Marmot Dark Mountains 2020
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
The Marmot Dark Mountains was my first foray into a Mountain Marathon style event. For those who do not know a Mountain marathon style race could in simple terms be described as a pairs orienteering race over 2 days over hilly terrain, where the aim is to clock up as many points as you can from the various checkpoints dotted across that area. The Dark Mountains mixes things up by keeping the same format of event style but do it 12 hours over one night in January rather than two days with an evening in a tent in-between.
I ran this with my friend and former boss Jez, who I teamed up before the Dragons Back Race and stayed in touch ever since. Jez, a Mountain Leader and veteran of several OMMs was the driving force behind us competing and I was honoured to have him ask me to be his running mate for this. Neither of us were out to win this event, we just went out to enjoy an evening running or probably more aptly, walking around the Northern Arenig area of North Wales, the are where my grandmother grew up. Unfortunately that did not make the navigation any easier.
Even though we would not be using a tent for any sleeping between us we still had to carry one between us as part of the extensive kit list that also included a stove, sleeping bag and sleeping mat, emergency shelter and 12 hours of food all on top of the normal race kit such as hat, gloves, first aid and waterproofs etc. Left is a picture of the kit carried by Jez.
Navigation plays an incredibly important part of any Mountain Marathon and the ability to read a map a compass is vital, everything becomes some much harder in the dark as features are not as prominent and distances are far more deceiving. You are not issues a map of the area with checkpoints on until your allocated time to set out on course, the event format we chose was the long course where we were able to choose which checkpoints we went to and in what order, all while trying to gain as many points as possible - the checkpoints vary in point value depending on their difficulty.
It's quite difficult to describe how the whole race went. All I really remember is getting our map at 18:52, spending a few minutes plotting a rough route then heading out onto the course proper and just enjoying being out in hills for almost 12 hours just chatting the night away and practicing my navigational skills. The only real stand out navigational issues we had was just walking straight passed one checkpoint as we were talking and walking along a hard track and travelled a lot further and faster than we realised, and the other being trying to find one of our last checkpoints. We weren't the only team trying to find the this checkpoint, at one point there must have been about 10 teams running and back tracking around a small area trying to find 25 points.
In the end we decided to finish a little early, in a time of 11:11:45 and in 17th position with 485 points having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and a nice new red line for out Strava Heat Maps on one of the more remote regions of Snowdonia.
Unfortunately the 2020 edition of Dark Mountains could well be the last unless someone has agreed to take over the event. Ourea Events were the organisers and they organise several other including The Dragons Back Race.