Choosing a Sleeping Bag for an Adventure

If you are going on an adventure, taking part in a multi-day race or basically going on a one night jolly in the wilds somewhere, a sleeping bag is going to be an essential item.

Choosing a sleeping bag one would think is easy… Go to a shop, find one that fits into your budget, purchase and use.

The reality is, the above is far from the truth.

ASK INITIAL QUESTIONS

A good sleeping bag is not cheap and going cheap is most certainly not a good idea. So, from the off, accept that you will need to dedicate a good portion of your hard earned cash.

One sleeping bag will not work in all situations, however, if one is clever, one can make a sleeping bag adapt to other situations and therefore it is possible to increase the range of use and temperatures that a sleeping bag will work in.

Sleeping bags mainly use two fillings: Down or synthetic such as Primaloft.

  • Down: Is lighter and the weight to warmth ratio is higher. It packs smaller and can be compressed to a very tiny package if required. Down however cannot get wet. If it gets wet it all sticks together and will offer no warmth at all. Down is expensive and one should make sure that if purchasing down that it is ethically sourced.
  • Primaloft: A synthetic product, it is heavier and packs larger than down. It’s a cheaper product than down and importantly it can get wet and still retains warmth.

The first questions one should ask are:

  1. Am I using the sleeping bag in a dry or wet climate?
  2. Is the weight of the bag really important. Normally the answer here is, if you are carrying it, yes, the weight is important.
  3. Do I need the sleeping bag to pack as small as possible?
  4. Do I need the bag to work in one or more situations? Another way of looking at this is, do I need to compromise on points 1-3 to get value for money.

Ask some personal questions:

  1. Do I sleep warm?
  2. Do I like to be warm and if not warm, am I miserable?
  3. Am I prepared to be a little cold to be as light as possible?
  4. Do I need a full-length zip, half-zip or am I happy to have no zip?

Consider other factors:

  1. If you are tall, wide, have big shoulders etcetera, etcetera then some sleeping bags will just not work for you as they will be too small.
  2. If you are small/ petite an off-the-shelf sleeping bag actually could be too big for you, this is not a huge problem, but if you wanted the bag to be as small and light as possible, you could go custom made.

Sleeping bags have a ‘Comfort Rating’ as follows:

Upper limit – the highest temperature the average male can expect to have a comfortable night’s sleep at without too much sweating.

*Comfort – the temperature at which the average adult woman can expect to have a comfortable sleep. *This is the ideal for most people choosing

Lower limit – the temperature at which the average adult male can expect to have a good night’s sleep in a curled position.

Extreme – the lowest temperature at which the average adult woman can survive. This rating comes with caution and additional consideration should be given if you plan to sleep in temperatures this low.

Layering:

Irrespective of what sleeping bag you choose. Layering for me is a key consideration when choosing a sleeping bag and this is one key factor that helps make a sleeping bag stretch over a multitude of uses and temperatures. (See the image below.)

  1. Sleeping alone.
  2. Sleeping bag, T-Shirt and shorts.
  3. Sleeping bag, L/S top and long leggings.
  4. Sleeping bag, L/S top, long leggings and Jacket (down or primaloft).
  5. Sleeping bag, L/S top, long leggings, Jacket (down or primaloft) and over-trousers (down or primaloft).

Note – By wearing a hat/ Buff/ balaclava or combination of all three, you will retain a great deal of body heat – remember this!

With the above diagram, you suddenly see how one sleeping bag can cover at least 5 temperature ranges and still provide comfort.

From a personal perspective, I prefer a sleeping bag that is probably not quite warm enough as stand alone for my chosen environment. Why? 

  1. Should the weather be warm, I know my sleeping bag will be fine on it’s own and if it has a zip, I can regulate even more.
  2. I know that I can get warm by incorporating layers.

How do I know what layers I will need and what about additional weight?

The answer to the above is actually part of the process and in some ways, part of the fun of what works for you. Let’s take two scenarios, Desert and Himalayas:

Desert:

Multi-day desert races such as Marathon des Sables, require runners to carry all they need for the duration of the event. Therefore, weight is critical. However, desert temperatures can vary greatly. Some evenings can be mild and even hot. Other nights you can be blasted by wind and sand and the temperature drops to zero or below. So, the sleeping system needs to potentially cover a range of temperatures, let’s say 10 degrees. If you purchase a sleeping bag that is warm at say zero, it is going to be way too hot at 10 degrees. The sleeping bag will also be heavier and pack larger. By contrast, if you had a sleeping bag that was good for say 5 degrees, not only will it be lighter, pack smaller but importantly it will be more comfortable in warmer temperatures. You then make the bag warmer, should you need by adding layers… hat, T, shorts, longer leggings and then finally jacket. A question is often raised about the need for a jacket? I personally think it is essential – they are perfect in the morning and evening when sitting around and importantly, they are that extra important layer if you get a cold night. From my drawing sample, you would be looking at 1 to 4.

