The Longest Day
“Day 6 is the longest day, but for all those that have made it this far, this day will unlikely defeat you.”
This was the description for Day 6 on the map, along with the information that today’s route was 45 miles (72km) long with 1400m of ascent. It was a worryingly long distance for weary and sore runners to take on but an encouraging message from the planners and they had another fine and sunny day to enjoy their journey into the mountains of Assynt.
Clachan, at the foot of Loch Broom - a mind-glowingly beautiful overnight camp setting. Again. ©Tom Hecht
There were sections of firm forest track during the day, including at the start, leading to a long trackless section through Glen Douchary to Loch an Daimh and onto more forestry track which lead to CP1 at Oykel Bridge. There was good news and bad news here.
For the majority the good news was that there is a hotel here, sitting in splendid isolation by the old bridge. Its normal clientele are fisherman as the Oykel is one of the most renowned salmon fishing rivers in Scotland. Today there was an influx of sweaty and thirsty runners from the Cape Wrath Ultra. They set off again having topped up on soft drinks and often clutching bags of crisps and peanuts.
Thomas Adams heading down into Gleann Dubh, Ben More Assynt beyond ©iancorless.com
Not everyone stopped, some felt it best to push on, including Luke Robertson and Hazel Clyne, who said, “We’re tight on time, so best not to stop.” They took time for selfies on the old bridge though and the participants who are doing the same are going to have an amazing collection of photos from along the route.
Others were much tighter on time as Okyel Bridge was the day’s only cut-off, with a 16.00 deadline. There were 8 racers who didn’t make it in time, two of them, Paul Barton and Stephen Dixon up to that point on the full course, but the cumulative distance and fatigue had taken a toll and they were unable to continue for the rest of the day.
The route now followed the Okyel northward to Loch Ailsh and after more time on tracks the landscape now changed character and became mountainous again as it followed the Okyel to its source below Ben More Assynt. The head water was in a huge sweeping valley which the participants had to climb out of – and it was a steep climb up to the pass too. The way lead up below the summit of Conival, to a high rocky pass cut by a deep river gorge.
Luke Robertson and Hazel Clyne head down into Gleann Dubh - Inchnadamph and Loch Assynt in sight ©Rob Howard
The route followed a difficult trackless section on the descent before picking up a path down to the night’s camp at Inchnadamph. This was set up in another idyllic spot beside Loch Assynt and below the distinctive conical peak of Quinag. There was a hotel across the road but most of the participants were happy to sit outside and watch the magnificent sunset across the loch before heading to their tents to sleep.
They will need their rest, tomorrow is another long day at 38 miles (61km), but everyone setting off will know it is the last long day in their quest to run to Cape Wrath as the final day is only 16 miles.
Members of the event team pause to soak up yet another brilliant sunset ©iancorless.com