Skyline Scotland 2017

Written by Haydn Williams

It’s been a bit of an action-packed weekend, starting as it did with a drive to Kinlochleven for Friday’s Mamores VK. Just over 1000m of ascent in 4.8km, and it’s only the uphill bit that counts. I’d been excited about this for a while now because uphills are traditionally the bit of fell running I get on best with.

First job of the weekend: climb up that. VK route up Na Gruagaichan. © Haydn Williams 2017
First job of the weekend: climb up that. VK route up Na Gruagaichan. © Haydn Williams 2017

The route was wet and slippery for the lower two-thirds, but I chose to use my poles and they were a great help. Some might say they counted as cheating, but they’re a common sight on the continent where VKs originated, and I wanted to make sure I had some legs left for the following day too! I got up in 1h 05m and enjoyed it greatly, and the sunlight on the relaxed walk back down was just gorgeous (between showers!). I reckon I could definitely go sub-one-hour next year.

Heading up the VK. © yourepics.com 2017
Heading up the VK. © yourepics.com 2017

The evening passed in a bit of a blur as I met up with Zoe and Lizzy, and we went to a nice Q&A with Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg. Then it was back to the very nice caravan to prepare for the Ring of Steall Skyrace on Saturday morning.

Looking back at Devil's Ridge. © Haydn Williams 2017
Looking back at Devil’s Ridge. © Haydn Williams 2017

It’s fair to say that I didn’t have a good day, being put in a bad mood almost immediately by the single-file snake of 450 people up a muddy hillside for the first 90 minutes (although I suppose I knew what I was letting myself in for when I signed up). I think the main contributor to poor performance was an absolutely manic period at work, but I did only about 10 minutes of running between the start and the halfway-ish support point. Average time to there last year was 2h 34m and I reached there in… 2h 31m. I was tired and grumpy for the entire 6h 30m, with only 5-10 minutes of enjoyable running on the rocky ridge between An Gearanch and Stob Coire a Chairn. I eventually got through in 219th position out of 442 finishers, so just scraping into the top half of the field. Distance according to my watch was 27.5k, along with 2750m-ish of ascent.

Things got better after that, as we had a hearty dinner and met up with Darren to make plans for the following day. I foolishly let him talk me into a 6AM start to go and watch the leaders of the weekend’s main event, the Glen Coe Skyline race, at the top of Devil’s Staircase.

Pointing out the route ahead. © Haydn Williams 2017
Pointing out the route ahead. © Haydn Williams 2017

The short climb didn’t kill me, and the runners started arriving just a few minutes after we did. The light was incredible, and we had great fun taking photos and then blasting back downhill in short spurts between groups of runners.

Spot the runners; the long slog up from Kinlochleven to the top of Devil's Staircase. © Haydn Williams 2017
Spot the runners; the long slog up from Kinlochleven to the top of Devil’s Staircase. © Haydn Williams 2017
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Descending towards the foot of the Buachaille. © Haydn Williams 2017
Descending towards the foot of the Buachaille. © Haydn Williams 2017
Where next for them? Straight up that. © Haydn Williams 2017
Where next for them? Straight up that. © Haydn Williams 2017
The morning light was a photographer's dream. © Haydn Williams 2017
The morning light was a photographer’s dream. © Haydn Williams 2017
A long way still to go. © Haydn Williams 2017
A long way still to go. © Haydn Williams 2017

Once most of the field had passed through the road crossing, we drove down the glen and then put up a good pace for our own little VK up to the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan. Yet again we had excellent timing, with only a few minutes chatting to the ever-cheerful marshals before the front-runners arrived.

Calm and composed - Kilian Jornet leaving the out-and-back summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan. © Haydn Williams 2017
Calm and composed – Kilian Jornet leaving the out-and-back summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan. © Haydn Williams 2017

Despite being 3½ hours in, the field looked strong and Kilian was out in front by only a few seconds. He went on to win, completing the 55km and 4,750m ascent five minutes quicker than it took me to do Saturday’s race of half the distance and just over half the ascent!

Darren watching more of the field climb to SCNL. © Haydn Williams 2017
Darren watching more of the field climb to SCNL. © Haydn Williams 2017

After a tidy descent from SCNL we parted ways, and I met up with Lizzy and Zoe for a jaunt along the coast. We managed to squeeze in a wander around the rather lovely Port Appin and then an al fresco dinner at the water’s edge in Creagan. I didn’t really want to leave, but a drive to Glasgow beckoned so I bid the ladies farewell and had a lovely drive southwards to top off a great weekend of good company, 50km running and over 5,000m of ascent.

I may have jazzed this up a bit in Photoshop. © Haydn Williams 2017
I may have jazzed this up a bit in Photoshop. © Haydn Williams 2017

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