“Smart lightweight campers have been using their clothes to boost the warmth of their sleeping bags for years and climbers do it when they have to. Yet most of us are still carrying bags much bulkier and heavier than we need.” – Peter Hutchinson Designs

Himalayas:

The principal of the desert applies to the Himalayas. But obviously, one would not use the same sleeping bag. The initial starting point will be a warmer bag that is obviously heavier and larger. Also, down would almost certainly be the choice. The layering would go from 1 to 5. The reason being that daily temperatures in the Himalayas can be say, 10/15 or even 20 degrees. In the evening, depending where you are and how high you are, the temperatures can be -20. That is a huge difference and therefore you need a system that works over a huge range – this can only come from layering! Read about my Three High Passes Trek HERE

NOTE: Both of the above systems benefit greatly from a good sleeping matt that provides a layer between you and the ground. This is an essential item in my opinion. Not only does it add a barrier, it importantly adds comfort. If you are comfortable, you will sleep better. A good nights sleep means you are fresh and recovered for the next day’s challenges.

Professional explorer, Eric Larsen commented to Outside online:

“Larsen firmly believes in layering heavily in the cold, an opinion developed after years spent sleeping in subfreezing temps. “There is no such thing as a cold night’s sleep, only not enough layers,” he says. “I layer when I’m inside the bag just as much as I do while outside the bag. When you’re climbing Everest, you’re not naked under your down suit. The more heat you can preserve in a warm layer next to your body, the better.”

url https://www.outsideonline.com/2271191/how-experts-layer-sleeping-bag

PRODUCTS

Choosing a sleeping bag is something very personal and we are all individual. A 6ft 2” guy weighing 85kg is going to need something very different than a 5ft 6” woman weighing 55kg, so, keep that in mind!

You know you! It’s ok to ask for advice and recommendations, but you need to keep the points above high in your mind.

There is a general rule with sleeping bags and down jackets, the more you spend, the better they are. But there are many options out there.

Understand that when purchasing a sleeping bag that often it is possible to choose a size, just like when purchasing clothing. For example, a Yeti Passion Three or a Western Mountaineering  Summer Lite comes in M, L and XL.

MDS two time champion, Elisabet Barnes, for many years has been offering advice and a one-stop shop – myRaceKit – for all multi-day essentials and the team at their store are able to provide excellent advice on what options are available for sleeping systems. They stock products from:

Hagolfs, OMM, Nordisk, RAB, Sea to Summit, Yeti, Western Mountaineering and Lightwave.

A UK based company PHD (Peter Hutchinson Designs) takes things one step further and can custom make a sleeping bag to your exact specifications and needs. “…a footzip, which adds 10g and allows some air circulation around the feet. Zips are an option on the Minim bags, but most competitors don’t ask for one. A short zip with draft tube adds about 55gm (2oz): a full zip and tube adds about 120gm (4oz). Zips also add to the packed size.” One of the advantages of PHD is you can get exactly what you need.

A few years ago I compared PHD, OMM and YETI at the Marathon des Sables. Read HERE

CONCLUSIONS

Sleeping bags are an essential piece of equipment. Choosing the correct one can make or break an adventure. In simple terms, a good nights sleep allows you to rest and recover for the next day’s demands.

Nobody likes being too cold, especially at night, so keep this in mind and embrace the layering system.

Understand that we are all individual, what works for one, does not work for all.

Research the race and environment you are racing and check the highest and lowest temperatures. Start looking at sleeping bags with the appropriate *comfort rating and narrow down a search from here.

Remember, not two places are the same! For example, there is a huge difference in the desert/ weather say for Morocco, Atacama and the Grand to Grand in the USA.

Also understand the specifics of your adventure and what bag best suits your needs. To clarify on this, if you are going to the desert and the Himalayas, you will need two sleeping bags as the demands are very different. However, if you are going to the desert and then going back-packing in France in summer, the same sleeping bag will almost certainly work.

A sleeping matt is a no brainer when it comes to sleeping. It adds comfort and a barrier between you and the ground. For example, in the Himalayas when the ground is frozen and hard, why would you not put a barrier between you and basically a hard block of ice. 

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Three Passes Trek 2018: Ultimate Trek in the Everest Region

Nepal, the magic of Nepal! It truly is a remarkable place and if you are a trekker, fastpacker, runner or mountaineer, it is arguably THE best place in the world. Nepal changes people, it really does. I experienced the change on my first visit 7-years ago and I have been going back ever since. It’s not just the trails, the Himalayas or the stunning vistas; It is so much more! It’s the combination of all those elements for sure, but it is the Nepali people that often lure me back. They truly are the salt of the earth.

