To Kinlochbervie - Next Stop Cape Wrath
They say a week is a long time in politics, and it’s very definitely a long time if you have run, day after day, across the Scottish highlands on the Cape Wrath Ultra!
At the start of day 7 there was a weary mood in camp. The staff in the timing tent were looking at all the YB trackers lined up on the table and saying that normally they’d given them out earlier than this ... Everything was taking that bit longer, an extra few minutes in bed, not being quite on the case with packing, taking longer over breakfast, more time stretching, taping, plastering – it was all a bit more of a struggle to get going.
Yesterdays long route was to be followed by another long day, and a tough one. There was a big climb early in the day to cross a pass below Glas Bheinn before passing the highest waterfall in Scotland (Eas a Chual Aluinn) and then following the coastline for some distance. It was rough, slow going and approaching CP1 the path took in the summit of Ben Dreavie, then disappeared! Some trackless terrain lead round the ramparts of Ben Stack to the checkpoint.
Early in the day there was some high cloud, even a few spots of rain, but this cleared away to another hot day until later in the evening when the rain came back and was more prolonged. Mick Cooper commented, “We’re not used to rain – we’ll have to complain to the management!” Cooper started out right at the back on the first day nursing an injury and has steadily got stronger and stronger, moving up to 13th.
With the heat and the rough terrain progress was slow and the runners waiting at CP1 to be inserted into the race to complete the last part of the day had a long, impatient wait for the first runners to arrive. (They could not leave until then.)
Between CP1 and CP2 was shorter but still not easy. There was an undulating double track and then another trackless section followed by a riverside path into CP2 which was very narrow, too narrow to easily move along. There were other hazards too. Kevin Stephens came to an abrupt halt as he disappeared up to his knees in mud. “I just sank suddenly and was very stuck – then I had to be careful to pull myself out without losing my shoes!”
There was a hotel at CP2 which one or two visited for refreshment. Andy Simpson popped in for a swift half of Guinness and was on his way again! Waiting at the same checkpoint were Ed Walker’s parents who were there for some hours waiting, and keen to see him having driven from Bath to offer their support!
Andrew Clarke traversing along Loch Glencoul opposite Unapool ©iancorless.com
Beyond CP2 the route followed the road to Kinlochbervie and the final campsite. It was a hard slog for sore feet on the tarmac but the reward was more spectacular scenery alongside Loch Inchard, and the knowledge that the final camp was now close.
Camp was set up on a boggy field behind the community centre, which served as race HQ for the night and with the arrival of the rain participants either stayed in the hall or headed to their tents for an early night ahead of the final day.
Ted Kristensson was stretching in the hall and told me, “I think today was perhaps the toughest day for me. I worked the hardest, but am pleased to be in 11th place and there is 50 minutes to 12th, so that is good.”
He has run every day with his friend Par Bjelkmar, also from Sweden. Whenever I’ve seen them the pair have been side by side, running stride for stride and Kristensson said, “We are great friends and meet up for races. We are very compatible, about the same speed and strength and I think it is a huge help to have a friend to run with. We help each other keep focus and can run a much more even pace.” They have been very consistent every day.
A rare road section, but one with achingly beautiful seaward views ©iancorless.com
Kristensson added, “I live in London and Par in Stockholm so we don’t train together, just meet up for races. For training I go to Hampsetead Heath, and also to Hampstead Heath tube station as its one of the deepest in London and I can train up and down the stairs!” In another show of Scandinavian team work the two Danish runners Flemming Madsen and Henrik Aniol Hansen have also run all the way together.
At the end of the day everyone made it through the cut-offs, except for Deva Lingemann (USA) who fell behind and was pulled out from a passage point in a 4x4. It was bitterly disappointing for her as she had completed the whole route to that point.
With the final participants on their way in now there should be 59 full course competitors starting in the morning for the 16 mile route to Cape Wrath. This starts with the trail to Sandwood Bay and then heads northward cross country to reach the lighthouse ... and the finish!