Kyle of Lochalsh
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Veni, Vidi, Vici.
Literally translated as; I came, I saw, I conquered. Now if my Latin were up to the mark (and though I can rattle off several Latin verbs in their entirety including the one dreaded by all schoolboy Latin scholars, Neco, to kill; only those who endured Latin will know the significance) it would actually read, we came, we saw and some of us conquered.
Let's get this straight, there was no necessity for anyone to go anywhere specific on this event. Three full days and a couple of nights if required to get as far as any team wished. However there has to be a purpose in any mission and this one was simple, the three peaks. Marked on a map (see photos) they were three of the four highest spots on this desolate range of West Coast hills. Incidentally the fourth would require crampons and ropes to scale, hence its exclusion. Of the 31 entrants on this, our first event of 2002, just nine had tackled this range two years earlier and had the stomach for the return match.
The whole ethos of the Enduro is to create a natural challenge, free from artificial parameters. From the first boggy slope into the burn and out the other side each team can choose their own route at will. What they can't choose is an easy route, because there isn't one, though naturally some are easier than others. I had this idea of going straight for the steep slopes gaining lots of altitude and getting all the pain done with in one long winching session. We got the altitude and the pain but that was all.... sorry lads!
As usual there was a wide variety of 4x4's, lead, again as usual, by Solihull products. In amongst the Land Rovers were a trio of Jeeps a brace of Suzukis plus a lone Shogun, Monterey and Ibex. Unusually a Suzuki was the first casualty, Steve Gaunts SJ wasn't happy through the river and became seriously less happy in the next few hundred yards, eventually being abandoned to its fate till the end of the event. Bryn Hemmings gave early notice of his intentions disappearing up the first valley into the distance while us Redcoats were still watching the final members of the convoy through the gateway. No one can deny that the tyres/weight ratio were the real deciders between a hard slog and an easier slog. Bryn Hemmings tells me his Tdi 90 was running at 2.8 tons all up weight, yet the 14.5x10x15 Super Swamper boggers, deflated to 6 p.s.i. were able to float over mots of the soft stuff. It also has to be said that a 160 bhp Tdi helped and the automatic box was an even bigger godsend for 'trickling' up the slopes without crucifying a clutch. His diary reads as follows; 1130 peak one. 1330 peak 2 which he reckons was the hardest. It was also blowing hard enough to flex the windscreen. By 1200 on day 2 peak 2 was surmounted before exiting the site, but not without having to winch out which was the Kyles way of saying good-bye. Those same 'Boggers' then made the run home to Gloucester. Snow blindness or mountain giddiness must have been a problem for they both radioed in to report a large cat like footprint on Peak 2, someone said something about marking their territory in my left ear.
Michael Sparrows Monterey and Mick Rooneys Shogun, the former in fairly standard trim and the latter only a little less so, were well prepared for the event and proved that it even the hardest off road terrain can be tackled by a stock motor with just a bit of careful preparation and some good driving. It's impossible for me to see what goes on over such a large area and a good deal is left to the CB traffic and later reports. Darren McGuinness joined that select band of off roaders in the 'inverted'; club when he defied gravity, unsuccessfully, on some rock outcrop by peak 1. Nothing damaged but pride, but it was gratifiying to see how selflessly the Trooper boys diverted from their own hard fought attempt at Peak 1 to help right Darrens rolled 90. As is the way of these things his own running mate was actually bogged at the time and unable to help. The Series sad, sorry I meant Series 2, of Rob Phillipson was attached to the back of Alan Wormald's latest 4x4, a well sorted Jeep Wrangler, by a kinetic rope for at least 90% of the event and they still managed 2 peaks. I can't quite decide what the symbiotic relationship is but when it becomes apparent it will be shared with you all. Sadly my stunning photo of the Series with a Kyle sized lump of granite up its gearbox and its back wheel 3 feet in the air hasn't come out to a standard that can be reproduced but if you can imagine a kreeeeeeecchhhhhhdunkscreee sound then that's what it sounded like as the Jeep continued remorselessly on dragging the Series mercilessly over the meteor sized rock.
