Charlie Ramsay Round Attempt
by Jim Paxman and Keith Holmes
Throughout spring Jim Paxman had been organising a Ramsay Round attempt for this weekend. At the last minute he had a lot of offers of support and so had asked Keith Holmes if he would like to join him. On the understanding that Jim had first call on support etc Keith agreed. The forecast for the weekend was the continuing hot and dry weather and with Leg 1 being rocky and exposed (Ben Nevis and Grey Corries) I knew that the heat and lack of water were going to be difficult to manage.
Saturday morning dawned as forecast. After a hearty breakfast I dropped Andy and Steve off at Kinlocheven to walk into the route. They were meeting us below Stob Ban on Leg 1 and then between Binnean Beag and Binnean Mor on Leg 3. I drove round to Fort William YHA and at 10.30am set off up the Ben. I was scheduled to be supporting Jim and Keith from the Grey Corries but wanted to do some leisurely reccying of my own first. Jim and Keith were scheduled to start at 12.30pm. It was very hot walking up and people were struggling to climb in the heat. There was also a distinct lack of water in the streams. I filled up at the waterfall stream and then took a direct line to the top. I have never seen it so busy - there must have been 100 plus people on the summit. I ran off down towards Carn Mor Dearg and then stopped for a picnic and chatted to local walkers (about Yorkshire beer!). By the time I reached the col before the Aonachs had drunk the 1.5 litres I had. At the stream there I filled up adding 2 litres into my bladder and staggered off up the climb. I missed Aonach Mor out and sat on Aonach Beag watching for runners down off Carn Mor Dearg. I was getting worried as by now they were scheduled to be on Aonach Mor yet I hadn't seen anybody. Some walkers came up, we chatted and took photos of each other. I decided to walk down and make sure Ian Winterburn was still in place on the Grey Corries as I maybe I had missed them somehow. He was and so we sat together anxiously looking up. Runners appeared and it was them. Now about 35 minutes down on schedule.
Keith arrived first looking strong followed by Jim who looked like he was suffering in the heat. The support (Simon Rippon, Tim Rippon and Glen Borril) were out of water and grateful of the liquid that Ian had hauled up. We set off but Jim had to stop on the ascent to take on food and water. Off the top Jim set a good pace and we were hopeful that as sun dropped and it became cooler that he might recover. Crossing the Grey Corries it was still very hot and everyone seemed to be struggling in the heat. Water was also a problem; Tim and Simon dropped to fill up before Stob Coire an Laoigh. Across to Stob Coire Claurigh Jim was running well but climbing was still a struggle for him. We didn't get a good line off and were caught by Paul Reeve who was also attempting but had set off at 1pm. Everybody was glad of the lochan for water and to cool down in.
Climbing Stob Ban Jim said he needed proper food and I reassured him that Steve and Andy had some along with tea. This cheered him up considerably. When Jim, Glen and I reached the summit however Keith, Ian, Tim and Simon were already running down the path. This was not the planned route and I was very annoyed but also worried that we wouldn't find Steve and Andy. I descended with Jim and Glen on my line which I believed was similar to Jim's line but there was no sign of Steve or Andy. I had asked Glen to run on when we saw them to get an Expedition food meal ready for Jim. I started shouting Steve's name but to no avail. We had nearly reached the river when I heard a shout and they were behind me running down. I ran back to them, took the flask of tea, coke and a few nibbles then ran to catch Glen and Jim up. Jim was glad of the tea and rest by the river but the midges drove us on. He was obviously disappointed at the lack of "proper food". We all knew that Stob Coire Easain was going to be make or break it for Jim. He set off well but the constant climbing through heather took it's toll and it wasn't long before he stopped and said that "Enough was enough". Me, Glen and Simon (who had waited for us) knew he meant it. We had a moment's rest and continued on at a more leisurely pace.