I have just returned from once again working on the ‘ETR’ – Everest Trail Race. It’s a 6-day running journey of 160km’s that starts at Jiri and traces a route that Hillary and Tenzing took when they first made their way to summit Everest. It’s a magical race and the structured format is a wonderful way to experience Nepal for the first time.

Home for 2-days and I was already missing the trails, views and the people, however, a stinking cold I picked up on the journey home was keeping me from sleeping. In the middle of the night, I laid a Nepal map on the floor and started to plan a journey that would take in the ‘Three High Passes’ on a circular route from Lukla.

It was as I stared at the map, I began to realise the options open and the possibility to do out and backs and add some serious additions to what is, an already very popular trek.

The high passes are:

  • Renjo La 5338m
  • Cho La 5380m
  • Kongma La 5535m

Now of course, before undertaking any route like this you have to ask yourself some really sound questions and gain an understanding of trekking or running at altitude – you don’t just do it. You have to ease yourself in and acclimate to the demands.

For me, I am not overly worried at being circa 5500m. My job regularly takes me to high altitudes, for example this year alone I have been over 5000m in China, been at 4000m in Turkey, been at the summit of Mt. Teide in Tenerife, been at the summit of Monte Rosa and of course, just recently I have done Everest Trail Race. So, I am pretty well prepared to go to 5500m or higher. The big question is usually, can one stay there? 

See the map below:

My route would follow the very clearly defined high pass trek, clockwise, finishing with the higher Kongma La at 5535m. For example, this is usually done in 16-18 days and often 21-days are recommended to allow for any issues or problems. 

My idea, once again (I did a trek last December) was to avoid the noise and the frenzy of Christmas and travel to Nepal for an adventure.

Rough plan was to leave the UK for Dubai Dec 13th, arrive in Kathmandu on the 16th. Start my trek on the 18th and finish on the 30th. Return to Kathmandu on the 31st and then have some RnR time before returning to the UK.

That allowed me 13-days.

However, I know from experience that I can move considerably faster and cover more ground than a normal trek, so, it got me looking – what could I add?

The plan is to add ‘out and backs’ to my route that would add some spice and challenge:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Kala Pattar?
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Taboche
  • Thamersku Base Camp

I am well connected with the guide / Sherpa community in Kathmandu and so I asked Pasang Sherpa and Lhakpa Rangdu (both who have summited Everest multiple times, Lkakpa, 11 times!) Was my schedule feasible? Pasang knows me well and he immediately said yes! He confirmed that I usually cover double what most trekkers do in a day, also, mt time on the ETR confirms this. So, the plan was turned into a reality.

Initially I was going to go alone, but December in Nepal is very cold and relatively quiet. Pasang did not insist, but highly recommended a fast Sherpa to join me. I didn’t need much persuading and I agreed. I was adamant though – no porter, we carry our own equipment for the duration moving fast and light.

Another factor to consider was the crossing of glaciers. I had already made the decision to carry mini-spikes and a light ice axe.

THE PLAN:

13th Dec leave UK

17th KTM 

18th Depart for Lukla (early flight I guess) and then we hike to Namche.

19th Lumde

20th RENJO PASS to Gokyo to include Gokyo RI

21st CHO LA PASS to Dzongla

22nd Gorak Shep w/ Kala Pattar?

 

23rd EBC and back to Lobuche

 

24th KONGMA LA PASS to Somare

25th Ama Dablam BC and back to Pangboche

26th Tabuche Peak and back to Pangboche

27th Monjo

28th Thamersku BC

29th Lukla

30th Spare day

31st Back to KTM 

1st KTM 

2nd Onward travel

It is very easy to look at a fastpack like this and lose perspective. Daily distances mean very little when climbing and descending at altitude and particularly in this environment – it is going to be very cold too, especially at night.

Pasang Sherpa – the main man and my Mr Fixer.

EQUIPMENT:

I recently wrote an article on equipment for fastpacking in Nepal, HERE. While much of what is in this article is correct, I am making some changes for December. First and foremost I am replacing my SPOT with a Garmin inReach MINI. I asked friends was the difference worth it and I have to say I am currently blown away with the device. User friendly, small, great battery life and perfect sync with the EARTHMATE App on iPhone. The map below is what I imported into the inReach as a ‘just in case’ scenario is needed.

However, the primary use for the inReach will be safety. It has a SOS button and that in a remote environment can be the difference between life and death. Also, I can send and receive messages – not essential but really great for letting the important people in my life know that I am ok. The other function will also allow anyone to follow me by using this link HERE – I must stress, I am going for no FKT’s, not looking to set records or do anything out of the ordinary, however, you may like to see where I am? I haven’t decided yet if I will turn the inReach on each morning and off each evening or leave it permanently on. The battery will last 20-days on 30-min tracking.

