Strathspey '95 A report on the 10th Scottish Six Day Orienteering Festival for the Devon Orienteer, by James Head

. The most noticeable thing about this years Scottish Six Day was the large number of Devon cars that succumbed to the 580 miles and broke down. There was Brian Parker's car that ran out of fluid in the heat, Erik and Margaret's car that broke a drive shaft, Janice and Allan's car that had a dodgey clutch and the Craddocks who couldn't start their car on the last day. Despite these problems a good number of Devon Orienteers descended on the Scottish Highlands to enjoy six days of glorious hot weather and some excellent though challenging orienteering. I was lucky enough to travel up with Peter Flick and Tom Lillicrat who has joined Devon after relocating from SLOW orienteers. Tom had run on several of this years areas as part of the 1994 Veterans World Cup and so could forewarn us of what to expect. Day One, Docharn. Docharn is the western part of the Docharn and Deishar map that was used in the 1994 VWC and is a large area of pine plantation with areas of birch woodland. The official guide book describes 'a wealth of rock features' with 'many intricately contoured areas', few paths and almost no line features, this was very true as we were later to find out (just imagine Penhale Sands with trees), in fact the map by Stirling Surveys has won this years BOF 'best professional map' award. Running the M21S course I was soon into the thick of the forest and for a change there weren't many route choices to be made, there weren't that many obvious routes! Most legs involved constantly navigating through glacial drumlin type terrain which caught a lot of people off guard. We often get juniors asking for help but how many times has an M21 or above asked you where he was? There's one control on every course that is unique, and for me it was number 7, a seemingly straight forward crag on the northern part of a hill, but could I find it? I spent the best part of thirty minutes on that single control, going round in circles before stumbling into it. We were quite lucky in that the planner, Mary Nisbet of GRAMP, came into the Devon shelter afterwards and reported that one or two M21 Elite competitors had complained of the lack of running through the clear woods, it's seems that they were constantly looking at their maps navigating! In all everybody thought the courses were well planned and the challenging navigation certainly woke everyone up. The day was saddened by the death of a Tinto Orienteer, Mr. Mike Forman who, having recovered from a triple heart bypass operation, collapsed after starting his course. Day 2, Rothiemurchus. There was no sign of the heatwave subsiding as 3600 orienteers struggled in the largely open estate of Rothiemurchus in the foot of the Cairngorm mountain range. After starting close to the idyllic Loch A'Eilen I was relieved to find that my course did not attempt to climb the foothills but instead involved careful navigation through the first three controls and a good route choice between 3, 4 and 5, however after this I was disappointed to see that the rest of my course up to control 10 involved no technical skills and was basically a straight run between controls. The last two controls were within two fields containing some highly intricate contour features and some twenty or so other controls. After the run we all piled down to Loch Insh for a refreshing swim.

Day 3, Craigbui. Competitors were forewarned not to climb any uncrossable fences or they might risk returning the gaze of a Buffalo, Bison or perhaps even a Wolf from the wildlife park next to the competition area. The start was placed strategically close to a large oak which provided everyone with shelter from the sun before starting off. Craigbui was very similar to Rothiemurchus in terrain, a largely open moorland with a sizable deciduous wood in the centre of the map and a meadow providing a good run into the finish. All courses started with a couple of controls in the woods and then ran down into a meadow before starting upwards to climb the large ridge running downwards on the western part of the map. Halfway up I met Brian Parker who was enjoying a pleasant walk around his course admiring the spectacular views of the Cairngorm mountain range opposite. I then contoured around to the pass and moved on to what was probably the most difficult part of the course. An area of high gorse and scattered trees amongst several crags and boulders that did their best to hide the controls from the twenty or so orienteers running backwards and forwards. After this the last controls led to the finish, competitors were given an added incentive from the baying of the wolves from the wildlife park next door! Rest Day. It seemed that most orienteers had the same thing on their minds as most descended on Cairn Gorm to ascend the 1245 metres above sea level to get to the top. The official programme had offered a discount for the chair lift, but on arrival we found out that only the lower chair lift was operating so we made the arduous journey upwards under our own steam, even Peter managed to get up to the top restaurant, well done! At the top Tom and myself bumped into Rosemary Roach and Anne Donnell and spent several minutes admiring the view across the eastern part of the mountain, from which small patches of snow could be seen even in this heat! Day 4, Strathmashie. Having early starts we were pleased to see a lot of hill fog around that certainly kept temperatures down as we ran in the forest. After walking down a narrow gauge railway and across a precarious bridge over the river gorge to the start I was relieved to see the next river crossing I had to do was a lot more easier! There were several good legs here involving plenty of route choice which with the established ride system encouraged me to run a lot more then I had been. The only problem I had was with number 13 where I had left number 12 by going along the long ride, but I did not take that long to re-locate and I soon came into a control thinking 'well this isn't mine but mine should be 20 metres SE', yes you've guessed, it was mine! There followed a brief run across some rough open into the finish. With all that running I thought I had got a rather fast time but with the course length being longer this was not the case so I had to stay contented with a very enjoyable run. Day 5, Inshriach. If anyone wants a good lesson in course planning they should take a look at the courses for Inshriach which managed to fit thirty three courses on only one quarter of the map! If we thought Docharn was bad Inshriach was five times worse, I got 'locationly challenged' on only my second control! I was found by Anne Donnell only a hundred metres

from my control. I then slipped up at number 5 looking 'between hills' on a plateau with only two knolls and two depressions within the area, the land seemed to be full of small knolls. On the way to number six I helped a W35 who had broken her compass, a very necessary piece of equipment on this terrain. Taking a lot more care and thought with the rest of the course I was pleased with the greater use of technique. Then I had number 12, this involved running some 500 metres down runnable forest to a hill within 100 metres of a path junction in front. I soon located a very large re-entrant containing a control whose code was one less than mine and then locating the re-entrant on my map I overheard Rosemary on the path. I then ran into a depression where the control was one code above mine missing completely my knoll between! I eventually sorted myself out to finish the course. Day 6, Deishar. It was back on familiar ground for the last day, the guide book said they'd left the best to last, oh boy! We all had late start times but I was getting rather worried with mine, being 13:31, when at 13:30 there was only myself and a young American lady at the start. Not much chance of seeing anyone else around the course I thought. Once off we were quickly into the forest with a couple of fairly straight forward controls. From number three however we were off the paths until number eight with the knowledge that if we did meet the path were likely to be 400 metres off course. There were some good legs here, particularly 4 to 5, ever tried going 700 metres on a compass bearing? I was lucky in that when I was within 200 metres of my control I spotted a very large crag in a small clearing about 50 metres south. Locating it on my map I took a fresh bearing and came straight in. Whether by design or accident (more probable) I was practically on course. The remaining controls were more straight forward until I got to the penultimate control, a crag within a thin wooded area, I located the wrong crag, realised where I was from the size of the crag and ran off SSW to another crag with the wrong control, I then located my crag in between cunningly hidden from the direction I had ran from! I wasn't the last to finish but as I ran in I got a good cheer from Peter and the finish team, thanks. Every competitor received a commemorative slate coaster with the Strathspey logo on and those who had been to all ten Scottish Six Day events received a much larger coaster depicting the logos of all ten events, an impressive gathering of people including Rosemary Roach, Brian Parker, and Margaret and Eric Pecket.