Somewhere high above Eskdale, 02.30am Sunday morning (see photo right).
The rain was torrential and horizontal, the wind so strong we were now reduced to a crawl to reach the ridgeline and checkpoint number six. I had long ago lost count of how many time a leg had disappeared thigh deep in snow or bog.
We had been running (well moving!) for four hours and were about to make a decision. We were going to give up.
For an hour we had been walking the thin line between a deeply unpleasant night on the hill and a potentially serious situation. Having to stop and change torch batteries and a momentary loss of concentration leading to a missed control and some wandering around trying to locate it was the tipping point.
We got cold. Very cold. However we pushed on and found the next control without further navigational difficulty but didn’t really get back on track mentally or physically. We were warned about hypothermia when we set off but never thought for one minute we would need to heed the warning, after a short discussion and a serious reality check, we descended as quick as we could and made our way direct to the finish still about an hour away, so not far, but across the grimmest terrain I think I have ever encountered (half-frozen mega tussocks submerged in knee deep icy water and bog)!
Safely back at the event centre it was strangely busy (we later found out about 90% of the field had retired) and we felt disappointed but proud we used good mountain judgement to get out of there before things went totally pear-shaped.
Marmot Dark Mountains is the first overnight mountain marathon with a similar format as established event such as the OMM but the idea is you start in the dark, run through the night and don’t have the overnight camp – effectively running day one and two together.
This was the first event of this kind and a tough experience but I learnt a lot and gained a lot of confidence, not least about sound decision making but also of difficult night navigation.
Would I do it again? Absolutely! Bring on next year!
Report also in the Wharfedale Observer.