Sunday, 22 May 2011

Old County Tops fell race - 21 May

At 37 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing the Old County Tops race is essentially a week of “Bob Graham” training in a day. Run in pairs and visiting Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Coniston Old it provides, on a good weather day, a fine tour of a big chunk of the Lake District. The finisher’s tee-shirts are highly sought after and my 2005 edition is one of the few race tee-shirts I wear.

OCT shirts (1 of 2)2005 Edition

In 2005 Kev Lathem and I took over 11 hours of our allowed 12 hours to complete the race on another day when the weather was less than kind.

OCT shirts (1 of 1)Finishing with Kev Lathem

Flush with our success we went back in 2006 when Kev had only just completed a course of antibiotics and was still suffering their effects and we retired at Angle Tarn. In 2007 we returned only for Kev to tear a calf muscle on the first climb out of Great Langdale. We retired more or less immediately and that seemed to mark the end of my involvement with the race. Last year I set off with Albert, who also only had one finishers’ tee-shirt, but Albert’s migraine defeated us at Angle Tarn on an exceptionally hot day. Almost immediately we agreed to come back in 2011 when the weather couldn’t possibly produce another scorching day.


OCT 002-1Getting ready in 2011 and its not that fell runners are obsessed with running shoes……..

OCT 004-2Climbing out of Great Langdale (1)

OCT 005-3Climbing out of Great Langdale (2)

OCT 007-4Climbing out of Great Langdale (3)

OCT 008-5Climbing towards Grisedale Tarn under a threatening sky

OCT 010-6Looking back down Wythburn

OCT 012-7Albert on Greenup Edge with Glaramara beyond

After Angle Tarn we climbed above the cloud base and back into the strong, cold wind that had already blasted us on Helvellyn. Scafell Pike was a busy, windswept summit and Upper Eskdale provided a welcome respite from both the wind and the crowds.

OCT 014-8Back down to Cockley Beck

By the time we reached the hause between Grey Friar and Great Carrs the rain had arrived. Beyond the hause the wind drove rain and hail almost directly into our faces – the only consolation being that heading away from Coniston Old Man the wind and rain would be on our backs.


OCT 015-9Descending to the Three Shires Stone and down out of the clouds for the final time

Somewhere on the climb out of Cockley Beck Albert damaged a knee and then found running down hill painful – which was particularly unlucky because by that time downhill was about the only place I could still run. By that stage we would have walked or crawled to the finish line – our unofficial time of 10:05:37, some 3 hours behind the winners, may make you think we did but it isn’t true. We completed our “unfinished business” and left Great Langdale with our 2011 tee-shirts.

OCT shirts (2 of 2)2011 Edition

Now we both have two each, am I really beginning to wonder about a third?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Grassington to Langdale – Monochrome Reprise

Updating this blog on a weekly basis often means unpublished photos because there were too many or they needed more processing or they were simply overlooked and, occasionally, another look at these photos produces enough to publish somewhere else. I had another look at the photos from the Grassington to Langdale walk and published a monochrome reprise here. There are a few other small sets there too and in future I’ll put a short note here when there is something new.

Grassington-Langdale 122-Edit-015Farm below East Baugh Fell

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Spring In Lakeland – 15 May

After a fairly intense Saturday; Fairfield Horseshoe fell race, Andy Kitts’ Bob Graham success and Linda Murgatroyd’s Bob Graham success we went to Ambleside on Sunday for Westmorland & North Lancs LDWA Group’s “Spring In Lakeland”.  This is a 23 mile event over an undulating route to Coniston and back with almost 5000 feet of climbing. The weather was poor to start with and although the rain wasn’t constant the forecast “showers” seemed intent, for most of the day, on joining up to produce “longer periods of rain”.

As ever, the support on the event was superb and the while the route is a little contrived in parts it took us to a few places we hadn’t been to before, away from the crowds and when, by mid-morning, the high fells had disappeared into the clouds and we were pretty happy to be on a low level route, below the worst of the weather.

Fairfield_SIL 009-4Carpet of Bluebells near Tarn Hows

Fairfield_SIL 008-3White Gill near Coniston

Fairfield_SIL 006-1River Brathay meandering to Lake Windermere

Fairfield_SIL 007-2Elter Water with the Langdale Pikes in the distance

Despite weather and a couple of route finding problems (all part of the fun, really Smile) we had a thoroughly enjoyable run round the route with another couple – one an old friend, the other a new friend -  and we now know not to completely trust Tony’s GPS.

Linda Murgatroyd’s Bob Graham Round – 14 May

Linda (Mrs Stagger to the FRA Forum) set off on Friday at the same time as Andy Kitts and while Andy had a few minutes at Honister Linda went straight through and reached The Moot Hall about half an hour sooner.

Fairfield_SIL 038-1At Newlands Church, ready for road shoes and the final push to Keswick

Fairfield_SIL 042-2Absolutely delighted, and why not?

