How did you get through lockdown? It was a tough time for everyone, and a very tough time for some people. It will take many months before life returns to something like as free as it was last year, and the cost will be with us for many years to come. For me, I tried to resist the pressure to do something, the take up a new interest, learn a new skill. But, to stay fit, I did a bit of running.
Of course I jumped in far too hard at the start. Coming out of a winter of plodding in big boots, carrying big bags and ice climbing, I should have known that I would need to build up to running any kind of distance. Choosing routes that were too long and wearing old shoes gave me a touch of plantar fasciitis (sore feet) within a couple of weeks. Thankfully we had to do a two week stretch of self-isolation, a perfect rest period imposed on me, just at the right time.
So I got new running shoes and dialled it down a little. I was a bit more measured in what I took on and reminded myself that I am not in my early twenties still (far from it). The achiness in my legs after a run started to diminish each time and I started to enjoy the experience at the time, not just after I had finished each run. I started to feel strong, fluid and as if I could keep going for a bit longer. Sharing these experiences with friends of mine raised the notion of a suitable objective to train towards. Compared with all the huge routes and records that have been taken on and achieved by many people, Tranters Round is quite modest. But it was a big deal for me and the perfect test of my new found running legs.
Tranter's Round is effectively the Glen Nevis skyline. I can see it from my bedroom window and it is a very aesthetic route. It is about 60km with 6000m of ascent, links 18 Munros and includes Ben Nevis, Carn Mor Dearg, Aonach Mor and Beag, The Grey Corries and all the Mamores. To do it properly you start at the Youth Hostel in Glen Nevis, but I thought it would be nice to start at my house since I live so close.
It was proper Alpine start with the alarm going off at 2.15am and setting off at 3am. The weather was set to be hot and sunny so an early start to avoid the worst of the heat was a good idea. Also, it's a really long way and it would be nice to finish before it gets dark! Somehow starting in the dark seems better and I got the timing right to arive on Ben Nevis as it got light enough to see without a torch. Mist on the summit made the rocks wet so the CMD Arete was a little slippery in my running shoes but as I got to Carn Mor Dearg I turned round to see the most wonderful cloud formations. The mist I had been inside was a flow of clouds pouring through the cols and into the coires.
The Grey Corries in the early morning were home to red deer and me, trotting along the ridge, enjoying the experience of moving fast and light. Under the few clouds and in occasional mist the temperature stayed low enough, but I made sure to stay hydrated even so. As the sun rose it shone down into the mist and created some brilliant brochenspectres. For the first half of the day I had a huge smile on my face, just because the beauty of the place and the feeling of running along these beautiful ridges. I was smiling during the second half o fthe run as well, but only on the inside.
To get across to the Mamores, you have to drop down to 400m, into the heat, tussocks and peat hags, just as the distance covered started to make itself known in the feeling of my legs. It is a big dip in altitude and the climb back up to The Mamores was a real dip in energy levels. To give me a boost, I saw an owl fly up out of a patch of heather in a peat hag. I was so close to it when it took off I saw every detail of its plumage. It was as surprised to see me as I was to see it. I have not often seen owls so close, especially out in the wilds like this.
There are two peaks at the end of the Mamores that sit separate to the main ridge. So, the first big climb is followed by two more only slightly less big climbs before you arrive at the end of the main ridge line of the Mamores. Mercifully, a gentle breeze and a few clouds kept the temperature down enough and regular water stops kept me going. Plus, you get to see how far you've come. Looking across Glen Nevis, Ben Nevis is a massive hulk of a mountain and you can see all the way along the Grey Corries past the Aonachs. It's a very rewarding thought, seeing all these peaks and knowing you have covered all that distance.
Inevitably I slowed down towards the end. Sore feet from being wet (take dry socks next time) and heavy legs made the ascents slower, the stops more frequent and the steep downs a walk instead of a run. I could still manage to run along the wonderful bit of ridge to the last Munro, Mullach nan Coirean, and down into Glen Nevis. However, the last bit of flat track reduced me to half walking, half running. I returned to the road near the Youth Hostel to a wonderful greeting from Louise and Katie, a wee tear and a gratefully received lift down the tarmac back home.
At 17.5 hours for my Tranter's Round, Finlay Wild can rest assured that I will not be taking his record off him any time soon. He recently beat his own record, setting a new fastest known time of about 9 hours. For us mortals, anything less that double Finlay's time is good.
So, mission accomplished. I am now a runner.
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Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.