Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Achieving my last goal of the summer (posted by James)

Bidean nam Bian (1150m), the highest peak in Glencoe



Life spent living at Glencoe's Clachaig Inn is a wonderful, probably unique thing…and I doubt many people would believe a lot of it unless they'd lived and worked here themselves.


From your first day (and I'm on about day 930) you start hearing of legendary members of staff of days gone by, and the crazy and memorable things they did.


About 2 years ago Clachaig's renowned Jimmy the Bush told me about what he called "The Hageman Challenge" - to climb Bidean nam Bian and get back down in the 3 hour break of a split-shift behind the bar. Bidean is usually a 5-6 hour walk for most, but Hageman managed it in 2 hours and 10 minutes, a time impossible for me when I heard about it 2 years ago. Challenge accepted!!


I'm as fit as I've ever been just now, and September's weather has made me restless and with itchy feet. So yesterday at the end of the first half of my shift at 3pm, I found myself hurtling towards Achnambeithach in my car (the accepted start point for the challenge) full of energy and psyched to test my fitness to the full.


I've done the run up past the big waterfall into Coire nam Beithach many times, and it's always hard work. It is by far the steepest of the three corrie approaches to Bidean nam Bian, but also the most direct and the route that Hageman took when he did it. Despite the steepness I found a good steady pace straight away, a skill I've been toning a lot recently.


Up to the base of the cliffs of Stob Coire nam Beith, and then a blissfully level and fast run along to the base of the scree at the bottom of Bidean's North-West face.


Now for the hard bit…..the steep, loose and slimy scree slope up to the col between Stob Coire nan Lochan and Bidean's North ridge. It is grim going either up or down, a slope far more pleasant under firm snow. It is an almost impossible slope to run up, so this is the slowest part of the course.


And then the final pull up the North ridge of Bidean, and 1 hour 16 minutes and 1 second after leaving Achnambeithach I found myself on the summit.


A 2 minute rest to contemplate, and catch my breath…a smile spreading across my face as I knew that if I looked well to each step on the descent, then I had it in the bag.


Leaving the summit I knew the descent down the scree would be grim, and it was. It is slimy and loose as a result of the snow that covers it for half the year, and on a wet day like yesterday it is hard to keep level when going at speed.


Down off the scree, and I increased my pace to full throttle. It is a steep and risky path to run at speed after rain, but it was just one of those days when I felt on top form and I descended Coire nam Beithach the fastest I have ever done.


2 hours, 9 minutes and 47 seconds later I found myself back at my car at Achnambeithach, with plenty of time spare to have a shower before starting my next shift at 6pm. Chuffed.


So….with this I have achieved the last of the three main goals I set myself for this summer. On-sight soloing The Great Ridge of Garbh Bheinn, getting mid-way through the Munros, and Bidean in a Clachaig split-shift.


Of the three though, I think perhaps yesterday's success was perhaps the most significant for me. It is not a massively impressive time to run Bidean by the standards of "dedicated" hill-runners, but it is significant as along with the last few weeks I think it might mark the start of me hill-running simply for the sake of hill-running.


Bidean in 2 hours in winter conditions? Now there's a thought….


James



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