I was thinking about what I could now do. I didn't want to just go to Fersit and stop; it was too nice an evening for that. I didn't need to do Leg 2 now as there was more than enough support and if Keith was to have any chance of completing he needed to pull back at least 1.30 hours which would be a fast pace overnight. I was also thinking of Steve and Andy now bivvying on the Mamores and how I would like to see them. I decided that if I ran to the Meaneach bothy I would be able to update the supporters waiting there, have a lovely Expedition food and then set off supporting on Leg 3. Suggesting this to Jim he was pleased that his support would have news and so when we arrived at the summit where Keith and co were waiting, we told them the plan. Just as we were about to depart on our opposite ways Ian Winterburn frantically tipped out his rucksak looking for his phone! Having mine to hand I rang it and luckily got enough signal for us to hear it ringing some 20m away carefully placed on a rock!!
Running off I had mixed feelings. Pleased still to be running and with a plan in mind. Sad that Jim's attempt had failed. Satisfied that he and we had done everything we could to try and get him round. Confused as to Keith and his attempt as in my mind contenders should not rely on their support to do everything ie.organise and navigate. So in conclusion ... Glad that I was now a free agent; able to roam round the mountains of Scotland safely and happily, with enough clothes, maps, food, drink and a headtorch to see me wherever I chose to go.
On that note I decided that I ought to stop running, consult a map and get a bearing on my destination! This I duly did to find that I was a little off course and the most direct way to the bothy wasn't down the valley but actually back the way we had come to pick up a path across. The sun was setting over Stob Ban and I took photos before quickly running off , hopeful that I would get to the bothy without use of my headtorch. The path was a dream and easy to run on so I arrived at the bothy just in time. Fumbling with the door latch I burst in; it was a very welcome sight.
Ian Fitz had the kettle on, Brent and Willy sorting kit and eating. Lewis, Rose and Ellie sat comfortably on their sleeping mats. I asked about my orange bag and yes it was there (thanks Steve). Digging out my meal I hoped it was good and it was! Spicy Mince with Rice. Ian made it up for me along with tea and I sat happily scoffing away while updating everybody. "We can eat Jim's food now" said someone (probably Willy!). The girls shared it all out with the chorizo and beans going down very well but having been packed together, the flapjack tasted somewhat of chorizo!
We settled down for a few hours sleep with me using spare clothes as my bedding but slowly donning them during the night as it dropped cooler. At 2am we roused and had tea and various food for breakfast while checking outside for head torches. About 3.45am torches were seen but when they arrived it was Paul Reeve now running with Lawrence (from Dark Peak) for support having lost his own somewhere. They had run overnight with Keith and Tom Westgate but Keith was now struggling and so they had been sent ahead.
I decided to go on with Paul up Sgurr Elide Mor (mainly because I wanted to recce it!) and we set off. The ascent was long and tiring for Paul. We reached the ridge and I looked across at the Binneans trying to see Steve and Andy. I was sure they would have given up on us as we were now so far behind schedule. I couldn't see anyone but waved hopefully. Paul decided to call his attempt off at the summit; something both me and Lawrence were glad about. Another hot day in the Momores didn't seem appealing. Video taken from the summit of Sgurr Elide Mor at 5am
We ran down and across to the Binneans col and as we approached I saw someone waving. That spurred me on to run all the way. It was so lovely to see Steve and Andy that I gave them both a hug!
They poured us tea with sugar and we rested while chatting. I heard about their exploits to get to Loch Elide Mor which had them arrive back at Kinlocheven at 1pm; four hours after originally setting off so then having to really rush to get to Stob Ban in time! Apart from that, a pathless ascent to the Binneans and a cold night bivvying they were happy!
After that we descended down into Glen Nevis valley and walked out. It was surreal to think it still was only 8am in the morning. Paul was swaggering from side to side now and with his white shirt and floppy hat he looked like the ghost of Charlie Chaplin so not surprisingly he was unsuccessful in hitching a lift! The road was hurting everybody's feet so with 3 miles to go Andy asked a man with a camera to give him a lift to the YHA to collect the van. With a bit of "friendly photographers" banter he was successful and drove off, soon to return with the van.
Dropping Paul off at the YHA we made our way to meet the others for breakfast in Fort William and learn of all the other weekend's exploits over a full Scottish! After which we drove home.
In conclusion: a mixed weekend in very good weather with I think, a lot of lessons to be learnt.
Photos of the weekend