My Charlie Ramsay Round
23h 17min 11s (C)
Pawel Cymbalista (Polish - Lochaber Athletic Club)
Time: 23h 17min 11s
This round was in my head since 4 years back when I did my first support at Fersit Dam for Dave Taylor and Ian Loombe. From there I started regularly supporting people every year and helped around 12 people finish their rounds.
In 2018 I had a go at the round but I failed to finish and I pulled out on Stob Ban (Grey Corries) due to lack of motivation, severe dehydration and generally being to slow! It was stuck in my head ever since! I never gave up to chase my dream.
3 weeks ago I completed a clockwise Tranter Round in 16h 7min in very bad conditions with minimum support which gave me an absolute boost and hope that I can do the RR this year! The visibility was very bad, strong wind gusts but nothing too serious and lots of rain which brought the temperature down to -3 feel… But that didn’t stop me.
I started training with Scott Brown from Glasgow after the lockdown every second week helping him reccying the route. He was planning to do the round and I was supporting/pacing Leg1. Startin on the 7th of August 2020 at 10pm going clockwise.
A week before his attempt last weekend I messaged him that I would like to join him for the whole round and try my best on finishing the Charlie Ramsay Round!
Well I said: ‘I will do Leg1 as planned, probably I will do Leg2 and if I feel ok I will go for Leg3, because this will be the only way home!’
He agreed and said ‘If you get to the start of Leg 3 you will not quit! I will not let you quit there and then!’
Scotts plan was that I would carry all the load as a support runner that would be my role anyway I was ready to carry his and mine stuff!
I had to get someone for my replacement for Leg1 now to increase my chances of finishing.
Things got real! I started messaging people. I didn’t want to make it too public. Last time the stress got to me and I made a lot of mistakes before and on the day.
I sorted only 2 support runners for myself for Leg1 and Leg3. I was ready to battle Leg2 on my own!
The Leg support looked like this:
Helen Smith (Fersit)
Chris Saunderson (Fersit)
Corrina Mertens (Loch Eilde Mor ruins)
We arrived in Fort William very early. To relax, have a gathering and discuss the last details. It was nice to see everyone that will be involved in this big challenge.
As my thank you gift for helping everyone received my homemade cheddar cheese and some smoked ham. I think everyone enjoyed it! I received lots of positive comments and photos about it!
Me, Scott and Chris Saunderson (Scott’s support man) took the kindly invite from Helen Smith to go and relax in her house for few hours and have some food before the round.
I messaged my mum to be at Glen Nevis Youth Hostel 1h before the start so we could all have a chat. It was important for me to have someone from my family there with me. Sadly my wife Ashley had to stay home with our girls. The medgies were absolutely horrific! It would be an absolute nightmare for them trying to keep these little beasties away…
START of LEG1
Everyone gathered at the Youth Hostel, photos were taken. We did a countdown and off we went! Me, Scott and John Parkin up Ben Nevis. We started the round at 10pm. It got dark very fast so the headtorches were needed straight from the start. Sadly we lost John Parkin before we reached the top of Ben Nevis. He could not keep up with our fast climb to the top. We were not worried to much about this fact. John is a mountain man, he is more than capable to look after himself on a mountain. These things sometimes happen on rounds like this. I was getting a bit worried about the food he was carrying for me. I gave him 2 food pouches before the start which I could need… Emergency rations.. It was me and Scott all the way till the end of Leg1 from now on. John Parkin made it down safely after taking few stunning photos on top of Ben Nevis.
