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Tweet Wednesday 13th February 2019

Orienteers take on Marmot Dark Mountains

Marmot Dark Mountains™ takes the classic two-day mountain marathon format and gives it a dark twist. Rather than two days of running with an overnight camp in between, we pack everything into one winter’s night!

This challenging event takes place on the last weekend of January each year (25-26th January in 2020) and, like most regular mountain marathons, is a pairs event.  The Event is based on a mountain marathon format with Elite, A, B, C, Long and Short Score courses.

Starting on a Saturday evening, the longest courses set off first for dusk-to-dawn racing.

The shorter courses set off later in the evening with the aim of most competitors finishing within an hour or so of each other the following Sunday morning. This makes for an exciting finale as all the competitors converge on the finish as dawn breaks.

In 2019 Marmot Dark Mountains took place in the Eastern Fells of the Lake District with the stunning Lowther Castle as the event centre. Orienteers Elaine Gillies and Davie Frame from Perthshire, both members of the Tayside Orienteering Club, took part in the new medium score course. We caught up with them the morning after to find out what they thought. 

“It is the ultimate challenge. There were so many different factors involved: the winter, the darkness, the uncertain conditions. Your navigation has to be spot on; pacing, timings, accurate bearings, thinking all the time and planning the route, you use different senses, feeling the terrain. If you think your navigation is good, then come and find out! It will push you out of your comfort zone.”

“We were quite happy to plod around at a steady pace, focusing on making our navigation as accurate as possible. The score courses are great as you can do as much or as little as you like”


Nerves and the excitement at the start meant that they set off a little too fast and it took them a few controls to settle down. The conditions were tough with rain and snow throughout the night, however, a highlight moment was when the blizzard conditions lifted, the skies cleared, the stars came out and they spotted two big planets high up in the sky, with the sun coming up sometime after.

They enjoyed the lovely atmosphere at the event centre with a team of friendly volunteers cheering on the participants as they departed and returned from their night of adventure.

The hot breakfast served upon finishing was also really appreciated.

Other factors which added to the experience were the high quality and durable maps supplied which they found to be clear, easy to read and lasted the night well. The GPS tracking was also great for friends and family to follow them on their adventure.

Jon Musgrave and Sarah Dunn from Deeside and members of the Maroc Orienteering Club were the overall winners of the B course. They first attended Marmot Dark Mountains in 2018 as a 50th birthday challenge for Sarah. They weren’t sure what to expect as their last
mountain marathon 10 years previously hadn’t gone quite so well, but 3 hours in Jon realised, “actually I’m quite enjoying this!”

When asked “why?”, he suggested that it was down to trying something new; a different and challenging experience. 

The next events in the 2019 British Mountain Marathon Championship: the all-new Scottish Mountain Marathon & ROC Mountain Marathon.

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