Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Old County Tops – 22 May

On a day when “debilitating” would be to understate the heat, 90 pairs assembled in Great Langdale for the Old County Tops fell race organised by Achille Ratti Climbing Club (details and results here). Run in pairs over 37 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing it is arduous in any conditions and last Saturday was particularly difficult.

OCT - 001 Paul & Geraldine from Horwich RMI and Albert, my partner.

Even before the 08:00 it was clear it was going to be hot, too hot for this sort of race and the one word heard over and over again amongst the competitors was “survival”. We were never going to threaten the prize giving or the course records – Albert wanted a long slow day out and knowing I can do slow, quite comfortably, he invited me to accompany him over Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston Old Man. Despite the distance, this race usually starts as though it is a 10K with a sprint along the valley to the first climb but this morning even the sprint was subdued as runners tried to take it easy.

OCT - 002 Striding Edge – one of the eastern ridges on Helvellyn

OCT - 003 Summit marshals on Helvellyn

Over Helvellyn and into Wythburn for the climb to Greenup Edge on the way to Scafell Pike looked like the least pleasant part of the route today as it is a long climb in a sheltered valley under a hot sun. Taking it steady and drinking at every opportunity we made good progress and enjoyed the gentle breeze traversing under High Raise.

OCT - 004 Albert with other runners in front heading towards Greenup Edge and, hopefully, a breeze


At the start of the approach to Angle Tarn check point I realised Albert had been very quiet for a very long time. He was fighting a loosing battle with a migraine and our only realistic option was to retire at Angle Tarn. I suspect I got off really rather lightly, about one third of the field didn’t finish. Other runner’s tales can be found on the FRA Forum.

OCT - 006 The ‘water station’ at Angle Tarn

OCT - 007Angle Tarn check point 


OCT - 009 Angle Tarn – the only way to cool down

After a sitting in the sunshine for a while and seeing Paul and Geraldine on their way we headed back, rather slowly, to Great Langdale to register the end of our Old County Tops 2010 adventure – no tee shirt this year. Although we didn’t know how many had already dropped out it soon became obvious it was plenty as runners just keep appearing from all directions, all heading directly to the finish.

OCT - 010 Rossett Gill with Great Langdale beyond

OCT - 011Two other retirees making their way (slowly) to the finish

OCT - 013 Another two making their way down Great Langdale

OCT - 014Pike of Stickle with Loft Crag (on the right)

All that and we managed to miss Pauline & John who had run up to cheer us on (we had retired and left Angle Tarn before they arrived) and we also missed Colin who carried food and water up for us for much later on the route. There is always next year and this wouldn’t be complete without a huge thanks to the organisers and marshals who make it all possible – thanks to everyone involved from Achille Ratti


  1. el scortchio!!! a lovely day to be out but not a day to be 'racing'! sounds like a sensible decision was made, heat stoke is something to be taken pretty seriously.

    hope you're both recovering well.

  2. I guess somebody forgot to book the weather!

    Good call for sure, although at the time I am sure it sucked too!

  3. Albert is still struggling a bit (4 days later) and it was an easy call as he was suffering quite badly. Sure it sucked, it is 3rd time out of 4 starts that I have had to retire because my parter couldn't continue (the previous occasions weren't with Albert and the time I did get round it was with the guy who couldn't get round on the next two attempts).

    There is always next year (:

  4. Wow! Incredible pictures. I'm always struck by the lack of vegetation. Here in California at least we would have some trees to huddle under to get some shade.

    Smart move retiring too. As we say in mountaineering - getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.