As a youngster, I would get home from School, get changed and go out to play with my pals.
Now I'm older, I get home from work, get changed and go out to play with my pals, but now I call it training.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just a normal bank holiday weekend really

The  Four Lakeland 3000ft peaks was for many years on the calendar as an organised long walk. Some runners would do it too. When Lords Rake became unstable it was no longer advisable to 'send' people up (or down) it in an official event. One day the rock will fall and anybody in the Rake when that happens will be dead - no question.

Scamp at Lords Rake 31/07/2012

I heard about the event a couple of years ago from George Nicholson who had completed it back in the day. I knew that summiting all four was something I would like to do in one day and drew up a vague plan to cycle between them. This, (along with my Bog Graham round over 2 days recce) never materialised and was all but forgotten about until last year when Penrith Stu started talking about it again. We were all but ready to go when Stus injury woes forced another abandonment.

So this year I was again thinking about doing it by cycling inbetween. Stu was keen to try and so was Ian Charters, but when Stu conceded he would not be able to do the fells it was back to just me and Ian. I knew that if I used a bike I would always want to  return and do it all on foot so we decided to it 'go for it' and complete the classic running/walking route of approx 45 miles. 

The main difference between doing it all on foot compared to using a bike/car is that from the  parking place at Seathwaite in Borrowdale, you do the Scafells then return to your transport to use the roads back via Keswick then to the Thirlmere area. Whereas by foot  you instead come off the Scafells to the East and continue across the fells until you reach the A591 (Keswick to Ambleside road) which puts you at the foot of Helvellyn.

Based on little more than Joss Naylor having ran this in about 8 hours I came up with a very broad plan that I should therefore be able to do it within 150% of that time, about 12 hours. A schedule was drawn up which, by the time stops were accounted for would see us start at 0700 and finish at 1909.

At 7 oclock precisely we began climbing Skiddaw. Good progress was made. It was quite wet at times but dry for the majority and quite mild and not at all windy. Based on a 24hour BGR being allowed 85 mins to climb Skiddaw I had given us 75 mins (I have never accompanied any BG contender who took the full 80). Summit number 1 was reached in EXACTLY 75 mins. We then turned immediately and retraced back to Keswick. Coming off Skiddaw is so familiar to me now and we were able to take every small shortcut and off walking path line that in the fellrace for example you must not do.  Even the bit from Latrigg carpark we used Stus shortcut to the lower path by aiming for the farmers cattle feed trough - (hope he never mooves it).

We reached Keswick one minute ahead of schedule and stopped for exactly the five minutes allowed.
At this time I removed my trail shoes in favour of road shoes for the 9 mile section to Seathwaite.
A comfort break in the public WCs added an extra 5 mins or so but this was preferable to an emergency visit to a field later on.

Once on the Borrowdale road in earnest it became clear that my slowest comfortable running speed was quite a lot faster than Ians. But rather than slow down, I got ahead then stopped every now and then to stretch my hamstrings (which had been very tight since Wednesdays race). Once we reached Rosthwaite I said I would just go on ahead and take the additional time at the car to sort my bag/gear ready for the long central fell section. Just as I turned left off the main road to the Seathwaite road it began to rain. Then waiting at the car it was very very heavy rain. 

Climbing up to Styhead was on off showery but by the upper recaches of the corridor route was wet enough that we took the decision to put on our waterproof trousers.

Ian in his waterproof trousers

There then followed a troublesome half hour which ended with a comedy moment of realisation.....

We were on Scafell Pike summit but still had Scafell to reach. For any (of the three) route choices this means first  descending off the Pike toward Mickledore. Because we had got onto the Pike from the E, essentially the route from Esk Hause which we popped out onto from a steep gully, we just passed over the summit and its hundred of visitors, continuing in the same direction. Once the path split we took the left one and lost height. After a wee while Ian shouted to ask if I knew where we were going. This was a troubling question. I thought I did.  But I am quite hopeless at navigation, preferring to only go to places I already know well from being there previously on clear days. I waited for Ian to catch me and we discussed the possibility we were actually heading back down toward the corridor route. Through the mirk and rain I thought I saw a glimpse of what looked like the Mickledoor Hause but to be honest everything looks the same when only glimpses are snatched and its very easy to mistake west for east and north for south. So we bore off 90 degree left, crossing the boulder field, hoping to reach the correct path. We could see far enough that ahead lay some steep rock faces and drops and that didnt seem like a good way to go. So we retraced and got back to the path we had been on 10 mins earlier. Another brief conflab and we decided the best thing was to continue downwards, figuring when we got to the path for Lingmell we would skirt around and join the route up to Mickledore from Wasdale. 

