pt :: Individual

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Purple Thistle 05

The idea was simple: get people out on Arisaig, the highlight of the under-attended Lochaber 2001 six-day. Taking inspiration from the Canadian Barebones events with their philosophy of maximum orienteering, minimum hassle the Purple Thistle was born.

A hardcore of over 80 orienteers from all over Britain made the trip to the northwest for a weekend away from it all. Most camped in a small campsite at the foot of the area, while a few opted for the luxury of the Arisaig Hotel, a 10 minute walk away in the village.

In keeping with the minimalist philosophy only four courses were on offer: three adult courses ranging from 4-10km, and a 2km orange standard course with the opportunity to do it as a map walk guided by one of the organisers.

For the uninitiated Arisaig is a piece of super-technical high-lying rocky marshy hillside, on a good day offering stunning views across the sea to the Western Isles. Both days started about half way up the hill meaning there were still some significant climbs to be negotiated on the course, but also significant downhills as well: this was never more obvious than in the finish of the Big Thistle day one, which descended 325m in the last 2km, all within view of the finish.

Marcus Pinker lead the way on day 1, winning the 9.9km course in 74minutes, 4 minutes clear of Murray Strain. Marcus also picked up the Jester prize for the fastest split on the epic downhill section. Veteran Martin Dean managed to hold off Jon Musgrave who mapped the area to take third spot in 79 minutes. Hazel Dean was top female on the Big Thistle, while Helen Palmer was top girl on the Medium Thistle. Helen however was fourth on the course with Victor Tron, Steven Clelland and Graeme McIntyre taking the top three.
On the Small Thistle there was a female top 3, Cathy Tilbrook winning from Evelyn Ross and Joyce Brunton while on the Baby Thistle Ellen and Morven Dean were the winners.

After the first day the assembled masses descended on the Hotel for an impromptu prize giving and Live Mixed Music to dance the night away to, this was a very relaxed gathering allowing the generations to mingle, but as the night progressed and people drifted away something was happening the weather was breaking.

While Saturday wasnt exactly tropical the showers were few and the wind was light. However Sunday saw a relentless gale driving sheets of rain across the area. The descision was taken to allow the event to go ahead, but only since everyone there was experienced orienteers who would know their limits. Nevertheless there were some who crawled back into their tents and others for whom the walk to the start was plenty and so they picked up their map and walked back.

No one dared to go out on the Baby Thistle, but the Little Thistle title was taken by Doug Flint. Graeme McIntyre had problems with the first control taking three attempts to find it in the mist, a mistake which cost him dearly by allowing Steve Clelland to take the Medium Thistle title overall. On the Big Thistle Marcus was unstoppable, again winning by four minutes, this time from Martin Ward, giving him the overall title as well.

So the concept was well maintained: the whole individual event was organised by just two people, with only another four people helping out on the day. And the future? The rumours of locations fly around while everyone who attended, and many who didn't, appear to want more of the same. Time will tell as to how, where and when the Purple Thistle will grow once again - but be sure that it will as it is indeed a hardy species.

Results & Splits

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