With few problems we managed to find our way down of Aonach Beag on Spinks Ridge. My Garmin etrex 30x navigation batteries died just before we reached the steep descent. Thankfully Scott’s watch had a map function with the Ramsay Round map on it. We didn’t take the steep descent. I was not familiar with it, neither was Scott. We didn’t want to risk it on the day. I only done that route twice when someone else was navigating. I think I should pay more attention then! This time we avoided the top of Sgurr Choinnich Beag which is not counted on the round and adds extra elevation and distance. I think I ascended it on my Tratner round by accident.. This time we went to the right side of it. The way was pretty straight forward. We had to fuel and stay hydrated. I didn’t have any issies with it. I only had those 2 food pouches stuck in my head that were left with John on Ben Nevis. I kept telling myself ‘It’s not a big deal! You have enough! Maybe Scott will have some extras?’ We continued going steady to Stob Ban. Scott right behind me! Dextrose glucose tablets are an absolute ace. They got us through no bother! On the descent from Stob Choire Claurigh Scott went over his right ankle. He screamed! I got an absolute shock! He said: ‘I heard a crack!’. That was not a good sign.. Scott sat down. Sweat went down him.. but he got up pretty fast and continued descending to the lochan below Stob Ban (Grey Corries). His ankle was very sore but he could still go on it which was good! We climbed Stob Ban very fast! Scott was a bit behind. Not a big deal! We took the best line down to the valley. Here we are starting our last, serious climb on Leg1. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all! No path what so ever.. High grass, heather and few steep river crossings. At least there was plenty of water. Here was the time I switched my head torch off. My battery was just about to die! Scott switched his off on the descent from Stob Ban. His head torch started blinking red on the summit of Stob Choire Claurigh which wasn’t a great sign and I knew if it will go out it will slow us down. Thankfully it didn’t! Small things can really stress you out when you depend on them!
Up, Up we go again!
It was a grueling climb.. Scott wasn’t far behind me. 2/3rd of the way up we decided to take some weight of Scott and I took his bag to even out our climbing speed and save some of Scott’s energy for later. We climbed Stob Coire Easain and continued going to Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin. The views were just stunning! I think that was the first time I could actually see very far from these tops! My runs are usually covered in clouds… We started heading down. This thought was making me very happy! Only down now! We are finishing 1/3 of our run and there is fresh food waiting for us at Fersit! Exciting! We got off the mountain and got to the cairn which we can clearly see from the steep part of the downhill. From the cairn we should turn right almost 90’ but we didn’t. We made a slight navigation mistake and we went 100-150m too far and we had to get back on the route. I hate when that happens! Well we are both tired and trying to work as a team! We can only count on ourselves here!
We arrived at Fersit around 24 mins behind schedule. Not a big deal we had plenty of time to catch up! I was running on a 23h 15min schedule. I wasn’t worried too much! Still in the game!
I dropped Scotts bag off, what a relief!
Helen, Chris and Ross met us in the middle of the dam.
The medgies were absolutely horrible! And our 12min stop felt like ages while we tried to eat and not get eaten! Helen took few nice photos of me covered in these little pests!
START of LEG2
I didn’t have anyone to support me on Leg2. Ross Coles was there to help Scott.
He kindly took some of my food off me! Which got my hopes up and made me think that I can actually do this!
We took off and quickly started making up time! What a difference to have someone with fresh legs that gives the pace. Someone to chace!
On the way down from Chno Dearg I made a navigation mistake! I took us 150m too far missing the downhill! Disaster! I just hated myself at that point… We quickly corrected the mistake and descended down to the valley and up to Beinn na Lap. Ross showed us a better downhill route from the other side of the valley which intrigued me! I might be using it on a support run one day! The climbing was very nice with a new support member! There was lots of stories told! Ross is a very nice lad from the Lake District who is planning to do his Ramsay Round in September! He completed a Bog Graham Round.
He made sure we are fuelled and fed! I am very grateful for him to carry my food and share some of his water with me!
On the way down from Beinn na Lap we were admiring the beauty of Lochaber! Ross found an absolutely perfect line down and saved us few minutes off our total time! By the time we got to Loch Treig we made up around 17 minutes of our total time! 7 min behind schedule! Absolutely shocking! This got our energy levels up and gave a lot of hope for the last leg! We are in the game!
We started speeding up and picking up from there! Running flat sections and downhills, keeping it steady on the uphills. Our legs started to feel it now! Not sure about Scott or Ross.. but my legs were screaming. The Tranter Round 3 weeks earlier….
We had a long way in the valley along the river to go! At least there was plenty of water!
We had a short water stop at the bothy amongst the pine trees, making the most out of the nice shade. The sun was giving us some hard time already!
I shared some of my amazing salted potatoes from Helen with the guys! It was great! Everyone tried some! They all loved them! Normal food in your stomach is a game changer! The salted potatoes idea came from Adnan Khan who finished his round 4 years ago. I had the chance of running with him that day on Leg1.
