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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Taking the high roads

Recently I ran (ok, I admit, I walked most of the 8th) from/back to, Keswick, on a route that saw me visit all Eight of the Lake Districts 3000ft+ summits.....

Because I hate early mornings I had camped overnight in Keswick to save an hour, allowing the luxury of a 7am rise to eat then make my way over to Brundholme Rd at the foot of Spooneygreen Lane where the day would begin and end.

Craig Smith was there with Simon Veitch and Richard Ellwood. Richard, as I understood, was joining us for the day in prep' for his forthcoming Lakeland 100miler. The other two were just due to run up n down Skiddaw, our first summit.  Andy slattery was last to arrive. Slats had the Three Thousands on his 'to do' list and he was running the whole day too.

Skiddaw was cool, cold even as we got nearer the upper gates. We each put on a coat and spoke about how we hoped this clag and low temp wouldn't be the order of the day. Good craic from the lads meant we hardly noticed the 67minutes it took to reach Skiddaw, summit 1 of 8, 3054 feet

The drop off Skiddaw was a bit of a sedentary affair, taking about double what it could be done in. Not that that mattered at all, this was to be a day out bagging the summits and to say we had done it, not how fast we could manage. Back at the cars we changed shoes for the 9 mile road run down Borrowdale. Craig kindly offered to drive there before then going home, taking all our packs, food etc (and my dog). This was a welcome saving - cheers fella.

On a rough schedule I had allowed for 9 minute miling  for the 9 mile road section. We were nearer 8 pace in fact, and even a stop in Rosthwaite to use the public wc's saw us arrive at Seathwaite only just after Craig had got there himself.

Taking 10 mins or so we enjoyed a decent feed before setting out again, this time with all gear on our backs which, combined with rough climbing, a full stomach and reasonable heat of the day, made the first mile or so toward Styhead quite an uncomfortable run. I walked on and off but Slats was having none of that. I had to catch up.

Incredibly, I had only ever used Stockley Bridge to get to Styhead. Slats took us up via Taylorgill Force, not that there was much force, or even much water at all in it during this dry spell. Chatting as we climbed higher, it turned out Richard hadn't time to complete the whole route with us and was going to turn back at Esk Hause. Turned out also that prior to meeting us that morning he had already been for a TEN MILE FELLRUN! Much later, as I first began to feel a little weary, Richard must surely have felt VERY weary? I didn't envy him his solo run back to Keswick.

Once past Styhead, (where Slats recounted the occasion he helped carry/build said box as part of MR team) we began to cross paths with competitors in the 10 Peaks challenge. They were coming down the corridor route as we climbed it. As we drew ever nearer to Scafell Pike we then deviated away from it, crossing the nadir between Lingmell and the Scafell massif to  reach the  Lords Rake which was to be our way up to the next two summits.

Immediately below the Lords Rake is a vast field of scree which is tricky to climb up at the best of times. Today we had the added danger of loose scree, stones and boulders constantly falling out of the Rake, dislodged by the myriad 10 Peakers who were going up or down the narrow, stone filled corridor above. (what are the odds that over the years, many people have used Lords Rake to reach Scafell then gone home believing they had used the Corridor Route to reach Scafell Pike?)

Once in the Lords Rake itself I was simply amazed by how many people were also there. Almost certainly all 10 Peakers. Some were making their way up, some coming down. A couple were stood filming on their phones and everyone was busy chatting.  Despite the perilously placed stone above you at all times which, had it fallen (as it surely will one day)  would certainly have wiped out everyone in that chasm instantly, I love being in the Lords Rake, it's great fun using hands to help grapple your way up the loose ground below feet, trying to find a hold on the vertical rock either side of the chasm to help propel yourself up. And once up near the chockstone you can take a look behind you, back  across to the summit of Scafell Pike, invariably with  a line of trudging walkers heading to or from it, all no doubt laying claim to having had the adventure of climbing as high as you can climb in England but little realising what extra adventure they could enjoy with just an extra couple of hours added to their day.

