course was tame compared to this. The people taking part are the elite amateurs (as one competitor morosely mentioned when asked if you win anything, he said a tee shirt) who are invited to qualify for the event. Many are Scandinavians which is where the event grew up and most came over to Scotland with what is deemed a ‘support team’, usually another elite runner who supports them on the run.
The swim starts at 5 am (nice) but there was a problem. The water was deemed just too cold so these hardmen were let off 1 kilometer of the swim (the race is well martialled by a team of volunteers) before they took to their bikes. Unlike the rest of Britain the weather in Scotland was shocking, driving rain and a gale force winds (our efforts on climbing Beinn Damh were a real strain) which severely hindered the 150 miles cycle.
Cycling in to the teeth of the gale must have been something else. They must have been slowing down because the marshalls only allowed the first 11 (there were 120 competitors) on to Beinn Eighe section of the run. The others were sent on a lower course round the back of Liathach. We watched the first 3 coming off Beinn Eighe (the leader looked as though he may well complete in 12 hours) and a larger group hobbling in great pain along the lower route.
I was just so impressed. These lads (and lasses) are simply the toughest set of individuals I ever ever seen – peak physical fitness combined with great mental strength. Meeting a few of them and their support I could not help being impressed by the supreme confidence (but understated, never being arrogant) of people who were simply at the peak of their game. Well done to all, whether competitors, support team or organizers, it certainly increased my enjoyment of the weekend.
Back to our relatively mundane hill walking jaunt on some of the Torridion giants. Torridon itself is incredibly impressive, all the mountains rear precipitously from the ground around and all take a lot of climbing, inevitably up steep fellsides. The views across the area are so impressive (I hope the photos give this impression) and the ridge walking excellent and at times challenging, but its a special place. A word for Liathach; this is my 3rd climb of Liathach and it offers a superb day in the Scottish hills – many say that alongside An Teallach and the Cullin Ridge at Gillean it is a Top 3 day. I am not going to argue with that.
There is something so very different about walking in the north west of Scotland, the sheer scale of the mountains, the long often rough walk ins and the steep unrelenting ascents all make it such a different experience to walking anywhere in England. Tough it may be, memorable it always and it continues to draw me back every year. Ullapool and Sutherland next.
Enjoy your walks
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