Irish Mountain
Running Association

Nav challenge 3 - Glenmalure


Maike JürgensJames CurranSam Scriven

Maike Jürgens

Glenmalure Nav challenges - firebreaks and more

The last Nav challenge was taking place around the Glenmalure valley with the long course being "slightly longer than 20 km" and a short course option. I was debating the short vs long course option with myself all week and on the day, some heel pain had developed after my stone cross solo effort and my body was really craving a break rather than another long run up the hills. But not knowing which country i might be living in next year, i desperately wanted to complete the nav challenge series.
At registration, reason prevailed and i signed up for the short course but then decided to take an early start and bring some water and emergency food along with me. I set off to get the first control on a bump that wasn't really part of the other big circle that the remaining controls formed. Going uphill, my heel gave me some trouble. This was to continue for the rest of the race and then put me out for a few weeks. on reaching the first control, i contemplated a through the forest downhill option but then discovered the cows at the bottom of the downhill. Not wanting to cause a stampede running across a field, I went down the same way as i came up. It was surprisingly fast but i almost fell, another warning sign i didnt see on that i should really be doing the short course i had signed up for. On running over to the second control (i chose the route that would get me to the marshalled point first), i felt quite well and another look at the map tricked my brain into thinking that the long course actually looked quite tempting. so somehow, my legs went on to running the long course. oops. My heel kept giving me trouble on the uphills so i had to slow down. At the third control, i thought about just going back home but then figured, oh well, it s just a few firebreaks here and there, then over the Kelly s Lough and back home along the fireroad, surely no bother. How wrong i was. Going over to the next control, I went up a firebreak and then down a really steep firebreak where i was overtaken by a good few runners that had started at the proper start. Well, not too bad i figured. On hitting the fireroad, there were two options that looked equally fine on the map. One was to go down to the river, run along the fireroad, then a firebreak to get to the river junction and the other option took the fireroad and then a firebreak. Unfortunately, fireroad does not equal fireroad, the one along the river was more like a maze of really long grass. And then there was no firebreak to get me to the river junction. So i climbed down to the river, went across and discovered footsteps so i can't have been the only one taking this route choice. At the river junction, i could simply not find the control. I stood in the middle of the river junction, checking out various rocks but no luck. So eventually i gave up and followed one of the rivers through the forest to the fireroad (note to self: big circles with a dot in the middle appear to have the control at the centre of the circle whereas small circles with no dot in the middle seem to have the control anywhere within the circle.) Back on the fireroad i considered my options. Giving up wasn't one of them. So i went to the next control and met a few more runners who all had found the river junction control. oh well. the second last control left was over at Kelly's Lough. despite knowing that fireroads often are the better option (over open moutain covered with heather and holes) i went for the open mountain, i was simply sick of fireroad. Nicely enough, i soon ended up on a trail and discovered some new places of Wicklow I had never been too. Also, there was a trail all the way to Kelly's Lough where i met Pol who was out on a hike. Checking the time with Pol i got a bit of a shock that got my morals down, i had been out for an hour longer than i though. So i sent a text to the finish saying that i was ok and about 6 km from the finish with one control left. But from then, it all went downhill (pun intended). I quickly started feeling down, extremely tired and was quite dehydrated since i only took 500 ml of water with me. But there was no way out but to make my way to the finish. So i went slowly to make sure i didnt miss the right turn. Thankfully, i found the turn i was looking for but it took a good while until i was 100% sure i was right. not a nice feeling. Then i bumped into a flock of sheep (that thankfully ran away from me) and met Don who kindly checked whether i was ok and told me where to find the last control. I got to the river but simply didnt have the energy to actually climb up the other side and find the control. Finally i was back at the finish, close to tears but i had gotten myself back. A good few glasses of water and juice and some crisps later, i was back to normal (apart from my battered ego having to realise that i was simply no good at those nav challenges with often stupid (or unorthodox?) route choices). Thanks to everyone who made sure i was ok at the finish and for organising the race. It ll be the last one for the season.

