I had entered the Glenshee 9 Long Classic Series race months ago partly to bag
some munros, but wasn’t sure if I would be on holiday or not. As it panned out,
we got back from North Devon at 7pm on the Saturday night with just enough
time to find my rucsac, compass and gels. I had a quick look at my emails and
found one from the organiser stating that due to the forecasted strong winds,
the course had been changed to a shorter ‘low level’ course. Rats. I almost
thought about not bothering, but since I was vaguely prepared and needed a
run, I printed out the new route and didn’t drink too much alcohol.
It took only 2 hours to drive up to the Glenshee Ski Centre and yes, it was
quite windy! I went in to the cafe to sign on and was shown yet another slight
alteration to the route to avoid disturbing the grouse. So the route now was
just under 15 miles and most of the way up Carn an Tuirc (to about 960m) plus
all the way up Carn Aosda (917m) (OS sheet 43). And 8 checkpoints in total.
We were off at 11:00 and straight away were climbing west quite steeply past
some ski tows up to Loch Vrotachan at 800m (checkpoint 1). Then north and a
long grassy and heathery descent to the scenic Beddoch Burn valley
(checkpoint 2). Two miles along a landrover track and we were crossing the
Braemar road at checkpoint 3. Straight across and we were now heading east up
a small valley, climbing gently on a reasonable path for a mile and a half
followed by an enjoyable descent down to Glen Callater and Loch Callater
(checkpoint 4). This was turning out to be a very pleasant run! I was probably
working a bit too hard though as I was trying to keep up with a couple of
other runners who looked as though they knew where they were going.
The wind up to now hadn’t really been an issue and I was wondering what all
the fuss was about. But it was now certainly whistling down this valley and
I tucked in behind another runner along a sort of squodgy path beside the
We could now see the spectacular coire nestling under Carn an Tuirc and
turned south west and upwards through bog and heather. The marshalls at
checkpoint 5 beside Loch Kander noted down our numbers and gave us an
encouraging grin as we started the very steep ascent up to the main ridge. Wow.
I was beginning to be quite relieved that we weren’t doing the whole 9 munros
– I would never have made it at this sort of pace. On to the ridge and into
a howling gale and a slow grind up to checkpoint 6. I knew that the summit
of Carn an Tuirc wasn’t far off and was sorely tempted, but the marshall
pointed me around the northern flank instead. Rats. Another time. We traversed
around the big hill a bit too high and hit some spiky scree – slower but good
practice – and suddenly we could see across the main valley and the obvious
lump of Carn Aosda in the distance. It was about a mile and a half of gradual
easy descent on heather and then another path back down to the road.
It wasn’t quite so windy in the valley and was now quite warm in the
sunshine. At checkpoint 7 I was feeling pretty knackered and scoffed down a
gel. Now for the steep climb up the last hill, Carn Aosda. About half way up
I was starting to struggle badly and maybe should have eaten another gel,
but I slogged on, getting slower and slower.
At last the slope eased off and the heather and grass gave way to rocky
scree. But now out of the shelter of the hill, the wind really became a
problem and the last 100 metres or so seemed to take hours. It was like
being on the summit ridge of Everest with everything in slow motion. I had
pinned my number on using a record 8 pins, but by now most of it had been
I finally made the summit but must have looked quite bad because the marshall
(I assumed he was a marshall wrapped up in numerous polar layers) asked if I
Wahoo, just the descent beside the ski tow back down to the Ski Centre. My
legs were now so wobbly that two other runners passed me easily, but I didn’t
care too much, I had made it!
20th out of 66 runners and 2nd M50 in 3:18:30 wasn’t too bad a result and I
later saw on the news that the adjacent munro to Carn Aosda, The Cairnwell,
had recorded a windspeed of 100 mph!!