2020 DATE & EVENT SCHEDULE
The 8th (and final?) Marmot Dark Mountains™ will be held on the night of Saturday 25th January, finishing on the morning of Sunday 26th January 2020
Sunday 12th January 2020
Deadline for official event t-shirt orders
Sunday 19th January 2020
Deadline for food orders
Entries close (or earlier, as and when each course sells out - the event frequently sells out!). We will send all the competitors start times and final details soon after this date.
Saturday 25th January 2020
1630 Car Parking opens (please do not arrive earlier than this)
1700 Registration begins (Long Score will be given priority)
1700-2100 Evening meal available (pre-orders only)
1800 First start
2200 Registration closes
2330 Last start
Please allow 1 hour to complete registration and kit check
Saturday Night / Sunday Morning Event in progress
Sunday 26th January 2020
0500 First finishers expected
0600-1100 Finisher's Breakfast
0930 Prize giving
1100 Courses close
The general event region is the Northern Arenigs, Snowdonia
The Event Centre
The event centre is where you need to arrive to register, complete kit check and where the event will start and finish.
ADDRESS: The National White Water Centre, Frongoch, Bala, Gwynedd, North Wales, LL23 7NU
What to Expect
What is a Mountain Marathon?
“A mountain marathon is a test of your navigation (how efficiently you find the checkpoints), your fitness (how quickly you travel between the checkpoints) and your mountain craft (being self-sufficient in the mountains for the weekend with a remote overnight camp).” – Mountain Marathon.com
Marmot Dark Mountains™takes the classic two-day mountain marathon format and gives it a dark twist. Rather than two days of running with an overnight camp in between, the event packs everything into one winter’s night! It is challenging event that is well known as a stiff test of all-round mountain craft. The event offers a combination of linear and score format courses:
- Linear – Think ‘time trial’ – you navigate between a set number of checkpoints as quickly as possible.
- Score – Acquire as many points as possible within a set amount of time by visiting checkpoints in any order.
Registration takes place on Saturday evening at the Event Centre and participants should allow at least one hour to walk from the car parking, complete registration and kit check, and then walk to the start. At registration participants will be able to view a Master Map of the competition area, which will give a full overview of the event area being used plus provide details of any out-of-bounds areas, map corrections etc; the event Master Map will not be over-printed with any control points.
Car parking at the event Centre for the duration of the event is included. On-site catering will be available on Saturday evening but meals must be booked in advance.
Participants are allocated a precise start time on Saturday evening, with the longer courses starting earlier, and the shorter courses starting later. The staggered start times are issued by email about one week before the event, but the table below shows approximately when participants can expect to start:
|Course||Start Times (between...)|
Each participant is issued with a bespoke race map immediately after starting. The map will be 1:30,000 scale and approximately of A3 size. It will be pre-marked with all the controls specific to your course. Control Descriptions (e.g. stream junction, sheepfold) are also printed on this map.
The result of the staggered start is that most teams finish at similar times on Sunday morning making for an exciting finale to the event as everyone converges on the finish.
The Nature of the Event - On the Course
Participants will be tackling some very challenging mountain terrain in potentially very poor wintry weather... at night. If you are not competent and confident when moving across steep, rough mountain terrain in these conditions, you will inevitably spend far longer on the hills than anticipated. In view of this, competitors are asked to make a realistic assessment of their capabilities when choosing a course, and make conservative decisions about the ability and endurance throughout the event.
Participants should be prepared for the worst possible conditions as the competition area can be isolated and the hills are exposed to serious weather. Bear in mind that once competitors have started they are very much on their own. Although the organisers will ensure that the event is as safe as possible, they will not diminish the nature of the challenge. Therefore, safety is ultimately the competitor’s personal responsibility, just as it is with any trip into the hills.
Participants prove they have visited each checkpoint, and therefore completed their chosen course using SPORTident electronic timing (not familiar, no problem – check out more information).
