BLACK MOUNT - 12th/13th June 1999
Organiser's Report by Martin Stone
L A M M 2000
We look forward to seeing you all somewhere in Scotland, sometime in 2000. The date will depend on the use of land in our chosen area and likely dates are between mid-June and mid-August. The date and details of the event will be advertised on the web site when available. We suggest that you look at the new web site address,www.lamm.co.uk at regular intervals from December onwards. When available, details will ONLY be sent to those who chose not to obtain Final Details and Results from the web site. There is no need to contact us unless your address has changed.
If you do need to contact us you can firstname.lastname@example.org, FAX 01931 714107, write to Martin Stone, Lowe Alpine MM, Sleagill Head farm, SLEAGILL, PENRITH CA10 3HD or telephone 01931 714106.
It is clear from the entry forms that more than 2/3 of you can now access to the Internet - a quite astonishing proportion that may not be a true reflection of the population as a whole. Everything you have received, has also been available on the web site which makes the task of disseminating information easier with every passing year. We hope to soon improve the appearance of our rudimentary web site and to add background information and a diary of similar events that may be of interest. The web site provided a LAMM ‘Dating Agency’ for matching up those who had lost a running partner shortly before the event and one or two prize-winning performances were achieved through these last minute partnerships. As far as I am aware, everyone who advertised for a partner, managed to find one and I feel that more of those who experienced disappointment a few days before the event could have found a compatible partner in this way. More people could also have used the lift-sharing page. Let's make a concerted effort in future to reduce the number of cars being driven to the event from opposite ends of UK.
FEEDBACK & FUTURE VENUES – A PRIZE FOR THE BEST LEAD!
Many of you have already contacted us since the event but we would welcome additional comments regarding the format and style of the event. It is really important to me that the event should remain innovative, exciting and provide fresh experiences each year. Ideally, I would like competitors to feel inspired by the event and to look forward to the weekend with anticipation as it approaches. It is our aim to provide a mountain marathon for connoisseurs with the most challenging courses and the finest venues. This can only be achieved by limiting the numbers to a sensible limit of 500 teams. Above that size, we feel that our options would be severely limited as the local infrastructure is put under too much pressure. Inevitably the first concession we would have to make is the quality of the venue.
We would like to place the ball back in your court. If you know an area of the Scottish Highlands that you feel would provide scope for a good event and would cope with up to 500 pairs, please contact us with your proposal. Better still, if you are acquainted with contact/s on the ground such as Landowners, Factors or Stalkers and could provide us with an introduction we would be especially pleased to hear from you. The most helpful suggestion will be rewarded with a prize of Lowe Alpine gear that will be presented at the event you have personally helped to make possible. I would like to thank everyone who suggested locations after the 1998 event, but as it happened I was able to come up with the Black Mount area myself!
Is the provision of transport to the venue from a major city such as Glasgow a worthwhile exercise - we were a little disappointed at the numbers choosing the option this year? Do you like the elements of surprise – providing rough details of the venue 36 hours before the event and then leading you to the venue? Do you like the idea of an A -> B route and the way Saturday morning unfolds as you head towards the start? Do all these elements merely distract you from the important part of the weekend - 2 days of mountain marathon competition in the hills? What are your views on the merits of Electronic Punching? Was the 1:40,000 OS map (described in the Planner's Report) suitable compared with the larger scale but more cluttered 1:25,000 maps used in recent years?
We are most grateful this year to four estates, which are all owned by different members of one family, for allowing us access. I would especially like to thank Mr Robin Fleming for agreeing to host the event on the Black Mount Estate, Mr R J Fleming for allowing us to cross the Dalness and Glen Etive estates and Mr Richard Schuster for allowing us to site the midcamp near to Glenkinglass House. Our event can only ever take place with the support of the landowners and this is the single most critical aspect of the event. This year Chris Hall and I had the pleasure of working with estate stalkers Hamish Menzies, Alastair Hunter and Tim Healey. Their advice and assistance made our task relatively easy and with their help, it was a pleasure to organise the event.
We used the SportIdent system at the event for the first time and those of you with access to the Internet will have been able to examine all your split times and compare them with others. The system is excellent for checking that teams have visited the correct controls. The control boxes that you found out on the hills are extremely robust and reliable. Some of them had been in position and operating for up to 6 days before you visited the control site. We did suffer a few teething problems with the system and I can tell you that the stress levels were going through the roof of the bothy at the midcamp. However, we muddled through and made the best of a few shortcomings in the multi-day event software that made the calculation of chasing start times and vets handicap times difficult.
It is always a relief when the first of the competitors arrives at the Event Centre as one knows that there has been no breakdown in the precarious communication process. The field provided for us by Black Mount Estate couldn't have been more ideal and is a perfect stepping off point for a mountain marathon. Although we usually manage to properly separate you from your cars, with such a large field it would have been difficult to justify. The atmosphere at the Event Centre was relaxed and for many of us it felt like we were meeting up with old friends once again for our annual party. However, there was still the usual sense of anticipation for what was inevitably to come. This was the 4th consecutive year of wonderful weather during the days leading up to the event and it lasted long enough on the Saturday for everyone to enjoy the majesty and grandeur of the mountain scenery in this part of the Scottish Highlands.
Kellogg's came up trumps again with their highly calorific Nutri.Grain bars and judging by comments from last year, they seem to have claimed a number of converts from the more usual chocolate bars. If you are curious as to why it was necessary to change from a coach to a double-decker between Inveroran and the start, it is because we used all available buses and coaches from Highland Country's Fort William Depot and it isn't possible to get a double-decker along the road to Inveroran.
