As you might remember, Beth Pascall and Damian Hall attempted to set a new FKT for the Cape Wrath Trail last December. Summit Fever Media has just released the film on Vimeo and we watched it from under a nice warm blanket.
The Cape Wrath Trail is one of the most remote trails in the UK, going from Fort William to the Cape Wrath lighthouse, the most north-westerly point of Scotland. In between there isn’t much. Just a few villages and bothies, but you can literally go for days without seeing another soul. Sensible people walk it over a few weeks or run the Cape Wrath Ultra over 8 days. And generally in the Spring/Summer for a very good reason. The standing FKT was 7 days and 9 hours. Beth and Damian planned to do it in around 4. In December.
Even in good weather this trail isn’t easy. The word ‘trail’ probably conjures up images of a distinct path. In reality much of the trail is trackless and boggy. It’s hard to navigate and very slow-going. I did the Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018 and my tent mate coined the phrase ‘wrathed’ to describe the ruining of something, as in ‘my feet are completely wrathed’, or ‘I’ve totally wrathed my knee’. This tells you all you need to know about the terrain. It’s beautiful, but it will ‘wrath’ you.
The film starts with Beth and Damian outlining their expectations about the adventure and geeking out about lightweight kit. On the one hand it’s December and it might be nice to have lots of warm stuff; on the other hand you don’t want to haul loads of kit around. It’s a fine balance. Other challenges they will face include no phone reception should anything happen, a lack of daylight at that time of year, the distance between bothies, and the river crossings, of which there are many.
A huge amount of rain in the days before the attempt was due to start made those river crossings too dangerous, so they opted to delay by a day. That can’t have instilled confidence before they’d even begun. But they got off to a good start and spirits seemed high as they covered 80 miles in their first day and a half stretch before taking a short break at a bothy. However, by this point they had already realised that progress would be a lot slower than they thought as they had planned to get to that bothy much earlier.
At one point Beth says “That last 3k was the slowest, maybe of my whole life”. This kind of sums up what I liked about ‘Wrath’. Often these films are all positive and inspirational, whereas ‘Wrath’ really captures the misery that exists alongside the good times. As they get further into the challenge they’re cold, they’re exhausted, they’re in pain, they’re ‘wrathed’.
Along the way they question how much of it is actually fun. It’s a question we all ask ourselves on really long runs, but seldom voice because it might show us up as ‘not tough enough’. It’s refreshing to see that runners like Beth and Damian can feel like this too, but also see how they cope with it and keep each other going through the rough patches.
The terrain, while tough to cross, does make for some stunning footage as we see the mountains, glens, lochs and ultimately the sea. Damian says that he wanted to do this trail ‘to see if Britain still has some remote places’ and he certainly did that. Beth describes the last 15 miles as ‘running to the end of the world’.
If you like running films with stunning scenery which give an insight (with a big dash of realism) into what it takes to undertake a huge challenge, you’ll enjoy this film. You can see it on vimeo here. Watch the trailer:
If you like the sound of the Cape Wrath Trail we’ve got good news – the ultra will take place every year from 2021.