Running Scotland’s 10 highest mountains in a day sounded like a great idea. And it was. Several times this had come up in discussion over the last year, and if it is being talked about, it may well be worth doing.
The Big 10 are spread across 3 ranges, with Ben Lawers north of Loch Tay, the Nevis Range adjacent to Fort William, and the Cairngorms east of Aviemore. To climb them all within 24 hours would take a lot of training, teamwork, and a bit of driving! Donnie Campbell and I train together quite a bit, so taking this on with Donnie would almost seem like another long day in the hills. An apocalyptic weather forecast had ensured that all waterproofs in my house were packed, and we relaxed at Firbush, getting kit ready the night before. With the weather, and the fact that due to a sore back and hip I had slept on the floor rather than the bed for the 2 nights before I was a little nervous.
First up was Ben Lawers at 1,214 metres. Waved off by Donnie’s fiancée Rachael (also our expert driver for the day) and the team from BBC’s Adventure Show we ascended into the mist, heading over Bein Ghlas, before summiting Ben Lawers itself in under an hour before jogging down where Rachael awaited to drive us to the Nevis Range. Apart from having to run more upright than normal, my hip and back were only niggling.
The clouds broke as we drove through Glen Coe, offering high hopes of cloud free mountains. Marco Consani who is the British Champion for 24hr running joined us for the next 4 peaks Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis itself. Fantastic views turned to cloud as the summits approached although route finding was straightforward. Doing live radio whilst running along the Carn Mor Dearg arête tested the balance as did weaving in and out of a throng of other folks out on the hill heading down the tourist route from Ben Nevis
Throughout we had made steady progress through the stock of food in the car, and had been keeping a close eye on the forecast which had promised torrential rain and thunderstorms. Although this seemed less likely with the updated forecast we packed plenty of kit and hit the high Cairngorms. Ross Lawrie was helping the BBC with some filming with the go pro cameras in the Cairngorms, as had Marco in the Nevis Range. Cairn Gorm mountain was the only one all day that was not clouded over, offering smashing views on the descent towards Ben MacDui and into the Larig Ghru. By the time we summited MacDui it was raining steadily, making the boulderfield descent into the valley treacherous. With the legs emptying and the weather deteriorating we pushed on to Braeriach, Angels Peak before finishing up on Cairntoul.
Donnie had navigated expertly all day, and looked distinctly fresher than I as we descended back towards Aviemore. I felt pleased, wet, tired and perhaps most of all relieved that my back had not ‘gone’ completely, and the weather had been short of the disaster forecasted. It had been a great day shared with friends, and whilst I enjoyed the running (on the whole) as any runner will tell you, having a support crew as brilliant as Rachael, Ross, Eilidh and Marco made it twice as good.
Apparently this may be the first time that the highest 10 mountains in Scotland / the UK have been run in under 24 hours. We finished in 13 hours 10 overall, running for 9 hours 10. I hope other people will give this a go, perhaps a little like ‘the 3 peaks challenge’ aiming under 24 hours, whilst I am sure with more helpful conditions (or a faster pair of legs than mine) some could aim to go faster.
Kit wise I was brilliantly looked after as always by Merrell, wearing the All Out Rush shoes, and various combinations of clothes. We were using the run to draw attention to the benefits of exercise for health, and getting out in Britain’s great outdoors, and have been raising a little cash for SAMH and their Get Active Campaign. Thanks to everyone for their outstanding generosity, if you can spare a few pennies is on https://www.justgiving.com/runners4getactive/
Another campaign well worth checking out is the Fit in 14 campaign. A big part of the stuff I do is the amazing support and feedback. Thanks to all for messages, generosity and support. It really is appreciated. A common question I have been asked is when will the adventure show features be broadcast. When I know, I will post this to the blog.
Thanks a million