It is a drive of more than 2 hours from Inveroran to the midcamp and almost all the helpers headed for the midcamp on foot or by mountain bike. The bothy at the midcamp, provided by the Glenkinglass Estate, was a godsend and made it much easier to manage the electronic kit. The weather on Sunday provided just the right level of navigational challenge without making the day too tough. We were delighted that Hamish Menzies could be at the prize giving to represent the Black Mount Estate
A Dutch team flew to Glasgow but none of their event kit which was checked-in ever arrived. For a team that had travelled so far and made such a commitment to take part in the event, it was a disaster and we felt very sorry for them. We managed to scrape together most of the kit they would need but not surprisingly the team was disappointed and when their bags still hadn't made it to Inveroran by Saturday tea time, they left for Glasgow and flew home. With the benefit of hindsight, if ever you are flying to an event, it would always be best to carry your event rucksacks on the plane.
There were a number of minor casualties this year and three experienced competitors managed to sustain fractured ankles. We were fortunate that all the injured were able to make their own way to safety but this does highlight the hazards of mountain terrain. This was the first year that we undertook a set of random kit checks at the end of the event.. The checking was comprehensive and from it we identified two quite important issues. In future, Pertex and similar windproof tops will NOT be accepted as waterproof raintops as it is most important that a water resistant outer layer can we worn to combat the effects of driving rain. Training shoes will never be accepted again as suitable footwear as the height of the heels generally make them unstable for steep contouring. The only acceptable options are purpose designed mountain running shoes, orienteering shoes or lightweight boots with ankle support.
A VERY WORRYING INCIDENT
Late on Sunday afternoon two competitors approached us to say that they hadn't seen their travelling companions all weekend. We checked the system and were concerned to find that they had neither been recorded at the midcamp or back at the Event Centre. This situation has never arisen before and we became concerned. Some of the electronic control boxes had already been returned to us and it was possible to download all the information from the relevant boxes to determine which checkpoints they had visited on day 1. We noted that they were the penultimate team to pass through CP 109 at 22:30hrs. To our horror they were not recorded on the control box at the bridge before the run-in to the finish. I was sitting in the bothy within feet of the finish control box and felt sure I would have seen them and in any case they would need to have the data downloaded off their Ecard so that we could record their time for the day. Just in case they started day 2, we downloaded the control box from checkpoint 1 but they were not recorded on it. We now became extremely concerned for the team's safety and feared the worst as there was a deep and sheer gully 400M to the south of checkpoint 109. All the indicators were that in the semi-darkness, they had both slipped and fallen into the gully late on Saturday night. The Arrochar team and some of our helpers set off for the 2 hour drive to the Glenkinglass valley. All the relevant organisations were informed and Tim Healey, stalker for the Glenkinglass Estate headed up the gully to try to locate the bodies.
At about 17:00 on Sunday, the pair trudged into the field at Inveroran, blissfully unaware of our concern. Needless to say we were very relieved and there was no point getting annoyed with them as in theory they hadn't done anything wrong. They had punched at the bridge (which had switched off because by then it was so late) and then punched at the finish of day 1 but had then crept off to bed without disturbing anyone, but also without getting the times downloaded off their Ecard. They started day 2 with everyone else and probably because times from day 1 were still stored on their card, nothing registered on the card at CP 1. The lessons to be learned from this are that competitors arriving late at the midcamp SHOULD ALWAYS make their presence known to a marshal and even with the wonders of modern technology, we should not jump to conclusions. It was a sobering experience and I have to admit to spending a few quiet minutes wondering whether as organiser I was going to be able to withstand the questioning at the Coroner's Court!
THANKS TO THE HELPERS & ORGANISATIONS
I must to take this opportunity to thank a number of people who haven’t been mentioned elsewhere. Debbie deserves the first vote of thanks for handling all the entries, helping me to 'wrestle' with the processing of Electronic Punching data and producing another fine map with Geoff Wishart and Mike Squibb of the Ordnance Survey. We had a new planner this year, Chris Hall, who devoted a great deal of time, care and thought to the task. It was a pleasure to work closely with him and see the results - excellent courses. Mike Greenwood was our official controller and together with other members of the checkpoint team is thanked by Chris below. Mark Rigby did a sterling job in Glasgow, rounding up competitors at the coach station and airport on the Friday afternoon and evening. Our regular team of friends and helpers becomes more experienced each year and it was fortunate that I was able to delegate more duties on the weekend than ever before and concentrate on getting the 'technology' to work. Thanks especially to David & Val Johnstone, David Exley, Andrew Walker, Dougie Macdonald, Charles Thompson, Ian, John and Sue Denmark, the Lowe Alpine ladies and another 10 people who helped the event to run smoothly, to Paul McClintock for providing a comprehensive accident and emergency medical kit which (thank goodness) was hardly touched.
Thanks are due to the Kellogg Company for their generous supply of Nutri.Grain bars to every competitor, Mark Leyland and the Arrochar Rescue Team for their support on the hill and at the camps, Keyline the Builders Merchants for their annual supply of toilet barrier material and water piping, the Gun Club at Inveroran for the use of the portacabin, the Bridge of Orchy Fire Service for assistance installing a safe water supply to the field at Inveroran, Roddy Archibald and Highland Country Buses for a great piece of team work, Inverhall Marquees and Wilf's for their support and excellent fayre, served throughout the weekend . Last but by no means least, our sponsor Lowe Alpine provided a great deal of help and support in the lead-up to the event and this year generously donated Lowe Alpine equipment vouchers which could be spent at Field and Trek.