Sunday, 29 June 2014

Le Tour de Mallerstang

Never mind next weekend's Tour de France (de Yorkshire), yesterday me and the boy travelled to the Mallerstang valley between Hawes and Kirkby Stephen for a bit of new mountain exploring, a full tour of the Mallerstang skyline in fact...... Le Tour de Mallerstang. I've driven through Mallerstang loads of times and always, always Wild Boar Fell has looked magnificent, towering over you as you drive through. Its an imposing sight and made all the better by a handful of pepperpot like cairns that are dotted along the top, almost like little standing stones staring down at you. And every time I've driven past I've vowed that I have to flipping run up there. 

That said running up and down one mountain can be a bit boring especially going up and down the same way and, with a bit on on-line research and map looking at-ing, me and Haz figured out a rough circular route of the whole valley - we planned to park at Aisgill Moor Cottages and then run Swarth Fell Pike, Wild Boar Fell and Little Fell in a northward line on the west side of the valley, drop down to Pendragon Castle (hopefully finding a path that went that way) and then hack a line straight up the open fell side to High Seat (the Yorkshire Dales High Seat that is, not to be confused with the shorter High Seat in the Lake District) on the eastern side and run the ridge back south via Gregory Chapel (or, as in the know hill walkers call it, Archy Styrigg). We had an added option of also visiting Hugh Seat on the way back but, by the time we'd reached the turn off for Hugh Seat, my knacked achilles was aching a bit and we decided on taking the straight line back. Perhaps we'll add Hugh Seat on next time?

As things turned out it was a cracking route, clocking in at a smudge over 13 miles with 3,199 feet of climb. We found an excellent path down to Pendragon Castle too but, as we very much expected, our route up High Seat was all over open fell side and included one pretty hairy (especially with Harry needing assistance) climb up a dried up waterfall. Anyway we survived and made it round okay. 

Another humdinger then!

Our route profile...... in orange

Wild Boar Fell with the car left all on its lonesome at Aisgill Moor Cottages

Less than half a mile in and Harry thought rolling in fox poo was a fun thing to do

Wild Boar Fell viewed from the climb up Swarth Fell Pike with High Seat and Archy Styrigg far right

Wild Boar Fell ahoy!

The foxy smelling man dog Harry at the cairns on Wild Boar - note his 'stained' mane

Dropping down towards Pendragon

Pendragon Castle with Wild Boar Fell behind poking through the gap 

Leaving Pendragon behind

Climbing up this dry waterfall looked like it should have been easy.......

Where's Wally?

The 'understated' cairn on High Seat with Great Shunner Fell on the horizon

Harry at the top of Archy Styrigg

Harry the nonch mountain dog posing

Harry on Mallerstang Edge

Looking north from Mallerstang Edge

Harry still feeling smug about the fox poo rolling

Harry feeling less smug about the fox poo rolling when we got home

Ze route

Monday, 23 June 2014

Wetherlam, Swirl How, The Old Man of Coniston and Dow Crag from Coniston

On Sunday we (that's me and the H's) went for a day trip to the Lakes, commencing with a brilliant 11 mile run from Coniston up Wetherlam, then along the ridge and up Swirl How, along the tops from there to The Old Man of Coniston before swerving sharp right and looping over Dow Crag and finally returning to Coniston following the Walna Scar Road. I took it nice and steady with my dodgy achilles but my achilles of doom held up pretty well all things considered. 

After that it was a well deserved swimming (and bombing) session off of the jetty at the top of the lake and then we all had a pot of tea and sarnies (Harry had a hotdog) in the Bluebird Cafe at the Coniston Launch. 

All in all the perfect Lakeland day out.

Ze route

Hester powering up Wetherlam

Harry cooling off

The top cairn on Wetherlam

Looking east from the top of Wetherlam

Windermere in the distance

Hester at the summit of Swirl How

Now at the top of The Old Man of Coniston

Top of Dow Crag

Goat's Water and The Old Man from Dow Crag

Cuddles time

Looking towards Brown Pike

Harry in 'ears alert' mode

Where's Wally?