Self-sufficiency extends to sourcing water en-route from streams. It is each competitor’s personal responsibility to boil and/or purify all water they consume; if competitors choose not to treat water this is entirely at their own risk.
Competitors should prepare for the Marmot Dark Mountains™ by training and running on mountain terrain where possible and by practicing fine map reading and compass skills... in the dark!
Marmot Dark Mountains™ is a night mountain marathon and the navigational challenge should not be underestimated… but it should not be feared either, as successfully navigating at night is a hugely satisfying experience and gives a real sense of achievement.
The Technical Difficulty (how difficult it is to locate the checkpoints) increases as the courses get more challenging. We recommend novice participants start with the C Course. Further details in "Different Courses Explained" below.
All the checkpoints, on all the courses have reflective material on them. After much consideration we feel that this improves participants' experience of the event without altering the nature of the challenge. Participants will still need to accurately navigate to close proximity (circa 50m) to the checkpoint location before the reflective material is visible, and we known that the reflective material will cut down on the frustration of missing checkpoints, after navigating accurately to the feature described on the map.
A hearty vegetarian breakfast is provided to all the finishers on Sunday morning. You will have earned it!
You can check out maps from and details of previous events.
The Different Courses Explained
Seven Different Courses
At a mountain marathon the nature of the terrain dictates the distance of each course with the planners designing a course to satisfy a certain winning time. We follow this principle but allow for the added difficulty of navigating and running at night. Therefore although the winning time for a course will be similar to a normal 2-day mountain marathon, the overall distance will be significantly less. Teams (pairs) may choose to enter one of the following seven courses:
This table summarises our Course Planner’s brief for each course at Marmot Dark Mountains™. The Target Winning Time is the most important parameter, and therefore this means that the Total Distance and Ascent will vary from one year to the next depending on the runablity of the terrain. The ‘Overall Difficulty’ is not a target for the Course Planner, rather this indicates what percentage of competitors are likely to complete the full course. However, the weather impacts the Overall Difficultly greatly, potentially making the course easier or much harder to complete in full. As Score Course competitors have their own choice about which checkpoints they visit and no set route to follow there is a much higher percentage of overall finishers, but a portion of these will opt for a much easier day in the hills than the Course Planner expected; this kind of flexibility is what makes the Score Courses an attractive choice for many competitors. For a more detailed explanation of this table please visit MountainMarathon.com.
Score Format Courses
These courses give competitors a fixed time in order to score as many points as possible. Each checkpoint out on the course will have a specified points value, and competitors can choose both the order of checkpoints to visit, and also the routes between them. If you are late returning to the finish, penalty points are deducted from your score. Strategy and route planning therefore are as important as fitness. The points value of a checkpoint may be a reflection of the physical or technical difficulty associated with visiting it, or how far away from the start/finish it is.
- Long Score – up to 12 hours – A longer challenge for fitter and more competent mountain marathoners who like the challenge of score courses.
- Medium Score – up to 10 hours – Ideal for those not wishing to try our longer Score or Linear Courses, but still looking for a quality night of challenging mountain marathoning.
- Short Score – up to 8 hours – A shorter challenge, ideal for those new to this type of event and/or have limited mountain experience or endurance, or people who want shorter night out in the hills.
Above: Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2018 - Example Score Course Map
Linear Format Courses
Competitors must visit a prescribed number and order of checkpoints. The linear courses have less route choice and require less decision making than the score format courses, because the checkpoints (and the order in which they must be visited) are defined by the organisers. Approximate length, height gain, and winning time overnight are shown in the table above.
- Elite Course – The hardest course reserved for the fittest and most competent mountain marathoners. This is the longest and toughest course both physically and technically, and entrants are vetted for experience. It is usual for there to be more DNFs than completers on the Elite Course. For your entry to be accepted you must provide evidence that you have completed an Elite or A Course within 50% of the winner’s time within the last 3 years or have other substantial and suitable experience.
