Monday, 23 June 2008

Spyke's 31 Munro Record Attempt

21st June 2008
My photos | John Fleetwood's photos | Mark Hartell's write up

Climbing high on Mullach Froach-choire, the first summit - Photo: Ellen Homewood

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.

Spyke approaching the first summit - Mullach Froach-choire Spyke approaching the second summit - A' Chralaig Spyke and Mark Hartell at second summit - A' Chralaig John Fleetwood, Spyke and Mark Hartell at Loch Cluanie Leg 1 to 2 changeover at junction near Cluanie Inn Start of Leg 2 heading to South Glen Shiel ridge Spyke and Digby Harris on the South Glen Shiel ridge South Glen Shiel ridge, looking towards Sgurr na Sgine Rough ground off Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais Mark and Spyke descending Sgurr na Sgine Spyke heading towards The Saddle Spyke and Mark arriving at Glen Shiel Spyke's planned 31 Munro route Jon Broxap's 28 Munro route completed in 1988 Jon Broxap completing his route with Pete Barron and Mark Rigby on 26th June 1988


Kevin Pollock said...

Did he do it? Your post leaves me uncertain. Tremendous effort if so. 31 in 24 hours will take a while to beat. Something to aim for.

Chris said...

Sorry - Blogger died last night before I could finish writing the story.
As you'll see now, poor weather arriving late on Saturday night scuppered the attempt.
So whether 31 in 24 hours is possible is still not known, but would be a monumental feat.

simon said...

Hi Chris,
I’ve been following this blog for a while. Excellent stuff, especially the photos.
Noticed that you were in Spain a while back. I’ve lived in the north of Spain for some 15 years and I reckon that some of the races we do here are not dissimilar to English and Scottish fell runs (especially the ones in the Basque Country). If ever you need any information about Spanish mountain running drop me a line. I keep a diary of sorts here
You might be interested in the Picos de Europa race I’m “attempting” this Saturday (60km with 5000m accumulated ascent).
Cheers, Simon.