I am going to use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 backpack. It is light, super comfy and will allow me to carry all I need.

I have purchased a pair of RAB Endurance Down Gloves which are maybe overkill, but, I have had friends at EBC and in that area in December and it has been -25, so, I don’t want  cold hands!

I am using the inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex fastpack boot.

I normally do not take waterproof clothing but I have decided to take the inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket (175g).

Ice Axe – I am taking the amazingly super-light CAMP Corsa which is just 200g

YakTrax XTR cramp ons

The rest of my equipment will be as follows:

Day:

  • inov-8 3/4 tights.
  • inov-8 AT/C Merino Top
  • inov-8 AT/C soft-shell Pro Top
  • Plus inov-8 ROCLITE 325 Gore-Tex, inov-8 AT/C Race Pant (170g) and AT/C Stormshell Jacket

Night:

  • RAB INFINITY 500 sleeping bag
  • RAB NEUTRINO PRO Jacket
  • RAB MICROLIGHT Jacket
  • RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY
  • RAB 120 long sleeve base layer
  • RAB 120 pant
  • PHD down socks
  • RAB PROTON PANTS
  • RAB gloves, hat and neck rolls

Extras:

  • Basic toiletries
  • Headtorch and spare batteries
  • Earphones
  • Phone
  • Pen
  • Passport
  • Black Diamond Z Poles
  • Waterproof bags

Camera:

  • Sony A7RIII with 35mm f2.8 prime lens and 4 batteries/ 2 spare SD cards.

*****

Departure form the UK is Dec 13th and you can follow my tracker HERE

I will do iPhone posts during the trek, mainly on Facebook and Instagram Story. All the good images will come post the trek when I can download and edit.

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Equipment for Fastpacking in Nepal – A Guide

Having just returned from Nepal, I have once again had many questions from runners, hikers and enthusiasts on the equipment I used during the Everest Trail Race.

I would normally say, read ‘this’ post and send a link. However, over 7-years of going to Nepal and the Himalayas, I have constantly tweaked and changed equipment. In 2018 I made some significant changes. So, I have something to write about.

The Everest Trail Race is a 6-day multi-day running race. Runners aim to cover 160km over 6-stages with extremely varied terrain, huge altitude gain and descent and of course, they have altitude to deal with. They must carry all they need for the race. However, a tent is provided which they share, food is provided, and water is rationed and provided at specific checkpoints. The race is the ultimate fast packing exercise as runners obviously try to be as light as possible without compromising warmth and comfort. The race takes place in November, the prime trekking season in Nepal – days are usually sunny and warm and the nights are cold. At certain places on the route, nights can be very cold.

My equipment requirements are not too dissimilar to that of the runners as I to need to move over the trail as fast and light as possible. However, I also need to carry camera equipment. This is significant and adds KG’s instantly.

I have also learnt over the years that I do not like being cold.

In my first Nepal experience I went light (too light) and I was cold. A little extra weight with warmth and comfort is worth it, for me! But here in, this is where the challenge comes and actually, this is part of the fun of fastpacking and in particular, fastpacking in Nepal when the variables can be so great.

This is even more poignant now as I am planning to return to Nepal in a few weeks on a much longer and harder trek than the ETR and when temperatures will be considerably colder, especially at night.

One thing is for sure. You go trekking in Nepal and you will rarely change clothes and a shower/ wash will be a rarity. Accept it! Everyone will be the same so embrace this as part of the challenge. There are ways of dealing with this and I like to think of my clothing as day and night. During the day, I am wearing run clothing, and, in the evening, I am wearing more mountain specific clothing.

I am not the fastest on the trails, but I move considerably faster than nearly all the trekkers. So, I look more like a runner when trekking than a trekker. For example, trekkers will wear boots, trousers, and a shirt. I use run shoes, run tights and a run top.

It is also important to consider individual needs and individual strengths when looking at equipment and weight. For example, a 5ft woman weighing 50kg is going to have a very different set of abilities to a 6ft 85kg man. Keep this in mind!

My equipment list below is specific to me and my needs, but it does provide an excellent start point.

Disclaimer: No equipment or apparel was supplied by RAB, Osprey or Montane. They were all purchased items. The apparel by inov-8 was supplied and the Trail Talon 290 shoes were purchased by myself.

Sherpas and Porters are able to carry huge loads and weight…

PACK

I have used many packs over the years. The runners tend to use the Ultimate Direction Fastpack which is generally a great option. Other variants come from Raidlight, Salomon and so on. Typically, a capacity of 20-30L would be required.

I need to use a larger pack as I carry more, especially with the cameras.

