I said in the previous post that I knew the circular part of the Tour de Helvellyn route. Whilst that is more or less true, I had never put it all together in one run.
I opted to park, and therefore begin my run, at the junction where the St Johns Vale road meets the A591. There is lots of free parking there and I also figured that if it was an utterly wet cold miserable run, I could get a hot drink in Glenridding prior to the final push over Sticks Pass.
Unlike last week when I was keen to get some photos along the way, this week was all about the route so I didn't take any camera with me at all (hence no photos with this post). The forecast was for rain anyway so I didn't expect I would have got much opportunity to take it out of the drybag if I had (taken it).
From my parking spot I simply had to go up Stanah Lane and was soon at the footbridge that is checkpoint 4. I jogged along South and soon found myself above Swirls carpark. To my left was one of my favourite routes, up past Browncove Crags to Helvellyn. However, today I had to drop down into the carpark and almost out to the main road before finding the path on my left leading out through the woods. I followed the route through the woods all the way to the next CP. All the way I spotted signs that say 'permissive route', so I'm not too sure whats meant on the official route description by and not use the forest road. As far as I could tell, the forest road WAS/IS the permitted route, I could see no other means of travelling South through the woods either on the map or on the land. I shall endeavour to seek clarification.
At the end of the woods I stopped a while and wondered best how to negotiate my way to Raise Beck, which I knew had a footpath running up the valley alongside it. One option was simply to carry on S until I met the beck then head up it. I decided instead to cut off the corner by making a beeline for Reggle Knotts which is a rocky outcrop on the skyline. As I neared the outcrop I decided to go below it then keep roughly even height until I naturally met the beck. This possibly wasn't the best option as the valley side was littered with rock fields. Given the chance again I might actually go above Reggle Knotts to avoid those pesky boulders and steep sides. Then again, if the weather is dire on the race day I might just follow the right angle and get into the shelter of the beck/valley ASAP.
Never having reached Grisedale Tarn from this direction before, it all looked a bit unfamiliar initially. But then I spotted a dirty brown streak on my lefthandside.... The BG route down off Dollywagon. At the tarn itself I decided to run around the Helvellyn side. The Fairfield side seems just a little further and includes a few metres of climbing (but is almost certainly dryer underfoot).
Once I was on my way down Grisedale Valley I put the map away as I knew exactly where I was going. Or so I thought....
I would normally always be going back to Glenridding and therefore keeping the river on my right. But going to Patterdale I needed to cross to the RHS. Looking at the map later I noted I should have beared R just below the Ruthwaite Lodge Climbers Hut. I crossed further down but it was a minute or so lost. They all add up. After a while the tracks turn to roads and the A592 is reached
On the event day I would be turning Right to Patterdale, but today I still had the significant climb of Sticks pass to tackle. It also began raining at this point so I stopped and put on wet gear and had a snack. Looking back up the valley I had come from things had changed for the worst. Previously I had been glancing back at the splendour of the sheer valley sides. Somewhere up in the murk St Sunday crag and Striding Edge had been vague but discernible. Now....Nothing. 50 metres was the limit of visibility. The great Pyramids of Giza could have been 100m away and I would have missed them.
Through Glenridding I turned left at the first junction as I knew that running up alongside the river and campsite would be 'nicer' than up the road past the houses and pub. This does include a little backtracking though, and on the day I will cut through the carpark and clinic to directly gain the Greenside road all the way to the YHA.
Just above the village we encountered a couple of dozen sheep coming towards us on a narrow road. They were fearful of Scamp but all passed by without incident. Then followed the farmer on a quad bike. He had 3 sheepdogs with him who all looked at Scamp as they ran past. If dogs could talk I reckon they all would have said
"how come you get Saturdays off work?"
"if you are having a day off why the fuck are you spending it still running up hills?'
When I reached the buildings at the top of Greenside I noted a couple of MRT chaps set off apace with huge packs. As I turned up onto Sticks Pass and quickly gained height I saw them on the main path below. I also spotted two different helicopters in the gap between Catstye Cam and Birkhouse Moor. I guessed someone must have ran into trouble on Swirral or Striding Edge and the copters were trying to evacuate them from the flattish area in front of Red Tarn. Indeed I read later that a man fell 100ft from Swirral Edge. Easily done.
Prior to setting off from the van I had made some rough guesstimates on how long this route would take to complete. I reckoned it was between 15 and 20 miles and would take between 3 and 4 hours. As I started to climb up Sticks Pass I'd been going for 3 hours. I wondered if I might get to the summit of the pass in 40 minutes and down to St Johns Vale in 20? Almost perfect estimating. 38 minutes and about 15.
So how long to complete the TdeH? Well, at 38 miles its about 10 less than the L50 was this year (remember it was a bit short due to error in the 4 mile field section). That 48miles took me 8 hours 30 mins. The terrain is similar, so on a good weather day (ie no ice or howling winds) I reckon just inside 8 hours. However, in midwinter we should expect poor weather conditions and I reckon it could easily take 10 hours if there is a lot of ice or if the winds are strong and sap energy.
Whatever. After 2 years of wanting to do it but thinking it was too close to Christmas and I should really be putting up the tree or shopping or wrapping presents, I cant wait to do it.... and know I know the way..... bring it on