Cape Wrath Ultra – Day 2

Monday 23rd May

Glenfinnan to Kinloch Hourn

Approx distance 57km (35 miles).  Approx height gain 1,800m.

With regard the support team, our days for the week ahead were scheduled like this:

06:00 to 08:00 Breakfast

07:00 to 09:00 Participant start times.  Breakdown camp around participants.

09:30 Depart Overnight camp.

12:00 to 14:00 Establish next Overnight camp + Lunch

15:00 First Participants expected.

18:00 to 20:00 Evening meal

23:00 Course closes.

There you have it, how we were to spend the next 6 days.  Including, of course, the drive to the next overnight campsite.

Before I let you leave Glenfinnan, here are three more photos to give you an idea of what the camp and finish/start area looked like.

The drive to Kinloch Hourn would take us along the longest cul-de-sac in Britain.  From the A87 just west of Invergarry the road is something like 25 miles long to the Kinloch Hourn Tearoom.  It’s a wonderful drive along the northern shore of Loch Garry, through Glen Garry, along past Loch Quoich and then Kinloch Hourn.

Our campsite was located in a field at the head of Loch Hourn and with mountains all around us; it was certainly remote and quite beautiful.  However, the field was already occupied by a herd of red deer. As we began parking the vans (6 of them) and off load the equipment and tents they withdrew to the other side of the river away from us.

The routine began by putting up the Administration, Catering and Medical tents along with the Marquee.  Then the participant’s tents were arranged and assembled.

Generator, power distribution and setting out of tables and chairs completed our home for the remaining of the day.

Most of us decided to pitch our own tents to the west of the main camp, primarily because the area was away from the generator.

I mentioned earlier that there was a lot of stuff to do.  Some of the team members were assigned to safety and monitoring roles.  On each day there would be a number of Control Points (CPs) actually along the route taken by the participants.  These CPs would be manned, sometimes for up to 12 hours, or more.  There was a designated cut off time at these CPs and if a participant did not make this time then they were pulled out of the race for that stage.

However, to try and give as many participants the opportunity to reach Cape Wrath, they would be allowed back into the race after a days rest.  A rather unique aspect of this event.  There was however a very good reason for this strategy.  From a logistics aspect it allowed us to keep the participants together so that we all reached the finish as one.

Back to the safety and monitoring group.  The folk involved are Mountain Leaders and as such are extremely experienced in mountain and hill navigation, safety, first aid and general hill craft.  From my perspective, although as on most events, it is the volunteers that provide the necessary functions to allow everything to happen, it is the ‘hill’ group that is truly the backbone of an event like this.

On this 2nd day the participants were in very remote territory indeed. Getting out should anything happen (injury for example) would take hours!

So, there we were waiting for the first participant to arrive and thereby start the process of getting the drop bags and seeing them to their respective accommodation.

Others in the team are Doctors and Nurses, some deployed on the route, some at the event centre to look after any participant in need of TLC (Tender Loving Care) at the finish of each day.

All in all this first ‘real’ day in the hills, mountains went well.  We were beginning to gel as a team and getting to know the participants on first name terms rather than just by a number.

It was beginning to feel like I was part of something epic!

Photographs from Ian Corless site – always worth a visit.

The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 2

Page from Sleepmonsters – always a good read.


Cape Wrath Ultra – Day 1

Sunday 22nd May

Fort William to Glenfinnan

Approx distance 37km (23 miles).  Approx height gain 500m.

Up early, I arrived at the Nevis Centre before anyone else!  Well, I hate being late.  The centre was not open yet so I chatted to people passing by when they asked what was going on.

The team began to arrive and when the centre opened we were able to begin attaching trackers to participants’ rucksacks, running vests, or whatever ‘sack’ they would be running/walking with during the event.

The trackers used on the Cape Wrath Ultra were certainly more sophisticated than I’d seen before.  Due to the remoteness of the route, it was imperative to maintain accurate whereabouts of each participant.  The YB trackers not only used satellite GPS technology, as you’d expect, but also mobile communications using a satellite link.  This meant, should an emergency occur, the participant could text Event HQ from wherever they were.  Conversely if it were necessary, event HQ could contact the participants.

The schedule for the day had been set out as follows:

08:00-08:30 Rendezvous at the Nevis Centre

08:45 Depart Nevis Centre, walk to Ferry

09:00-09:30 Ferry Departs to Camusnagaul (across Loch Linnhe)

10:00 Start.

After we had seen all participants to the ferry, we then headed off in a loose convoy to Glenfinnan to set up Administration, Catering, Medical and sleeping accommodation for the participants.

A small team were across the Loch setting up the start area.

The Cape Wrath Ultra™ 2016 – Day 1

The overnight camp on this first day was in the shadow of the viaduct, the one the Hogwarts Express goes over in the Harry Potter films.  Good eh?

Setting up camp takes the majority of the support team.

Administration, Catering and a Medical tent (large ones) go up first; a large (ish) marquee goes up at the same time if bodies are available. A gantry is erected in front of the administration tent to welcome the participants as they finish.  We then put up 15 8 person Berghaus tents.  The structure of these tents uses air pumped into four large tubes that form the shape.  They are then pegged down as any other tent.

The area of the camp was fairly damp in places which therefore gave us the added joy of midges!

Not too bad though, if I’m honest.

A generator is connected up to power sockets in the three main tents and lights are put up in all.  The participants’ tents have no such luxuries, but no one complained!

As each participant arrived at the finish they were cheered/clapped and generally welcomed after their first day on the Cape Wrath Ultra.

The camp began to come to life as it were.  We were all feeling good, the weather was kind and a good buzz was about the place.

Participants were fed and they settled into their respective tents in groups.  Although the day for them had been relatively easy, I think some had the next day on mind.  The distance was stepped up as was the height gain.

