Monday, 27 September 2010

Bob Graham Round – Leg 4 recce

Last December Mark Smith completed a mid-Winter Bob Graham Round in 22 minutes over 24 hours and I was lucky enough to share the sunrise on Leg 3 with Mark. The 22 minutes niggled away until Mark decided to have another go and get them back. Mark’s preparation for his 2010 attempt can be followed here and I’ll be joining him again; this time going north over Helvellyn and the Dodds in the early, but dark, evening. I know how difficult it can be to navigate these fells in the dark and I want to be thoroughly familiar with the nuances of the route before December. Saturday’s sunshine was too good to resist so Pauline and I went to have a look at the first part of the route and, in particular, the descent from Fairfield.

BGR L4-101 Lake Windermere at Ambleside

BGR L4-102 Grisedale Tarn with Fairfield on the right and St Sunday Crag beyond

The faint yellow blob near the start of the climb up Fairfield is another “Bob Graham” aspirant about to make his way to the summit. We caught up with him part way up the climb and learned he had originally set off two days earlier but somersaulted down Halls Fell Ridge and still had the 10 stitches in his head to prove it. Descending Halls Fell Ridge again, in the dark very early this morning when it was icy must have been a stern test of character. We wished him as we went our separate ways at the summit.

BGR L4-103 South west down Tongue Gill with the Coniston Fells in the distance

BGR L4-104 Cofa Pike and the ridge to St Sunday Crag

BGR L4-106Striding Edge and Red Tarn with Ullswater in the distance

BGR L4-107North face of Fairfield 

The descent route from the col between the summit and Cofa Pike looks quite distinct – I hope it is as easy to find in the dark as this photo suggests.

Monday, 20 September 2010

3 Shires fell race

Last Saturday was the 25th running of the 3 Shires fell race in Little Langdale and, having only run it once before (in 2007), I was glad to see high clouds that wouldn’t interfere with route finding. With sufficient rain having fallen to prevent the usual field from being used as a car park there would be no shortage of water en route – the ground however, was sure to be slippery.

3SFR-001 Albert Sunter & Rob Green before the start

3SFR-002 Mark Sammon before the start

3SFR-003Starting the climb to Swirl How


 Levers Water with Coniston Water beyond

3SFR-005 climbing towards Swirl How

3SFR-007 Approaching Swirl How summit

3SFR-008At the 3 Shires Stone (just to show I was there)


3SFR-009 Starting the final climb on to Lingmoor Fell

3SFR-010 Final look over to Wetherlam, Swirl How and the descent route to the 3 Shires Stone on Wet Side Edge

3SFR_HDR-100Looking over Blea Tarn into Great Langdale

The results aren’t yet published and my own records show I was a few minutes faster than Saturday’s 02:51:56 in 2007. Undoubtedly the result that matters the most is that the runner who slipped and broke a leg, on Wet Side Edge, was rescued and airlifted to hospital in Lancaster. A brief report of the initial rescue is here. The Mountain Rescue Team report is here and the discussion on the FRA Forum reports Steve’s leg was operated on during Saturday evening and everything has been "pinned, plated and screwed". Best wishes to Steve for a speedy and complete recovery.

Update: Results are here and more photos by Steve Angus

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Lake District Mountain Trial 2010

Last Sunday (12 Sept) saw the 57th running of the Lake District Mountain Trial, a fell race unlike any other. This would be my third “Trial” and so I am still, pretty much, a novice at route selection “on the fly” which is one of the keys to this race which is described, with typical understatement, as a “severe test of route choice, navigational skill and stamina in difficult mountain country”. Weather forecast was considerably better than the very difficult heat of the 2009 Trial.

2010 LDMT (1 of 7) Morning sunshine at Staveley

The sunrise looked good from the motorway, after the torrential rain passed south, but couldn’t match last year's spectacular sunrise. Still unable to shrug off a two week old cold but less concerned about it than I had been a week ago at The Ben, I was looking forward to enjoying a long day in the hills above and around Kentmere in the Far Eastern Fells of the Lake District.

2010 LDMT (2 of 7) Check Point 2 (at the tarn outlet) with Haweswater Reservoir curving into the distance

2010 LDMT (3 of 7) Rest Dodd with the Eastern Fells and more beyond

2010 LDMT (5 of 7) Hayeswater outflow below CP3

Recovery from the steep climb to CP3 on Harsop Dodd summit was not helped by the tormenting smell of gently frying bacon at the check point – I know the marshals have too eat too but, honestly, this was almost more than a tired fell runner could bear :-) I can’t really blame the lack of a bacon buttie but I did begin to struggle not long after here and decided to opt for flatter, if longer, routes between the remaining controls.

2010 LDMT (6 of 7) Troutbeck Tongue (centre) with Windermere beyond

2010 LDMT (7 of 7) Troutbeck Tongue (half in shadow) with the Coniston Fells in the distance

I estimate I covered a bit over 21 miles and a little over 7500 feet of climbing in 7:20:10 to finish in 115 place of 129 finishers, 21 of 26 in my age group. I thought I might have been able to do better but perhaps I hadn’t recovered from last weekend and, certainly, I still had a bit of a cold but there is always next year and it was a good day out, whatever the results say.  Full results and much more are here, on the SportIdent website.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Ben Nevis Race – 04 Sept

Last Saturday morning in Fort William waiting for the start of my first “Ben” race wracked by more trepidation than is usual before a new race and having carefully nurtured a summer cold all week I really wanted to be almost anywhere other than waiting for the Starter to say “Go”. The atmosphere is great, here are plenty of friendly, familiar faces and I begin to relax and remind myself to enjoy it for it will be over all too soon.

