Grampian Mountain Challenge – Scotland’s Friendly Sociable Winter Mountain Marathon
We hope you all had a wonderful weekend in and around Braemar, we certainly enjoyed hosting our fifth GMC with a fantastic group of competitors, please come back int two years’ time!
Here are some provisional results. If you notice any discrepancies please get in touch (see Dave’s email in the joining instructions).
Please put your routes up on the Gramp Routegadget site. (you can draw by mouse and download GPS).
Read on for the Organiser’s Report and Planner’s Comments …
GMC 2018 – Organiser’s Report
It was great to be part of an enthusiastic team right from the off. Within days of Morven 2016, Ali Robertson had emailed about our 2018 event, offering to plan. Ian Searle, now based in Strathpeffer was happy to take a back(ish) seat. Ian Hamilton was willing to be Controller again. Rachel Scott was very keen to head up the IT side of things. She couldn’t make the actual weekend due to an unforeseen clash with an Euro Urban Sprint Holiday, but Helen Rowlands brilliantly filled the gap. I had been thinking about the hill areas to the south and south west of Braemar previously and decided to try the local Estates in that area.
It had never been my original intention to use somewhere as salubrious as Muir for the mid camp. My initial thoughts were that the Baddoch Glen would be perfect, with Glen Ey as a possible alternative. During the negotiations with the Estates, they were happy with the event passing through their areas, but there was a concern about having such a large overnight camp, with the requirement to take vehicles, trailers and equipment up the glens.
One of my other voluntary roles is Booking Secretary for the Muir Cottage, which is owned by the Cairngorm Club (Advert – Bookings by Groups and Individuals accepted – £12 pppn – advert over). Muir wasn’t booked by anyone else on the weekend in question, so I decided that it would do as mid camp. I went back to the various Estates with this new proposal, which they were happy with. They have since been very supportive of the event indeed. As a Club we therefore wish to acknowledge and thank the representatives of Invercauld Estate, Mar Estate, and the NTS (Mar Lodge Estate). With the mid camp location decided, it was a case of organising the event, whilst letting as few people as possible know that it would have the most comfortable mid camp yet!
We knew we had a great local Orienteering area in Creag Coinnich, and I was delighted to find out that the Morrone Birkwood had been recently mapped. This gave us two excellent separate areas for Orienteering. Many thanks again to Mar Orienteering Club for allowing us use of their mapped areas. I also managed to book what I felt was the perfect hall. The Castleton was ideal, both for the event requirements, and for those who wanted a cheap bed-down for Friday night. It was good to get the same trusted Hill Team from previous GMCs back on board, including Sean O’Sullivan, who had organised the first three GMCs.
The mid camp catering would of course be different form usual, being based in Muir. My wife Liz was happy to take this on, along with our friends Marlis, Kate, Debbie, Lyn and Angela. That they got the biggest cheer during the prize-giving was, in my view, well justified. Other family members got involved too – younger son Struan became Event Photographer, and older son Lachlan signed up on C Solo and eventually took third overall.
An ad-hoc GMC meeting was held at the LAMM on Harris, when we heard from a disappointed Ali, who by then had already done much of the planning work, that he had a wedding on the Saturday of the GMC. Ian Searle agreed to step back in to assist with the planning, and to be at the event over the whole weekend. By August, we knew that we would have our required numbers. It was great to see a wide cross-section entering, including elites competitors, parents with juniors, friends, regular attendees and new names. I again approached Tiso’s to see if they wanted to be a Prize Sponsor, which they did, and they were also keen to send along staff and banners.
Having lugged 25kg+ bags (some with deck chairs attached) around at the last GMC, I decided to put a weight limit on the transported bags. This seems to have been one of the less appreciated changes to the format! We might allow an extra kg per person next time round. Another change which doesn’t appear to have been too controversial was charging for the Tee-shirts. We still had more than 50 takers. Sorry if the colour wasn’t to your taste. I wanted something bright I could wear while out on my bike. One new feature which seems to have gone down well was the GMC Mugs – drink from yours with pride!
So to the weekend itself. Yet again we hit lucky with the weather. Two weeks earlier the whole area, right down to Braemar, was under cover of snow. Although the snow had all melted a week earlier, the Friday immediately before was foul. There was gale force winds and the clag was right down. All I had to do on the Friday was get the trailer to Braemar, and sort out the Hall and Muir. Five brave souls (Ian, Ian, Ali and Sam and Lesley Gomersall) battled the elements to put out about half the hill controls, check all the others, and set out all of the Birkwood controls.
As an Event Organiser, I’ve found that a lot of my worries disappear when competitors start to appear and things really get under way. Part of this is being a cog in a great team, where everyone is beavering away at their own role, but also, you realise that Everyone wants the event to be successful.