For 2018 I used the OSPREY EXOS 38 which really was excellent. It had great comfort, flexibility and many features that made it a pleasure to use.

My other favourite packs, and to be honest, when I return in December, I will either use the Montane Ultra Tour 40 or 55 depending on my equipment needs? Both these packs are minimalist, light and very comfortable.

WARMTH WHEN SLEEPING

I have already said I like to be warm and layering is absolutely key to regulating temperature. Especially at night.

I do not take the warmest and biggest sleeping bag. The reason being I like to have flexibility. Such I have an unusually mild night, I still want to use my sleeping bag and not be too warm. However, if it’s cold – really cold – how do I get warm? Well, I have three options:

  1. Sleeping bag on its own
  2. Merino base top and bottom and sleeping bag
  3. Merino base top and bottom, down pants, down jacket and sleeping bag

I also have down socks that I would wear over merino wool socks. So, as you can see, I regulate temperature in a very controlled way. In addition, the above I can also wear gloves, a hat and a neck roll. Just wearing a hat really helps retain heat.

Layering is key!

Sleeping bag is a RAB INFINITY 500

Merino top is a RAB 120 long sleeve

Merino Bottoms are a RAB 120 pant

PHD down socks

JACKETS

I take two down jackets. One thinner than the other, again offering flexibility. This year I upgraded to a warmer down jacket, the RAB NEUTRINO PROand it was such a great choice! It was so warm, comfy and with a two-way zip it allowed flexibility of movement. It also had a great hood and high collar.

The lighter jacket was a RAB MICROLIGHTwith no hood. This offers excellent warmth in the morning and evening when on the trails. It also is excellent in my sleeping bag on colder nights. It packs small and is lightweight.

RAB SUPERFLUX HOODY is a great mid-layer that works well in the dry or wet and is excellent when the warmth of down is not required.

PANTS

I have used down pants previously but this year I used the RAB PROTON PANTS which are not down filled, a little heavier but more flexible for other uses and they are Primaloft. So, they can get wet and keep warm. Down cannot get wet!

HAT, GLOVES and ACCESSORIES

Hands and feet are so difficult to keep warm and for me, they are the areas I most struggle with. So, I have options:

RAB Merino liner glove

RAB Xenon Mitt (warm and waterproof)

RAB Windblock convertible gloves which allow me to use my camera

RAB Shadow Beanie (for day use)

RAB Beanie (for night use)

RAB neck tubes (usually have 2 or 3)

RAB hut slippers allow me to remove my run shoes and are also much warmer. I go a size bigger than needed so I can wear my down socks in them too.

DAY CLOTHING

My day hike/ run clothing is pretty conventional, and I have long been a fan of inov-8.

It is possible to wear shorts as day temperatures are usually very good, however, I prefer the flexibility of 3/4 tights as they also keep my knees warm.

I use the AT/C Merino Top, and should temperatures get high, I just roll the sleeves up. One great addition is that the sleeves have thumb holes, so, they also provide a great alternative to using gloves.

The AT/C soft-shell Pro Top is brilliant early morning or late afternoon when the warmth of a down jacket is not required. This jacket has been tweaked over the years and has some great features – high collar, good hood, two pockets and thumb loops to help keep hands warm.

Extreme Thermo Skull Hat keeps my head warm and the Extreme Thermo Mitts are excellent – much better than gloves.

Shoes are always a debatable point and very personal. I prefer to use a shoe with cushioning, a wide but not too wide toe box, adequate all-round grip and 8mm drop – the Trail Talon 290 is perfect for me and on the recent ETR were perfect every day!

TIPS

My inov-8 run apparel is for the day. As soon as I finish the day’s run or trek. I immediately get changed into my RAB Merino base layers and put on my overprints, down jacket and put on a hat. This makes sure I don’t sit in damp clothing.

The priority is then to get the day’s clothing dry. A priority if you are not carrying an alternate set of clothing.

EXTRAS

Extras add weight, but I do consider certain items to be essential.

  • SPOT Tracker for me just makes sense and is a great security blanket.
  • Mobile phone – get a Ncell sim when you land in Kathmandu. You can get a 30-day sim with 16gb of data for not much more than £10. Coverage on the trails now is pretty good!
  • POLES – I use Black Diamond Z Poles, they are light, fold and are essential on the relentless climbs and descents.
  • EARPHONES – handy at night when relaxing.
  • EAR PLUGS
  • BLINDFOLD
  • HEAD TORCH and batteries
  • WET WIPES
  • MICRO FIBRE TOWEL
  • BASIC TOILETRIES
  • PEN
  • PASSPORT
  • WATERPROOF COMPRESSION BAG

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Based on what type of trek you are doing, where you are going and when you are going, the requirements will vary here. For example, I am returning to Nepal in December and I will need light crampons and an ice axe.

