These notes are for the guidance of all participants and they
contain essential safety advice.
Highland Cross is intended to be a really worthwhile personal
challenge that you can undertake safely.
We provide a “Safety Net” consisting of Medical and First Aid
resources, Water points, vehicles and a helicopter that is
designed to support you right across the route and to provide
reassurance that if something goes wrong for you aid will be on
hand as soon as possible. However the most important person in
the safety net is YOU. How you prepare for the Cross will
largely decide if you have a memorable or miserable experience.
When we have had incidents they have been centred on slips,
trips, dehydration, hypothermia, lack of fitness, carrying
injuries or illness into the event and problems on the bike
Slips and Trips
Slips and trips tend to be down to choice of footwear, not being
used to travelling over uneven ground at a fast pace and route
conditions. Flat-soled tarmac running shoes are not what you
need for the Cross, the route demands grip and a good supportive
fit. If in doubt take advice on the best type of footwear for
the tactics you intend to adopt. Get used to wearing them to
make sure that they will be comfortable for 20 miles and perhaps
the bike section as well. Make some of your training runs or
walks over rough tracks and practice picking your way across
On the day if you’re faced with difficult route conditions –
walk where you are not sure of your footing. Remember a dry
path can become a boggy stream with a little rain and the
passage of 1,584 feet can churn up the hardest of ground into a
gripping bog capable of pulling off any training shoe.
Each year we undertake a thorough review of how we organise the
event and we have once again benefitted from the guidance of the
Scottish Hill Runners committee (SHR) who have reviewed our
safety processes. They strongly recommend that every participant carry a minimum
of safety gear and we are repeating this advice to you all.
As a minimum Highland Cross Organisers expect every participant
to carry with them at all times during the event the following:
A whistle to summon help – 6 blasts of the whistle
repeated at one minute intervals.
A weather protective suit.
A small amount of high energy food.
The SHR guidance notes state:
“Adequate whole body cover to protect you against
hypothermia or heat exhaustion/dehydration in the severest conditions likely on the
“Hypothermia is dangerous. Competitors should be aware that if
circumstances cause a runner to stop or slow to a walking pace
then body heat is lost quickly. In cold, wet or windy weather
the onset of hypothermia can be very rapid unless sufficient
warm clothing is worn.”
In the interests of your own safety
we expect that all participants will carry this recommended
safety equipment on the day.
Hypothermia is not simply an illness of “cold” years. We had a
case on a “hot” year where the casualty had tried to take a
short cut through a stream, fallen in, got soaked and then ran
on into a strong, cooling easterly breeze. The combination
knocked down a very fit athlete. However, these incidents are
normally associated with windy drizzly days when competitors get
soaked and are out in the weather for a long time.
Even on a good weather day if you sprain an ankle and have to
sit and wait for the helicopter to lift you out, you will
quickly chill and a simple sprain becomes more serious. A shell
jacket can make a huge difference. If the weather is poor then
you will chill very quickly without one. Give serious
consideration to what you wear on the day. A cotton tee shirt
will offer no protection once it is soaked with sweat or rain.
Cotton is actually a very poor fabric for long-term events.
Consider using one of the modern sports fabrics that wick away
sweat and do not chill quite as badly as cotton when wet. Many
male participants end up in the medical centre at the changeover
being treated for bleeding nipples – and other parts – from the
rubbing of sweat encrusted cotton clothing on their delicate
tissues! On a sunny day sunburn can be a serious possibility.
The foot section is 20 miles of hard ground. Please ensure that
you know that you are fit enough to cover the distance in the
time that you have allotted to yourself. If you are a regular
runner, have you run over rough paths? It is a very different
experience from pavement running, ensure that you train over
similar ground to the Cross.
If you are a jogger and intend to start with the runners, are
you fit enough to complete the entire 50 mile course in the 7
hours from 11:00 to 18:00? Have you jogged for 20 miles over
rough terrain? How long will it take you? If you cannot
complete the course in 7 hours, why not enter as a walker – walk
the route and enjoy the experience. But do not jog if you have
entered as a walker! If you intend to walk the course then the
key factor will be getting used to walking over that distance
and keeping up a good pace over very mixed ground.