Near the chockstone I scooted up to my left to get into the West Wall Traverse, a couple of 10 Peakers asked where I was going. I told them and they asked if it was OK. "it's a lot better than the loose bit you have just climbed up so far" I said, and they followed me up. Unfortunately Richard either didn't know or didn't realise we were going that way and was away up beyond the chockstone when Slats called him back to the WWT.  I let the 10Peakers pass me while I waited for my two to come into sight then I was off again, relishing the easy climbing which is always a good way to help stretch leg muscles.

At the top of the WestWall Traverse you pop out of the gloomy rock chamber onto a always brighter, wide summit plateau. Although I had been here many times, I had never then gone on to any other place than Scafell. But slats had said we needed to go right and indeed I could see a small rocky summit to my right which I headed up. It had been about 3 hours since we had bagged Skiddaw but now we were at Symonds Knott, summit 2 of 8, 3146 feet

The next top, was much sooner coming. A half hearted path leads across to it, interspersed with big rocks but still runnable, then another small climb through desk sized rocks to reach Scafell, summit 3 of 8, 3163 feet

I had already said I thought Foxes Tarn descent was the way we should get off Scafell. And with all those people in the Rake I certainly wasn't keen on changing my plan by going back the way we had came. Well towards the bottom of the ravine that leads down from Foxes Tarn Richard said Andy had gone  across to the left to gain the climbers traverse that leads to Mickledore. I had never done this route before but Stustod had. He told me it was slightly tricky but nothing to be worried about.

I couldn't see Slats ahead on the traverse, he was too far ahead, but there is a faint trod denoting the line to take. In fairness, although I found it very easy to negotiate, there is at most times a pretty big drop off close to your right hand side and I admit I sat on my backside for one small section of rock which looked like it might be slippery and was angled ready to pitch me off to a certain helicopter rides followed by hospitalisation. I don't think I would use this route in winter or in wet weather, but it is a heck of a lot quicker than dropping all the way out from Foxes Tarn into the valley then trudging back up toward the Mickledore Stretcher box.

Richard hadn't been keen to try the climbers traverse so we had to wait a few minutes for him before we started the rock hopping ascent to Scafell Pike, summit 4 of 8, 3209 feet.

Slats showed me where to go on the Borrowdale race to get to the scree chute down onto the corridor route which saves having to double back to the nadir of Broad Crag/Scafell Pike. It looked like fun. (Little did I realise that 4 days later I would be there once again, going down it. It wasn't fun when a large stone the size of a shoe hit me at speed on the back of my calf) still hurting as I write this, another 2 days later). As Richard wasn't doing all the tops so we suggested he stuck to the path (not that its much of a path) toward Esk Hause while me and Slats bagged the next 2 which are outliers from the direct route. But when we then got to Broad Crag, summit 5 of 8, 3064 feet, he was right there behind us. He was persuaded to miss out Ill Crag summit 6 of 8, 3054 feet, however, and once me and Slats had bagged it we found him waiting just above that final bit of the Broad/Ill crag plateau area that then drops away sharply down toward Esk hause.

Esk hause is where we said cheerio to Richard as he hung left toward Sprinkling Tarn and Styhead again, and we hung right towards Angle Tarn and Rosset Pike.

So just me and Slats now. When I first mooted this day out he was first to sign up. Others said they would come along. Most pulled out for one reason or another. Some did come but only for certain bits, and now it was just the original two soldiers trooping Eastward toward the last big hill of the day.

I endured a right bad spell as we contoured around Rossett Pike toward High Raise, then on High Raise itself as we contoured around to Greenup Edge I was constantly playing catchup with Slats. It turned out that Slats was just keen to get this rubbishy section out of the way as quick as possible and had been pressing on to do so. I was probably not moving too bad at all myself in fact, just felt slow compared to him. One thing I was very much looking forward to was a fresh sandwich and milkshake at Steel End farm. The evening prior, I had placed various food and drink in a drybag which I had then hung by a shoelace over the wall alongside the road. Slats had done likewise but utilised a Morrisons carrier bag for the purpose. ( I admit it may have been Sainsburys but you get the picture right?)


I was stunned that this had happened to my food while Slats was fine in a flimsy plastic carrier. I was also loathe to eat the rest of the sarnie but I was V hungry and it was one of those that come in two halves, each in its own section of a plastic box type arrangement. So I risked the untouched half.

