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Day Reports

Day 1 - Ardchattan

Day 1 of Lochaber 2021 got off to the perfect start – blue skies, a dry parking field and the event services area neatly laid out ready for the day teams to take over their various key roles.  Ardchattan was previously used as the last day of the Scottish 6 Days in 2011 so it was a fairly safe bet that nearly all competitors had moved on a couple of age groupings and would not be familiar with where the 2021 courses might go.  Just a few weeks ago staging the event seemed unlikely so it was very satisfying from the Organisational Team’s point of view that this opener went so well – despite the bare bones approach it still felt like a major holiday event and we appreciate that competitors respected our wishes to maintain appropriate social distancing.  We appreciated everyone who spoke to us to thank us for going ahead on the 2 x 3 Day format.

Ardchattan was over the county line in Argyll & Bute Council, and their support in permitting the event to go ahead was very welcome. Max Carcas led the volunteers from Interlopers, Tayside Orienteers and Edinburgh University Orienteering Club – you couldn’t wish for a better band of control collectors.  Out in the terrain the upper slopes had subtle contour features and indistinct marshes and though there seemed to be a lot of boulders only those meeting the statutory 1 metre plus height had been included – not easy to distinguish until you were standing next to a boulder.  The lower slopes were more complex, with the occasional wooded valley and in places extensive bracken and a good crop of Scottish thistles.

Accessing the start of the string course was very challenging – well done to all the young ones (and pushchair pushers) for making it to the start line.

Last minute problems included some cows that came unexpectedly into calf and thanks also go to the volunteers manning the gates – upland and lowland flocks of sheep had to be prevented from getting mixed up.  Day 2 promises more trees but some well-manicured fairways on Fort William Golf Course.  Remember to keep off the greens!

Day 2 - Inverlochy

Another stunning day in the Scottish Highlands and a great new venue for orienteering.  Inverlochy sounded more attractive than the name Fort William Golf Course but I suspect quite a few competitors were surprised their routes really were on the golf course itself. Negotiations with the golf club consisted of a friendly game of golf with the Club Secretary Rosemary Macintyre nearly two years ago.  The area south of the Lochaber Smelter had previously been mapped and the original intention was possibly some sort of extension.  Difficulties in crossing the pipelines as well as man eating marshes put paid to this idea and the early recce over the golf course and hillside above showed the area had potential for the event.  How right we were to proceed and once Dave Peel had produced an excellent map and Nick Hale as planner gave the thumbs up I knew we were onto a winner.

There were really four quarters to the area – the golf course, some boggy and scrubby land nearer the smelter, an intricate hillside with birch and oak and finally some conifer plantations.  Thanks go to Jahama Highland Estate and in particular Jonathan Hart for their support – Jahama own much of the land from near Glencoe to beyond Loch Laggan so we were a small but locally significant event for them to deal with.  Seasonal rangers James and Paul were loaned out from Jahama for the day and helped bolster Organiser Sue Barrie’s team.  Thanks of course to all the helpers on the day from MAROC, AYROC and KFO and Controller David Esson from GRAMP.

Forestry & Land Scotland were also very helpful and opened up an 8 strand deer fence to allow runners access from the forest to the golf course.  The change in pace from contours and more technical terrain to the “easy” golf course caught many competitors out but it was fun to watch runners heading in all directions over the open fairways.  The Director of Greenkeeping from St Andrews kindly loaned the Keep off the Green signs – normally out on the famous Old Course (closed on Sundays)  but today far from home.

With the backdrop of the North Face of Ben Nevis and clear blue skies today will take some beating but great views from Arisaig are hopefully waiting for the next batch of runners on Tuesday.

Day 3 - Arisaig

One of the only complaints at the start of the week was a competitor wondering how he could orienteer when he was spoiled with such magnificent views.  Today in Arisaig was very much the same story, though for a short while a downpour (really, in this part of the world?) cut visibility especially for those of us competing wearing glasses.

