On the 4th & 5th of June myself, Norman Cunningham and my friend Ryan Gordon took on a two day mountain marathon called “The Highlander”. This event comprised of a punishing distance of 75km with over 3400 meters ascent climbed over two days.
My reason for taking on this challenge was to help raise funds for my daughter’s school who are currently fund raising to rebuild and link themselves to a school in Nepal called Sidhartha Primary School, which was sadly destroyed after the devastating earthquake of 2015. The rebuilding of this School will allow young children in this village to return to school and continue their education. In addition to this both schools will be able to exchange invaluable information and learn about each other’s culture and country.
The highlander location is always a much guarded secret, but with only a few weeks to go the event location was released and to our surprise was in a place called Cannich (a place I’ve learned to hateJ), situated 48 miles west of Inverness.
With all our training complete, numerous hours spent packing our daypack in an attempt to reduce weight to a minimum whilst ensuring we carried all the necessary equipment and food, we finally made our way to Cannich.
On the morning of the event we hopped onto one of the first buses leaving Cannich unaware of where the start location would be. Around 30 minutes later we were off the coach, handed a map and information sheet containing the grid references of the check points and off into the morning hill mist we ran. Setting of slightly over enthusiastic we overshot the first check point, soon realising our mistake back tracked 30 metres or so and check point 1 was in the bag. From check point 1 to check point 2 however was a different story! You could say we managed to get ourselves slightly geographically embarrassed in the morning mist for nearly an hour before finding some landmarks to re-navigate from.
With our bizarre location now established and compass reset we finally got check point 2 in the bag. After our terrible start we progressed well, and soon the clouds were starting to lift around us allowing navigation to become easier and our speed to increase.
The rest of the day was very hard going, the terrain was unforgiving and the hills punishing. By late afternoon we were looking down on the mid-way campsite with great delight, thinking about how much pasta we could fit into our bellies! We set up camp, tried to dry our gear (mixture of sweat and bog water) and got our heads down in preparation for day two.
After a good night’s rest we felt ready for day two. Off into the morning hill fog we trotted again ensuring this time we remained on track in the poor visibility. Check point 1 and 2 were quickly bagged in the fog and enroute to check point 3 the fog suddenly disappeared revealing a very impressive inversion cloud. We stopped and took a few pics and were soon on our way again.
Now above the cloud the sun was beating down on us, and although it was very beautiful it was starting to get very hot. Suddenly remembering that moment back in Aviemore when we were packing our bags to be as light as possible saying “we won’t need sun cream in the highlands” it now dawned on me that some red skin may be on the cards. We pushed on in the beautiful weather starting to really take in the surroundings and laughing at the bizarre locations of some of the check points (both agreeing whoever had designed this course was clearly demonic)
As each check point was bagged the bigger our smiles became, we knew the finish and some well-earned beers were drawing closer. Suddenly a little village (the loathed Cannich) appeared below and the terrain blissfully turned back into a track and we knew we were on the home straight. Down the track and back into Cannich we ran and finally crossed the finish line two very happy lads.
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