Home Sports The Highlands are there to be explored, so get out and make your own trail

The Highlands are there to be explored, so get out and make your own trail

0 comment
The Run the Highlands team takes a break during one of their events

As the Scottish summer reaches its peak, there will be a collective dusting off of hiking boots across the country.

For many, the boots have already received a fair amount of use so far this year, with access to most of the Scottish mountains, weather permitting, safely all year round.

But what about those looking for a challenge? Those thrill-seekers looking to do more than just walk and explore the Scottish countryside? That’s where Run the Highlands comes in.

A relatively new expedition based in Fort William, this mixed team of mountain leaders, runners and adventure coaches seeks to offer just that and more.

With 282 Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet high) in Scotland, we have plenty of peaks to climb and are spoiled by our wild landscape. As of October last year, 7,581 people had reached the summit in each of them.

But for adventurer Jon Fearne, part of the Run the Highlands team, more than just exploring the Scottish countryside applies.

The Run the Highlands team takes a break during one of their tests

Participants face all kinds of challenges throughout their journey.

Participants face all kinds of challenges throughout their journey.

Having grown up on the south coast of England before later moving to the Mont Blanc-dominated Chamonix Valley, the 47-year-old is now looking to encourage more people from south of the border to explore more, rather than sticking to the side. ‘marked trails of the Lakes Region’.

“Run the Highlands is really new,” he says. ‘Four of us have only recently known each other from different circles. We thought, “Why don’t we do something that can get more people up to the Highlands from south of (Hadrian’s) Wall and enjoy the trails and mountains from a running perspective?”

“One thing we have learned is that south of the wall, people have very little knowledge of running in the Scottish Highlands.

‘If you go, for example, to the Lake District, everything is signposted and has a path. But when you get to the Highlands, there is very little signage, so you have to make your own trail.

‘People say navigation is a barrier, but we wanted to create courses to help remove those barriers and understand that you can still run, you can still explore, and you just need to think about it a little more.

‘This is our first year of Run the Highlands. There are four of us running this: Anna Danby is a summer and winter mountain guide, Sally Hudson is a summer and winter mountain guide, George Fisher has just completed his mountain leader course and won the Sky Runner series in the UK last year. So between the four of us we think we can create a very good package that is open to everyone.’ With a background in outdoor education, surfing, kayaking and sports science, as well as training people to tackle their own endurance adventures, Fearne has a unique understanding of what it takes to tackle the Scottish Highlands.

Since being diagnosed with hyperactivity at the age of nine, which is now understood as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Fearne insists that the idea of ​​adventure is something no one should be afraid to tackle, despite the challenges. obvious that it presents.

Jon Fearne has done several different challenges around the world.

Jon Fearne has done several different challenges around the world.

Whether it's the rugged mountains of Scotland or the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland, Fearne loves a challenge.

Whether it’s the rugged mountains of Scotland or the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland, Fearne loves a challenge.

“When I was young, I was diagnosed with hyperactivity, but now that’s ADHD, so I got into sports very early at school and it’s been a coping mechanism for me since I was nine,” he says. ‘So it’s been a way to burn off energy. Then I became more interested in the challenge aspect of being pushed further, harder.

“To begin with, it has been a coping mechanism introduced to me by a couple of teachers, something I will always be grateful for as I know a lot of people don’t have that opportunity, and this has led me to develop a passion for being on air free and play in the mountains.

‘I’ve been doing this for about 28 years. The endurance line, predominantly, and that came back to the adventure side and that’s where it just stayed, a mix of ultra and endurance adventure athletes.

‘I have participated in several Ironman races, I used to race them semi-professionally. I believe I am still the only athlete to have completed both TransAlp and TransAlpine, one runs through the Alps and the other crosses them on a mountain bike.

“For me now I don’t compete much, I just choose an adventure and do it.” Fearne, who now lives on the west coast of Scotland, has settled down and started to put down roots. But this has not always been the case. Choosing an adventure has always been something he has done without hesitation.

Having competed in Ironman events, he took his fitness to the next level by competing in the Trans Alp and TransAlpine events. But even that wasn’t enough.

“A while ago, I chose the Troll Peninsula in Iceland in winter, skiing, so I went there with a friend, went exploring, set up a tent and skied on different mountains,” he adds.

‘I lived in Chamonix for three years, where skiing 4,000m peaks was my absolute joy, which was my favorite activity while I trained people for other things.

‘The Alps races are seven days through Germany, Italy and Switzerland, I think that’s how it was. Like an ultramarathon, but with more than 2,000 m of elevation gain. Having experience with these types of challenges is one thing, but Fearne admits the boundaries could still be pushed further with Run the Highlands.

Right now, the focus is on teaching and encouraging people to explore the outdoors, test their limits and do it all safely. But in the long run, there may be the option to add more survival aspects to your adventures.

‘We do a mix of events. You have the full weekend, we do a five-day course, but we also do some tailor-made ones,” she says. We even have some locals come up to us and ask if they can come and do it one day.

“There are no survival aspects to this; that would be another level we could go to, as many of the Scandinavians have done.” We teach the basics of navigation in the Scottish mountains, as long as we take guides with us. It predominantly focuses on how you move in the mountains and how you can actually run in the mountains; what kind of equipment you need to carry, getting people to understand that it’s not all running, that most of the uphill stuff is walking and route finding.

‘We teach people how to use the poles to help them, how to attack going up, since many people feel good going up something, but the problem is going back down. That’s why we try to cover everyone who is on the trails.

The Highlands will offer challenges that people will not face anywhere else

The Highlands will offer challenges that people will not face anywhere else

‘We try to cover everything, including footwear and aftercare. We want to make sure people take care of themselves and get out on the trails.

‘It’s about giving people more confidence to move, with a little more speed, in the mountains, understanding their limits, knowing how to approach them and also how to retreat and be sensible up there.

“Once you’ve shown it to a few people, they’ll go show it to their friends and then they might come and do it themselves.” Despite the familiarity of the weather conditions and trials Fearne has previously faced, Fearne insists that Run the Highlands will, in fact, be more difficult than some of the challenges he has previously completed.

It’s very different to the Alps,” he admits. ‘Alpine trails are very easy to navigate compared to those in the Highlands. Okay, you have to deal with the altitude, there are some parts where you could be 2000m above the sea ​​level on some really beautiful trails, but they are not particularly technical. If you try to get closer to the summits, it becomes more alpine rather than running.

You may also like