Lightweight on the hills some pros and cons in winter hill running?

There are many out on the hills nowadays enjoying the hills by running. It is as many know a great to enjoy a mountain day travelling fast and light. In the past there were few running the hills and I knew many of them real characters and incredible hill people. I love their humility and envy there movement on the hills. I have been overtaken in winter by runners on Beinn Eighe moving so well on a winter ridge. This takes great skill and knowledge of the mountains and the conditions. Even better there are lots of lassies running now and the sport is becoming very popular even in winter. You have to take care and be careful and it is great to see that the sport has few accidents. Sadly though over my 40 years involved in Mountain Rescue I have been to same tragedies over the years. Runners can cover some amount of ground so if you like I used to do run on your own leave an idea of where your going with someone you trust.

Your sport and freedom also means someone  at home is worrying about you?

A summer traverse of An Teallach and the 5/ 6 Fisherfield Munros wearing the famous Walshes.

After Lockerbie in Christmas 1988 I needed a break I was out with the team and needed some time on my own. My dog and me went over to Ben Macdui in my running gear and a small bag, I got a few looks as I had to carry a radio in the bag. I was the team leader and it was always a busy time for call -outs so I had to be in touch. It was bitter cold but great to meet so many walkers and even the odd skier about. It certainly cleared my mind that was in a real Mess and the hills can bring you this inner peace on a hard day.  On the return the weather was wild and it was bitter as only the Cairngorm plateau can be. I felt pretty exposed on the way back but I had enough gear just to cope with a winter day and the short daylight of December. It was icy on the descent and I had to take care but what a day and what a memory. On the way back into the wind and snow it was a great feeling travel light but at times I felt vulnerable, maybe that was my MRT background. Yet there is few finer feelings than moving well alone over the hills it is a special feeling that few will ever experience.

In many of my big hills days many years ago I wore  the famous “Walsh running shoes” on many big days. It was only allowed to do so at one time if I carried boots as well in the RAF Mountain Rescue in case we got a call – out on the hill day. These were crazy rules then, nowadays lots of folk are running the hills and enjoying the lightweight footwear especially in the summer. I can remember wearing gym shoes on my earlier walks 1976/77 when we could especially on the long walk outs and on the summer hills. Nothing changes only the gear gets better. I got a bollocking from the “Mountain Police” for wearing my Walshes on the North & South Clunnie at Kintail a big  traverse in a day till someone told him we were the Mountain Rescue.  I may have been the Team Leader! Just remember that you are vulnerable if you have a problem carry a bit of gear just in case, top tip?

The Corbett Round “Running the Corbetts a grand read”.

In my life I have been so lucky to meet some amazing people and Manny Gorman is one of them. I  went to a lecture in Boat of Garten near Aviemore and I met Manny he was talking about his incredible trip “The Corbett’s in 70 days”  I had met him before on the hill and as hill runner and he is one of its celebrities, they are unassuming men and women with no egos. Today’s sports superstars could learn from these people.  “Manny “is of a breed of these unknown athletes, he is a passionate hill runner and he is one of the finest amongst this unique band of people. They are very private people, they are a “family” and this book gives an insight into this incredible sport, their life, the pain, the suffering but the joy of moving fast through wild land.

My pal Manny Gorman wrote this advice: “Sometimes individual hills in good weather were done simply with a bumbag, with a windproof, and maybe a Helly top in the bag; if poorer weather maybe a lightweight Gore-Tex jacket, trousers, hat & gloves would go on. On longer stages of multiple hills I would carry a light day-pack with maybe leggings, an extra top and waterproof trousers, but generally the extra space was for additional food, and lots of it: Complans, pork pies, crisps, breakfast bars, filled rolls, jelly babies, rehydrate sachets… Of course there would be the usual map & compass, tiny survival bag, sometimes the mobile phone, and always loo paper and Vaseline!”

Maybe a Torch/whistle to Manny ?


Arran this summer moving light and slow on Scotland magic Island. Photo Dan Carroll

My running days are over but this summer I bought a pair of running trainers and have had some great days even onto the Skye ridge and Arran hills this summer. I no longer run but the weight and freedom is great but care is needed as always.

Enjoy all comments advice welcome.



About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Books, Corbetts, Corbetts and other hills, Enviroment, Equipment, Friends, Gear, Hill running and huge days!, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Munros, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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