At 7am (yes 7am) on 16 June, having washed their faces in the morning dew and clad in sweatbands and streamlined lycra (what a thought), the Mountain Frasers will sprint off the start line at Gairlochy (near Fort William) following the West Highland Way route near Glencoe, ending at the Kingshouse hotel at the skirts of Buachaille Etive Mor.
The Caledonian Challenge is as much a race against the clock as it is a race against other teams. Competitors in the full Caledonian Challenge must finish the 54 mile route within 24 hours. Those competing in the Caledonian Hike (our event) must complete the 24 mile challenge within a, comparatively, shorter period of 12 hours. Neither challenge is for the feint hearted.
"Two miles an hour…!! You say - "That's easy !!". Yet it's far from a 24 mile 'flat race'.
Those of you who've completed any part of the West Highland Way will know that that we are not talking two 'linear' miles an hour. Fort William to Kinghouse is the hilliest, most rugged section of the WHW.
Notably, two major and protracted ascents (worse still, descents) lie before you on the Hike. First, bent double, you must scale 1000ft on a serious incline, to the top of the Lairigmor pass, then back down again (knees screaming) towards Kinlochleven. Then, almost immediately, you trudge your way up serpentine forestry tracks from Kinlochleven, towards the top of the aptly named Devils Staircase and a 'sheeps-eye' view of Glencoe. The sting is clearly in the tail or - rather - the Staircase, because this last section of the Hike (down the staircase) is brutally hard on the knees; you strain to stop yourself tumbling down this very steep track that carries you towards the Kingshouse hotel.
Many of you will have walked parts of the West Highland Way or have heard recounts, by family and friends, who've both enjoyed its ever-changing majesty and endured its unforgettable sections of shear purgatory. Believe it or not, this Hike involves more majesty than purgatory, but should not be treated as a walk in the, proverbial, park.
The whole Caledonian Challenge is 54 miles long. The quickest person ever to have RUN the Caledonian Challenge (yes that’s running the equivalent of 2 back to back cross country marathons) took just 9.5 hours to do so. The Mountain Fraser will take matters a little less seriously, but seriously enough to try and finish the Caledonian Hike in around 10 hours and seriously enough to ensure that we raise plenty of money for charity by finishing well within the allotted 12 hour time limit.