- A Course – Shorter than the Elite course, but no less physically and technically challenging in terms of the terrain the course will visit. Designed for fit and competent mountain marathoners not yet ready, or wishing for, the extra challenge of the Elite Course, but still keen for a long an challenging day in the mountains.
- B Course – Shorter than the A Course, with slightly less physically and technically challenging terrain, but a definite step up from the C Course. The B Course is ideal for those who have previously completed the C class and want a tougher challenge, or experienced mountain marathoners who want the challenge without the extra distance offered by the Elite and A Courses.
- C Course – The shortest course, with the least physically and technically challenging terrain of the linear courses. Requires a good level of fitness and navigational ability, but suitable for teams who are either new to this type of event and/or have limited mountain experience or endurance.
Above: Marmot Dark Mountains™ 2018 - Example B Course Map
Time Penalties (Score courses only)
The time limits on the score courses are automatically enforced by the digital SI timing system (you can’t argue with the computer!). Competitors who are late finishing will rapidly lose the points built up during the day! Lateness time penalties each day are as follows:
- 0-5 mins late = lose 1 point per min*
- 5-15 mins late = then lose 2 points per min*
- 15-30 mins late = then lose 5 points per min*
- 30 mins or over late = all points lost
*or part minute
Course Closure Time (Score AND linear courses)
Both Score and Linear courses close at 11:00 on Sunday morning. Any finishers after these times will be recorded as T/O (Timed Out), and it is the competitors’ responsibility to adjust their plans – such as cutting their night short – should they be running late. Please do not blithely continue on your course knowing that you will finish after the Course Closure Time.
Class and Prize Categories Explained
A team’s class is automatically assigned based on the details of each team member provided during the online entry process, such as age and gender. The different classes are:
- Open Category (Any team, of any gender, with both team members aged 18+)
- Female Category (All female teams, with both team members aged 18+)
- Male Category (All male teams, with both team members aged 18+)
- Mixed Category (All mixed-gender teams, with both team members aged 18+)
- Veteran Category (All teams, any gender, with both team members aged 45+)
Prizes will be awarded to the following teams:
- 1st Overall Team (The overall winning team per course. Any gender, any age)
- 1st Female Team (The 1st Female team per course. Any age)
- 1st Male Team (The 1st Male team per course. Any age)
- 1st Mixed Team (The 1st Mixed team per course. Any Age)
- 1st Veteran Team (The 1st Veteran team as determined by the Veteran Handicap)
We will also offer the following bonus prizes:
- 1st U21 Male/Female/Mixed Team on the Elite Course
- 1st U20 Male/Female/Mixed Team on the A Course
- 1st U19 Male/Female/Mixed Team on the B Course
- 1st U18 Male/Female/Mixed Team on the C Course
- Any U18 team completing the C or Short Score Course
If a team is eligible for two prizes (for example 1st Overall and 1st Female Team) then they will be awarded both prizes.
Previous Course Winners
Other than the Elite and Long Score Courses, winners from previous years (1st Overall, 1st Mixed Team and 1st Female team) are ineligible for the same prize when competing on the same course.
We reserve the right to determine a team's eligibility for a prize where one team member has previously won a prize, pairs up with another previously unplaced member and they enter the same or an easier course.
Experienced Under 18s
We will accept entries from experienced 16–17 year old pairs on the C Course, so that they can compete in the U18 British Mountain Marathon Championship. However, a parent must accompany them to registration and sign the Parental Consent Form and the team must have provided evidence of significant mountain running experience beforehand. Please contact us to check eligibility. Our minimum age requirement for this type of team is 16 years old on the first day of the event.
Less experienced 16–17 year olds are welcome to enter the C Course or Short Score when accompanied by a supervising parent/guardian aged 21 years or older. Our minimum age requirement for this type of team is 16 years old on the first day of the event.
Veterans Handicap Prize
To decide the Veterans' Handicap Prize we are using an identical system to the other Mountain Marathons in the British Mountain Marathon Championship. The handicap system is based on the following criteria:
- A team is eligible for a Veterans' Handicap Score if both members are aged 45 or older on the Saturday of the event. This applies to both men and women.