The long way along the river I think was one of the hardest parts of the whole run… It felt never ending. Even though it was flat we couldn’t get up to proper speed. The rough ground slowed us down significantly. It was a well used narrow path used by hikers, runners and cattle! You can only imagine how horrible it was at places. Knee deep mud was just sucking your legs in if you missed the rock! High overgrown grass was covering the path in places which made things even harder.. We could not see where we put our feet. We finally got to the river crossing and continued as fast as we can to join on to the path leading to Loch Eilde Mor Ruins where our next team was already waiting for us. I was left behind here for a moment. I had a nasty stone in my shoe digging into my right foot. I had to get it out. Stones in shoes are runners biggest enemy! I cought up with the guys few minutes after I sorted my feet.
The track was going up and down.. Was full of big puddles of water which was cooling us down! Here is where Scott tried to kill me! The long flat track section just made him go faster and faster. I wasn’t far behind him, maybe few meters?! But I was feeling the speed! It was pretty uncomfortable to push here but actually it had a lot of sense. We would not have much flat running on the hills on the last section. It was very good to speed up and get some time on our side. Ross Coles went ahead to notice our supporters. Some speed in that boy! Thanks to Scott on this section I made some decent time!
Finally we arrived at the ruins. 24 minutes behind schedule! We were not that fast after all…
Still in the game! We can’t slow down in any way now!
START of LEG3
Here is where I sat down for the first time. That sprint on the road almost killed me! I think I did say that to Scott.
Markus and Corrina Mertens, Chris Lumb and Chris Saunderson, Jim Loudon were waiting for us with food and water. It was very hot. I sat down.. I did wonder will I be able to get up? I was scared to sit down at previous opportunities for that reason. My legs were feeling the Tranter Round from 3 weeks back. I don’t actually remember what did I eat.. I think I swallowed some ham and some homemade brownies. Chewing got very hard for me. I remember Corrina kept telling me to eat.
Markus took most of my food. I grabbed a pouch or two just to have something on me. I still carried all my gear! I decided to leave my jacket. 300g less to carry! Jim appeared with some sun cream! Great idea, I completely forgot about that part! He poured some on the back of my neck while I was sitting. Another good idea was to finally put my hat on. My white and red colored pixie hat. 10min break was done.. I was wetting it in every river I crossed to keep my head and body cool.
I stood up with no cramping, which was my biggest fear. We slowly started going up our first mountain on the last leg! 11 to go and we are home! 13 done!
We only had to do 3 big climbs and then ‘sitting’ on the ridge the whole way with minimum ascent until the downhill to Glen Nevis. It sounded pretty easy. In reality it was an absolute agony. Let’s go one hill at a time!
Make it big starting small!
Climbing Sgurr Eilde Mor I would describe as the hardest climb of the round for me! It felt never ending and very slow! The sun was in full power. The heat suddenly got to me and I started to feel slower and weaker. I kept it to myself. I managed to keep it together. Thankfully I reacted very fast to the low energy feeling and I didn’t go deeper in the black hole. I had lots of water and extra food which woke me up very fast. My body was reacting very fast to refuelling. The energy was being processed even quicker than usual in this heat so I had to keep on top of food and water. When we reached the top of Sgurr Eilde Mor I felt a relief. The hardest climb of the last leg was done! That’s what I thought. Next one on the way is Binnein Beag. There was lots of water on this section so we were hydrating as much as we can. Chris Lumb and Markus waited for us at the loch below Binnein Beag while me Scot and Jim climbed the mountain. The climb was very good but slow. I think we had some sort of therapy session talking about our fathers. The conversation went that way and we discussed the topic all the way to the top. The time went fast and we got the next mountain in the bag very fast! We got off the mountain and met Markus and Chris at the bottom. Here we took a different path. We didn’t go to the right of Binnein Mor as I went every single time on my supports or reccys. We took a different route, less used, not known by many to the left side of the mountain. It started pretty rough I remember. But it was very nice after a while following a small river. We had plenty of water again! Then it got a bit crazy because we had to cross it and start climbing the steep wall on the left side of it. At least we had some beautiful views of the quarry/gorge below us.