James Curran

Race report James Curran Glenmalure Nav Challenge
Attempted the long course and changed midway to the short course.
Most of the Nav challenges I have done thus far were short courses that you could do on tracks. Even at that I had difficulty finding one of the short course control points at Croghan Mountain a couple of weeks ago, so this was a great opportunity to improve my Orienteering skills.
I went camping the Saturday night in Redcross about 10K from Glemalure so I could get there for a 10AM early start as this was the only long Nav Challenge I would do this year and I knew it would take at least 4 hours. Do not particularly sleep well camping and was up most of the night Friday at a 50th and I was not exactly sober going home. So I was not in great shape to start with.
However the morning got away from me and I started at 11AM with most of the competitors.
I was carrying a rucksack with a water membrane and some food and the jacket we got for the league prize but a lot of the faster competitors I noticed at the start and when we were on the course did not seem to have anything as far as I could see.
We set off and I with a lot of the field headed for 241. This took 7.5 minutes and all one had to do was follow the other competitors. After we got there some of the field made their way off down through the forest but I went along with the majority back toward 242. I decided to use the tracks rather than stay on the road and at that point was the only one to do this. I was overtaken by a guy shortly and followed him to where we thought this control point should be but we could not find it. It was at a stream where a minor path and the track from the road met. The control point was obvious from the approach from track up from the road but not from the route I took. After looking round here for 10 minutes I eventually "got a hint" as to where it was. 24.5 minutes from 241 to 242.
I set off then toward the road and 243 which I found easily enough over the gate after 15 minutes. There was a sign saying private property and the control was beyond this gate. I thought I read we were not to go on private land? There was a path leading up the mountain and then right along the ridge toward “The Mullach” to get to control 247. I went about 300 meters up this small path but consulted the map and reckoned this way was far more difficult than running up the road so I cut my losses and decided to go up the road to Drumgoff gap and take the to the path to 247 from there. I was already tired and walking a lot at this early stage. When I entered the path at Drumgoff Gap towards 247 I was already meeting some of the faster competitors coming the other way and reckoned I was at least 30 minutes behind them. I kept to the tracks all the way to Brendan at Croaghanmoira. It had already taken me 1.5 hours to get the easy 4 control points, ¾ of an hour after leaving 243.
I was skeptical that my navigation skills and experience would get me to 246 and I knew at this stage, already wrecked after 1.5 hours, that I would not be seeing the view from 245 - it might as well have been in Galway.
I looked at the map and asked Brendan what the white tracks were on the map in the forest on the approach to 246. He said they were "rides" - firebreaks and I thought I could easily use those to get between the 2 tracks on the far side of Drumgoff Gap.
It was an easy run back across the road around the bend and now travelling due north. There was no obvious path west to the next track that ran parallel to the stream that led to 246, just felled forest up to a ridge that looked to have forest on the other side. I went up through the felled trees and forest until I reached a ride. From the map it looked like all I had to do was go right and there would another ride running off to the left bringing me west to the next track. It was boggy going and I fell a couple of times but thought I reached the left hand turn but in retrospect this was more 15 degrees than 90. I came to a dead end after about 15 minutes still not having reached the track.
It was only at this stage, ½ an hour late that I took out the compass to find I was travelling due north. I retraced my steps looking for a right hand ride (now travelling south), when I got a lucky break. A lady emerged from my right from dense forest and I realised that to go west to the next track that was what I would have to do. It was a relief also because this was the first time I had seen anybody for over an hour. She was going the opposite direction toward 247.
I went into the forest heading west, it was very rough going and got scraped and fell several times and the backpack was an impediment here. It opened out onto open mountain with felled trees. The track below me was not visible but I could see it to my right - where it turned left north west and climbed. I descended to the track. There was a drop of about 6 feet down to it that I negotiated safely. The drop to the left from the track to the stream junction where control 246 was looked steep so I decided to go up the track to where it met the stream and descend from there following the stream. This again was tricky ground and the control was much further than I expected. It took 80 minutes to get from 247 to 246 – a distance of about three and a half kilometres as the crow flies. I can definitely improve on this next time.
The ascent back to the track was also tricky. I had long since put finishing the long course out of my mind as I had to walk up the track now. My laces kept opening and the backpack was not seated correctly both of which were really annoying. The rest of the run was uneventful, 243 was exactly where I expected (24 minutes from 246) and I checked every junction on the way down to Gelmallure lodge to make sure I had no further mishaps (a further 23 minutes).
I learned so much about all aspects of mountain running on Sunday. I cannot believe that anyone can do that course in under 2.5 hours - fantastic. I was out for 3 hours 40 and skipped at least 5K in skipping 245.
I was relieved to hear that this was a difficult long course. Had I been in a position to attempt the other 2 long courses I would have fared better.
Next time:
1) Do not think I like the backpack, get a belt that holds a water container. Most of the food I carried I did not eat and most of the water I did not drink. The backpack got more annoying as the run went on and was an impediment in the forest. I do not see any other competitor with a backpack. The compass was in my jacket in the back pack, this is no good - everything must be easily reachable at least while walking otherwise it is just dead weight.
2) Get better laces/shoes when the laces on my trail shoes got wet they just kept opening. I had Salmons with a locking system but these have worn out, must get some more.
What a brilliantly organised event and a fantastic learning experience for me personally, thanks a million to the race director and all who helped. I will definitely attend Gavins classes next year on Tuesdays. The nav challenges even the short ones are my favourites. Love to find out about similar non IMRA events, so I do not have to wait until next year for another one of these magical races. Reckon I could do this course in 4 hours next year, watch out you lads at the front.