- Only the age of the older team member is then considered for the Veterans' Handicap calculation.
- Female competitors are given an additional handicap equivalent to 10 years.
- The handicap percentage is then calculated as 1% for every year over the age of 45.
Here are some examples:
- A team of two men aged 50 and 55 has a 10% handicap.
- A team of a man aged 55 and a woman aged 50 has a 15% handicap.
- A team of a man aged 55 and a woman aged 44 is not eligible.
- A team of two men aged 40 and 70 is not eligible.
This is how the percentage handicap is used:
- For linear courses the total time over the two days is reduced by the handicap percentage.
- For score courses the total point score over the two days is increased by the handicap percentage. If the total point score over the two days is negative, no adjustment is made.
Here are some examples:
- If the total time over two days on a linear course is 8 hours 30 minutes and the handicap is 10%, the time used for veteran results is 7 hours 39 minutes.
- If the total score over two days on a score course is 800 points and the handicap is 20%, the score used for veteran results is 960 points.
First Time Competitor?
We welcome entries from competitors both new and old - please get in touch if there's anything we can help with (e.g. you're struggling to match pre-requisite experience)?
Participants must provide details of the completion of a mountain marathon (event name, date, course, result) and/or mountain race and/or significant other mountain running/walking experience when entering. This information is required for both team members. As a guide we will only guarantee entries onto your choice of course (e.g. Elite) if one of the pair has successfully completed the same standard course (e.g. Elite) in a normal 2 day mountain marathon, whilst ALSO finishing in less than 50% of the winners time. We reserve the right to move competitors onto an easier course when we release the start times if they do not meet our criteria.
|Marmot Dark Mountains™ Course||
Minimum Previous Experience Guidance
(When experience is gained at a daylight mountain marathon e.g. Scottish Mountain Marathon™ or ROC Mountain Marathon™)
Minimum Previous Experience Guidance
(When experience is gained at a Marmot Dark Mountains™)
|C||C||Entries with no Mountain Marathon experience welcome||16|
|Short Score||C or Short Score||Entries with no Mountain Marathon experience welcome||16|
|Medium Score||B or Medium Score||C or Short Score||18|
|Long Score||A or Long Score||B or Medium Score||18|
PARTICIPANTS' CLOTHING & EQUIPMENT
The weather in January could throw absolutely anything at the competitors and this is a major appeal of the Marmot Dark Mountains™ challenge. However, this does mean that participants need to be suitably equipped and they must carry most of the usual mountain marathon kit (including tent, sleeping bag, stove etc) so that if a team has a major problem we know that they can make themselves safe and warm until help arrives.
Mandatory Personal Kit
The following kit must be worn or carried by each competitor at all times:
- Waterproof jacket or smock (with taped seams and a hood)
- Waterproof trousers (with taped seams)
- Survival bag (not a blanket)
- Map (supplied) and compass
- Headtorch with spare batteries (with sufficient light to be able to navigate in the darkness - we recommend the Petzl Nao+)
- Food for 12 hours
- Spare/emergency warm top (such as an insulated ‘duvet’ jacket or warm, thick fleece. A spare top is not spare if it is being warn at the start)
- Hat and gloves suitable for the weather conditions (2 pairs are often required)
- Water bottle and / or hydration system
- Fell or mountain running shoes (road trainers are NOT acceptable and anyone in inappropriate footwear will be unable to start)
- Waterproof pen/pencil
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Emergency rations (uneaten at the end of the event)
Potentially Mandatory Personal Kit
Note: Communication of this enforcement may be issued up to 48 hours ahead of the first start time.
We are not specifying exactly what clothing should be worn by competitors but expect competitors to make sensible choices based on the weather conditions on the day. It is worth noting that all the teams who finished the 2013 event - in extremely poor weather - had all opted to 'run hot', rather than risk being under-dressed. It is very difficult to warm up once you have become cold. If in any doubt wear and take extra clothing.
|Above: All teams are thoroughly kit checked at the start. All leading teams and a selection of random teams are kit checked at the finish. © Ian Corless|
Mandatory Team Kit
The following items must be carried by each team
- Tent – designed for two people with sewn in groundsheet
- First aid kit – that includes the minimum of triangular bandage, second bandage, wound dressing x2 and a roll of sticky tape
- Stove, fuel, matches/lighter, pan – with sufficient fuel to boil 1L of water
- Two Person Emergency Shelter / Bothy Bag / Kisu (a tent flysheet is not appropriate)
- GPS tracker (provided by the organisers)
The addition of a two person Emergency Shelter / Bothy Bag / Kisu to the mandatory kit list was new for the 2014 event. This is because it has been noted that teams occasionally wait too long before deciding to retire or make camp in poor weather conditions, by which time their hands have become too cold and/or the weather is too poor for them to actually put up their tent.
The conditions underfoot are likely to be wet and boggy in some locations within the competition area. In winter conditions this means cold and wet feet are a distinct possibility for competitors. As such we would highly recommend using warm and waterproof socks and/or neoprene socks. Normal socks are NOT going to be sufficient for keeping your feet warm all night.
Optional Personal Kit
- Gaiters - full or ankle depending on conditions (especially in the case of snow)
- Mobile phone (although we recommend that all competitors carry a mobile phone there is no guarantee of phone reception)
- Altimeter (very useful aid for navigation in low visibility conditions)
- Waterproof or neoprene socks
- Anti-chaffing / lubrication ointment
We would recommend that all clothing and equipment is packed into waterproof bags.
SAFETY, EMERGENCY PROCEDURES & BAD WEATHER COURSES
Bad Weather Courses
Participants should assume that Marmot Dark Mountains™ will proceed even in very poor weather. If the weather is exceptionally poor, we may opt to use our shorter 'Bad Weather Courses'. Any course changes will be confirmed at registration. If a Bad Weather Course is declared by the Race Director participants must omit certain checkpoints on the linear courses, and the overall time allowed for the score courses will be reduced. Details of the Bad Weather Course are printed on the race map.
Event safety considers the impact of all actions on both participants, marshals and potentially the emergency services such as a Mountain Rescue Team. Safety considerations are dynamic and may change as the race progresses and the weather conditions deteriorate. The Race Director’s decision will be final in all matters relating to safety.
The nature and the challenge of Marmot Dark Mountains™ is that participants remain self sufficient and responsible for their own safety throughout the event. Should an accident occur it is initially the participants’ responsibility to look after each other and raise the alarm. In the event of an accident ensure that the casualty is put in their sleeping bag (and any spare sleeping bags), in a survival bag and in the tent (the emergency shelter should only be used whilst the tent is being put up, or if it is not possible to erect the tent). Use your whistle and light to summon help and ensure you make a careful note of your exact position (grid reference) and any features you can identify.
GPS Tracking: SOS Emergency Button / GPS Trackers
Each teams GPS tracker has an SOS Emergency Button. In the event of serious (threat to life or limb) incident, this button should be pressed immediately.
Pressing the SOS button sends a text message with your location to Race Control via mobile phone signal. In an emergency it is worth attempting an SOS text even if no mobile phone signal is available to call. Pressing this button (until the tracker vibrates) will initiate an emergency response by the emergency services and event staff. As Race Control will have little information about your emergency, it will be treated as urgent and serious by the event team. Pressing the SOS button leads to automatic disqualification for the team requiring aid.
Please note that although the GPS trackers record their location via GPS satellite signal, they only send out their location data via the phone network (the same network that is used to send text messages). As such, there are black spots in the competition area (typically valleys) where there is no network coverage. At these locations the tracker records its location, buffering the data, and then sends it out once it is back in network coverage. In these black spots it is not possible to send an SOS message but always worth trying.