I completely trusted these guys. Guys I never met before. Fell running community is absolutely amazing!
Going back to the climb… Another bonus was that apparently this route saves about 10 minutes of the total time! So! We scored! We got to the top after few slips. One of the slips I think Markus stopped, saving me from sliding few meters down the hill.
We made it to the top. Here is the first time I had to sit down on top of the mountain on the round.. I felt an absolute relief.. that our biggest climbs of Leg3 are finished! To my expectation it is not going to get any easier. It was the 2nd time I was down to the ground on this round!
Not sitting was a big deal for me. I didn’t want to do it! But the heat got to me. We quickly got some food in us and we continued descending to the next mountain. Here is where we noticed the big numbers of tourists on the mountains. It was so good to see other people! It was exciting in a way! Other people could see us in action!
We finally got to our first out and back An Gearanach. Below that mountain was our last water point before Stob Ban so we had to make sure we have enough water! Markus Stayed there for a while. He got severely dehydrated looking after me! I told him to make sure he is fuelled properly for his own safety too! I need him in full fitness. I was very worried. Thankfully he was not too bad and he joined us a bit later. He is a true friend!
We climbed An Gearanach. It was great to get it out of the way! In the valley between An Gearanach and Stob Coire a’ Chairn we met a couple taking 360’ photos of the Ramsay Round! We were lucky to get in the photo! Can’t wait to have a look at it online!
Here is the point where I got very excited! I could almost see the end! I suddenly got new energy in me! My body was shattered. Knees sore, feet swollen.. I started to think I have to loosen off my shoe laces in my shoes. The blood was not flowing freely due to severe swelling especially in the left foot.
I was even more excited to the fact that my climbing was still at an amazing level. I could climb very fast every single hill untill the very end, the opposite was on the downhill, I had to work very hard to keep the pace. Fighting through the knee and feet pain. Every step was agony.
Before Am Bodach the game changed.
Jim, Chris and I made a decision. Scott was falling behind at this point. The only way for us to finish this, or at least me is to split up. I wasn’t sure about this. We were doing this together. And I made the decision to do the whole thing last minute. I didn’t want to be the person that jeopardize Scott’s round. I felt absolutely awfull! Jim asked me to make a decision and choose who should be going with me. I chose Jim because he was much faster than me and I could push myself trying to keep up with him making better times. He knew the route absolutely perfect. Chris stayed behind with Scott.
Later on I learned that Scott wasn’t happy we left him. But that was the only way we could do this. Sometimes making someone angry awakens the hidden energy in us to push even further.
I think Am Bodach is one of my least favourite hills to climb from the north side. I leave this place without a comment. I was very tired at this point and I wasn’t thinking much! I just wanted to finish! There was a lot of swear words spoken by me on that uphill for which I honestly appologise! I chose to do this myself! No one forced me! Anyway…
We got to Sgor an Lubhair, starting our last out and back. Perfect I thought to myself.
Helen Smith was there! With food and a bottle of Lucozade Sport! Even better! We took few swigs and off we go!
Devil’s Ridge is my favourite. I love that ridge even it looks so intimidating! It is a long way out to get to Sgurr a’Mhaim but it’s worth every single minute of it!
We noticed Scott behind us. Previously we couldn’t see him, he stayed quite a bit behind us. We met him on our way back from Sgur a’ Mhaim on the ridge.
He looked much better and full of energy! Much better from what I’ve seen last time before we left him! Jim was right! His plan worked. Scott got angry and he got new energy in him to keep going which drove him till the end!
Jim’s tactic worked! That made me happy! I was very pleased that Scott could keep going! We picked up few things Scott left behind on the out and back path. Jim took them.
On the descent to the little loch below Stob Ban my left foot swell up so bad I couldn’t keep going downhill on steep descents. I had to stop. I decided to loosen my shoe laces on both feet! That helped! Good decision.