Approx 30 seconds after making that decision and walking downhill for about 50 metres we then saw....


so we had been going the correct way in the first place and had just lost at least 10 minutes for no good reason. Ian had even mentioned binning the day off as it was so wet and we would surely have lost a good hour by dropping so far down. As it turned out we took one hour to get from Scafell Pike to Scafell. The schedule allowed 45 mins so not too bad after all.

On Scafell the weather eased and the sun threatened very weakly behind the cloud. I took off my trousers and coat and never needed them again.

After Scafell Pike number 2visit we had great visibility and took the decision to also bag Broad Crag and Ill Crag (as they are also over 3000ft). This meant we took a lot longer then scheduled to reach Esk Hause but to be honest the schedule was gone by this time and there was little point breaking our necks to try to gain time back - fair enough if it were a 24hr BGR but this was just two friends bagging 4 (6) summits to say they had done it - no pressure - no point.

Crossing the Cumbrian Way to begin climbing High Raise we skirted around both HR and Low White stones to arrive at Greenup Edge without having climbed any higher up than necessary.

 I be honest now and say I disagree with Ians idea of contouring in this manner. I like to strike out hard up the hill no matter how steep, gain the footpath and hopefully better running along the ridge. But then I do feel I am becoming exceptionally strong at climbing nowadays, and contouring has always been a pet hate of mine.

From Greenup Edge 'all we had to do" was drop into Wythburn Valley and follow it out to the A591.
This is far from good ground - in fact it is so poor, so rough, so twisty, so boggy, that we scarcely ran at all despite the gradient in our favour. I have since considered that a direct line to High Raise followed by another to Brownrigg Moss then small climb up to the plateau above Calf Crag and Rough Crag then onto Steel Fell and off it's Northern nose might be worth checking out.

The Wythburn valley took forever and in the final 15 mins before reaching the main road I was seriously hungry, tired and ready for it to be over. I had plenty of food still in my pack - but had been getting by on Hula Hoops (yes please @KP Foods I'll have a free case for the free advert - ready salted only though) and energy drinks and nowI longed for something savoury and substantial.

At the car I removed my fellshoes and put on an old worn out pair and some fresh socks. Then I had a sit down and demolished two egg sarnies, more Hula Hoops, can of coke cuppa tea and big slice of xmas cake.

So off up to Helly, the final hill of the day. Never had been on this route in my life I had made a pure guess of 75 mins for this climb, based on it looking a bit less than Skiddaw but also being more tired.As soon as we began climbing in earnest I realised that the bad time I had endured in Wythburn was only due hunger and not general fatigue or end of my ability for that day.  was climbing up Helly like it was 7 am again, and enjoying it immensely. Ian suggested I forge on ahead which I did. 

Climbing Helvellyn - Wythburn woods - Thirlmere and Skiddaw

With 100% visibility, once I neared summit ridge at Nethermost Pike and could see the Y shaped shelter on Helvellyn I realised I was going to smash the 75 minute schedule. I had been walking very strongly up to now but with the incline much less severe I reckoned running was possible again. So I ran all the way to the trig point, easing up about 50 metres short to look around and savour the final moments of taming the 3000s. 

I know lots of people have done much harder things. Taking longer, climbing higher, enduring more pain, but that doesn't detract from my feelings of achievement on this challenge. I'm just a skinny lad never knew no good from bad... no hang on that Freddies line.  I'm just a skinny lad who never did anything sporty at school and now finds himself not only setting and achieving  tough targets but also realising abilities as never before. It wasnt a small tear - the sun was in my eyes.

The evening sun on Helvellyn was silhouetting the Western fells beautifully and glistening on Thirlmere below. Magic.

Angela Rippon may do the evening news, but Helly does the evening views!

As Joss would say - absolute magic

I put on my coat at the summit as it was quite windy for the first time. The altitude, wind and late hour meant it was getting pretty cold so I reckoned it better to jog back to meet Ian coming up than wait stationary for him. Ian completed the challenge exactly 15 minute after I had. And only a few minutes over my guesswork 75 min schedule.

Of course just because we had topped the summits didnt  mean we were yet  finished for the day. The challenge was to complete the loop so we still had to run 6 miles on road to Keswick. Coming off Helvellyn to Swirls carpark we changed into road shoes and set off for the final time. It was soon dark and the road wasnt pleasant in any way shape or form. It was to be endured rather than enjoyed.  Eventually Keswick was reached and we were done.

14hrs and 36 mins - or was it 38 mins? I cant remember and the small piece of paper with the schedule, upon which I had been writing the actual splits had long since degenerated into mush in my pocket.

Lakes 3000s DONE. Whats next? BGR has been mooted but not really by me - Stu's crazy idea. If I could do it in about 20 hours then another 6 added to this run would seem do-able. But,  if it went badly, another 10? Seems beyond imagination at this time. But not as ridiculous as winning the L50 seemed 5 weeks ago......

#We Continue

When it falls it will just keep going -  Tsunami in Wast Water will be inevitable