My photos | John Fleetwood's photos | Mark Hartell's write up
Ellie and I have just had a busy weekend helping out at Stephen Pyke's (Spyke's) attempt at beating the 24hr Munro record. The plan was to complete a 75-mile circuit from Affric Lodge containing 31 Munros and over 37,000ft of ascent, in order to break the 24hr Munro record set by Jon Broxap 20 years ago, 25th/26th June 1988.
Spyke set out from Glen Affric Lodge at 11am on a bright sunny Saturday morning, and made his way swiftly to the first summit of Mullach Froach-choire. Ellie and I headed up the same hill from near Cluanie Inn and sat in wait. Meanwhile Yiannis Tridimas appeared out of the blue for a quick chat before disappearing on towards the next hill A' Chralaig.
Before long we could make out the runners far below quickly climbing the broken east ridge. 2 pacers had clearly been dropped already, so when Spyke arrived he was accompanied only by Mark Hartell and John Fleetwood, both well-known long distance specialists.
Ellie and I chased them along the ridge taking photos until A'Chralaig, before getting dropped and returning to the Cluanie Inn junction. Spyke, Mark and John arrived at the Leg 1 to 2 changeover around 20 minutes ahead of schedule at about 3:25pm. Spyke stopped only for about 1 minute before heading straight on towards the South Glen Shiel Ridge.
Ellie and I gave Mark a lift down the glen to then next road crossing and then headed up to Bealach Duibh Leac to lie in wait once more, and expecting the runners around 6.40pm. The runners eventually arrived - Spyke, with Tom Brunt and Digby Harris - and were forcing a relentless pace over the Corbett of Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais. After the Corbett is a very steep rough descent, followed by an exciting 45 degree grass gully up Sgurr a Sgine. Ellie was getting dropped by the pace, so we baled out down to the road crossing, and hoped the runners would arrive by their scheduled time of 9pm, which they made by a couple of minutes.
Spyke finally took his first brief sit down in 10 hours, while frenzied preparations were put in place to get the runners off for Leg 3. Tom and John stepped into the breach once more, and Tim Laney looked somewhat concerned at what lay in store as the runnners launched into the 1000m climb up Sgurr Fhuaran.
As soon as we drove off towards the Cluanie Inn the first rain started, and during the night the frontal system moved in bringing vile, wet and windy weather, and the following morning low cloud was draped over the hills. After a brief interlude of sleep in the rain-battered tent at Invergarry, we headed round to Glen Affric to find out the verdict. But things weren't looking too promising.
We trudged around for 3 hours or so, in the cold and damp, getting more and more frozen. 11am finally came and went without any sign of Spyke or any other runners. The welcoming party was fidgeting and getting seriously cold when finally Tom and Tim jogged into view and gave us the low down. The attempt had long since been abandoned. The decision was made by the weather. Spyke called the whole thing off near Camban bothy after the descent from Ciste Dubh, when time was slipping away thick and fast, people were getting cold and knocked around by the wind.
The final outcome was that 21 Munros were climbed in just under 16 hours, but the weather scuppered any plans of continuing. Whether the 31 Munro route is actually possible is still to be determined, but everyone seemed keen to give it another bash once the dust has settled.