Ben Nevis Race 011  Piped to the start line

Ben Nevis Race 027 “Go”

Ben Nevis Race 047 below the Red Burn

Ben Nevis Race 052 Ian Holmes descends as mere mortals slog upwards


Ben Nevis Race - helicopter Helicopter in constant, noisy attendance

Ben Nevis Race - halfway Halfway

Ben Nevis Race Below the Red Burn

Blessed by good weather and dry rocks, this was a day to enjoy even if the, all too rare, views from the top were glimpsed rather than savoured. A steady climb and an unspectacular, very enjoyable descent gave me a finishing time of just over two and a half hours but what a two and a half hours. Two and a half hours earlier I was still wondering why runners spoke about “The Ben” with such strong feelings of awe and enjoyment whereas now, I no longer wonder why – I don’t understand it but I do share the same feelings. This is a very special race, indeed.

The results are here

Monday, 6 September 2010

Highland Steam Train – 05 Sept

Last Sunday morning, driving south after the Ben Nevis race (of which more later), we glimpsed a long forgotten sight; a nostalgic plume of white smoke drifted across a green highland landscape and, although hidden inside a shallow cutting, we both knew the cutting contained a steam hauled, south bound passenger train. Emerging from the cutting we could see the train racing south alongside the road and river.

Highland Steam Train 01

Parking at the side of the road at the first opportunity, it seemed like we had stepped back in time, just a little. The last steam hauled passenger train in Scotland left Aberdeen 44 years and 2 days ago on 3 September 1966 bound for Glasgow and I stood on a platform to watch it arrive and end an era. Realising this train would be much closer to the road a little further south we chased it south and reached a bend in the road where we could get to the side of the track.

Highland Steam Train 02 "The Great Marquess" 61994 Heads South

If you look very closely (at an enlarged version, double-click to do so) at the buffer beam, near the right buffer, the word “Eastfield” may be seen. This is the name of the depot, in Glasgow, where the loco was based. One of my grandfathers was a steam engine driver based at Eastfield depot and so he may well have driven this very engine and, perhaps, even on this line.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Gordon’s Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge – 29 Aug

Gordon Johnson (more affectionately, GJ) set off from Pooley Bridge at midnight on Saturday with 48 miles and 16,800 feet of climbing and descending to reach Greendale Bridge within 24 hours to complete the Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge. The “Joss” is an age handicap challenge for vets over 50 and although GJ is allowed 24 hours he is running against a 19 hour schedule. He also has a secret target time to beat but as he didn’t tell us until  much later, I can’t reveal it just yet. Pauline and I travelled north with Yiannis to meet Gordon at Dunmail Raise in time for breakfast.

GJ-JNT-1Pauline holds a brolly to allow GJ to enjoy his porridge out of the rain

Despite poor conditions overnight GJ arrived at Dunmail ahead of his 19 hour schedule in good spirits and ready for breakfast. Yiannis and I are to run with GJ all the way to Greendale Bridge, about 11.5 hours according to the schedule and we are all hoping the forecast delivers the bright sunny calm afternoon it is promising. A couple of hours later passing the head of Great Langdale the weather is much improved and a sunny afternoon, once very unlikely now seems very possible.

GJ-JNT-2 Great Langdale from Bowfell

GJ-JNT-3 Time to eat again – Yiannis gets ready with the rice pudding

GJ-JNT-4 Scafell and Sca Fell Pike from Bowfell

GJ-JNT-5 Yiannis leading the way to Great End

Despite the sunshine we still wear waterproofs to keep out the cold wind. All along the ridge from Bowfell to Great End and down to Sty Head GJ is picking up time on his schedule and staying strong for the final and most demanding leg from Sty Head.

GJ-JNT-6 North to Keswick beyond Derwent Water and below Skiddaw

GJ-JNT-7 Beyond Sty Head lies Great Gable and the start of the final leg

We reach Sty Head about 30 minutes ahead of schedule and before the support team who should meet us there with more food, hot drinks and another runner or two. Yiannis and I have enough food to feed all three of us and so we carry on into the last leg, hoping the support team will be waiting at one of the passes further down the route.

GJ-JNT-8 Unfazed by the missing support team GJ climbs Great Gable comfortably enough to stop for a picture

Descending Kirk Fell, Kevin catches us up and explains the Bank Holiday traffic delayed the support team’s arrival in Wasdale but the rest of them (Ian Roberts & Pauline) are waiting on Black Sail Pass.

GJ-JNT-9 Self, Kevin, GJ and Yiannis climbing Pillar

Pauline and Ian came over Pillar with us before dropping back down into Wasdale ready to meet us at the end while Kevin came over all the remaining summits.

GJ-JNT-11 Yewbarrow and Wasdale Head

GJ-JNT-10 Yewbarrow above Mosedale with Wastwater beyond

GJ-JNT-100The last three summits – from the right; Haycock, Seatallan and Middle Fell 


GJ-JNT-101Now joined by Steve Cliff (with the yellow sleeve, who started at Pooley Bridge with GJ) we race down to Middle Fell

Gordon doesn’t wear a watch and insisted all day that he didn’t want to know how well, or badly, he was doing against his schedule until we reached Haycock. There he revealed his secret objective – a sub 18:28 time to beat his running partner Spike’s 2009 time. He also insisted that he still didn’t want to know his time until we reached Middle Fell, the final summit.

GJ-JNT-12 Gordon touches Middle Fell summit – the final one

Approaching Middle Fell David Powell-Thompson meets us, as is traditional, to ensure we don’t go wrong on the final descent. By now Gordon knows his sub 18:28 target will be met easily and if we get a bit of a move on a sub 18:00 is possible – so we get a bit of a move on and reach Greendale Bridge in 17:42, much to GJ’s delight.

GJ-JNT-13 Joss Naylor, Gordon Johnson and Yiannis Tridimas at the end of Gordon’s “Joss”