Driving north on Sunday morning in pouring rain I couldn’t help but reflect on our recent visits to the Howgills as this was looking like the second soaking this season, the first being in July. This would also be the third time I have done Sedbergh Hills and the previous two occasions (2004 and 2008) were also marred by poor conditions on The Calf, at the very least. The weather hadn’t deteriorated to the most pessimistic conditions which would have included a 55 mph wind gusting in excess of 80 mph so there was some room for optimism.
With noon approaching it was time to emerge from the hall and face the elements. The grey streaks on the above are rain drops and although one or two are wearing jackets most runners considered them unnecessary or, more likely too warm. Too warm it remained while the wind was behind us and beyond CP3 the route is sheltered except where it briefly crosses the ridges. After CP4 the long, but sheltered, drag to The Calf begins. Until reaching the ridge the weather still didn’t seem too bad but once there the wind was driving the rain so hard it felt like running into a hailstorm. Almost instantly it was too late to stop and put on a waterproof top – keeping going to keep warm and, more realistically, get down out of the wind seemed the only option. By Winder, below the worst of the wind, the rain had stopped and was a pleasant afternoon.
As before, I forgot how many climbs there are between CP3 and CP4 but I won’t forget again. Before I saw the conditions I wondered about the sub 3 hour time I considered possible in 2008 (when I finished in 3:04) providing I could find the trod round Calders. Once I saw the conditions I gave up any hope of finding the trod and so wasn’t disappointed when I couldn’t. I thought the wind might cost me 3-4 minutes and I think it probably did but I also lost 3 or so minutes between CP3 & CP4 and then finished with a poor line off Winder. I am disappointed about the time lost getting to CP4 and although I was aware at the time I needed to be pushing harder I just wasn’t enjoying it and I, more or less, just wanted to get it over with. I don’t think I have ever felt like that before and if it happens again I’ll try to remember the disappointment I feel now about not pushing on into CP4 last Sunday.