Sunday, 30 June 2013

An alternative 3 (and a bit) Peaks of Yorkshire

A fabulous run yesterday with H and H, trotting from Ingleton in a jaggedy loop over Gragareth, Great Coum, Whernside, Park Fell, Simon Fell and Ingleborough before dropping back down to Ingleton to finish. We were travelling at Lakeland 50 (Hester) and my (extremely hopeful) Lakeland 100 pace..... so just we were poodling really but what a tremendous route:

Ze route

According to movescount it was 27.68 miles with 5,843 feet of climb

We didn't the best of starts though, falling out with the Ingleton Waterfall Trail warden above Beezley Falls. Over the years I must have paid to wander round this trail a dozen times or more with my kids etc (and its not cheap either) but, for a direct running route to Whernside or Kingsdale, I've always run up what is the east side of the walk without even considering that I'm using the walk (or looking at the waterfalls) and locals in the know can walk up and down this River Doe side of the walk without paying anything anyway. This time though the mini Hitler warden at the Fall Refreshment Centre (aka checkpoint charlie) stopped us and demanded that we pay - obviously we had no money so paying wasn't an option nor did I think fair and, after initially trying to be reasonable to a chap who was coming across like a fully paid up member of the Gestapo, I told the warden that we couldn't pay "so sue me" and he, in turn, told me never to come back again! I will either do my runs around Kingsdale from the Dent end in the future, start early (before the warden's awake) or just not bother with Ingleton at all, which would of course be to the detriment of other local businesses like Bernie's cafe and one or two pubs. Bureaucracy gone mad!

Anyway the rest of the run was truly brilliant ☺

Harry on Harry Island

What a profile!

Hes and Haz descending from Great Coum

Cotton Grass everywhere

Me and furry breeches doing our Page 3 pose

Hester gets a muddy leg!!

H and H coming up Park fell

Park Fell trig point

Heading for Ingleborough

Looking from the top of Ingleborough towards Ingleton

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bob Graham Round - attempt #4

So its Saturday morning at just before 9 am and me and Gavin are ready to attack the Bob Graham Round together for a second time, having had a go and failed together this time last year. Last year's attempt had largely failed because we hit extraordinarily bad weather in the night time section which slowed us down badly, made navigation extremely difficult and froze us solid so much so that we had to bail out before hypothermia set in. Interestingly (or perhaps not interestingly) I also had two other attempts at the BGR last year, both of which were also hobbled by bad weather (and to be fair some bad navigation.... and some bad food eating..... and some poor tapering before hand). So bad weather and poor results at attempting Bob Graham Rounds seem to have a very close correlation to each other.

Therefore the fact that it was already lashing down with rain and that we were all wearing full waterproofs didn't bode well. Nor did the weather forecast which was predicting rain showers until late afternoon, when a rain deluge to last a 'few' hours was predicted to set in. What exactly does a 'few' mean? Added to that very high winds and significant hill fog were forecast all day, especially above 700 meters (the height above which we would of course be spending most of our time).

That said what's the Lake District without a bit of wet weather? Its the wettest region in England (by a country mile) with Seathwaite in Borrowdale being the wettest habited place in England with average annual rainfall of 3,300 mm. Sprinkle Tarn just below Great End (one of our Bob Graham peaks) is the wettest location with 5,000 mm per annum of rain on average - for comparison Manchester, which is supposed to be wet, has around 800 mm a year and the southern softies in London a mere 600 mm! Apparently the peaks in the Lakes suffer gale force winds 100 days of the year too with hill fog being extremely common. Taken all together its not like our weather forecast was anything unusual so whats to worry about........

Gav, me and Hester, who was riding shotgun as our leg 1 support runner, already wet and ready to go

The final needle in the haystack unfortunately was Andrew who had turned up with Stef to wish us good luck but, instead of giving us a rip roaring 'go get 'em' send off, the look of doom and gloom on Andy's face was more akin to Private Fraser from Dad's Army.....

Andrew's pre-match motivational speech

Anyway we were fully prepared and ready to rock n'roll regardless. All we needed to do was run/trog something like 65 miles over 42 peaks of the Lake District in less than 24 hours in less than desirable weather without getting lost, falling off a mountain and/or freezing to death and Bob was our uncle. Bring it on!

As we were running the Bob Graham route anti-clockwise (supposedly harder and for sure very few runners seem brave enough to try it this way round) our first leg was to Honister Slate Mine via five or so miles of country lanes and another five miles over the peaks of Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale Head. That leg, despite one pretty heavy down pour, was a doddle and we got to Honister 10 minutes ahead of our schedule.