'Plop' down

Splash down

Lining up a bomb


The Gill Garth Gallop and my achilles of doooooooom

Last Wednesday night me and Hester drove 5 minutes up the road to Gill Garth farm near Selside to run a brand spanking new fell race, the Gill Garth Gallop. The farmer there approached Settle Harriers specifically to get this race up and running as a fund raiser for the local primary school in Horton and last week, on a stunning evening, about 50 fell runners turned up for the inaugural running of it. And what a route - up through a couple of meadows, over the two stiles at Allum Pot, a mile or two running parallel to the hills before a crunching climb up Park Fell, another testingly runnable climb onto Simon Fell and then a plummet down from there and a whiz back to Gill Garth for hot dogs, cake and tea/beer. A cracker and a half of a race

Hester ran a blinder, coming home as second lady, and I did okay too but not without twanging my left achilles and having to run the last mile or so from the foot of Simon Fell in a fair amount of agony. I was limping badly once I'd finished and, come Thursday, my limping was nothing short of pathetic - at that point I was fully expecting that amputation of my left foot was the only option and, in fact, it was so bad that I couldn't run at all that day and had no option but to break my running streak, which up until that point had been a run every day since 11th August 2011 (ffs!) 

Anyway come Friday my foot miraculously felt a bit better and I was able to go for a two mile river run of sorts with Hester (new running streak, day 1 ☺︎) and, by Saturday, I was fairly ambling along and was able to do a six miler over Moughton from home. That said, Moughton is so rocky on top that I had to take it very steady up there but, anyway, my ankle was on the mend and I was back running. I have absolutely no idea what I did to my achilles - its occasionally been swollen and tender on and off for a fair few months but on Wednesday I really thought that I may have torn (or even ruptured) it. But no, after a few iced pea sessions, it was pretty much sorted and good to go again.

Touch wood.................

Runners warming up before the Gill Garth Gallop on Wednesday evening

And we're off

The Park Fell climb

Gill Garth a speck below with Pen y Ghent beyond - viewed from the cairn on Simon Fell

Ze race route

Friday's river run

Hazzer river running

Saturday's trot up Moughton - Harry and Hester had gone on a 'proper' run up Pen y Ghent together instead

Moughton - an ideal place to be running with a dodgy ankle

A big sky over Ingleborough

Somewhere over there are Haz and Hes

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Dales Skyline

So on Saturday it was another epic outing in the hills for me, Harry, Hester and Gavin, this time following a humdinger of a route called the Dales Skyline. And with a total distance of 35 miles, ten peaks and 9,600 feet of ascent, it sure was an epic outing too, made especially so by the warm, sultry (aka sweaty as flip) weather. This fantastic route by the way was ‘invented’ by Duncan Elliot of Bowland Fellrunners three or four years ago and, as viewed from his home turf of Bowland, we were running pretty much the viewable skyline of the Yorkshire Dales. The start is in Barbon to the west, near Kirkby Lonsdale, with the route then hacking over all the main peaks in a wiggly line between there and Settle to the east: Calf Top, Crag Hill, Green Hill, Whernside, Ingleborough, Pen y Ghent, Fountain’s Fell, Malham Moor, Rye Loaf Hill and Warrendale Knotts. A description of the route can be found on the Gofar web site as can Duncan’s original write up of his inaugural running of the route.

