It is not every day you get to be part of something record breaking so forgive the rambling post…
It was a privilege to be part of Jez Bragg’s record breaking Ramsay Round on Friday 12 June. I was probably more nervous than Jez as I had been tasked with pacing him through the first leg, hopefully helping to set him up well for the rest of the day – quite a task for someone who never plays at the sharp end of the field!
At 3am Charlie Ramsay himself set us off. I made nervous conversation for a bit before we settled into a steady rhythm. Head torches were turned off after half-an-hour and we were soon past the Red Burn and making great progress to the summit of The Ben. It was a still, clear morning so I know we were in for a treat, but the next few hours turned out to be the most inspiring running I’ve ever had!
We reached the snow-line as the moon set over the summit and the sky was burning with the rising sun. Pleasingly the legs weren’t! A quick time check over the summit and I pulled out the ice-axes and we hurtled down the snow towards the CMD arête like a couple of children released from school early. We probably should have had a responsible adult with us as Jez did cut his hand – not sure how but it bled quite a bit and would be black and blue by the end of the day.
The chicken run was quickly found and we made lightening progress along the ridge, only briefly deviating from the track to avoid some snow patches as the axes were stowed once again. Jez asked for some fuel at the CMD summit so I pushed on a little and got the menu ready. Once packing supplies away I had to work hard to catch back up but knew I needed to be there before the nasty snow patch near the col. Using the snow patch was definitely the quickest route but Jez would need the axe again to have the confidence to go for it.
Once up on the Aonachs with the summit cairn in sight I let Jez go ahead and bag the Aonach Mor summit alone as I refuelled myself – something that is easy to forget to do as a support runner. Re-united we trotted onto Aonach Beag with shadows 3 times longer than our height. There was no-where I would have rather been at that point as we both took some time to enjoy the stunning morning unfolding around us.
Spinks Ridge was successfully descended with a few cheers from Anna and Chris waiting below. While Jez got some rice pudding down I offloaded the ice-axes, spikes and head-tourches to Anna and scoffed a sandwich myself. Anna kindly took the metal back to base camp and Chris joined us for the rest of leg 1 – phew, I could share the pacer responsibility! I was still feeling good, but knew pacing Jez all the way to Fersit would be difficult alone.
The Grey Corries went in a flash. Jez, Chirs and me worked well together, each taking the pace at different points and (I think) finding the optimal route. However, as we summited Stob Ban, the final Grey Corrie, I know my time was up so I made sure Jez knew I was expecting to fall back. We were all together as we crossed the Lairig Leacach path but I would drop 5 minutes to Jez and Chris climbing the seemingly never-ending Stob Coire Easain.
Once over I regained my rhythm and was soon running off Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin trying to get back in touch. It is a belter of a descent and I thoroughly enjoyed it arriving at Fersit Dam as Jez was departing after his 4 minute break. He was still moving smoothly and looked strong – I was in pieces!
That was 7 hours for leg 1, around 20 minutes up on Jez’s planned schedule. Fast forward 11 hours (plus a shower, some cooked food and a snooze for me) and the support team are anxiously waiting at the Nevis Youth Hostel for Jez to appear. He was carrying a GPS tracker and we were getting text updates from each summit. We knew the record was still on, though going to be tight. As each minute passed we got more nervous until the yellow t-shirt finally appeared, Jez raised his arms and broke the tape Charlie was holding in a time of 18 hours 12 minutes. A new course, beating the 26 year old record by 11 minutes!
It was a heroic effort by Jez and thoroughly deserved after 3 cancelled attempts due to weather and this attempt only organised at lunchtime the day before!
Hopefully the words give some feel for my experience of the day, however, the photos from The Ben and Aonach Beag say more than I could ever put into writing!