I had stashed loads of stuff as well as the sandwich and it weighed a ton. So I put Scamp on his lead and walked slowly up the road to Wythburn Church eating stuff and transferring other stuff to my pack. There was no way I needed as much to eat  for the final couple of hours and there was also no way I was going to carry it all for no reason. So I tore off half a malt loaf and fed it to Scamp, chucking the remainder across the hillside. A milkshake was emptied out so I only had the weight of the bottle to carry, and I ate an apple with haste.

Now during this short period of sorting stuff out we had both been walking pretty slowly. But now everything was done I imagined we would resume our previous brisk pace as we climbed the steps up away from Wythburn, ever higher toward Hell'y. But Slats was crawling along and said it was as fast as he could manage. I felt pretty good and could have gone a tad quicker, but not a lot so there seemed little point in gaining a lead just to then wait later on. So we toiled on up, sweat pouring out of our no doubt drained looking faces.

We knew we were tired and must look it. So when we met people coming down, we felt compelled to mention that although we both looked, and were, bloody knackered, we had already covered 30+ miles and 6x 3000ft summits, and hadn't simply just set out from the carpark half a mile below us.

The climb to Helvellyn took an age. But we knew it signalled the start of the end of our day and we were in good spirits as we glanced around the clear skies to see where we had spent the previous numerous hours. At the top we me two chaps who were taking photos. We took one of them together and they took me and Slats. Even though this was Helvellyn, summit 7 of 8  3118 feet and we still had one more top to go, it was only a couple of minutes running to get to it and with little about Lower Man save for a rough pile of stones marking the top, this, Helvellyn, felt like the end of our day, the accomplishment of what we set out to do, and it was a better photo opportunity anyway.

Minutes later we were on top of Lower Man, summit 8 of 8 3035 feet. Job done.

Descending to Swirls carpark seemed to take forever. Not because were were going slowly, but I think its just quite a long way and we were tending to remain on the stepped path a lot of the time which forces smallish quick steps rather than loping down at your own preferred stride length.
When we hit the main road we knew we had nearly a mile to do to the St Johns Vale road end where there is shortly afterwards a sign saying "5miles to Keswick".  Not a pleasant section of the Lakes to run along at any time, never mind when 40 odd miles already in legs.

Slats was on a mission though and kept a decent running pace for at least 3 miles before, upon my insistence, we took a small walk break. We then walked and jogged until the big hill into Keswick where we both seemed happy to walk only. Then a nice jog into the town and back to our vehicles where couple of people were stood waiting for 10 Peakers to come out of Spooneygreen Lane.

We had just sat down on the grassy bank opposite the Lane when a chap pulled up and asked if we had an OS map of the nearby area. He was wanting to look up where to go later that night, as he was part of a Coast to Coast relay run. Anyway, I said I had maps in the van and reluctantly struggled to my feet to get it for him to look at.

After sorting him out he asked how we had navigated our way around our own route. The simple truth was, we knew the way! Visibility was always good enough to see as far as we wanted or needed to.  Slats knew it better than me and had often taken us along a different line to one I would have chosen. I'm not saying I wouldn't use a map if I tried to do this route in poor visibility, but its great to be able to run so far as we did and always know where we were and what the next bit would look like. Perhaps not so challenging as some people would like but the distance/terrain/climbing were challenge enough for me.

I may do this every year from now on - I may never do it again -who knows

Craigs accidental selfie

The photo Craig was taking when he did the selfie - Seathwaite lunch stop 

Me waiting on the WestWall Traverse
Lingmell (and Skiddaw) from WWT
took photos while I waited

Richard making his way up  the WWT
Mickledore. Me pointing out Broad Stand and also some climbers on the Central Buttress of Scafell

Me nearing Greenup Edge. and, correct me if i am wrong but I think Bowfell - Esk Pike -Scfell Massif -  Gt End is the skyline?

Slats said the 10 Peaks was expensive but still drank the water the marshals lugged up there for those who did pay

Me and yer man Slats on Helly with Swirral Edge path on the left  and Catstye Cam  behind Slats broad shoulders

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