Planner's Report - Andy Spenceley

In planning courses for the LAMM, I regard it as not a giant orienteering event but as a journey through the mountains. An orienteering course is a series of challenges and you are normally engrossed in those challenges so it doesn’t really matter where you are – though a nice sunny forest is always welcome ! For the LAMM, you still have the challenges of route selection, but I want people to be able to visit interesting and remote places, have great views (weather dependent) and feel they have travelled across an area, in other words to be aware of their surroundings and go home with memories of the places they have been and sights seen as well as, of course, enjoying the courses.

The following is not a justification or analysis of each leg but some general thoughts of now the courses developed. This year we had a massive area to use, but courses are constrained by where the event centre and mid camp are. Once these had been decided, the courses were built round them.

The starting point was the distance from the mid camp to event centre. As the mid camp was about 16km from the event centre, the D and C courses had to take a reasonably direct route back on the second day, but this could include skirting close to An Teallach, crossing some of the rock features and getting the atmosphere of the mountain. Therefore, in order to cover different areas each day, in made sense that D and C crossed the Fannichs on day 1. As regards the route, I wanted to include a munro as it is a “mountain” marathon and some route choice. Climbing to the top of a munro does not generally give much route choice, so I put the main route choice leg across the western Fannichs after doing the munro in the eastern Fannichs. On the D course, we (as Angela Mudge our Controller gave good advice on this) decided on a very long leg in the middle of the course. This was a bit of a gamble and is unusual for a D course, but we reckoned that three early controls, a long leg and then three close final controls would work and it seemed to pay off as people really had to stop and think about the best way to do the long leg and people took every option imaginable and feedback was good.

I think controls on a mountain marathon shouldn’t be too hard to find, as the getting there is the thing, but people do like some trickier controls and while those on day 1 were generally straight forward a few on the second day were potentially a bit harder, such as the 3rd control on C course (stream junction), or the knolls on the D course.

The B course was in a similar situation to C and D, in that it couldn’t go over the Fannichs on the second day and get back to the event centre in the distance required, so I also sent B into the Fannichs on the first day, but because it is a tougher course than C and D, it could go into part of Fisherfield on day 2 before finishing crossing the bottom of An Teallach. They therefore had the opportunity to climb one of the ‘Fisherfield 6’ as well as crossing some of the famous rock slabs on the slopes of Sgurr Ban. I hope they enjoyed this, even if not the descent of Beinn a’Chlaidheimh ! The first day of the B was able to go the far east of the map and then cross the Fannich range in a couple of longish legs before dropping down to the final legs.

Interestingly, the three courses, B, C and D, all ran slightly faster times on Day 1 in the Fannichs than I was expecting, which meant that there wasn’t really a time different between day 1 and day 2, although neither days were too long. This faster day 1 was partly down to the drier underfoot conditions than when I’d been wandering around the area (and lack of snow!). The dry ground didn’t make such a difference on the second day as the going was rougher with more rock and heather. Also there were some good people at the front in these classes running good times!

It was the Elite and A classes that were able to make full use of the map as these classes could go into the Fannichs on day 2 and still get back to the event centre. This meant they could get into Fisherfield on the first day. In particular, the Elite really did an amazing circuit of the map, crossing An Teallach and then a complete traverse of Fisherfield on the first day, before hitting the Fannichs on the second and, to keep them on their toes, finishing with completely different terrain of the complex of low hills to the north of the main road (or “typical Mountain Marathon terrain” as one competitor put it, although not typical of the LAMM!). As the A couldn’t go quite as far as the Elite, I sent them the opposite direction across An Teallach – which included a chance to bag the first munro on the ridge as a reasonable route choice and many did that – before a long leg past Shenavall to get to the Fisherfield hills. I wasn’t sure how that leg would go down with people and whether they would find it boring, but from speaking to people, they liked the opportunity to stretch their legs. On the second day, the A was very similar to the Elite, except the Elite did a munro – really to give a bit more climbing, but, anyway, they don’t often get to the summits so it was a good chance to give them one.

It was a shame that numbers were so low in the Elite as a lot of work goes into producing a course through such a remote area; not only planning but marking control sites, putting out controls and collecting them in. To travel through all those different mountain ranges in one weekend was a unique opportunity.

The class I haven’t mentioned yet, the Score class is always a problem at the LAMM and that is because there is only one Score class. We have to cope with all from Elite to D standard runners. Other MMs such as the OMM have several Score classes to get round this. I originally wanted the Score to be based loosely on the day 1 A class, i.e. crossing An Teallach and then into Fisherfield for the fast runners while the slowest, once across An Teallach, could make their way up the glen to the mid camp (with a few controls on the way). However day 2 would then have to return the same way to get the slowest back to the event centre in 6 hours. So I decided to start in the Fannichs, which like the B, C, and D would give a different area each day. This wasn’t ideal for the fastest runners, but I felt the compromise was worth it. Also we probably could have done with a few more control sites to give more options on the first day, but logistically it would have been too much – 68 controls over such a large area was enough of a challenge to put out and collect ! As always, in retrospect I would have changed some of the points to keep people in the more interesting areas. In particular on day 1, I should have given control 147 (stream junction) more to tempt people to go that way and stay in the hills and the loch shore, 167 and stream junction, 114, less (and upped the score of Sgurr nan Clach Geala, which several people complained was too low!). But score classes, more than any other class, both from the planning side and competitors choices always have a bit of “what if …” about them!

Overall I think from what people were saying at the finish, I got the impression you enjoyed the courses. For this, massive thanks must go to our controller, Angela Mudge, who always tells it as it is. She was vital in producing reasonable courses and now that she is recovering well from ankle surgery, was invaluable out on the hill on long days putting out controls etc). Two others who were real lynchpins in marking, putting out and collecting controls as well as checking the ground for map corrections were ex Highlander MM course planners, Ray Wilby and Ian Hay. Finally thanks to Martin Stone, who is open to any idea, can find solutions to any problem and makes it all happen!

Andy Spenceley

PS Many thanks to Andy for such a well considered and informative report - Great work - Martin

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Route planning above Loch Duich

The clouds over mid camp

Racing together - the spirit of the event

Lowe Alpine Mourne Mountain Marathon