After I’d had dinner, our day concluded with what was the first of our end of day briefings.  I was in two minds whether to put up my tent.  In the end I decided to sleep in the car.

Here is a link to Sleepmonsters and Rob Howards account of the first day:

Back soon.


Cape Wrath Ultra – The Preliminaries.

Cape Wrath Ultra

Saturday 21st May

This is my retrospective look back at the Cape Wrath Ultra TM and I shall try and put into just a few words, what the event was about and give some idea of what was involved for the support team.

The event schedule for those of us on the support team stretched from 21st to 30th May 2016.  The event for the participants ran from Sunday 22nd to Sunday 29th May 2016.

It began for me on 20th May, when I set off from home by car to Fort William.  En route I had agreed to pick-up a participant from Edinburgh Airport, one Pavel Paloncy, who’d flown in from the Czech Republic.

We were both staying at the Backpackers Hostel in Fort William, which meant we were able to have a drink and a chat on the Friday evening.

Saturday was to be a busy day with all participants arriving from various places around the world.

A truly international field assembled for this inaugural event.

The event – well, it was always going to amazing.  Just the thought of getting from Fort William to Cape Wrath, 400km in 6 (six) days, was going to be an almighty challenge and a great adventure.

There were many faces at registration, attending briefings and getting themselves ready for the Sunday start.

As I write this my mind obviously goes back to the days in May, because as the week went by, we in the support team came to know a good number of the participants, from those at the front to those who were not!  I’m sure, as this first day came to a close there would have been nerves, concerns and excitement as to how the next days would proceed.

Shane Ohly, Event Director and Race Director Gary Tompsett, had spent 2 years planning the Cape Wrath Ultra; spending days running the route, obtaining permissions and ensuring that all necessary parties, including land owners, farming tenants, National Trust along with other bodies, were satisfied with the organisation and that all environmental issues were considered and agreed.

The support team that been assembled by Shane Ohly (Event Director) and his Ourea Events Management team, brought together a support team of 40 personnel that included, Medical, Mountain Safety, Catering, Media, Control Point monitoring and a core team comprising, those like myself, who were there to generally work on campsite duties, get on and do stuff.  Lots of stuff.  More of which later.

The day was mapped out like this:

08:30 Team Briefing

11:00 to 15:00 Registration

13:00 Kit Check/Bag Check

19:00 Participant/Event Team Briefing

20:00 Buffet Dinner

Each participant had their photograph taken and one of the briefings, in particular, discussed the correct way to cross a river when the water level is at differing depths.

The 19:00 briefing, given by Shane and Gary, covered various aspects of what the participants were likely to encounter over the 450km of the route.

One aspect that raised a few questions was that of ticks!  The message was check yourself each and every afternoon and seek medical advice if necessary.

Lastly, participant drop bags (containing changes of cloths, spare running kit, shoes, toiletries etc.) were assembled and put into vans for onward transport the following day to the first overnight camp.

As I would be using my own car during the event I was asked to take a passenger as we made our way north through the western highlands.  My passenger was Jacqueline Cooper whose husband Mick was one of the event participants.  Jac proved to be a most welcome passenger and I hope she enjoyed my company as much as I hers.

Late in the afternoon as the participants filtered away to their respective overnight accommodation, ready for the start the next day, the support team tidied up the Nevis Centre and got things ready for the next day.

There will be photos with the next installment.  I was unable to take them during registration etc. because I was too busy!

The links shown below are for you to see photos and read how the preparation took place.  Don’t go browsing around the Day 1 to Day 8 links just yet.  I’ll provide the relevant links for each day as the journey unfolds.

Have a look here for a Preview of the event:

the 94 participants and a map of the route:

Day 1: Fort William to Glenfinnan will follow shortly.


Cape Wrath Ultra – getting ready.

What is it?

The Cape Wrath Ultra™ is a once in a lifetime, 8-day expedition race weaving 400km through the Highlands of Scotland.  This extraordinary adventure will take place 22nd-29th May 2016.

Have a look here for a full explanation and all the details.

I’m one of the support team volunteers, working for Ourea Events, providing administration, logistics, mountain safety, medical, transport and welfare to an entry of 98 participants who will set off from Fort William on Sunday 22nd May 2016.

I’ve spent the last week or so printing information and briefing notes along with making sure I have the items of equipment you need for such a long event.  Because of the type of event the Cape Wrath Ultra is – an expedition, the overnight camps are very basic (think farmers field) with toilets and that’s all regarding facilities.  If you want/need a wash – you have one in the nearby stream or river.

Ourea Events provide – tents (for all participants), food (breakfast and evening meal) and transport of ‘dry bags’ from one overnight campsite to the next.  A large marquee type tent is erected each day to provide cover should the weather be inclement!  There are smaller (but quite large) tents used for administration, medical, catering and one for us volunteers to take refuge in when on our breaks.

This is a typical overnight camp (this was the Dragon Back from last year). Ours will have 12 blue tents for participants (8 to a tent) and there will be the same number of vehicles.

Once participants are on their way (between 07:00 to 09:00) each morning, the camp is taken down, transported to the next overnight camp location and re-built.

Here I am the evening before I leave for Fort William with all my gear packed and ready to load into the car.

A not well constucted heap of holdall, pod 50ltr Sack, tent, wellies (well, we are going to Scotland!), boots, jackets, camera and a bag of goodies!

I’d like to think I’ll be able to keep a diary, of sorts, during the 10 days of providing support, complete with as many photographs as possible, so I can prepare a multi part series of posts on my return.

So, that’s it then for now.  All things being equal, I’ll be back in 11 days!

Should you wish to follow the event, here is a link to the live tracker: