Arrochar Alps: One Race, Two Tracks, Three Points, Four Munros, Five Stars

 

Picking up three points and a £100 fine just after Tarbet meant I was not in the best of moods arriving at the village hall on Saturday morning. During a short consultation in the car park, my solicitor (JD) confirmed that options for appeal were limited and I had best take the punishment without causing a fuss. I decided then and there to reform my character and demonstrate the upmost respect for rural speed limits for the rest of my days. The system works.

 

Anyway, on to the task at hand. If Jura is the ultimate hill race, Arrochar is the connoisseur’s choice; well ‘ard, properly rough, stunning route and almost comically low key. Now normally you can count on -2 with wind-chill on the summits but not today – it was going to be a hot one. Some like it hot. But I really don’t. Toeing the start line I knew that I would have to run a conservative race to get to the end.

 

The trail over to Loch Sloy offered a pleasant trot. I chatted with Michael Reid on the way up Ben Vorlich, but lost him on the vertiginous descent to the damn. Ben Vane was a lonely slog, stopping at every burn for a drink and a cool down. Iain Stewart passed me at the start of the descent looking strong. I dropped my Westies vest around this point – absolutely gutted, I’ll never be able to replicate the pattern of stains built up over the last decade! At the coll I found myself seemingly alone for miles in every direction and I had to get my map out to actually think about which hill Beinn Ime was. There followed another long slog up to the top, again taking every opportunity to hydrate and cool down.

 

I’d played it slow for most of the race but at the start of the final climb up Beinn Narnain I could feel the effects of the heat kicking in – sore stomach, dizziness and popped ears. It was going to be a long way to the finish. I took the Borrowdale Shortcut off the hill, straight left down to the glen rather than take the tourist path. The rough ground was not to my liking and I am not convinced of the utility of this choice – more like Borrowdale LONGcut amirite? Luke Arnott passed me by and all I could think was ‘Good for him.’ Whatever oomph I might have had had melted in the heat.

 

After an endless twisty path through the woods I popped out at the track heading down to Arrochar. ‘Thank f**k for that’, I said as I turned left and started running again. It took me about ¾ of a mile to work out that I was actually on the track to Loch Sloy; I took a moment to stop and wretch before retracing my steps and bushwhacking 200m through the steep woods, muttering all the way. ‘Thank actual f**k for that,’ I said as I popped out on to the actual track actually heading down to Arrochar and began the final grinding jog.

 

I crossed the line on my own and immediately staggered to the burn and lay down in the water. “What a beast”, I thought as I stared up at the leaves and listened to the water flow gently.

 

There were some strong Westies performances throughout the day and Rob & Co ran a slick operation as always. I think I’ll try marshalling next year.

 

PS – Thanks to Javier of Highland Hill Runners for finding my vest!

1) Ally Beaven (Highland Hill Runners) 03:28:35

5)   Jill Stephen (HBT) 03:55:53

10) Iain Stewart 04:14:40

11) Luke Arnott 04:19:29

13) James Callender 04:30:57

15) Chris Butler 04:35:08

19) Ruth Crewe 04:37:40

21) Ally MacInnes 04:43:47

22) Owen O’Neill 04:51:31

23) David Riach 04:52:33

31) David Dickson 06:02:25