Scottish orienteers take on Marmot Dark Mountains™

Orienteers including Elaine Elaine Gillies and Davie Frame At The Marmot Dark Mountains 2019 Photo Steve AshworthGillies and Davie Frame from TAY, Ben Stansfield (FVO) and Pat Bartlett (INT) and Sarah Dunn and Jon Musgrave from MAROC took part in this year’s Marmot Dark Mountains™ mountain marathon over the weekend.  The event took place in the Eastern fells of the Lake District with the stunning Lowther Castle as the event centre.  Great results included top place in the B Class for Sarah and Jon.

Marmot Dark Mountains™ takes the classic two-day mountain marathon format and gives it a dark twist. Rather than two days of running with an overnight camp in between, everything is packed into one winter’s night! This challenging event takes place on the last weekend of January each and, like most regular mountain marathons, is a pairs event. The Event is based on a mountain marathon format with Elite, A, B, C, Long and Short Score courses. Starting on the Saturday evening, the longest courses set off first for dusk-to-dawn racing. The shorter courses set off later in the evening with the aim of most competitors finishing within an hour or so of each other the following Sunday morning. This makes for an exciting finale as all the competitors converge on the finish as dawn breaks.

Elaine and Davie took part in the new medium score course. The organisers caught up with them the morning after to find out what they thought:

“It is the ultimate challenge. There were so many different factors involved: the winter, the darkness, the uncertain conditions. Your navigation has to be spot on; pacing, timings, accurate bearings, thinking all the time and planning the route, you use different senses, feeling the terrain. If you think your navigation is good, then come and find out! It will push you out of your comfort zone.We were quite happy to plod around at a steady pace, focusing on making our navigation as accurate as possible. The score courses are great as you can do as much or as little as you like”

Nerves and the excitement at the start meant that Elaine and Davie set off a little too fast and it took them a few controls to settle down. The conditions were tough with rain and snow throughout the night, however a highlight moment was when the blizzard conditions lifted, the skies cleared, the stars came out and they spotted two big planets high up in the sky, with the sun coming up some time after. They enjoyed the lovely atmosphere at the event centre with a team of friendly volunteers cheering on the participants as they departed and returned from their night of adventure. The hot breakfast served upon finishing was also really appreciated. Other factors which added to the experience were the high quality and durable maps supplied which they found to be clear, easy to read and lasted the night well. The GPS tracking was also great for friends and family to follow them on their adventure.

Jon and Sarah first attended Marmot Dark Mountains in 2018 as a 50th birthday challenge for Sarah. They weren’t sure what to expect as their last mountain marathon 10 years previously hadn’t gone quite so well, but 3 hours in Jon realised, “actually I’m quite enjoying this!” When asked “why?”, he suggested that it was down to trying something new; a different and challenging experience.

The next events in the 2019 British Mountain Marathon Championship: the all new Scottish Mountain Marathon & ROC Mountain Marathon.  The Marmot Dark Mountains returns 25-26th January 2020.