Last month the record for running the winter Ramsay round was well and truly broken.
The 'Ramsay's Round' is a 24-hour hill circuit of 60 miles taking in 24 summits of Scottish Munros including; Ben Nevis, the Aonachs, Grey Corries, the Loch Trieg group and the Mamores with a total climb of around 28,500 feet / 8686m. First run by Charlie Ramsay in 1978, this is one of the world's toughest mountain running challenges and taken on and completed by very few.
Friend and fellow fell runner Jon Gay ran the 24 Munros solo over 23rd/24th February 2013 in 23 hours 18 minutes. That's a whole four hours quicker than the previous record set in 2012. It's difficult to imagine - but it's a bit like ascending Everest from sea level, mostly at night, on your own. Only four people are known to have done it in winter in the 34 years since the summer round was first completed. Anyone into winter 'munroing' will know that just one or two Scottish mountains can prove to be tricky, even in the summer.
"I was pleased to complete a Ramsay's in summer 2010 along with Pete Duggan. I am an average runner especially on the flat, but ok at ascending or general hill bashing. Completion for me in winter seemed a long shot."
The required winter skills, physical fitness and understanding of the 'round' is an achievement in itself taking years to develop. Tackling any of these mountains in winter, at night and alone at this speed is definitely noteworthy. The Round.
"Ascending the Ben the cloud was down and there was fine snow falling. Here we go again I thought, whilst struggling with my crampons/ reviving my fingers. But emerging down Carn Mor Dearg Arete (runnable due to snow cover) I entered an Alpine wonderland with rime on the rocks and full 'styrofoam' neve (hard snow) underfoot.
Shortly after I started feeling sick, weak and dizzy- completely debilitating. I gave in a number of times and had to lie briefly in the snow, before becoming cold. It was a thorough effort of will to move. If there had been any weather threat or higher wind chill I would have force marched myself immediately down, I guess, to the bothy. But it appeared to be temporary low blood sugar or the body generally protesting as it does on these long routes. Glucose gradually brought me back to life.
Jon added: "Besides the mountains being so 'runnable' and the weather perfect, the near full moon topped everything. The solid snow may have made it faster or marginally less exhausting than summer. I have been extremely lucky. I am obviously delighted to complete but feel humbled to have got a decent time in winter when many runners could have gone faster in such wonderful conditions."
What an impressive achievement and example of dedication - an amazing achievement, Jon: this will be a touch record to beat!