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trip up to this year’s holiday event I took the precaution of hiring a car for the week and camping at the event camp site. A few eyebrows were raised when I started meeting other Devon members whilst driving a rather swish looking P registration Rover 214SI. I started off from Exeter on Friday morning and reached Aberfeldy at ten o’clock at night, just in time to have a couple of beers in the pub, well you’ve got to get your priorities right. During my journey I found that the traffic feature on the RDS radio was next to useless, I had already been in the traffic jams for ten minutes before the announcer came on to tell me why I was being held up! On the Saturday I bought a map of the training area, ‘The Heart of Scotland’ and went for a gentle stroll around one of the courses. You don't want to get too tired before the start of a six day event. Later on I discovered that my pitch was in the noisy end of the camp site, between Oxford University and a group of teenagers that never seemed to run out of beer money! Day 1 Drummond Hill Drummond Hill was originally replanted by ‘Black’ Duncan of Aberfeldy, an educated man who devised an ingenious method for completing this task. Black Duncan instructed his serfs to fill several cotton bags with pine cones which were then fired off onto the hill by cannon. This might have gone some way to explaining the fight most competitors had to struggle through for their last legs, including Brian Parker who unfortunately encountered a low flying branch which resulted in a rather sore eye for the next couple of days. We were unable to run through the southeast of the map because of the Capercallie so those of us setting off from the red start had a couple of short legs to guide us westwards. It seemed that the planners had not counted on a large number of us choosing a route which led us directly across the blue start. The officials were quite concerned as they thought most of us where jumping the start! The southern part of the hill slopes down to meet Loch Tay but we were more concerned with keeping the height advantage as we contoured around through the ‘white’ mapped wood. Due forestry work and a good growing season there were a lot of brashings and heather on the ground which slowed down progress. Meanwhile the planners had done a very good job of routing the courses so that we weren’t able to use the long wall that ran along the top of the hill. At the finish I was surprised to meet an old school friend and Kirton hasher, Paul McGreal, who - now working in Edinburgh - is a member of ESOC. Day 2 Rannoch Forest Starting at the very scenic (and presumably very expensive) Rannoch School we were soon into the thick of the forest. There were a lot of mumblings at the technique clinic in the evening regarding the way the vegetation had been mapped. Many thought that the difference in green seemed to match the change in vegetation and not the runabilty of the area, and once they had got used to this seemed to get on
better. The advice given by the coach, Hilary Palmer, was to never rely on the vegetation alone but to use other features to reinforce your navigation. I had started off okay but ran into difficulties at number five where I took a bearing off a turning circle in the forest road to reach a ditch 150m away. My first attempt was quite far off and so I went back to try again. My second attempt was equally unsuccessful but this time at least I knew where I had run to and so could run north eastwards to meet the ditch. At least Hilary thought that I had picked the best attack point so I only need to improve my compass and pacing work! The rest of the course went well, and at least I got to see a Deer cross my path, is this lucky? The grounds of Rannoch School provided a good opportunity to give a demonstration of Trail O’ which was quite popular. Day 3 Leachdann Tom na Croich The longer courses had a very long and steep climb up to the start although the views from the top were very good. Runabilty was difficult in places but there were opportunities to get your feet wet in some of the marshes. Starting off in the forest the first legs involved more climb before eventually running along the top to come out onto the moorland. Several people found the change quite difficult, and the dry weather had baked the soil so there were many ankles getting twisted. At one point I was able to use a drinks station, and the people running into it, to guide me to one of my controls which I was pleased to get spot on. All that practice at Penhale in April made visualizing the contours much easier. The run in to the finish was a very steep downhill, and very visible so many people took this steadily, rather than get embarrassed at falling over on the run in. After the run I went to see the Queen’s View over Loch Tummel which although often visited by Queen Victoria was probably named after Queen Isabela, wife of Robert the Bruce. Rest Day It seemed that none of the Goulds wished to go along with Noel’s suggestion of climbing a mountain so the two of us got together to tackle one of the Munros in the area, a long ridge named Schiehallion, whilst other members of the club climbed the slightly higher Ben Lawers. We were lucky with the good weather although the top was quite misty and pleasantly cool. Going down we decided not to follow the same route down but go around down the other side. This proved to me more difficult then it looked due to the high heather and bracken which meant that we took longer coming down then going up. Day 4 Creag Vinean A few of the club had visited this area before as part of a previous JK and so had a better idea than the rest of us of what to expect. We all started from the same place and followed roughly the same route around the forest. I was informed later that this was because of the large scale of forestry activity in the area which meant other parts of the map were now out of date. After a long first leg I had a crag in the middle of the fight with a map correction nearby. Several people had trouble with this control and there was at least one official complaint as some thought that it was a bingo control, however although I did not get this spot on the first time I thought that there
was enough information on the map to make the control fair. Coming in on a compass bearing I must have been a few metres too east and I soon came across a crag without a control. Looking to the left I saw another crag to the west and quickly realized I had gone too far. I quickly found it by taking a fresh bearing. I was disappointed at legs 3, 4 to 5 as I thought that because these three controls were in a straight line they were too easy. It was not that difficult to follow line features in between and so it would have been better to plan the course leaving out control 4. I was later to discover at the technique clinic hosted by Anne Donnel that this is exactly what the M50L course did. It seemed that most courses had to negotiate the large crags on the way back. Several daring people attempted to climb down crags which were marked as impassable. It was at this point that my shoes broke, in a big way. There was not much point now in being careful so I went for it. The last few controls had been placed in a small but detailed area where everyone seemed to be running towards every control they could see which must have looked very entertaining to the officials. Day 5 Dunalastair Having later start times we arrived to find rumors going around of controls in head high bracken and of normally fast people taking over two hours. From the start the first controls were indeed located in a large sea of bracken through which it was difficult to see and navigate. The abundance of elephant tracks leading off everywhere proved to be of no help and there where many desperate cries for help. I later heard tales of one group of enterprising W50s who got together and performed a sweep search for their control! After a disappointing start, and several large errors I began to concentrate, but admittedly this was now during the easier second half of the course. Many people found the area very physically challenging, and there were at least three people who needed hospital treatment. A couple of these needed evacuation by helicopter which had spent several minutes going around in circles above my head. Dave Livesy dropped thirty seconds on his course when he had to run around a stretcher case near his control and jokingly put in an appeal. This was not a day to have had an early start time and the technique clinic in the evening was particularly busy. Day 6 Birnam Hill Students of Shakespeare may recognise the name from ‘the Scottish Play’ for Macbeth is given a warning from the three witches, “Fear not, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane”. The army of Macduff and Prince Malcolm used branches cut from the wood to camouflage themselves as they marched on Macbeth’s fortress at Dunsinane. The results of the previous days competition, to devise a suitable drink for orienteers, were produced. Andrew Allaway had a large smile on his face at the start for he had won a bottle of Aberfeldy Whiskey for his concoction, named the controller, described below. I hope that we can look forward to seeing some of these ice-cubes at the Boxing Day event this year? There was a little jollity resulting from Carol Simpson’s discovery that until yesterday she had been unsuspectingly using a compass balanced for Latvia which proved next to useless in our latitude. Birnam Hill proved to be physical and surprisingly difficult. I expected to have a better run on
the last day due to any improvements in technique over the week but I made some silly mistakes in navigation on the top of the hill. The Controller, from Andrew and Sue Allaway First make the ice cubes in two stages, freezing the tray at an angle to produce ‘O kites’, with first grenadine (red) then coconut milk (white). Fill a large glass with O kites and add two measures of Aberfeldy Whiskey and Highland Spring Water. Decorate with a sprig of pine.
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