Friday Night Preview
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True mountain marathon weather greeted LAMM competitors on arrival at Inchnadamph on Friday afternoon: low cloud hanging in tatters over the event centre and a smirr of drizzle blowing off Loch Assynt.
It is barely 24 hours since the location of the event was revealed, although entrants already knew it would be in the far northwest of Scotland. Inchnadamph is a tiny settlement in Sutherland, consisting of a hotel and a field centre. It lies north of Ullapool and about 8 miles south of the Kylesku Bridge, which replaced the old ferry to Kylestrome.
Marshalls had to clear a herd of red deer stags from the car park field today, but they can still be seen in the adjacent field with their new antlers in velvet. The marshy pastures around the head of the loch must be their traditional stamping ground – Inchnadamph means field of the stags.
For Scotland, this area has an unusual geology – it’s limestone country, with caves, tiered crags, and rock pavements. The camping field and surrounds are lush grassland, but who knows what awaits the competitors once they climb into the mountains? There are some big hills, renowned for their cliffs and screes, including Quinag, Ben More Assynt and Canisp.
A relaxed atmosphere prevailed as the first competitor’s cars started arriving at 3pm. Registration began at 4pm, with no queues there or for the LAMM shop, Compass Point or Wilf’s.
Among the first arrivals were Sarah Howes and Anne Jago, who are doing the D course. They live in Kent and caught a 9.30am flight to Inverness. Anne commented, “I think I’m the oldest woman competing, I’m 61.”
Adjacent campers, Stuart Douglas and Peter Gold, doing the B course, reckoned that the misty weather “will challenge our slightly ropey navigational skills”.
Steve Tooms and John Wildman, entered for the C course, were similarly downplaying their chances: “We’ll be the ones right at the bottom tomorrow. Every year we start off with high hopes and end up nursing injuries – Steve’s got Achilles problems and I’ve got a funny ankle. “
Other problems were on the mind of David Hard and Kevin Ash, also on the C course. “I’ve just had to buy a brand new rucksack,” said Kevin. “I went up into the loft I found a mouse had eaten my old one.”
Most competitors from the south of England seem to have taken the option to fly to Inverness airport. A coach collected people from the airport and rail station, but many arriving earlier or later have hired cars. So much so, that every car in Inverness is out on hire this weekend.
There were also some less usual forms of transport. At 7pm one pair arrived from Saddleworth in Lancashire on motorbikes, having ridden the whole way in one day.
Less than an hour later, Adrian Moir was heard overhead in his helicopter. He took off from Cardiff, picking up his partner in Caernarvon. After refuelling at Inverness, he had to fly low level under the cloud, following the Lairg road. Like all other competitors, he did not know the destination until Thursday lunchtime.
And where will they all be tomorrow night? Watch this space!