© Jon Gay
A shattered Jon after his Ramsay last weekend
Lochaber runner Jon Gay completed an amazing feat of long-distance mountain running this last weekend when he completed the gruelling 60 mile Ramsay Round, which takes in 24 summits, including Ben Nevis…
Jon’s full story in his own words!
‘Winter conditions paradox’
I was extremely fortunate to complete a Ramsay’s Round in stunning weather and snow conditions this weekend. I finished in a time of 23 hours, 18 minutes. I have decided to write it up briefly as I have enjoyed reading reports by others.
Having the advantage that the the Ramsay’s is within running distance of my house it is possible to pick my weather (assume drizzle in Fort William). This time there was superb winter conditions, very benign. Paradoxically I believe that the snow surface made significant parts of he run easier than summer. Please see attached my split times.
I like spend most of my spare time in these hills and admit to failing many a winter Tranter or Ramsay attempt over the years. My Brother Dan (summer Ramsay’s completion), and I became experienced at running the Corrour to Tulloch railway after abortive attempts, great for the neck muscles and general awareness. Last February we did manage to get well over half way anti clockwise before retiring with cold feet.
At the time Andy Kitchin was going the other way and also stopped due to the cold after a similar distance (we saw his head torch at Loch Treig). We realised that if you aggregated the times it proved that the winter round could be done in under 24 hours, assuming perfect conditions.
I was pleased to complete a Ramsay’s in summer 2010 along with Pete Duggan. I am an average runner especially on the flat, but ok at ascending or general hill bashing. Completion for me in winter seemed a long shot.
Friend Bruce Poll who is a Ramsay- ist and Aspirant Alpine Guide had blogged about the improving climbing and snow conditions during the last week of very settled high pressure. I asked him if it was runnable up top, he said yes- solid, remember your axe!
Arguably a wind chill of minus 20, frozen to sea level and snow line at 600 metres would comprise ‘full winter conditions’, continental ones possibly. Axe and crampons were extensively needed. From studying the weather it was obvious that there was zero cause for concern here. As implied above I am not up to attempting in harsh weather at the winter solstice, but this would be a much more admirable ethic for completion!
This time I decided to go clockwise, not start in the middle of the night, nor walk to the start, nor go unsupported with a huge sack. This strategy had resulted in my latest retreat in January (drizzle). Sense prevailed and I asked my friend and fellow Lochaber Athletic member Tark Gunn, at short notice, to provide food (and motivational) support at Loch Trieg Dam. I recommend Tark’s hill walking courses, his advice and help kept me safe and made it all possible.
Ascending the Ben the cloud was down and there was fine snow falling. Here we go again I thought, whilst struggling with my crampons/ reviving my fingers. But emerging down Carn Mor Dearg Arete (runnable due to snow cover) I entered an Alpine wonderland with rime on the rocks and full ‘styrofoam’ neve (hard snow) underfoot.
Extensive snow cover was visible throughout the route. CMD was way quicker than summer, most of the rubble was banked out. Descent was a full but careful run. Even a man in heavy plastic boots was fairly shifting, initially I thought he might be doing a Ramsay!
The ascent of the West face of Aonach Mor was a little hairy in places (in Kahtoola flexible 10 point walking crampons) with pockets of water ice and very hard neve, I went too far left where it steepens. On top some ski mountaineers asked me if I was ok and had I lost something?
Why would anyone be running about up there? Fortunately the descent of the narrow Coire Bhuic, possibly the technical ‘crux’ of the route went well. I had tried digging an improvised snow inspection pit but could hardly penetrate the snow with the axe, it looked very safe. I carefully climbed along the back of the broken cornice and front pointed down the steep to a more comfortable angle.
I have traversed the Grey Corries many times but never has the ‘running track’ been this amenable, the hard snow covered nearly all the rubble. I had to phone Tark to say I was early. Just before meeting my upstairs neighbour. I was able to