Arisaig had been used before for a previous Scottish 6 Days but there was a real struggle trying to find a suitable parking field.  Fortunately Hughie Macdonald (and wife Anne of Arisaig Gin fame) proved to be very helpful solving this part of the puzzle.  The access road had been dramatically improved by Scottish Woodlands as part of a timber extraction scheme – a year ago it was virtually only passable by 4×4.  Farmer Dougal Gillies of Kinloid Farm kindly agreed to access to the hill – a vast swathe of rugged hill land.  It seems hard to believe but earlier in the year virtually the whole hillside was on fire, the flames threatening Arisaig Village itself.  Extreme bracken clearance but not started  deliberately.

Thanks go to Organiser Andrew Campbell of Moravian and help from the adjacent club of INVOC.  Given the only access to the hill through the railway underpass Arisaig will always have starts up by the radio mast but if anyone can remember the area from a previous occasion they must have supernatural powers of observation or memory recall.

It was great to have the chance to orienteer again after what for me (Assistant Controller) has been an enforced rest from running or orienteering.  Half-way down the results feels like a triumph though it was a bit of a shocker to pick up the map to find I had to navigate over 2 km before I was anywhere near my first control.

UK Orienteering League points will have been calculated for Inverlochy and Arisaig – for many of us the chance to orienteering once again was reward enough.

As a finale we enjoyed the steam train passing by the parking field and the opportunity to buy local gin!

Day 4 - Creag Dhubh

It is probably not giving too much away to the competitors still to run on Creag Dhubh but the area was physically very hard with many areas of bracken covered boulders and scree.  Today’s competitors will have left a fairly extensive network of elephant tracks but be aware that there was a lot of wandering around creating false trails.  We can confirm that there was a high approval rating for the White course – reports that it was the best White course ever from one Junior.

Huge thanks go to landowner Angus Macpherson of Biallid – unfortunately he messaged me yesterday from Raigmore Hospital following a bit of an altercation with a bull so was not on site.  Angus has been really helpful including permission to use Creag Dhubh twice.  Without his support it is highly likely we would have had to cancel the event.

Creag Dhubh came to our attention quite late on in the organisational process – we were not really aware that Steve Barrett from Stirling Surveys had already produced a fine map but the area had never been used.  Fortunately Cluny Estate who own the adjacent land (over the top of the hill) also gave their permission so it was game on at last. The availability of a massive well drained field (the Target Field) was a big plus and so far so good it has stood up well with the help of ground protection mats.

The Organiser(s) were very pleased that we had a very comprehensive signage layout off the trunk road.  Alba Traffic Management were here very early but a special thanks also goes out to BEAR Scotland for accepting a very late request for these safety measures.

Final word for today (and all week) goes to Equipment Team i.e. Andy Llewellyn for his delivery of maps and start clocks and the Dalgleish team who have set up the Help Point every day. FVO and STAG were the organising clubs today – as a member of FVO but with an Honorary STAG top I was a bit torn as to what I should run round with today.  FVO prevailed this time (STAG at Arisaig) so it will be neutral colours for Day 6.

Day 5 - Creag Dhubh

Finally the weather broke and Day 5 competitors at Creag Dhubh were treated to a soaking either from above or through wading through seas of wet bracken.  In case this sounds negative it must be mentioned that for many competitors this was the best day’s competition and the best area of the week.  Earlier there were real concerns that thunderstorms accompanied by lightning would be a real threat – very, very frightening especially if you were on one of the longer courses right up on top of the hill as were today’s Elites.

Thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people: the IOF (International Orienteering Federation) Controller Ted Finch was able to get the green light from the IOF for this to be staged as a World Ranking Event.  GB athletes who have been starved of international competition finally had a chance to gain valuable points (but no prizes).

