News - Wed 25th Jun 2014 - Cape Wrath Ultra: Race Design Update - Cape Wrath Ultra

Cape Wrath Ultra: Race Design Update

25th Jun 2014

This update will show you the parameters of what we are striving to achieve with the Cape Wrath Ultra™. We had intended to update the Cape Wrath Ultra™ website in June 2014 with information about the route and schedule (inc. number of days and daily distance), actual event date and the cost of the event. We are not quite ready to do this yet and because the event is still two years away, we do not want to rush into early decisions. As you read below, you will see our design path to date, and our reasoning, to share with you. Never hesitate to email us questions – at this stage; some of these may be influential in establishing what is most important to you, as competitors.

The reason for deferring certain decisions is multi-faceted. Primarily, the planned recce of our provisional route was due to happen this June by Shane Ohly, our Event Director and others, but Shane has plantar fasciitis at the moment and the recce has had to be postponed. Meanwhile, Gary Tompsett our Race Director & Planner is deep into the other considerations that impact date, cost and duration.

These include: confirming the dates when access to Cape Wrath itself will be possible, as we will need to traverse a military firing range; understanding the impact of the tide and rivers in spate (flood) on all course alternatives; considering robust logistics and working around other major events in the Highlands (like the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William that also takes place in June and has a huge impact on the availability of accommodation).

What we can confirm at this point is the following.

Overall Event Design
Foremost in our event planning is the atmosphere and reputation that we want associated with the race. We want the competitors to feel that they are turning up to and participating in a major, World-class ultra running expedition event. If competitors want to consider comparable event experiences, start with the Marathon des Sables.

If you walk the Cape Wrath Trail, the established route logically uses villages and towns along the way for some of the overnight stops. However, this is generally not the experience we are seeking with the Cape Wrath Ultra™. Our provisional route, whilst based on the fantastic Cape Wrath Trail, actually seeks out the most remote and wild places it is feasible to establish a camp for our overnight stops. As event planners we want to take on the challenge of delivering an event that captures the true wilderness experience that the Highlands of Scotland have to offer. This means absorbing complex logistical challenges and time constraints into our event design, whilst leaving the competitors completely free to focus on an incredible journey and experience that the race will provide. In summary, we want the Cape Wrath Ultra™ to offer the very best wilderness experience that Scotland can provide.

As part of the event experience, we will be including hotel (or hotels) accommodation for all the competitors on the first and last nights of the race. On the first night we will provide a monster pre-race meal and on the last night we will provide a monster celebration that will be comparable to the epic adventure completed by the competitors. As there will need to be a day set aside for registration, kit checking and briefings at the beginning and a day set aside to travel back from Cape Wrath, we anticipate the entire Cape Wrath Ultra™ experience taking around ten days. During this period, all food and accommodation (whether hotel or tented) will be provided, by the event, within your entry fee.

The Route
If you were to study the Cape Wrath Trail, as presented by the recognised guide book (The Cape Wrath Trail by Iain Harper), you will see a few interesting facts:

  1. That the Cape Wrath Trail is an unofficial and unmarked trail (but we like this!)
  2. That at times, the Cape Wrath Trail is actually presented as a matrix of route choices.

If we briefly focus on the latter point, we can confirm that our plan is to ferry everyone across the sea loch, Loch Linnhe, to the race start on the opposite shore to Fort William. This will be a rich and exciting experience. This confirms that we do not intend to adopt the inland alternative route in the early days 1 and 2. As we look further north there are many other route alternatives possible, and our preoccupation at present is to select from these choices those that are the best for underfoot conditions, navigation, safety, access feasibility and amazing views. So, we have more initial groundwork to complete. Gary has already started this, and coincidentally has recently successfully completed a 550-mile continuous mountain bike race that accessed some of these trails, and has already formulated a ‘desire-line’ for some sections.

The superb new Cape Wrath Trail maps from Harvey Maps.


The Maps, Navigation and GPS
More on this later, but you’ll have already read that this event will not be waymarked. This leaves GPS, .GPX and Tracking as matters to be shared and divulged later. Some people may prefer to use paper mapping during the event for navigation, but regardless, paper mapping is an excellent way to review and prepare for the run. Also making great mementos. Accordingly, we have excellent support from Harvey’s Maps, who will be making special race maps for the event. In a wonderfully timely moment, they have just launched their superb Cape Wrath Trail map. More details HERE.

We have two provisional route schedules. One is based on 8 days and the other on 7 days to complete the circa 400km journey. Our preferred option is the 8-day schedule and at this stage we think it is unlikely we would choose 7 days. Based on our 8 day schedule the statistics would look like this:

  • Total Distance / Ascent: 400km / 12,000m
  • Average Daily Distance / Ascent: 50km / 1500m
  • Shortest Day: 28km / 900m
  • Longest Day: 73km / 3900m

Both our proposed schedules actually finish in Durness (the closest village to Cape Wrath), so competitors should not expect to stop running when they reach Cape Wrath! However, we will be providing a suitable ‘time out’ for everyone at Cape Wrath so that you can enjoy this amazing headland at the corner of Europe. Then it’s clock ON again, for the final runs to a ferry across a sea loch (with another ‘time-out’) and then the final leg from the ferry landing to Durness. A quick glance at the atlas and you’ll totally understand where we are coming from here. It’s already looking to be perhaps the most exciting, dramatic, and scenic end to an Ultra, anywhere in the World!

Opening Entries
Entries will now open June 2015 and places will be sold on a first come, first served basis. We are planning on limiting the race to circa 150 competitors but this may increase a little as our logistics allow. With over 1,000 people having registered their interest in taking part, we anticipate the event selling out very quickly… possibly in days. We will slightly over-sell the event (to allow for expected withdrawals due to injury etc) and therefore, we will NOT have a waiting list for places. To enter in June 2015, competitors will need to pay a non-refundable deposit with the balance due in January 2016.

How Much?
The big question that we are regularly asked is, “How much will an entry be?”. The simple answer is that we are still not quite sure and won’t be able to fully price the cost of delivering the event until all of the many ‘known unknowns’ listed above are answered. However, somewhere around £1,250 (+/- £250) is a reasonable estimate at this stage.

We trust that this is a useful update that sets the scene on what we are planning to achieve with the event design, and that this whets your appetite for more exciting news of this incredible running challenge, which we hope to release in September 2014.


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