The sandstone massif of An Teallach is often described as Scotland's ‘great wilderness' and comprises ten separate summits, situated to the south of Ullapool the mountain range played the lead role for the 2011 Haglofs Highlander Mountain Marathon, rising to a highpoint of 1062m straight from sea-level.
Competitors on the flanks of An Teallach during day one.
The headland situated between Loch Broom and Little Loch Broom - famous for the isolated community of Scoraig who largely use wind power for electricity - was the focus for day two of the Highlander and was no less impressive as vistas of mountain massifs and seascapes were visible from all angles.
Used courtesy Bing Maps - The area that the Haglofs Highlander took place over for 2011.
The Highlander Mountain Marathon has just seen its fifth event and this small race organised by Hands on Events prides itself on being year on year one of the most stunningly scenic mountain marathons in the UK. A small team of dedicated staff undertake the organisation of the race and do so for the love of the event. Numbers taking part in the race are small, for 2011 around 130 teams, yet when you see the areas the mountain marathon takes place it's some wonder that the event isn't booked to capacity.
Overnight camp at the head of Little Loch Broom.
Event organiser Alasdair Lawton suggested ‘we're not sure if it's the time of year, or how far north we have the events, but the race doesn't seem to attract great numbers however, we're sure that we want to organise an event that we're proud of. We love this area and if we moved the event further south it wouldn't be the same.' The fact that the numbers taking part in this race are kept small means that the organisers can utilise areas that other races could not. ‘We don't need huge event centres and if we did we wouldn't be able to use the areas we have in the past, and we also wouldn't be able to provide the overnight camp Ceilidh and beer tent plus the fantastic end to the event we planned for 2011.' It seems keeping it smaller allows Hands on Events to organise the event that they would want to be part of.
Competitors started the first day from one of two locations, both along the western shore of Little Loch Broom, north on the road from Dundonnell, a dry day met all but the wind was relentless throughout its entirety. Controls points overseen by Alec Keith who has completed 11 LAMMs and 13 KIMMs amongst many, many others, took racers as far south as the shores of Loch na Sealga, and headed mainly east towards the An Teallach massif. Some remaining hard-pack snow on the summit of Sgurr Fiona meant one control point placed out of bounds and a descent path into the Glas Tholl corrie still had snow blocking a safe route meaning an alternative was used. Racers were kept guessing throughout the event this year as information regarding the finale had been ‘leaked' in the weeks prior to the race. Heading northwards to the end of the course on day two the runners were faced with a final checkpoint overlooking Loch Broom with Ullapool to the other side. An extremely lengthy walk could ensue for those on foot, but Hands on Events had organised a high-speed RHIB to transport the competitors back across the Loch to the event centre at Ullapool village hall, the highlight for many and one that will be remembered for a long time yet.
Around 130 teams entered the race this year, the majority coming from Scotland, but the numbers that are travelling the distance from the south of England are growing as the reputation of the event increases. Many admit that it's a long way to travel but when able to race across such places as Torridon, Gairloch and An Teallach then the journey becomes fully worth it.
Tim Higginbottom and Chris Near talk about having just won the Haglofs Highlander 2011.
The winners of the male A class of the 2011 Haglofs Highlander were Tim Higginbottom and Chris Near, probably one of the most accomplished mountain marathon pairs in the country at present. They finished day one approximately 10 minutes up on second placing team Sam Hesling and Andy Fallas and by the end of the second day Higginbottom and Near finished 19minutes and 13 seconds up on second placing Hesling and Fallas, with a winning time of 08 hours 02 minutes 12 seconds. When asked about their strategy for day two's racing Tim responded. ‘Well plan A is to run like hell, and plan b sees us referring to plan A. Sam and Andy are fantastic runners and we'll need to pull out a good race to stay ahead.'
Tim Higginbottom (left) and Chris Near (right) winners of the A Class Highlander 2011.
Sam Hesling and Andy Fallas talking about day two of their race where they took second place overall in the A class.
The female A class event was won by Heather Dawe and Andrea Priestley with a total time of 14 hours 53 minutes and 19 seconds. Taking the mixed pairs A class first place were planetFear athletes Natalie White and Tim Austin who finished sixth overall with a time of 10 hours 53 minutes 19 seconds.
Natalie White and Tim Austin of team planetFear talk about their experience of the Haglofs Highlander 2011 having just finished 6th overall in the A class and 1st mixed pair.
Gallery from the Haglofs Highlander 2011 will be available shortly.
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