Also completed all three on day 2 was the irrepressible Simon Buck and Russell Lowton who teamed their 90 with Roland (Bogtrotter) Czerny and Ian Holah and their Wrangler. They were not long behind Bryn in reaching the final peak and indeed stopped for a high level meeting before making their won way back down. Again tyre size is a big factor, the 90 with oversize Simex and the Jeep on monster muds. However I shouldn't make it sound that tyres are all that's required, it isn't. The crews still need an eye not juts for the actual ground conditions but the lie of the land in general as to where it slopes where valleys drop off into thin air and what side slope are passable as well as knowing where to gun it (rarely in these conditions) and when to trickle and avoid breaking the surface tension. Oh being able to camp out in tremendous squalls of wind was a help too. I think it was Dave Greens tent that disappeared off into the night with the ferocity of the wind. They ended up camping 5 or 6 in a 2 man tent but we promised not to talk about that!
The Balmacara Hotel was our watering hole for the Friday night. Dinner was accompanied by the sight of Loch Alsh trying to mount the road outside and a wind that made it difficult to stand upright. We tried to convince ourselves that it probably sounded worse than it was, it didn't. The squadron of well kitted and 4x4's certainly made the hotel car park look a far more interesting place. Martin and sarah made us very welcome and it's not every hotel that you can say about that when you turn up like a mob of SAS combatants and enough gear for an invasion now is it? The trip up to the Kyle is a worthwhile experience in itself. Scotland is the last part of the UK where a driver can still enjoy the road. Crianlarich, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Fort William and Spean Bridge with its evocative memorial to the Commandos who were trained there are all names that get burned in you consciousness so you can recall the road years later. The A82 is a fine swooping road,as comforting for a 4x4 as it is for a motorbike and it was a pleasure to wave to others of our select crew as we met along the road.
Ingenuity is a Midlands speciality and Nick OPym certainly was ingenious this year. Bog Cogs were his chsoen method of beating the bogs. I last saw these in 1985 or so on the Tartan Trail and he must have had them in his cellar ever since. Though they never caught on no-one can say they didn't work here, in one of the environments they were designed to work in. Bog Cogs are large plastci attachments on to speial adaptors on each wheel. Once the trye sinks through soft ground they sit on the earth and spread the load. They make his 100 hybrid look like somejhting that you should run along a carpet going brum brum but they do work. Mind you the driver has to concetnrate really hard as he is now 2 feet wider and the cogs don't like being taken over rocks. They, and Richard Ibbersons 'terra tyres' were a large help in getting Nick,(110) Giles Evans (90) Richard Ibberson (Ibex) and David Green (SJ) round all three peaks in three days.
Quotes of the weekend, no names are attached to save embarrassment;
We may not have the best equipped motors here but I'll bet anyone a fiver that no one's got more grub on board!
Either my arms are getting shorter or my bums getting bigger!
It didn't look that ******* steep when we set off down!
Right boys decision time. Shall we camp out here another night? Or shall we go back to the hotel and get absolutely lashed?
(The next was from 'mein host' and has direct relevance to the previous quote.)
It's a good job there wasn't more like those lads who came back last night, we would have run out of drink!!
I'm just following that rope.
Will the rubber tyres stop lightning hitting the motor then?
Last but not least, and you have to imagine someone wetter than a very wet thing has any right to be, with a face that would make Les Dawson look happy and a mournful voice more suited to a graveside;
Can I come home now Mum?
Look. Plenty of us never got anywhere near the peaks except on foot. Enough got round all three with some skilled driving, hard graft and commitment to say that the Kyle was conquered and everyone else did as much as they either could or would. The point is no one said they had had a bad time, and they certainly got all that CoR promised, in bucketfuls. Too much in this world is made too easy for us and this event proved that there are at least 65 people who are happy to take what comes their way and sort it on their own terms, they were this years Enduro heroes and I was proud to be amongst them.
Giles Evans/Paul Howes L/R 90 V8
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