The Golden Rule
Once registered, each team must download their SI data at the event centre before departing regardless if they are retired or not (or even not started). This is our check to account for everyone being safely off the hill.
If a team has not finished AND downloaded their SI data at the Event Centre by 1200 on the Sunday AND they have failed to contact the organisers on the Emergency Telephone Number (printed on the maps) then the Police and Mountain Rescue may be notified and a search organised. The competitors Next of Kin will be contacted at this point.
Participants who are unable to continue may retire at any point and should make their own way back to the Event Centre. There is no facility to collect retiring teams by vehicle.
GPS Competitor Tracking
For the 2020 Marmot Dark Mountains™ event we will again be using live GPS tracking. We are doing this to add significantly to the event safety and to engage with the friends and family of competitors. It will be exciting viewing! Each pair will be required to carry a GPS tracker.
Above: Team 61 (the green dot) have crossed into an Out of Bounds Area. Whether deliberate or accidental the GPS Tracking sees everything!
GPS Tracking: Follow the Race Live
The GPS trackers can be followed live at the time of the event (please see the homepage for the link)
For friends and family following the race please note that there are black spots where tracking data will be temporarily unavailable (see below), and a team's tracker may appear to be stationary. Please don’t worry if this happens as we will be monitoring the competitors’ progress around the course carefully.
GPS Tracking Public Information
Each team’s GPS track will be live in real-time during the event and will be publicly available to download as a GPX file after the event. It will also be possible to watch progress via a ‘live replay’ function on the event website. This means that any cheating (whether accidental or not), such as crossing an uncrossable boundary or passing through an out-of-bounds area will lead to almost certain disqualification from the event… even if that disqualification happens a few days afterwards.
The event will use digital SPORTident timing known as SI. At registration each competitor will be issued with their own SI Dibber, which must be ‘punched’ into the SI timing boxes at each checkpoint, the start, and the finish to record your time at these locations. For those unfamiliar with this simple and reliable system, see below and please don’t hesitate to ask for instructions at registration.
- You will know if your dibber has registered at any SI box as it will bleep and flash by way of feedback. If you are in any doubt that you have successfully ‘dibbed’ a box, please take a note of the three letter code on the box and keep this safe until you download incase required.
The SI system is an important safety feature of the event and when competitors ‘download’ their SI data at the end of each day, we will be able to ascertain who is safely off the hill.
All checkpoints (may also be referred to as ‘controls’) will be marked with a white and orange orienteering kite as shown in the picture above.
Punching at Checkpoints
Occasionally, we are placed in the awkward position of a participant arriving at the finish without having ‘punched’ all the checkpoints along the way. Sometimes their GPS Tracker shows them visiting the missing checkpoint or passing very close by (within the margin of error of the GPS tracking). Sometimes, the participant has simply forgotten to punch and sometimes the participant claims that their dibber or the SI Station is faulty. We are left to interpret the data and make a judgement on the honesty of the participant, which leaves us open to making potentially biased decisions based on personal relationships. As always, we want our events to be completely fair, transparent and delivered without any potential for favouritism. Therefore, we are changing the rules relating to Punching at Checkpoints so that they are stricter and have less room for interpretation by us and/or the participant. The new rules are:
- If the timing chip is lost, then the participant will be disqualified, and will be charged for a replacement.
- Participants must register their timing chips at every checkpoint. It is the participant’s responsibility to ensure that the chip registers (listen for the beep, watch for the flash!). If any checkpoints do not register, then the participant will be deemed not to have visited that checkpoint and be disqualified.
- Pairs must punch within 60 seconds of each other. We will assume that any failure to punch within 60 seconds of each other is because the pair have separated and therefore the pair will be disqualified.
What does this mean in practice? It means that if you (and/or partner) fail to register a punch at a checkpoint, lose or break your timing chip, you will be disqualified. The only exception will be if the SI Station itself is broken and then the participant must record the code on the box (having not witnessed a flash or beep from the box). A faulty SI Station will affect EVERYONE on the course and is almost unheard of.