Slightly unusual was the fact that two completely different groups of competitors ran the same courses but on consecutive days.  Day 4 competitors were urged not to share any information online or elsewhere that could have helped those going out on Day 5.  Why would you anyway?  I guess it was fairly obvious from the day report and video that there was a lot of bracken and it would be tough underfoot.  Some very long times on Day 4 were replicated on Day 5 and though there were lots of elephant tracks it wasn’t always obvious where they were leading.

We are very grateful for the Day 5 team who found themselves doubling up for Day 4 – they knew the layout, knew where controls had to be.  Paul Duley of GRAMP had everything well managed and thanks go to local club BASOC (as in Badenoch) and helpers from Roxburgh Reivers.  Special mention goes to Jo Cumming for acting in a local liaison capacity and lead planner John Tullie who was able to talk animals (not to the animals) with landowner Angus Macpherson.  Given his recent encounter with a bull we were delighted that Angus was able to visit the venue and meet our own orienteering VIPs as well as get a sense of what the event was all about.

A very limited number of competitors noted the sudden absence of white runnable forest marked on their 1:7,500 maps and the replacement on the ground by rough (but runnable) open.  This was due to a printing error (not the printer’s error) but given the relatively easy terrain and good contour and rock detail this shouldn’t have hampered anybody’s run.  I never noticed!

A small correction to yesterday’s report – Andy Llewellyn has confirmed he takes responsibility for loo roll stacking and offers a shoe repair service using duct tape to hold soles together.

Day 6 - Creag Meagaidh

As the clock ticked away in 2020 we still had no clear idea about where we might have a sixth area for a Scottish 6 Days.  Lots of areas were visited and had to be ruled out – primarily difficulties finding suitable parking where most flat well drained fields also mean animals and/or silage.  Creag Meagaidh had been mentioned by a number of sources but the initial forays out to the north and east (to Ardverikie) were not encouraging. Andy Llewellyn who is based locally was asked for his opinion of the area but also extended his search to Am Meall at 424 metres – success!  Ultimately this was the rocky hill that provided the best terrain and the best runnability in the area. The availability of LiDAR from the Scottish Remote Sensing Portal at least meant that mapping the area was viable and Dave Peel has to be congratulated for producing an excellent map under the most arduous and difficult winter conditions.

It was very difficult under lockdown for officials to get out to the area and under the circumstances they provided some fantastic orienteering in an area with the best views.  There were no real options for the older runners but the long trek up to the hill and back down again.  A cursory glance at the map of the area shows that this was the only choice and the correct choice so well done Planners, Controllers and the Day Organiser.  Thanks to the mix of clubs from Edinburgh (ESOC), East Lothian and SOLWAY for all your help and the computing teams (Keith Brown and Robin Strain) who have worked incredibly hard all week.

Creag Meagaidh as you no doubt noticed is a National Nature Reserve (and working farm area) managed by NatureScot (formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage).  All of the competition was within a Site of Special Scientific Interest so consent was needed.  North of Am Meall the status changes to Special Area of Conservation and that would have complicated the approvals process.

Thanks go to everyone for what has been a great week of orienteering under difficult circumstances.  We will look to get feedback on lessons learned as soon as we can organise this – it felt very different from previous Scottish 6 Days in some respects but also very similar in others.  Always a great opportunity for us far flung orienteers to meet again and rekindle old rivalries even if we are nowhere near the top of the leaderboard.  For me (Colin Matheson) this is the end of my stint as Events Manager for the Scottish Orienteering Association and I very much appreciate everyone who spoke to me thanking me for my 10 years of service in what has been a fantastic job.  Better than working I always said.

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Results

Official Results and Split Times

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6

Overall Results

Overall Results Overall Elite Results

British Orienteering Points

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6

Winsplits Online

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6

RouteGadget

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 (Courses 1-6) Day 3 (Courses 7-15) Day 3 (Courses 16-19) Day 3 (Courses 20-22) Days 4 & 5 Day 6

IOF - World Ranking Points

Day 5 WRE
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Videos

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Photos

Oscar Wilkinson

Day 1 Day 2

Wendy Carlyle

Day 1 Day 2 Day 5