The rain and wind washed through on the Friday night, but it did leave a lot of wet ground, including a massive puddle which had to be negotiated right at the start! The day turned out to be fine, and there was actually a bit of heat in the air, especially in the afternoon. The first finishers at Muir arrived about noon, with everyone being in well before course closing time. Apart from one competitor who sustained an injury very early on, no one failed to complete their course. Warmed by the Muir log burner, the evening came and went through a heady mix of bodies, beer, stovies and chocolate caramel shortbread. A bit of a water shortage proved my biggest headache, but apart from meaning we couldn’t allow people to use the indoor toilets, I don’t think it had too much of an effect. Eventually only the Hill Team were left up, finishing off a mini-keg of Highland malt. The day’s surprises were not quite over. Awakened by knocks and shouts, I staggered from my bunk to find two police officers in the Muir hallway. Complaints from the neighbours I thought? No, it was a missing person in the Ben Macdui area. I was able to inform the officers that none of us, including in the many tents outside, had been in that area.
The Catering Team did brilliantly again on the Sunday morning, getting all who wanted it suitably re-fuelled. I had another unsuccessful attempt at getting rid of the rest of the caramel shortbread. Soon the tented village was down and Muir was once again quiet enough for the red squirrels to emerge from hiding. Special thanks at this point go to Outi Kamarainen who was originally entered with her partner Gwyn, but pulled out due to an injury. Outi came along anyway to cycle to the mid camp and join the fun. Her help in cleaning and tidying the Muir hut on the Sunday morning was very much appreciated.
The weather on the Sunday wasn’t quite as good as hoped, but there was hardly any wind. Many were surprised to find their Day 2 courses as tough as, or tougher, than Day 1. Isn’t the GMC full of surprises! The people I spoke to definitely seemed to enjoy their day once again. It was very satisfying that our volunteers on the hill not only managed to man a high level essential gate and two other Emergency Points, counting all competitors through, but they also got all the event controls in.
It was great to have a good full hall for the prize giving – thanks to those who held back for it, and to those who finally finished the caramel shortbread. We owe much thanks to Tiso’s for providing our prize vouchers and it was great to have Chris and Ben around at Registration and Prize Giving. I won’t go onto individual prize winners, you can see those on the results, but well done to them all. I think we were all winners, which you kinda need to be in the Scottish Mountains in November! Well we got off with it again.
So to the future – we are already in discussion with Estates about an event in November 2020. See you there.
The GMC… where do I start? Hard to believe this is already the fifth running of the event since it’s inception in 2010! It all started out in the minds of myself and one of your hardy hill marshals Sean O’Sullivan, and was developed alongside Ian Hamilton (in a campervan one wet evening after a hill race) into the event you took part in, or helped out at this weekend. I love the fact it is still unique in it’s use of both orienteering maps at 1:10000 scale, and mountain maps at 1:40000.
The location around Braemar posed some interesting challenges compared to previous events, as many of the valleys were long, and the sides very very steep, which I’m sure you all experienced.
The terrain around the area is wonderful, such a great mix of classic Scottish heather, some knee deep and soft underfoot, some three or four inches high and rock hard below allowing you to stretch your legs. I hope we got the mix right?
We were granted access to the forests of Creag Choinnich (Mar Orienteering Club) and Morrone Birkwood (Scottish Orienteering Association) and we were so grateful for it, as they are wonderful wee woodlands that really book-ended the event and hopefully were as much of a joy to be in for all of you as they were for me.
I must thank Ian Searle for stepping in to support my planning when I realised my close friends was getting married on the Saturday of the event. Ian has been great with spotting errors, suggesting wee improvements to the courses and using his experience of the last two events in particular to speed up the computing side of the Planning task. He was a great addition to the team.
Ian Hamilton as controller has been a fantastic support too, his guidance in tempering some of my early suggestions and his wealth of Mountain Marathon experience meant the courses that we produced really got the best out of the area, and were a fair and tough challenge for everyone.
On the Friday before the event, we still had a good few controls to put out. This bit is always a risk. Do you leave them on the hill for a couple of weeks giving you plenty of time, but run the risk of the gales or floods wiping any out? We opted for the day before and with a team of 5 of us we split up the area. Huge thanks to Sam and Lesley Gomersall who took a day off work to hack about the hills hanging / checking controls in appalling conditions. Both the Ians (H and S) were there too trudging around in the wind and now heavily sodden terrain.
Having planned a control on top of a Munro I got the job of placing it… when I got above 800m I lost almost all visibility. It was down to about 50m and howling. I’ve never been so glad to see a sodden valley when I finally got back below the cloud line.
Thank you so much to the hill marshals and folk who helped collect controls in, I was delighted to find when I arrived on Sunday that the hill controls were all but cleared. We managed to clear all of the controls for the whole event before 5pm on Sunday, how many other MMs can claim that? A special thanks to Tim Griffin who got to collect my control on Carn Bhac… it’s a lovely mountain, if you get a view.
As the dust settles on the 2018 event thoughts start to turn towards 2020. Where will the event be? Who will be involved? Whatever part I play in it, I already can’t wait!
Thanks for coming, and thank for enjoying the courses. Please take the time to look at our Routegadget page (Day1, Day2), and please try to plot your routes for each day. It really makes a difference to us planners as we get to see if our favoured routes were used, or if you managed to find options we didn’t predict!
See you in 2020!