At Honister we had Gavin's parents on hand as road support. We grubbed up, changed one or two tops and swapped Hester for Karl who was supporting on the next leg, an 11 mile toughish rocky clamber over Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable, Kirk Fell, Pillar, Steeple, Red Pike and Yewbarrow with us then hopefully ending up in Wasdale for our next pit stop. This leg too went well with little or no rain falling although we did have lots of hill fog and really strong, buffeting winds. We were cooking on gas and circa 20 minutes up on our schedule (targeting a 23 hour finish overall) at Wasdale.

By now it was about 4 pm and the bad weather was supposedly due but the weather remained surprisingly dry as we climbed almost to the top of Scafell, our first peak of the next leg..... when we were suddenly surrounded by dark clouds, the skies opened and the forecast deluge began..... and didn't noticeably stop for the next twelve hours!!! So a 'few' equals 12 in case you were wondering. 

Before long we resembled a group of drowned skunks. I say we - me and Gav had swapped out Karl and now had Roy, Dale and Adnan as our support team with Dale expertly on the navigation. This leg is the toughest and certainly the longest (16 or so miles) and crosses the boulder strewn peaks of Scafell, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End, Esk Pike and Bowfell before dropping down to Rossett Pike and then passing through the Langdales via Pike O'Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Thunacar Knott, High Raise, Sergeant Man, Calf Crag and Steel Fell and finally dropping down to the road at Dunmail.

We also had welcome drinks and biscuits from Mark and his beautiful collie Basil on top of Scafell and had a further team of Stuart and Brett trying to set a rope onto Broad Stand, a notoriously slippy in wet weather short cut down a cliff face with an off puttingly shear drop to one side. Needless to say the weather was far too dangerous for this short cut to be a sensible option and we took a longer but much safer line to Scafell Pike via Foxes Tarn. Thanks though to Stuart and Brett for risking life and limb and giving it a go.

The weather now was extremely miserable with the rain literally hammering down on us and making all the rocks and boulders we had to clamber over especially treacherous. Never the less we remained ahead of our schedule right across the Scafell range but were all getting chilled to the bone by the time we got to Rossett Pike. From there to Dunmail it became much slower going with the rain lashing and the ground extremely wet and swampy with what are normally tricklely little becks becoming white water rafting torrents.

By the time we reached Dunmail we were behind schedule by 20 minutes and were very cold and wet. I gratefully gulped down some soup and bread that Hester thrust at me, completely changed into a full set of warm togs and off we went again. We swapped Dale out and got in return Kev and a group of four of his friends, with Roy and Adnan staying along for the ride. So a crew of nine of us set off up Seat Sandel and our head torches soon disappeared from view to the road crew below of Hester, Hilary, Gordon and Adrienne..... into the dark and wet and wind and fog. 

This leg starts with three back to back climbs of Seat Sandel, Fairfield and Dollywaggon before following the Helvellyn range north over Nethermost Pike, Helvellyn, Lower Man, Whiteside, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watson's Dodd, Great Dodd and Clough Head and finally descending to Threlkeld after about 14 miles. It was here that our wheels fell off last year........... and it was here again that our wheels fell off this year. The whole ridge was terribly exposed to the wind and rain with very poor visibility in the thick hill fog and, despite our best efforts, we just kept on losing time. Never the less we battled on to Threlkeld but, by the time we got there, we were all pretty cold and bedraggled (I was frozen) and we'd run out of reasonable time to make an attempt on the last 13 mile leg, the peaks of Blencathra, Great Calva and Skiddaw, worthwhile. Dabnabbit!

All the same what an epic twenty and a half hour or so adventure in the hills! Hester was truly magnificent throughout and I was so pleased to see her at each pit stop. At the end she was busy wrapping me in towels and getting me dry clothes and stuffing me in the car to get warm. And getting me cups of tea and soup. And generally making a right mess of my car (joke in brackets). Oh and thanks for the as yet unidentified support runner on that last leg who put a full custard carton with the lid off in my rucksack..... I'll track you down never fear ;)

Next up The Lakeland 100!!!

Hester climbing Robinson on leg 1

View from Dale Head - leg 1

Gav and Karl descending the scree gully from Kirk Fell - leg 2

Dropping off of Yewbarrow into Wasdale - leg 2

Dale and Gav going up Scafell - leg 3

The weather closing in.... and my last photo - leg 3

Mine and Hester's tipi at the finish. Luxury...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bolton Bridge to the Strid Bridge and back

I'm in BG tapering mode now so, for Saturday's run, me and Harry had a nice chilled out trot out from the tea rooms at Bolton Bridge following the Wharfe past Bolton Abbey and through Strid Woods and back. Lovely ☺

Bolton Abbey and stepping stones (which we crossed on our return leg)


The Strid

Ferny rainbows

Wild Garlic as far as the eye can see

The Wharfe

Ze route

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Inov8 Mudclaw 265's - 200 Mile Review

Well nearer 225 miles actually. 

