News - Mon 21st May 2018 - Day 2: Runners Tested By Knoydart’s Wilderness And Wet Weather - Cape Wrath Ultra

Day 2: Runners Tested By Knoydart’s Wilderness And Wet Weather

21st May 2018

A day of wet, bog and wind at higher levels made for a tale of two very different races for the 175 participants that took on Day 2 of the Cape Wrath Ultra 2018.



Although early, wet and a tad midgy, the start line at Glenfinnan was an up-beat place with smiley runners keen to get going. The participants set off at different times from around 7am until 9am.


Glenfinnan campsite on a dreich May morning.

Runners start off in good cheer, while the campsite view reveals the dreich morning ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


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A very cheerful start for this runner. ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


Yet, by the time they reached the finish line many hours later, the runners seemed to be divided into two camps, with some reporting that they greatly enjoyed the Scottish terrain – and even the weather – while others found it "too hard, wet, rocky, hilly, boggy and long".


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Bert Scharpenberg ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


Day 2: Glenfinnan to Kinloch Hourn



Distance: 57km (35 miles)

Total ascent: 1,800m (5,905ft)

  • Trackless (XT): 9%
  • Singletrack (ST): 63%
  • Double track (DT): 19%
  • Road/tarmac (RT) = 9%

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Smiling through the wet and cold of the wilderness terrain ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


A big step up in challenges


The participants knew that yesterday’s introductory day would be gentle compared to the far greater challenge of day two. As race director Shane Ohly put it: “It goes from 1 out of 10 to 9 out of 10.”


There were several high passes to negotiate including the first, rising to 470m between Sgurr Thuilm and Streap. It may come as no surprise to discover that this was the remote route that Bonnie Prince Charlie used while escaping from government troops after the Battle of Culloden. 


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Making good progress on rocky paths ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


After CP1, the route continued through Glen Dessary before rising to another higher point of 314m then down and up to reach CP2, where another challenge was presented at a deep river. A bridge over the River Carnach has collapsed and this meant runners needed to wade through cold water to reach the other shore. 


The next stage saw the path rise to the day’s highest point of 522m between the peak of Luinne Bheinn, a Munro, and Sgurr a’Choire-bheithe, just a metre shy of Munro designation.


And then, just when the participants thought they might be offered a bit of light relief along the shore of Loch Hourn close to the finish line they faced yet more tough undulating terrain, with many sections of slippery rocks.


Comments on the day’s challenges included “boggy”, ”very, very wet moorland” and “so little runnable stuff” (although one runner said: "I was happy that it wasn't that runnable because I was happy to hike.")


“I fell in to a bog up to my waist,” said Sarah Witte (187), England. (Blog ed: Although, to be fair, is quite a small lady!)


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Many runners raved about the beautiful scenery, despite the wet ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


A ‘great day out’ for the front-runners


For some runners, especially those at the front, the 35 miles through the wilderness territory of Knoydart were just what they were expecting from the Cape Wrath Ultra™. Many British runners also seemed to relish the type of terrain that they were familiar with from training.


As Carol Morgan (124), of Ireland, completed the final couple of miles, picking her way over an undulating and rocky path alongside Loch Hourn, she laughed and said: “It is awesome. Of course, it has been tough terrain but that is what Scotland is all about. Look at how amazing this is.” Carol sits in first female place after two days of racing with a time of 11:20:07.


Paul Ainsworth (1), England, in third place overall, said: “It has been a great day. The terrain is hard, especially the final section, but it has been great.” After day 2, his time is 10:34:24


Christopher Barnes (6), England, in fifth place, said: “It has been an amazing day. But I think there will definitely be some latecomers. It was tough terrain and very cold in places.” After day 2, his time is 11:10:25.


Jim Mann (122), England, was also up-beat as he ran on the final stretch of tarmac to the finish line. Jim, who sits in first place, said: “It was wet and boggy and windy on the col but not unexpected. I had a good day out there.” After day 2, Jim sits in first place in a time of 09:17:19.


Despite being tested by a broken shoe – he fixed it by tying his buff around the sole – Alasdair Moffett (122), England, remained cheerful. He said: “It has not been easy especially as the sole has almost fallen off my trainer but I have had a good day.”  After day 2, his time is 12:11:09.


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Low clouds created a dramatic backdrop for runners ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


For other runners: ‘It was so cold and hard’


As more of the middle part of the field ran, walked and hobbled towards the finish line on Day 2, the comments became increasingly woe-filled. These runners had spent longer in the cold and wet conditions and in many cases their spirits were correspondingly damp.


Dutch runner Peter van der Heijden (172) said: “I am so hungry. It has been a very hard day... So wet and the path has been difficult. I am happy to be almost finished at last.” Peter’s overall time is 13:43:51.


Karoline Hanks (68), South Africa, said: “I have been pretty close to losing the plot today. The wind and cold on the high points was very hard. I have found it very tough.”  Karoline sits in fourth female place with a time of 12:27:25.


Lee Parker (135), of England, said: “It was so hard. I had to take care with every foot placing. It felt like each foot pacing was four times as hard as it normally is. And the ticks! I have so many ticks on my legs that I will need to deal with later.” Total finish time: 12:07:31


Glenn Tait (164), Scotland said: “I felt like crying at least 10 times, especially when I ripped my pack open on barbed wire. And while I don’t mind the bog, all those wet rocks… It was hard going. But, you know, I am still happy with my day.” His total finish time is 16:11:09.


Paul Campbell (27), England, said: “It was the hardest 35 miles I have ever run. There were no paths, just streams and bog.”


As we published, there were still 8 participants out on the course.


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Keep smiling! ©Jimmy Hyland/JHP Visuals


A challenge for event team, too


The narrow road that winds its way from west of Invergarry to Kinloch Hourn proved testing for some of the larger vans and vehicles that are moving tents, marquees and kit from overnight camp to overnight camp.


The weather added to the challenge as the vans got temporarily stuck (and then pulled out by the event's 4x4) in the muddy field and the volunteers were erecting tents still wet from the night before.


A testing internet connection (via satellite) called for comms team member Matt Gemmell to take up residence in the cosy Kinloch Hourn Tea Room (Blogger Ed: He was coping well with plenty of cups of tea and a nice evening meal when I saw him!). He was in charge of the emergency mobile phone and offered essential backup for keeping track of the participants still on the course.


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Red deer watch the participants with keenness ©Jimmy Hyland


Top three placings after day 2


Top three men:

  1. Jim Mann (112), England, 09:17:19
  2. Robert Barnes (7), England, 9:43:43
  3. Paul Ainsworth (1) England 10:34:24


Top three females:

  1. Carol Morgan (124) of Ireland 11:20:07
  2. Sarah Witte (187) England 11:52:23
  3. Joanna Zakrzewski (19) England 12:11:05


Please check back for day-to-day Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2018 reports.


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