Friday, November 2, 2012
The OMM Original Mountain Marathon - formerly the ‘Karrimor’ - is renowned for its two- day challenge and has in years past been staged in some of the most remote and wild parts of the British and Scottish Isles.
This year saw a posse of Otter Valley Hashers head off to Sedberg in the North Yorkshire Dales for orienteering entertainment in the Howgill Fells. Local lads Jonathan (Minibar) Croome from Exmouth (hash name Minibar) and Jim Pyne of Otterton (Big Jim) made up one of the two-man veteran teams competing in a long score mountain orienteering challenge.
For those not versed with mountain marathons teams of two (men, women or mixed) head out into the hills suitably equipped and self sufficient for two days in the hills carrying essentials such as food, tent, cooking equipment, compass and map (which is issued two minutes before the start time). Use of mobiles phones and GPS devices are not permitted except in emergencies.
Jim described the experience: “Saturday morning dawned cold and clear with bitter northerly gusts of wind as predicted. Our start time was 08.17 am with a 2 km walk up to the start from Sedberg town where we had overnighted under canvas in a field - a draughty and mostly sleepless night was had by most!
“The fog horn sounding every minute signalled the teams in the final start grid to move off into the competition area allowing the next team up onto the start line from the grid.
“John and I walked/jogged the first uphill kilometre to the first control. Each team has a small identity (SI) tag which contains an electronic chip in one end which is attached loosely to the wrist by a tamperproof strap which remains in place until either the second day finish or retirement- in both cases it is removed at the event HQ.
Pretty soon we were through a farm gate and “dibbing” the SI tag in the first control station which is marked with the two letter code that is shown on our first day’s map - then had some 6 hours and 3/4 hours to reach our overnight camp site and “dibb” as many controls and bag as many of the possible 600 points on offer this first day.
The splendour and awesome inclines were immediately apparent as we contoured around Knott a 427 metre hill on our way to Grimesgill Beck which is shrouded with 600 metre steep sided valleys. A lone fox takes a line up and away from us on our approach to BQ control. A solitary jet black pony stands obstinately on the skyline several hundred metres above us, silhouetted against the early morning sun like a sentinel. It’s a great start to the day, the inclines are steep, arduous and at times the only way is to tack your way up them. On the tops we are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding Fells and for a brief moment a glimpse of the not so distant Lake District, Green Gable and Great Gable amongst a number of the more distinguishable peaks.
Each leg (journey between controls) is approximately half an hour depending on the distance and terrain but can differ depending on your ability to navigate to the control. As the Howgill Fells is historically a sheep grazing area many controls are located in stone sheep folds others located at stream junctions or in gullies (known in orienteering terms as re-entrants). The landscape does not disappoint all day and on one memorable moment John decides that the incline is just too steep to negotiate on foot so he heads off down hill on his backside at high speed! I follow suit and cannot stop, legs and rucksack flying up as I’m launched off the contoured hillside, it was to be the quickest hill descent of the weekend. The hours tick by and the points and controls visited mount but sooner than we can imagine it is time to get to the overnight campsite or penalty points will be levied at a two point deduction per minute late. We finally reach the finish line with a very commendable first day score of 344 points with a 16 point reduction due to being late by eight minutes.
Already many teams are back at the overnight campsite and hashers Troy (John’s wife) and Freewheeler (the Grand Mattress of Otter Valley HHH) have bagged a camping spot under a low wall in the communal camping field. Uncharacteristically, the afternoon is warm and John and I sit in the warm afternoon sunshine before setting up camp and setting about unravelling sleeping bags and changing into fresh kit especially dry socks! The evening consists of fits of eating and sleeping and pretty much by 10 pm the camp is quiet. One important detail that must not be omitted is that the clocks go back one hour .
All too soon it is time to get up, cook breakfast, change into running attire for the final day and take our tent down.
Our second day brings low cloud cover, scrawly winter showers and persistent wind. The navigation is challenging to say the least due to the mist and it is quite apparent that this part of the competition area is harder running mainly consisting of tussocky, long wet grass and waterlogged boggy areas. If I was tired at the end of the first day it was nothing to what I would experience on the finale of the second day where the Howgill Fells gave me the biggest whipping of my life. A rough distance calculation for our first day saw approximately 20 miles covered which is only the equivalent of running from Exmouth to Seaton but then add in the copious number of valleys that were accessed and exited throughout and a more comprehensive picture starts to emerge. Our permitted 6 hours running time on the second day was more ingrained and the weather represented traditional OMM conditions to the letter.
Day 1 position saw John and myself lying in 16th position however this dropped to 53rd position due to a major “battery low” on my behalf and as a result being late back to the Finish.
Besides the above this did not detract from the event, the experience or the joviality of taking part in what is an iconic event in the mountain marathon calendar.
My sincere thanks go to John Croome for being my running partner for the weekend, executing such accurate navigation and stuffing “cake” into the appropriate orifice at the right time! Thank you also to Troy and Freewheeler who made the 8 hour journey from Devon to the Howgill Fells highly entertaining! Here’s to OMM 2013 Wales!