The simple thing with any extra is that it adds weight. So, always ask the question, ‘Do you really need it?’

Read about the Everest Trail Race HERE

Read about the 2017 edition of the race HERE

And now, what is next for me….

Well, Nepal captures my imagination like no other place. Last year after the ETR I returned and did the whole race on foot in the same timescale as the race itself. It was a wonderful experience.

So, this December, the plan is to fly into Lukla and then do the high passes with some serious additions visiting Base Camps and peaks:

  • Gokyo RI
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Ama Dablam Base Camp
  • Tabuche Peak
  • Thamserku Base Camp

SCHEDULE DECEMBER:

18th – Depart for LUKLA go straight to Namche

19th – Namche – Tengboche – Namche (acclimatisation)

20th – Namche – Thame – Lumde

21st – Lumde – Renjo La – Gokyo – Gokyo RI – Gokyo

22nd – Gokyo – Dragnag – Cho La – Dzongla

23rd – Dzongla – Lobuche – Gorakshep

24th – Gorakshep – EBC – Gorakshep – Lobuche

25th – Lobuche – Dingboche – Somare

26th – Somare – Ama Dablam Base Camp – Pangboche

27th – Pangboche – Tabuche Peak – Pangboche

28th – Pangboche – Namche – Monjo

29th – Monjo – Thamserku Base Camp – Monjo

30th – Monjo – Lukla

31st – Lukla – KTM

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Rab Mountain Marathon 2015 Images and Summary

©iancorless.com_RabMM2015-2655

The Lake District, the Howgills and the Cheviots have all been previous locations for the Rab Mountain Marathon™. In 2015 it would be Snowdonia, Capel Curig provided the start and finish with the event using both the Carneddau and Glyderau.

What a weekend!

©iancorless.com_RabMM2015-5008

Wales, Snowdonia National Park and the challenging Carneddau and Glyderau were bathed in incredible sunlight, blue skies and warm temperatures. It was definitely one of those weekends when one is thankful that our sport requires amazing locations and terrain. Wales has never looked so good!

Many runners arrived in Capel Curig on Friday night as temperatures dropped. Clear skies, an amazing bright moon and a chill provided a great appetizer to a stunning weekend as beer and food were provided in the marquee and ‘Trails in Motion’ was screened in a makeshift cinema.

©iancorless.com_RabMM2015-2123

Tackling some very challenging mountain terrain, runners needed to be competent and confident when moving across the steep, rough and mountain terrain that Carneddau and Glyderau provided. Like all previous Rab Mountain Marathons™ the event was a score format. On Saturday a start window of 0830-1030 would ensure that runners avoided snakes as they moved from point to point. After all the race wants to test competitor’s navigation skills, yes? SPORTident electronic timing was used to ensure that accurate timings and logging of points were recorded and runners participated in one of the following categories: solo and teams of two. In addition to a variety of different runner’s class options there was also a walker’s class for those who want an easier, non-competitive weekend.

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In any serious mountain event, competitors should always be prepared for the worst possible conditions as the competition area can be isolated and the hills are often exposed to serious weather. For once, this weekend the weather could not have been better. Temperatures during the day were warm, visibility was amazing and the only possible downside came when the sun disappeared and temperatures dropped at night.

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Much of the discussion pre race was based around the decision to go north or south? The Carneddau and Glyderau are split by a main road and although closely connected they offer two very different running terrains. The south without doubt provided a smaller area with controls much closer together but the terrain is much rockier and demanding.

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Controls and points were split equally between north and south and any ‘visited’ control could not be re-visited the following day! Two main categories on long and short course made route planning and decision making a key element of the challenge and as one would expect, many got the decision process wrong by arriving after time and loosing points.

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Ultimately though Wales was the hero of the day. The terrain, mountains and scenery was resplendent in the September light and as runners traversed and made their way around the course, one common thread was heard:

‘It’s just an amazing weekend to be in the mountains, irrespective of how many controls we visit.’

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In the Long Score race, Adam Stirk and Andrew Higgins once again set the bar in the team race scoring 300 points (a maximum!) on day 1 and 215 points on day 2 to win with 515-points. Ian Bellamy won the solo Long Score race with 515-points too, he scored 280 on day 1 and 235 on day 2. First solo lady was Kirsty Hewitson, an ever-present at this type of event and her 215 and 200 (total 415) was 55 points clear of the next lady, Kate Worthington. Full Long Score results are HERE.

The Short Score race was won by male duo Alistair Macdonald and Richard Wren with 395 points (230/165) and Louise Beetlestone was 2nd overall, 1st lady and 1st solo competitor with 392 points, scored 220 and 172 respectively. Tom Woolley was the first male solo with 388 points. Full Short Score results HERE.