Fitness also includes having the energy to complete the course.
Many people simply “burn out” having completely emptied their
Fuel and Drink
Every individual has different needs in this respect – we will
provide water and Isostar rehydration fluid along the route. Use
these as YOU know your body needs.
Sensible eating and hydration in the days before the event, at
breakfast and during the day should see you across the route.
Know what your body needs through training and carry this
knowledge into your plan on the day. Sending some easily
digested food as fuel to the changeover with your bike may make
a difference between finishing and fading on the bike section.
Many of the walking participants carry a normal summer day sac
with a “piece and a flask” which is very sensible.
We have had a number of incidents where cyclists simply fall off
their bikes or cycle off the road in the area after Fasnakyle
Brae. Having spoken to a few of the folk concerned they
characterise their incident as one of two experiences:
Cramp - through not having hydrated properly – understand your
own hydration needs and take on fluids appropriately. Having
cataclysmic cramp whilst descending Fasnakyle Brae at speed
could have catastrophic results.
Having run out of energy, lost concentration and then lost
control. In one case a participant was seen to simply stop
pedalling, balance for a moment and fall over onto the road. The
folk we have spoken to believed that they were hydrating well on
the way across but perhaps they had not eaten enough.
think about what you are going to eat – energy gels etc give a
quick boost but for the long haul your body may need something
more substantial with more complex carbohydrates. Bananas,
cheese sandwiches, heavy duty cereal bars all seem to feature on
the menu in the Quarry! Know the fuel that YOU will need and
take it with you or send it to the Quarry in your change-over
The Cycle Section
- Your bicycle
Please ensure that you have a fully functioning cycle and have
the spares and tools that YOU can use to make necessary repairs
or to deal with a puncture at any point on the cycle section.
The Cycle Route
- Fasnakyle Brae
The first section includes descending Fasnakyle Brae. This is a
steep, rough, single-track public road with very big drops into
a gorge alongside it in places. It must be treated with
respect. Do not simply put your head down and hammer downhill
as fast as you can. Police observers have been appalled at the
speeds and evident lack of control of some participants at the
final bends before Fasnakyle junction. Over the years a number
of people have lost control at various points and injured
themselves and or damaged their bikes. It is vital that you
keep your speed to one at which you can maintain control at all
We arrange for a road closure order to prevent ordinary
motorists driving on Fasnakyle Brae between 11:00 and 17:00.
Please advise any friends, supporters etc on this necessary
However, as there is not a practical alternative, event
transport and medical teams have to use the Brae. All bag vans
and evacuation vehicles will be descending with you at various
times but if we have an accident on the Brae then a medical team
or marshal may have to ascend the Brae whilst you are on it to
get to the casualty. Therefore you must descend the Brae as
though two-way traffic is in operation in the interests of your
Public Roads –
Fasnakyle to Beauly
Once you are on the public road beyond Fasnakyle junction the
road is open to public traffic. You have no special rights on
the road, the Highway Code applies and you must cycle with due
At watering stations pull in and stop to take drinks – do not
expect helpers to run alongside you. It creates additional
hazards to both parties.
The Police have strongly advised against support vehicles acting
as “shields” behind cyclists. In their experience this causes
additional hazards. Please do not encourage family or friends to
drive along Strathglass to support you – it only adds to the
volume of traffic and therefore the risk of accidents.
The event Sweep Van will slowly proceed down Strathglass a safe
distance behind the last participant. If competitors need to be
picked up they will be collected from the side of the road but
it is better to wait at a Watering Station for collection. If
you have a bike failure or want to withdraw before the sweep
reaches you there will be motorcycle marshals on the route who
will arrange a pick up by one of our Support Vans as soon as
operations allow. None of the marshals or sweep vehicles will
have the tools or skills to make bike repairs, which are your
responsibility. On the final approach to Beauly do not let your enthusiasm get
the better of you. Be very aware of the traffic and take all
directions from Police officers or event marshals.
Highland Cross has the potential to be a life changing challenge
– prepare for it and you will enjoy it!