First off the 265's are about as comfortable a fell shoe as I've ever worn and I was able to wear them straight out of the box for the first time from the first day of my, Hes and Haz's 140 mile trek of the north Cornish coastal path with absolutely no trouble at all. The coastal path was largely rock, rubble and sand and since then, what with all the dry weather n'all, I've been wearing them a lot in the lakes running on rock, rubble, slate, gravel and dust. In fact I'm not sure that I've actually run with them in mud at all yet!

That does mean though that they've taken a bit of an unfair battering - in comparison the first 200 miles of my Mudclaw 300's was pretty much all in mud, snow or mud and snow - but I think they've come through so far in pretty good shape. There's a bit of wear on the studs but, because the soles are a softer material to the 300's (almost rubber rather than hard plastic), that's probably to be expected and the paint job on the uppers has a few scars and scratches too. All the same they're doing a great job so far and I love them to bits.

Not very muddy

But still grippy

The rubber stubby bit at the front might need a touch of super glue soon

Monday, 10 June 2013

Full on Lakeland weekend with Hazzer - Sunday

After all the mileage on Saturday, me and Haz woke up Sunday morning at Castlerigg campsite feeling a bit leg achey (to say the least). All the same we were determined to make the best of the weekend so we drove down to Coniston to run a fabulous loop of Wetherlam, Swirl How and The Old Man of Coniston.

Although the climb up Wetherlam went 'on a bit' and the climb up Swirl How was a 'kind of' steepish, it was plain sailing after that with a lovely ridgeline to run to the Old Man followed by a fabulous, albeit a bit jelly leggy, descent back down to our starting point in Coniston. This we swiftly followed with a swim in the lake and followed that with what might possibly be the best burger I've ever eaten at the Swallows and Amazons tea room.

In the end it was a as near as damn it 29 miles and 12,000 ft of climb weekend and 53 miles and over 16,000 ft of climb for the week as a whole. Let the pre-Bob Graham relaxing commence....

On the way up Wetherlam with Coniston Water beyond

The Old Man hidden by cloud

the cairn at the top of Wetherlam

Me and the boy at the summit of Swirl How

A Herdie

Looking towards the summit of TOMOC

Far left Swirl How with Wetherlam to the right

Harry looking to do a length of Coniston Water

A pretty damn good burger

Our loop

Full on Lakeland Weekend with Hazzer - Saturday

Well with mine and Gav's Bob Graham Round attempt now just 2 weeks away, this weekend was my last big blow out in the hills, so as to then leave me with 'some sensible time' to get my legs back into tip top Bob Graham condition. Hester was busy with customers visiting her printmaking studio all weekend - open studios - so I only had the one trusty sidekick (Harry) to join me.

For Saturday we had a big day before us, helping Stef French get round the 4th leg of her own Bob Graham Round. She would have already have trogged around the first 3 legs, at a guess something like 42 miles and circa 18,000 ft of ascent in the can, before me, Harry, Dave and Martyn joined Geoff (who was running support for legs 3 and 4) to support her to get from Wasdale to Honister.

First off though me and the boy had to get from Honister, where we were leaving the car, to Wasdale and our first mission of the day was to trot over there via Moses Trod. It was a really warm day and we carried out 2.5 litres of water to stash at Beck Head (the col between Kirk Fell and Great Gable), something we were all especially grateful for later on.

We got to Wasdale with plenty of time to spare so, as a second mission, me and Harry then "zipped" half way up Scafell and back following mine and Gav's planned route up there in 2 weeks time. It was fantastic to actually be able to see Scafell for a change as its been hidden by hill fog and rain the last few times I've been that way!

Then, when Stef arrived nicely on schedule, we just had to get back to Honister...... via Yewbarrow, Red Pike, Steeple, Pillar, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts!! A fantastic outing ensued and we delivered Stef to Honister leaving her with a good amount of breathing space to finish off her round (just 3 more peaks) within the 24 hours allowed. Brilliantly she made it, arriving at Keswick Moot Hall 23 hours and 35 minutes after she'd started.

Mine and Harry's route for the day
Looking towards Buttermere on our way to Honister

Wasdale ahoy!

Wasdale again from half way up Scafell

Harry just before we went down the scree descent back to Wasdale

Cooling off

Leaving Wasdale again, this time with Stef and the support crew

Wasdale Head below

Stef reaching the top of Yewbarrow

Leaving Yewbarrow behind with Scafell Pike and Scafell on the horizon beyond

Our ridge line route before us

Martyn leading the way

Harry marshalling the troops

I suspect Stef was well and truly fed up with touching peak cairns by this point

A glorious evening

Geoff, the small dot, coming up Green Gable

Stef triumphant