We made our way to the loch where Markus and Helen were waiting for us! Markus promised me he will give me a beautiful oat bar and he kept his promise! Sadly I had to tell him to keep it! I was being driven by pure racing at this point! I downed my last fruit pouch, grabbed some water and just kept going. Less than 1 minute stop! On the way up to Stob Ban Jim gave me half a nut bar. Was it a Snickers? I don’t remember.. It was great, sadly I wasn’t able to chew it! All the dry food bits were falling out of my mouth! We got Stob Ban in the bag! I could see Mullach nan Coirean in the distance with Ben Nevis to my right. Absolutely amazing evening! Jim was taking lots of photos! I am so thankfull to him for that! Absolutely unforgettable memories! My eyes filled up with tears…
One more climb, one more push and I’m going home!
We got to the cairn on top of Mullach I got instructions from Jim to stand next to it with the sunset with my hands up in the air! Jim took stunning pictures! My eyes were full of tears again… What an amazing feeling! I knew it there and then I will do it! But in what time?
Only downhill now! What a joy. I was so happy! I could not believe in this! We had so much time to spare! I did a small navigation mistake on the way down.. We got it corrected very fast. We got of the mountain. The downhill was just horrible! Not as grassy as they describe in the booklets! We jumped on to the forestry road! I was just buzzing! I just wanted to finish! I kept asking Jim how far, how much time left?! I knew I will finish I just wanted to finish in good time! I was so happy! Last push! Last push I kept telling myself!
We took all the shortcuts! I just wanted the shortest way down, the fastest! It doesn’t matter how horrible it is. I’m doing it! On the road Jim hearded few sheep to the side off the road so they would not get ran over by a car.
Tarmac… I was never so happy to run again on the black stuff! It felt like an absolute blessing! I could not feel any pebbles under my feet any more. We went over the cattle grid.. I was sprinting, I was flying. I felt absolutely amazing! We it felt like sprinting…
I noticed my mum and my sister! They passed the Polish flag to me! I sprinted pass everyone cheering and clapping their hands! I hoisted the Polish flag in the air! Helen and Corrina at the finish line filming and cheering! I was so excited and happy I didn’t even know what to feel! Full of absolutely everything! I’ve done it. Corrina was filming a video for my wife Ashley. I didn’t even know what to say! I was speechles! I was so happy it was filmed so my family could see it and experience it! Sadly they couldn’t be there with me! I think I said ‘HI!’?
I finished in 23 hours 17minutes 11 seconds. Scott finished in 23 hours 30 minutes.
We are all winners! We won! Thanks to our team! It would not be possible if it wasn’t for our family and friends and strangers that gave us their time to make this happen! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
We are all winners! You are all winners! We all did this together! I will always be thankful for what you did! I will never forget this!
A special thank you goes to my wife who looked after our children when I was away for almost 2 days to complete the challenge. Thank you Ashley!
It is a real challenge!
Thank you Charlie for making this route!
My feet are swollen, my knees are aching. I’m with my family. I’m happy!
2nd Polish to finish! Number 179 to finish overall.
Photo creditJim Loudon
Photo CreditHelen Smith, Chris Saunderson, Jim Loudon
Photo CreditCorrina Mertens, Helen Smith, Jim Loudon, Chris Saunderson
My Ramsay Round Schedule
Inov8 Mudclaws G260
RAB Spark waterproof jacket
Sports Underwear – Ebay
Aldi cycling socks
Homemade Buff – White/Red
Gloves – Ebay
Sports MMA Polish long sleeve underlay – Husaria
Lochaber Athletic Club Vest
Inov8 Race Elite 3 waist pouch
Inov8 Race Elite running vest with 1 flask
Headtorch Petzl Tikka RXP + spare battery (Ebay)
Garmin Etrex 30x navigation GPS + batteries ( spare batteries used, main ones died on Spinks Ridge)
Garmin Forerunner 235 (battery died after 9h 30min)
Suunto Ambit 3 (battery died after 8h)
Powerbank 500000mAh + watch charging cables (thankfully I didn’t use them, too heavy)
Babyfood from Aldi – banana, apple, mango pouches, chicken caseroles, pasta bolognese, pumpkin and blueberry
Homemade banana peanut butter brownies
Boiled salty baby potatoes
Pot of rice pudding
2 Mars bars
1/2 Snickers bar
1/2 Lucozade Sport
Water + Zero 5 electrolite tablets (about 10 tablets)
Salt tablets – Ebay, brand unknown (about 20 tablets used)
Caffeine tablets with glocose