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Over and Round The Five Sisters

Rob Howard / Photo : Rob Howard / 15.08.2019

Lozere Team2raid

The heavy rain overnight at ITERA made a tough race even tougher and when not pushing on the teams were taking shelter where they could along the route. 

When the final teams arrived at Kinlochewe at TA4/5 after the long Fisherfield trek they were beyond the cut off and needed to rest, but as Beacon Adventure told me; “We were told to camp in the field alongside but it was about a foot deep in water!”

They were allowed to sleep inside the hall and then transferred forward to the Clunie Inn, which is now serving as an impromptu transition.  (Leaving from here means teams can trek to the start of the last paddling stage by a shorter and easier route than the original short course and aim to arrive for today’s rafting.) 

Teams taking this option, and those who were bussed to Ardessie on the second paddle, will now be ranked again, with a penalty of 36 hours for each transfer.  (This is just to ensure they finish below short course teams who finished the stages.)  Those who missed cut-offs, took a ride anywhere else or have withdrawn will still be unranked.

Staff at the Clunie Inn have been letting in sodden groups of racers all morning, and the bar manager Pepe has just told a team, “Come in, come in, it’s already messed up in here!”  He is dealing with an unprecedented demand for ham and cheese toasties at the moment and said he normally gets no passing customers until 10.00, but today he has been busy since 8.00, the place is packed, and he is having a great morning.

Overnight highland hotels and hostelries have been taking in travellers passing by, as they’ve done for centuries past.  It was such a foul night with flooded roads and paths turned to streams that teams needed some respite and to warm up. 

I met the Belgian team all enjoying a beer at the Lochcarron Hotel last night and just down the road in Strathcarron several teams found shelter in another hotel/bar.  Adventure racing is often about adapting and making the right choices in any given situation, which is what team were doing.

Simon McAllister of McSeamus Clan told me; “We were passing just as they were closing and knocked on the window and the guy welcomed us into a pool room area off the bar.  We had access to toilets, even a shower if we wanted, and he bought us hot chocolate and said to just close the door after ourselves when we left!  It turned out they’d been following the race online and knew all the teams! What amazing hospitality!”  He added, “Two or three other teams came in before we left.”

The McSeamus Clan were at TA8/9 at the Morvich Outdoor Centre and McAllister told me, “We are going to take a transfer to Clunie as we are a bit broken now. We had an amazing crossing of An Teallach as we were up there at the dawn in fine weather and it was just stunning, but the ride on the short route in the wet weather was hard. There were some rocky sections to walk and every path was flooded.”

The transition as Morvich at the end of the ride was in a small outdoor centre and was really busy in the middle of the night. Teams were taking every available camping spot, and were sheltered under the porch to unpack their bags and then move inside to change and repack. There was no room inside for all the gear, but teams took off the really wet kit in the hallway then moved into another drier room.

The race takes a lot of trouble to find halls for all the transitions for exactly this reason, sometimes a gazebo in a field won’t do! There has been plenty of hot water and tea and coffee at all the transitions as well and they were especially welcome last night.

The Nav4 – JRP team were taking down their tent this morning and deciding what to do next, as were a few other teams. Tom Gibbs was there with the maps of the next stage going over the options for them, and trying to ensure as many as possible will make the rafting stage today.

Joe Faulkner said, “I’m very proud of how we’ve been working as a team and the decisions we’ve made. We’ve looked after ourselves and each other and made the right choices for us at the time. We may not have a great result but have done well.”  (Unfortunately with hand injuries to two of them the team had to move forward as they could not do the last paddle.)

Among the lead teams there are less decisions to make, on the route anyway, they just have to stay on the full course.  They have to look after themselves too of course, decide how hard they can push and where and when to sleep.   Leaders Columbia Vidaraid slept for the first time after passing through Morvich last night, then took a direct ascent up onto the Five Sisters ridge. 

With high winds, dense cloud and rain it was an option only taken by the remaining full course teams, and that is now likely be down to three.  (Swiss/UK Adventurers are looking to be too far back now to reach the finish before course closure if they continue on the full course route.)

By mid-morning the cloud had lifted and the rain thankfully stopped, and there was a change in the lead too.  Columbia Vidaraid lost their way and descended the wrong ridge, then took a while to reorient themselves, by which time Lozere Raid2team had passed them.

The French team said they thought CP30 was not there and took a picture of the location (all the teams carry a camera as part of their mandatory gear for this purpose).  They looked in good shape as they crossed the main road at Clunie and said the trek had been hard.  “it was thick fog and wet and the navigation was not easy,” said Benjamin Monier.  

They met course planner Tom Gibbs as they stopped to take off all their wet weather gear and he told them, “There is a good path from here for a while.”  Maxime Brajon replied, “For some reason I don’t think I believe you!

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About The Author

Rob Howard
Rob is Editor of SleepMonsters.com. He's traveled the world reporting on and photographing adventure races and day-to-day he keeps his finger on the pulse of AR to ensure SleepMonsters is the heartbeat of the sport.

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