Sam Scriven

What a fantastic conclusion to the Nav Series 2014. The cramps and scratches are already forgotten, and the sights, sounds and scents of autumn in Glenmalure will live long in the memory. Thanks a million to Gavan, Brian, John, Don, Brendan and all who made it what it was. Navigationally I went roughly anticlockwise, ‘saving’ Croaghanmoira for when my legs were truly spent. I took a shortcut through the forest on the return trip from my first control #241 saving a half minute or so. I then took a straight line up through the forest to #242 keeping the stream to my left. Again no major complications here and probably quicker than keeping to the tracks. I opted for #243 next, en route to Kelly’s Lough for the westernmost control #245. The off-track route from #243 to #245 was very slow going, and even slower on the return journey, with very rough heathery ground and occasionally thick forest to contend with. I suspect keeping to the track as far Kelly’s Lough, going to #245 first and then collecting #243 on the way back would have saved possibly 15 minutes. But maybe not. Next was the joyous downhill first through felled forest, then through beautiful wispy mossy forest to the stream junction #246 (this is it - pure escapism), and then a gruelling climb out of it through walls of moss, rough felled forest and then fighting thick forest and gravity pulling you away from your compass line. Eventually catching a glimpse of Croaghanmoira in the far distance, battling more forests alive and dead, and eventually finding myself out on the Military Rd. Probably could have cut 10 minutes here by being stricter on trusting my compass all the way from #246 rather than my instinct and trying to make sense of the map, but could easily have lost a lot longer with a big mistake. Hamstrings (and others) giving out or giving up by now, so progress pretty slow up the mountain to #247, my first time up Croaghanmoira. The gaps ahead and behind were big enough now to go for the ridge run just for the hell of it, although in hindsight I suspect it may be quicker in any case. Beautiful views down over Crock of Gold valley, a bird of prey circling overhead (!). I cut too much corner heading down to #244 and paid the price as my hamstrings gave up proper descending through the thick heather, reducing me to a crab-like hobble. And then a gingerly 2km descent to a well-earned breather and friendly banter and reflection at the fabulous Glenmalure Lodge. And all in pleasant warm autumn sunshine. What would you do without days like this?