Shane Ohly, Ourea Events and all the volunteers once again provided a great event that was slick from beginning to end.

“Thanks for a great event, it was definitely a learning curve. Lovely smiley marshalls were brilliant. Met some great competitors on the course too.” – Adrianne Bolton

“It was my first and my sons first Mountain marathon it was one of my best experience. Massive learning curve as we got lost for three hours on the first day . Great organisers great staff will be coming back definitely.” – Phillip Bampton

“Epic” – Brookfield GM

Race website HERE

2015 results HERE

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Rab Mountain Marathon 2014

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Over 500 runners assembled in the English Lakes for 2-days of Mountain Marathon action in what turned out to be two great days.

Although the sun only penetrated the thick cloud a couple of times, the weather was dry and as per usual, the Lakes provided a perfect backdrop to two tough days.

RACE IMAGES available HERE

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A score event (long and short), participants competed in solo or teams of two and as one would expect, the mix of ability was wide. One of the appeals of the RMM.

A rolling start on both days, 8:30 to 10:30 on Saturday and 07:00 to 09:00 on Sunday avoided snakes of runners and thus ensured everyone had to hone their ‘nav’ skills in finding the appropriate controls.

One thing that was great to see on both days, was huge smiles and a real enjoyment of the event irrespective of ability or speed.

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Day 1 provided a couple of very obvious controls relatively close to camp 1 to start and then there field of 500 spread over a wide area. The faster runners covering quite some ground to gain maximum points and by contrast, the walkers took a more direct line and less controls to camp 2.

Starting just west of the A6, day 1 went as far north as Mardale Head and Blea Water and west of Stony Cove Pike. In the south, the faster runners could venture below the River Kent.

Stewart Bellamy (300 points) was the stand out solo competitor and Andrew Stirk/ Adam Higgins (290 points) were the leading team of two after day 1 in the long course. Jackie Scarf and Phil Scarf had a 20 point lead in the short score (235 points) and Luke Gordon (210 points) was the leading solo.

©iancorless.com_RabMM14_-2915A strong wind blowing from the south potentially was going to make overnight camp interesting. However, with all runners back the wind suddenly dropped making the evening a calm, still and very warm night.

An early start had participants departing in two start windows, 0700-0800 and 0800-0900. With the exception of just a few, nearly all participants headed south before then heading east and making the way back to day 1 start camp.

A corridor of controls made this section of the course busy with runners coming from all directions as they tried to take accumulate as many points as possible.

Tough terrain and warm temperatures made day 2 all about covering ground fast as controls were much closer together and therefore points were really up for grabs. Steve Bellamy once again lead the way with 240 points with Daniel Gooch and Jon Moulding both raised their individual games with 245 and 240 points respectively. Two man team Andrew Stirk/ Andrew Higgins looked to be moving fast all day but finished 4th with 235 points. However, Stirk/Higgins still held on to 2nd overall behind Steve Bellamy and Daniel Gooch placed 3rd.

Short score competitors had a shake around on day 2 with day 1 leaders, Jackie & Phil Scarf placing 2nd behind Steve Wilson and Peter Stobbs. Patrick Butlin finished 3rd ahead of day 1 2nd place, Luke Gordon. However, the overall results remained unchanged with Team Scarf 1st (425 points), Luke Gordon 2nd (390) and Tim Martland (360) 3rd.

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Shane Ohly as race director and the Ourea Events Team bring slick organisation to difficult terrain and along with the course planning skills of Charlie Sproson, these events are a must do on the calendar. It’s been a busy year for the team, it all started in January with Marmot Dark Mountains. The Rab Mountain Marathon concludes 2014 but already plans are in motion for 2015 and remember, it’s a Dragons Back year! Arguably one of the toughest challenges in the UK

Results are HERE

Ourea events HERE

RACE IMAGES available HERE

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Rab Mountain Marathon 2014 Preview

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The 8th Rab Mountain Marathon™ will be held on the 27th and 28th September 2014. The Rab Mountain Marathon™ is a two-day fell running and navigation challenge for solos and pairs with an overnight camp.

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The Rab Mountain Marathon kicks off this weekend at 0830. Two days of navigation and running will unfold in the English Lakes using the popular score format.

Now in it’s 8th year, the Rab Mountain Marathon has become an iconic race that has visited many stunning locations, the Cheviot Hills, Derwent Fells, Snowdonia, Howgills and this year it once again returns to the English Lakes.

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Taking on challenging mountain terrain, participants need to be competent and confident at moving fast over tough terrain. As usual, the is the UK and runners will need to be prepared for the worst despite a recent spell of really good weather in the UK.

As one would expect, the Rab Mountain Marathon will take place over rough, steep and technical mountain terrain. Many sections of the course will be isolated and if bad weather comes in, everyone needs to be prepared.

