Some may consider the long winter nights a good reason to settle down by a nice warm fire, but for others it’s time to charge up a big head torch and head out into some of the wilder parts of Deeside for the Night Cup Orienteering League.
The league runs over 12 Wednesday evenings starting from mid November and ending in February, with the 2015 season reaching its climax last week at Scolty.
This year the races were held in terrain ranging from the heathery pine forests of Cambus o’ May and Dinnet Muir, through the more accessible forests around Banchory, to the sand dunes of Balmedie and Forvie north of Aberdeen.
The league is co-hosted by Deeside based Mar Orienteering Club and Aberdeen based Grampian Orienteers and each week there was a choice of a long or medium length course, but with both set at a high level of technical navigation ability.
Competitors’ best eight from 12 races counted towards their overall league positions in either the long Cup competition or the Mini Cup for the shorter courses.
A regular feature of the Night Cup in recent years has been that up and coming junior stars have had an opportunity to get one over their senior peers, including both coaches and parents.
This year was no exception - 17-year-old Jenny Ricketts set out her intentions early in the season, taking the overall wins on the long course at the first two races at Coull and Countesswells.
Fourteen-year old Joe Wright and 15-year old Jake Chapman also both won one of the races outright.
However, M50 veteran and coach Jon Musgrave wasn’t going to roll over without a fight and his four first, three second and one third places were enough to see him once again take the overall win for the sixth time in the last 10 years.
Jake Chapman finished the league in second place overall with Andrew McMurtrie in third and Jenny Ricketts the first lady in fourth place overall.
In the Mini Night Cup it was a similar battle for top spot between youth and veterans.
In the end, three wins out of the last four races gave 13-year-old Alistair Chapman a comfortable win ahead of veterans Rob Skinner and Nick Green. Helen Rowlands was the first lady.
The season ended with a celebratory curry and prize giving where lots of chocolate was awarded alongside the main trophies, in an attempt to handicap the top runners for next year.
Head torches have now been packed away for the season and day time techniques are being honed for the major orienteering races which will take place throughout the country over the next few months.