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The Original Mountain Marathon

By Peter Ellis

The OMM 2023. Well here we are again another and ready to struggle around hills and mountains with my brother. This is our 12 year 2020 and 2021 being cancelled.

A little history.

The OMM (Original Mountain marathon) was first held in 1968. Gerry Charnley, a skilled mountaineer and orienteer, designed the KIMM (Karrimor International Mountain Marathon) to test orienteering skills in extreme circumstances; the full-length KIMM course is a double-marathon length race. Each team of two must carry all their gear, including equipment for an overnight camp. It was renamed the OMM in 2004 after Karrimor puled out of the sponsorship. It’s held on the same week end every year in October when the clocks change. It is held at a different mountainous location in the UK every year. It’s a timed event with 6 race categories, the top category being a double marathon in 12 hours carrying a pack across mountains. About 1700 competitors every year.

Thursday 26th night packed all my gear for the race, (there is a Compulsory kit list)

Rucksack, tent, sleeping system, spare clothes, waterproofs food cooking equipment etc, all has to be carried during the two days in the mountains.

Friday 27th morning set off from my brother’s house heading to North Wales, this year location is Bethesda. Weather for the weekend looked pretty poor but forecast improved as we headed north. We arrived at events site at around 16.00 after an uneventful drive, Parked in the wet field, discussed, as we do every year how they will get over 1000 vehicles out of the field on Sunday afternoon, They always seem to with the help of tractors.

Went have a tracker fitted to one of our rucksacks and sort our kit out for the next morning.

Now Friday night is a social night in the marquee with food and beer (reminder to me, try not to have too many), after a bit of catching up with fellow competitors, went get to bed around 21.00 in the back of brothers car.

Sat morning up at 06.00 all packed ready to go. Have breakfast in the events centre which will be the last bit of comfort for 36 hours, then a 1k walk to the start.

08.35 at start line a horn is blown our race begins (race is staggered from 7.00 -10.00 with 10 runners going every 2 mins), we are both are given a map with loads of circles on the map to navigate to, the more challenging to get to the higher the points. Stop work out a route, we have 6 hours on first day to navigate with compass only (no GPS allowed on weekend) and collect as many points as possible very little in the way of foot paths. First climb was to Moel Faban, to pick up a 30 pointer, on to Carnedd Gwenllian 925 metres, past Foel Grach around down and up to Carnedd Llewelyn 1064 m, past Ffynnon Lloer, stunning lake in the mountains. Time was slipping away, we had just over an hour left to get back to overnight camp, and will lose points rapidly if late. Little rain up to now but cold and very windy bringing wind chill temp down to around -5 in exposed areas. Head back down the for a very steep downhill section on shale, rock and bog, murder for your knees. Down to the side of LLyn Ogwen lake. Now we meet the A5 crossing and late, “it can’t be far”, but its another mile, so trying to jog down the track to the overnight with sore legs pack on back felt like a couple waddling ducks. Downloaded our dibber 15 mins late lost 30 points.

So the camp site, this is a field in a valley with stunning views of beautiful the peak of Tryfan opposite us. All you get at the overnight is water, which you must boil, and some portaloos.

Tent was erected, sleeping mats and sleeping bags sorted, warm clothes on, then make some soup to warm up. Its 15.00 on sat afternoon nothing to do except chat to a few fellow competitors, cook and eat. Eventually all racers are in and nearly 900 tents. No one is allowed off site as instant disqualification.

In sleeping bag by 16.00 Oh yes 16.00 not getting up until 06.00 Sunday morning (plus the extra hour).

Rain heavily over night with strong gusts of wind.

Sunday morning. Real bag Pipes wake us up at 06.00 cook breakfast and pack up, ground is very muddy, Ready to start at 07.35. We only have 5 hours on the second day to get back to the events camp where we started. Same format, over the line now with new map and different navigation points. Second day is a hard slog as you are tired and ache from Saturday. So we decide to go back to LLyn Ogwen lake and climb straight up to Ffynnon Lloer lake 925 m scramble, then a further scramble up to Carne Daftdd 1044m, half way up heard a shout from above “ROCK”, large boulder flying down the hill near us, dislodged by someone climbing above. Now it’s a long hike across the ridge then down then down in the Afon caseg River valley to find a place to cross the river. River crossing must be thought out especially when in full flood as can be really dangerous.

Safely across we can see the events centre, we have one hour left it looks a long way and most of journey is through reed and very wet but quite firm bogs. WE run the last mile to the end 3 min’s late. Our total score is 410 points and came 194th out of 234 in our class. Not too bad for a couple of vets. There are a few fellow club member who have experienced the weekends and will again I hope. But if you like getting cold wet and very uncomfortable for a couple of days and a night, I would highly recommend it.

I love it and will be signing up for next year.

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