©iancorless.com.IMG_5731GL3D_Day1The race format is ‘score’ as this tests navigation skills and avoids snakes of runners going from point-to-point. A rolling start window of 2-hours will spread the runners out and electronic timing is used to track the runners. As normal, different class options are available (including walking) and it’s possible to participate as a solo or team of two.

It’s hard to highlight some standout competitors for 2014. If I were to place a bet on the top Long Score competitors it would be between Adam Stirk and Andrew Higgins (who are a pair) and Stewart Bellamy (solo). Adam and Andrew finished 3rd last year behind Steve Birkinshaw (1st in 2013) and Alex Pilkington (2nd in 2013) both of whom are not taking part this year. They were also 2nd at the Highlander in 2013.

Stewart Bellamy is a strong runner and whilst he may not have featured in the results of recent mountain marathons, he did win the GL3D in 2013.

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The Rab Mountain Marathon’s approach is designed to be relaxed and less formal and structured than that of the OMM, which will take place next month.

Shane Ohly, race director for Ourea Events says, ‘But hey the Rab isn’t really about the elite runners and there is some super generous support from Rab who are providing vouchers to the value of about £10,000 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd across a huge range of categories. Check them out here: HERE

At registration on the Friday evening or Saturday morning, competitors can view a Master Map of the competition area which will give a full overview of the event area being used plus provide details of any out of bounds areas, map corrections etcetera. The event Master Map will not be over-printed with any control points.

So there you have it… two days of navigational fun in the English Lakes. It’s possible to follow a live stream HERE and a free APP has been created. Details HERE

Apps can be downloaded here:

iOShttp://bit.ly/1wwcbDKAndroidhttp://bit.ly/1AUZNhj

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Race Website HERE

Rab Apparel HERE

Rab Twitter HERE

RAB MOUNTAIN MOUNTAIN™ – NEW ORGANISING TEAM FOR 2014!

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The popular Rab Mountain Marathon™ has new owners after a transfer of ownership by Peak District based Dark and White, to Ourea Events. The event is a two-day fell running and navigation challenge for solos and pairs with an overnight camp, which moves to a new location each year.
With events like the Dragon’s Back Race™, the Great Lakeland 3Day™ and Marmot Dark Mountains™, Shane Ohly and his team from Ourea Events have been steadily building a reputation for delivering high quality mountain running events in recent years and this move puts the iconic Rab Mountain Marathon™ in safe hands. A self confessed mountain marathon addict, Ohly, was clearly delighted with the move, “Since its launch in 2007, the Rab Mountain Marathon™ has proved a firm favourite with the mountain marathon community and we have no intention of changing the event format in any way, which I know is excellent having taken part myself”.
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The Rab Mountain Marathon™ has a score only format, which minimises the chance of ‘snakes’ of runners all heading to the same control, maximises route choice and offers a more personal mountain marathon experience. Over the years the event has built up a deserved reputation for being relaxed and welcoming with a fun and friendly atmosphere. The lack of prescribed start times, the wide spread of prize categories (including Veteran and Super Veteran) and the opportunity for younger competitors (aged 14+) to participate have all helped to cultivate this unique mountain marathon experience.
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Ohly continued, “The Long Score and Short Score options put the competitors in control of how long they spend out each day, and also provide an almost unlimited challenge for the leading elite runners. It is a great format that Dark and White have devised and I would like to thank Adrian Boyes and his team for all their hard work over the years”.
Adrian Boyes, the owner of Dark and White explained his decision for the change, “Due to personal/family circumstances I am unfortunately no longer able to devote the necessary time to organising and controlling the Rab MM. The event has been very successful over the past 7 years and it was not an easy decision to relinquish control. After lengthy discussions with Shane Ohly I am 100% confident that the event is in very safe hands and that the spirit and ethos of the event will continue for many years to come.”  
Rab Marketing Manager, Dan Thompson said, “Rab would like to thank to Adrian Boyes and the whole team at Dark and White for building the Rab Mountain Marathon™ into a popular and important event in the mountain running calendar. All of us at Rab are excited about working with Shane and his team at Ourea Events in the future – they have lots of experience of participating in and delivering these type of events, and they have no plans to make changes to what is a popular event format. We’re looking forward to an exciting future for the Rab Mountain Marathon™.”
The 8th Rab Mountain Marathon™ will be held on the 27th and 28th September 2014 and entries have opened today.
For further Information about:
Rab Mountain Marathon, please visit www.RabMountainMarathon.com or contact Shane Ohly on 07771516962 or info@RabMountainMarathon.com
Key Event Information
Date: 27th & 28th September 2014
Venue: Northern England
Entry: from £47.50
Courses: Long Score and Short Score