Monday, 3 June 2013

A Ramsay Round Success

No, not me! Bill Williamson finally succeeded on the Ramsay Round at the weekend.

He'd had several attempts, the first in 2009 when I'd walked in to the eastern end of the Mamores to wait for him and support him over the final section. In the event he'd given up on the descent from Beinn na Lap and I ended up supporting the other two contenders: Alan Lucker and Will Houghton who succeeded becoming the 54th and 55th completers.

Alan and Will on Binnein Mor. This shot was used as the cover for the Harvey's map for the Ramsay Round.

Bill had a couple more attempts in somewhat poor weather conditions: constant rain and up to 70mph gusts of wind which didn't go well. Last week I received various emails and texts reckoning that the weather was going to be good for the weekend. By Thursday it was on!

Friday morning saw me getting the train to Appleby where Bill and Jean (his wife) would pick me up. However they had forgotten about Appleby Horse Fair and they got stuck in the traffic of horse drawn carts heading to that event so it there was a slight delay before we began heading north.

Usually Bill had used the Rucksack club's hut at South Ballachulish but it was in use this weekend so the base was a B&B at the foot of Glen Nevis which was actually much handier.

The attempt was fairly lightweight, a total of four pacers on the hill plus Jean and myself as "static" support. Unlike the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley rounds there's no road crossings on the Ramsay, the nearest road being a kilometre from the Loch Treig dam so Jean was going to meet him there and I was going to walk in to Meanach bothy.

Reaching Fort William we headed to the supermarket to get some supplies. As we pulled in to the car park we noticed a camper van with a pair of running shoes propped up on the windscreen. " That looks like Ali's (Welsh) van" Sure enough he was inside. Alan Lucker who was the sole support for leg one over Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries tried to persuade him to join him but Ali wasn't keen having been out on the hill already that day.

At the accommodation it was a matter of biding our time until we needed to drive up the glen to the youth hostel in time for Bill's midnight start. Alan was going to set off a few minutes earlier so that he wouldn't be under pressure keeping up with Bill whilst carrying all the supplies. Finally it was time, some synchronisation of various time pieces and he was off.

Not only are there no road crossings on the round there is very little mobile phone coverage so the first we would know how things were going would be when Bill and Alan arrived at Loch Treig, hopefully around 8am.

My cue to walk in to Meanach would be a text from Jean once she got back to the car at Fersit. This actually made things quite tight timewise as it's about a ten minute walk from the dam then from the accommodation it is around fifteen minutes to the head of the glen and then I reckoned it would take me three hours to get to the bothy. Bill would only take four hours or so to complete the three Munros to the east of Loch Treig so there wasn't much leeway.

When the text came through, it was that Bill was about 15 minutes down on schedule but looking strong. In fact he was very strong and was beginning to pick up time on nearly every ascent. Time to go. I was walking in with Jim Mann who has a very quick winter Bob Graham time against his name. Jim had never been on any of the hills in the area so it was all new to him.

We took a good steady pace in the morning sunshine. There were a couple of showers but they were so light that it wasn't worth stopping to put a waterproof on. Three hours later and we arrived at the bothy. Two minutes later Andy Kitchen the fourth pacer arrived having run from Glen Nevis in 90 minutes - he promptly pulled out half a dozen pot noodles from his sack along with a stove! Scottish fell runners' hill food!

We'd only been there about fifteen minutes when Andy shouted out "They're here!" It turned out to be a false alarm - I think it was a couple recceing the round and they didn't come to the bothy but headed straight for the Mamores. However it was only another five minutes before they did come in to view and there were three of them. Ali had decided to help out on this leg.

Bill, Chris and Ali approaching Meanach bothy

Once inside we got Bill fed and on his way in fifteen minutes, with such few chances to take a breather and sort things out there's no point in rushing. Bill looked strong and remarkably stress free compared to previous attempts. Even though on this occasion the weather was fine, having the bothy as a stop would be really advantageous in poorer weather. Then it was time to go.

Bill getting replenished in the bothy

Time check and then it's away to the Mamores

So in less than an hour of arriving at Meanach we were on our way again. This time I'd got Chris (Armour) and Ali, the leg 2 pacers as companions on the walk out. As we set off there was a heavy shower which lasted about forty minutes, though this was the only real shower we had all day. We could see the group of three making their way up the long north east ridge of Sgurr Eilde Mor. The last I saw was them beginning the descent from that summit, our progress, the distance and the terrain meant that we wouldn't be able to see them again.

The walk out was rather hard as my knee was playing up so Chris and Ali had to keep waiting for me. In the end it took 3 1/2 hours to walk out, I'm sure the other two would have done it in 2  1/2 or less. Then it was a waiting game, a long waiting game.

We decided to head up to the finish line at 10pm - it was unlikely that Bill would get there by that time but it would be a bit ironic if we'd found him there twiddling his thumbs! A few walks up the road and back as the night began to draw in then there was a shout and he came in to sight.

Still running he reached the point where he'd set off and stopped his watch: 22hrs 54 minutes. He'd become the 71st person to complete the round.

The finish, 22:54 and job well done!


  1. Bob, nice report!
    Although I have also been planning to use the bothy, I am having second thoughts because of the distance from Glen Nevis and the state of the pacers by the time they get there (tired and wet).
    Parking at Mamore Lodge is no problem so I am contemplating using this. Any thoughts?

  2. Jim and I walked in steadily rather than rushed it but it's still 12Km or so. I think it's slightly shorter from Mamore Lodge but you could use mountain bikes to get there which would make things a lot easier, the support for the Beinn na Lap section could ride out on them. The only hard bit would be the climb up past the deer gate but that's only short and you'd probably push the bikes there as it's a bit loose. Once you got to around the 350m mark then it's easy going and you'd be at Luibeg in 40 mins or so.

    Seems we just missed you at the start!

  3. Hello Bob,

    Enjoyed the report. I'm also going to use Meanach on my attempt next weekend (8/9 June), interesting to read your comments. My leg 2/3 changeover is scheduled for around 2am, so comfort for the leg 2 and 3 supporters also came into the decision (although we'll need to be quiet if there are other bothy users sleeping there!). Chris A (I'm hoping) will be back in action for leg 2!

    Thanks again for the report

    Jules Coleman