SMA Support UK charity on the Skye Trail Ultra Marathon.

A great pal Mark Hartree sent me this for my Blog and as Graeme is having a well – earned day off this is worth a read. Mark is was a top climber and has delved into the running in wild places sit back and enjoy this tale! Here is a wee write up you can used on the site if you like about my latest race for the SMA Support UK charity on the Skye Trail Ultra Marathon.

Please if you feel you can please donate every penny helps!



Many of us have gone to Skye for training or callouts maybe, and walked and climbed on the famous Black Cuillin and the Skye ridge with the In Pin, or sampled the delights of the Red Cuillin or Blabheinn.  All will bring memories of some of the most challenging hills in the UK.  To the North of Skye above Portree  is the less visited Trotternish Ridge which is less well known and less visited other that for the Old Man of Storr and the Quairang rock pinnacles.  This ridge, if anywhere else in the UK, would be a walkers delight, but is often neglected on Skye because of its competition. Between the Red and Black Cuillin sits Glen Sligachan, a long low lying glen between rugged spectacular mountains, remote and stunning.

A new walking route – the Skye Trail, has been established running from the Northern tip of Skye at Duntulm , South to Elgol through Glen Sligachan and then winds a ‘W’ shape along the coast through some rarely visited parts of Southern Skye back to Broadford.  It is advertised as being 69 miles with 4450m ascent and to be done over 4-5 days with wild camping possibly required for safety.  This year, for the first time, it was going to be run as an Ultra Marathon Race with  the general consensus at the end of the race on GPS tracking that the route was more like 73 miles depending on how many time you lost the ‘trail’.  I had decided that it would be one of my 6 ultra marathons raising money for SMA Support UK.

A small field of 21 (mad) runners gathered for the first time including some British champions and some visitors from Europe.  Due to the tricky logistics of the race I managed 1.5 hrs sleep after a morning at work on Friday, a 5hr drive to Skye and setting up camp before a kit check at 0130 Saturday morning, race brief a 0200 and bus in the rain from Broadford to the start at 0315 to start the race at 0500 somewhat bleary eyed.  Thankfully the rain stopped.

Four legs took us over the complete Trotternish Ridge from the North to Portree – a nice wee mountain marathon to start the proceedings.  The Trotternish Ridge Hill race run later in June misses the bog at the start and then finished after Storr where it descends to the main road.  Our longer route involved deep wet bog with wet feet from 12 mins into the race till the finish, heather, more bog, fabulous narrow trail running, wind sculptured mud banks, amazing views, gob smacking rock formations and a feeling of remoteness. At Storr we then had a further 13km of hills and just as you see Portree 5km away in the distance and some reprieve with an aide station, more knee deep sapping heather and wetness keep the fun going.

Stage 2 takes you from Portree to the famous Sligachan Hotel via a road to nowhere on the East coast to a tough lochside path to the pub miles away in the distance.  This require numerous stream and river crossings.  For me this was the toughest bit despite being mostly on good but undulating road at the start.

Sgurr Na Gillian

Sgurr Na Gillian

Stage three, frankly, must be one of the most stunning trails in the UK through Glen Sligachan to Elgol.  Passing Sgurr nan Gillian and deep lonely coires on the right, Marsco, the Red Cuillin and then a rugged Blabheinn on the left, gorgeous lochains, one of the finest bothies in the UK at Camusunary, and then the path to Elgol is an absolute must to explore.  Look over your shoulder carefully on this given the 200ft drops into the sea, and you get probably the best view in the UK of the black Cuillin ridge in all its glory.



Next came the shortest leg from Elgol to the Blabheinn car park enabling a full circuit nearly of the magnificent mountain – Blabheinn .  It contains the most beautiful blue bell strewn woods that I have even ran through but the worst bog and heather I think I have ever trodden once I lost the ‘trail’ (top tip, get a Harvey’s Map for this race, at least it shows where the trail should be).  Memorable in many ways.  I had about 10 minutes on the first lady – Caroline Mackay, according to my brother who had come to support me, so ate too fast and had too much Lucozade at the last check point and checked-out my stomach along the road as a leaving present for Caroline.  The final leg was a nice wee half marathon starting along the road then a good track back south to the remote Suisnish peninsula.  I was so glad to be in daylight here as the route drops to a boulder beach with inescapable cliffs above with magnificent white waterfalls against the black rock cascading down, and then another very remote boulder bay.  The route out of here is not obvious and would be a tough navigation in the dark (as most found later on).  The final 10km back to Broadford was great – and dry at last apart from the wet bits.

Matt Williamson came in first in 13hrs 56 mins.

Caroline Mackay was first Lady in exactly 17hrs (6th overall).

I finished in 5th position in (16hrs 50mins), my best placing in a race ever.

16/21 finished.  The last-in finished around 0900 in the morning enduring stormy weather in the dark in around 28hrs to be greeted by two policeman contemplating how to go about searching for him – helicopter, lifeboat, search dogs, MRT…..all….

Coruisk from the air

So, what is it like as a race.  Most thought it was the toughest race they had done – harder than running the West Highland Way in a day.  We has good weather on the hill section.  Clag would make this tricky in places to spot the best route.  Any seriousproblems in many places en-route would require waiting on a helicopter or boat, assuming a phone signal.  We had great weather till midnight but 2 weeks of heavy rain to the day before made it a tad wet under foot.  Thankfully I finished in dry weather throughout and after running for over 16.5hrs with wet feet, found I hadn’t even got a blister.


Great tale Mark thanks for that Mark well worth a donation. ?

About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Charity, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Hill running and huge days!, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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