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Friends walk-run Cape Wrath Trail for poignant cause

Written by Fiona

May 25 2019

Pen Noel and Courtney Giles enjoyed an adventure walking and running the Cape Wrath Trail in north-west Scotland to raise funds for a charity close to their hearts.

Pen, a Scot, describes herself as an unconventional runner, who has never entered a marathon or ultra race, yet loves running or walking adventures in the hills and mountains.

Her friend, Vermont-based Courtney, in contrast, regularly enjoys running races.

Wee Olive has incurable Diamond Blackfan Anemia.

Their aim was to complete 277km in 6.5 days from Fort William to Cape Wrath as a fundraiser for DBA (Diamond Blackfan Anemia) UK and the Olive Children’s Foundation.

Olive is Pen’s two-year-old niece. She has DBA, which is a bone marrow failure condition. She relies on monthly blood transfusions to stay alive and currently there is no cure.

See fund-raiser.

Run-walk on the Cape Wrath Trail

A wild and remote trail with no waymarking, the Cape Wrath Trail is an iconic route through the north-west coastal area of Scotland. It travels to the most north-westerly point in mainland Britain.

Despite sustaining injuries on the long-distance walk, the friends still loved their adventure.

This is a report by Pen of the ambitious journey:

Pen and Courtney at the start of the challenge, before catching the ferry from Fort William.

Day 1 – Fort William to Sourlies Bothy (53km/9.5hrs)

After taking a ferry from Fort William across loch Eil, we start the run north. The first section is tarmac to Glenfinnan and on to Corryhully bothy, which in trail shoes and with an overnight pack and food for two days for resulted in me getting acute ITB. Rested at Sourlies, where it was lovely to see a buddy Karen who had been doing the hills nearby. She made our evening by leaving us extra food.

Day 2 – Scheduled to do Sourlies to Glen Shiel

In fact, finished at Kinloch Hourn due to my knees (30km/7hrs). 

The undulating track from Barrisdale Bay to Kinloch Hourn after the Gleann Unndalain pass left me in serious pain with my knees seizing and movement slow.

I was very despondent and questioning if I could continue despite the beautiful weather and landscape. I was also pretty disappointed to not do last 11 miles over the Saddle alongside the Forcan Ridge, which was the section I had been most looking forward to.  

A kind chap drove us to Sheil Bridge and we slowly made our way a further couple of miles to Ratagan Youth Hostel for the night.

Day 3 – A change of plan

Courtney started without me and did the Glomach Falls, meeting me on the track east from Carnach.  We had intended to go north from here but we had decided a shorter day would give me a better chance to get back on to the trail.

So we made our way to Achintee were we met Courtney’s mum Betty, who gave us a lift to Craig via a dinner at the Stratchcarron hotel. 

I bumped into a colleague here who had just completed a coast-to-coast effectively from Beauly Firth to Stratchcarron over three days. Such a lovely little boost!

(Courtney did about 35km and I only did 15km).

Wonderful weather.

Day 4 – Craig to Inverlael (48km/10hrs & 11hours respectively)

Decided that a good tactic would be for me to leave an hour earlier and for Courtney to enjoy being able to move faster. I left feeling reasonably good and managed to jog a wee bit down to Kinlochewe.  

From there, I fast walked to Loch Fada where I rested for nearly an hour before Courtney caught up. She had taken a wee detour of a couple of miles extra. 

We then ran a little and walked large chunks over the Beach nan Croise towards stunning An Teallach.  We called it a day at Corriehallie car park and hitched to the Forest Way bunkhouse which was a superb little oasis right on the A835 to Ullapool.

Day 5 – Ullapool to Inchnadamph (62km/10 & 11hrs respectively)

Again I set off an hour before Courtney and she me caught me about 5 hours later at Knockdamph Bothy. We hobbled-ran down to Oykel Bridge for short break and then had a fantastic end to day from Benmore Lodge to Inchnadamph. 

It was a super hot day and we swam in the Dubh Loch Mor stream. The little pass below Ben More down to Inch was glorious. We ended up in the best of little gaming cabins at a the Byre.

Day 6 – Inchnadamph to Richonich but ended in Kylestrome (30km/8.5hrs)

This was a tough day and we had to call it short by 20 kms as Courtney started to suffer from has PFPS (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome/Runner’s knee).  With this injury she was very slow, so we hobbled into Kylestrome via Glencoul and Glendhu bothies. 

The descent was hard on both of us but I had acclimatised to the pain and Courtney was in an acute phase with her knee swelling badly. We were met by my amazing friends and their young kids as well as Courtney’s mum. Such a boost!  Lovely night at the School House to rest for the last day.

Pen and Courtney are still smiling depsite the injuries when they reach the lighthouse at Cape Wrath.

Last day – From the end of the tar near Kinlochbervie to Cape Wrath (19km /5hrs)

We had all day, so we decided to go easy and take in the wonder of Sandwood Bay and the dry bogs down and Bay of Keisgaig.  A further stunning day and not too hot. 

We ended in great spirits at the tea shop with a sense of not wanting to stop.  We had to wait a few hours for the bus to ferry but that meant we could soak it all in and share a wee dram!

It was a great adventure although it had not gone quite to plan but we loved the journey. We hope you will be kind enough to donate to help my niece.

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