So armed with a trusty Harvey's map of the South West Dales, we left Hester's and Gav's cars in Settle for the finish, then drove over to Barbon for the start in mine and off we jolly well went. The first two hills, Calf Top and Crag Hill, were new to me and, having got to the top of Calf Top after about 3.5 miles, we then had to descend a near vertical 1,200 ft slope down to the Kirkby Lonsdale to Sedburgh road before hacking through about 1.5 miles of grassy tussocky moorland from there to reach the top of Crag Hill. Crag Hill has a trig point and was presumably chosen as a top by Duncan because of that - in fact Great Coum (which we then proceeded to go over anyway) is actually a bit higher but doesn’t count as a peak on the Dales Skyline – Duncan’s route so Duncan’s rules ☺︎. We then ran round the top and along the ridge to the top of Green Hill which (interesting fact of the year alert) is the highest peak in Lancashire – Barbon, Crag Hill and Great Coum are all in Cumbria but Lancashire, for some weird reason, sends a spur of county line north which encompasses a thin triangle of the Dales including the peak of Gragareth (about one meter shorter than Green Hill and a couple of miles to the south) and just about squeezes in Green Hill too. Fortunately, after the uninvited interloping of Cumbria and Lancashire into the Yorkshire Dales, the route was all genuine North Yorkshire from this point on.

From Green Hill we descended into Kingsdale, one of my very favourite (and very unspoilt) Yorkshire Dales, before climbing Whernside and joining the 3 Peaks jamboree that was kicking off up there. The 3 Peaks charity walkers were out in spades on Whernside and, for a while on our descent to Hill Inn, the route was busy, busy, busy. We were then each able to drain (in great big thirsty gallops) pints of orange squash and greedily consume slabs of cake (and get a sausage for Harry) at the 3 peakeroo's farm shop just before Hill Inn (at £1 a pint business was booming) before commencing our assault on Ingleborough. Thankfully we'd now left the ‘pelaton’ of the 3 peak crowds behind and Ingleborough was a relatively civilised jaunt up and trot down to Horton. The 3 Peaks cafe in Horton too was another handy pit stop for even more drinks and cider lollies all round. At this point, when we had about 20 miles in the tank, we very much expected Harry to want to toodle home (just round the corner) but he was not inclined to do that at all and was maybe the most enthusiastic member of the whole team, scampering about and chasing stones, as the rest of us sweatily trudged up Pen y Ghent.

After Pen y Ghent, rather than follow the traditional line of the Pennine Way to Fountain’s Fell via Dale Head, we took a more direct route down...... and more flipping tussocks and bog hopping ensued. From there though Fountain’s Fell was a relatively easy climb, as was the running along the top of the ridge to the summit cairn and the line down from there to the trig point, our 8th peak, at Malham Moor. 

Rye Loaf Hill was next up and yet again we took a direct line through the tussocks to get to it and, after what seemed like an age of trudging (yes we were definitely trudging by this point) we eventually summitted Rye Loaf Hill, thank the lord. Now with Warrendale Knotts, our final peak, firmly in view with a glimpse of Settle beyond, the end was now in sight. We ran to Attermire scar and zipped up to the trig on Warrendale Knotts before racing down to Settle for the finish. 11 hours 45 start to finish so, yep, a long day out in the hills. What a cracking day out though.....

Ze Route

Not a bad route profile then with the 3 Peaks of Yorkshire sandwiched between 7 others

Hester leaving Barbon behind

Our 'line' to Crag Hill viewed from the top of Calf Top

Looking back at Calf Top with our almost vertical descent down from it plain to see - also Gav, Hes and Haz
if you look closely

Green Hill cairn - the high point of the whole of Lancashire!!

Crows on the way up Whernside

Haz and Hes chilling at the top of Whernside with Gav powering on

Ingleborough ahoy!

The Three Musketeers and Dogtagnan on top of Ingleborough

Horton-in-Ribblesdale coming up with Pen y Ghent next

Cider lollies at the Horton Cafe

The team grind their way up Pen y Ghent

No I didn't carry Harry all the way round!

Descending Pen y Ghent en route for Fountain's Fell

Harry's not particularly skilled at fence jumping

Looking back towards Pen y Ghent

H1 and H2 on top of Fountain's Fell with Pen y Ghent (centre), Ingleborough (left) and Whernside (far middle right)
all in view behind

Fountain's Fell cairn

The Malham Moor trig point with Pen y Ghent now being left further behind

Buttercup sheep

By gum it was a trog and a half getting to Rye Loaf Hill

Harry and Hester at the very final trig on top of Warrendale Knotts