Winter Ramsay Round Record Brokenby Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com Dec/2012
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On Wednesday 12 December Lancaster-based site user Tom Phillips set a new record on the Ramsay Round in winter.
Tom, who at 49 admits he's no spring chicken, shaved about three hours from the previous best time of 29 hours 59 minutes, with a new record of 26.57.
It may prove a tough act to follow on this Scottish hill running mega-classic, which covers 24 Lochaber Munros over around 60 miles - that's Ben Nevis, the Aonachs, the Grey Corries, the Easains, the Loch Treig Munros and the whole Mamores ridge.
Tom already knew the ground, having done a sub-23-hour summer round in 2011, but it's clear that the same route in winter is a different ball game altogether, with limited daylight, tougher conditions underfoot and even some mountaineering on the narrow ridges of the Mamores and Carn Mor Dearg.
'It was way, way, way harder' he tells us. 'No Comparison!'
He also thinks it is substantially harder in winter than the UK's other two famous big rounds the Bob Graham and the Paddy Buckley.
'Since doing a winter Bob Graham, the Ramsay Round in winter has been an ambition' says Tom, whose training regime involved lots of long distance runs in Bowland and the Lakes, 5kg of weight loss, then a two-day 80-miler in Yorkshire as the last big outing. The Yorkshire bogs are a good simulation for crusty snow pack, he reckons.
'I knew it was going to be tough so I had to be 100%.'
Snowy conditions and a settled forecast earlier this week gave Tom his window of opportunity.
'The weather was amazing' he says, 'with temperatures about -10c (or less) all the way around until daylight (after a 6pm start), then a rise to -5c for a while before a big drop again. There was hardly any wind though, which was the main reason for going this week. The rivers were frozen; my ground support had gas freezing in stove bottles!'
'The best ground conditions for a winter attempt would be as little snow as possible, I guess. For me things were very varied. I had snow on every section apart from the tracks at the end of leg 2, which were very icy. I lost lots of time on some ascents where crusty snow lay on top of powder - extremely fatiguing and slow. Ridges were piled high with snow and the descent from the Ben to CMD on windslab was an early sign of what was to come. My shins have taken a pounding breaking through the windslab. Some descents in powder snow were a delight of course!'
'The penultimate ascent up loose powder on Stob Ban was the hardest bit - it tires your whole body, not just your legs!' Tom says.
'And the best bit? The views going up the Ben in the dark, my support runner Jules below in a pool of light, and Fort William under a thin veil of cloud. Then the next night shooting stars on the horizon running towards the last Munro!'
So how's his recovery going?
'I've got swollen and numb toes (they froze into my shoes on the last leg), sore shins and back ache. Apart from that I'm fine!' claims Tom, who must be made of stern stuff.
Tom's attempt was supported by two other runners for about 60% of the route, Jules Coleman and John Carr. 'I also have to mention Dick Gerrish who did superb ground support and roped me over the Aonach Beag cornice at 10pm' he says.
Sounds epic all round.
There's more info on the route and its history on the Ramsay Round website.