Fairfield_SIL 011-3With some of her Leg 5 Support

Fairfield_SIL 020-4

A very rare Bob Graham Round “Before & After” – Linda with James who was about to set off at 19:00 and finish in 23:25, in less than ideal conditions

Well done, Linda & James

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fairfield Horseshoe fell race – 14 May

A fairly nostalgic return to Rydal Hall where, in 2004, I ran my first Lakeland race, the Fairfield Horseshoe. Then I learned two hard lessons – the gulf between strong long distance fell walkers and even mediocre fell runners is very large indeed and that when you trip and fall descending on rocky ground the ground is very hard indeed. Since then this race, seems, always to have clashed with other things; The Fellsman, the Old County Tops and Bob Graham attempts and I had never been back  until last Saturday. Given the poor weather and short distance I decided against running with a camera.

Fairfield_SIL 053-1Almost ready at the new Start

Always seems a long slog to Fairfield summit, particularly, going round the horseshoe clockwise and Saturday was no exception but the descent is good, great in parts over all too soon. The new start and finish mean a (very slight) uphill finish after the track at the foot of Low Pike which no one was looking forward to.


Fairfield_SIL 022-2Through the trees to the finish

Fairfield_SIL 025-3Adrian Hope (Lostock AC) on the uphill finish

Fairfield_SIL 027-4I spotted the photographer and hid behind the tree Winking smile

Fairfield_SIL 082-1Through the trees to the finish

Fairfield_SIL 030-1Re-living the good bits

Fairfield_SIL 032-2Perhaps the uphill finish wasn’t that bad, after all?

Results are here and thanks are due to the race organiser, marshals, sponsors and everyone else who helped make the race happen last Saturday. Despite the short distance, I really enjoyed it and I hope it won’t be quite as long before I come back.

Andy Kitts’ Bob Graham Round – 14 May

A couple of unexpected texts from Andy, late on Friday afternoon hinted at and then confirmed he was about to embark on, what he described as a “stealth attempt”, by setting off with Stef French at 19:00 on Friday night. A stomach bug put paid to Stef’s attempt but her re-run is already in the “advanced planning stages” for a couple of week’s time. Our plans for Saturday meant we should be able to see Andy finishing and we were able to see at Newland Church, emerging from the clag on Robinson.


Fairfield_SIL 039-1Looking strong (in hooped hat) with only the road back to Keswick left to do

Fairfield_SIL 014-2

A little anxiety amongst supporters and friends waiting in Keswick, including Linda (eating chips, having finished her own BGR minutes earlier) as the clock creeps ever onward.

Fairfield_SIL 044-323:44 after leaving The Moot Hall and about to touch it again

Fairfield_SIL 045-4Achievement begins to sink in

Fairfield_SIL 017-5Everyone relaxed and some of it can be relived

Well done, Andy!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Wet, Windy Weekend in Wales – 08 May

After the overnight storms passed through the sky started to clear but the strong winds continued to scour the hills and we were reduced to a short stroll around the side of Penrhyn quarries towards Ogwen Cottage. Even down in the valley the wind was fresh so it must have been another unpleasant morning on the ridges above us.

Bethesda 004-1Weir at Ogwen Bank

Bethesda 017-3One of many spoil heaps at Penrhyn

Bethesda 016-2Down the valley to Glyder Fach in cloud

Bethesda 018-4Snowdon horseshoe

As if to have the last laugh the clouds lifted from the highest summits just as we were leaving Capel Curig for home.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Wet, Windy Weekend in Wales – 07 May

The forecast wasn’t promising – wind could be as strong as last weekend (gusting to 50 mph) on the tops but with the added discomfort of heavy rain. Its only a forecast, we thought as we studied the map on the Friday night with Rae & Helen. A route with a bit of shelter to begin with and plenty of escape routes was devised to take us from the Achilli Ratti CC hut in Bethesda to Capel Curig where we would leave a car.

Bethesda 002-1The Old School House in Bethesda in local stone with a splash of colour or two

Heading for Carnedd Llewelyn up the valley of the Afon Caseg and passed Ffynon Caseg for the steep climb to the summit we could see the mist shrouded ridge but not the rain nor the effect of the wind.

Bethesda 012-2Bluebells with the Glyders beyond

Bethesda 013-3Looking back towards Bethesda and the remains of the blue sky

Bethesda 014-4Looking forward to the ridge before the cloud base dropped

Bethesda 016-5Looking back down the Afon Caseg as the weather closes in

We reached the rain swept ridge and were greeted by the strong winds from which we had been sheltered previously. Three attempts were needed, I think, to find the summit in quite difficult conditions before heading east along the ridge. With no likelihood of a significant, or any, improvement we dropped of the ridge before the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du  and the less unpleasant conditions in Ogwen Valley.


Bethesda 018-7Tryfan almost clear of the clouds after we dropped off the ridge

Bethesda 019-8Llyn Ogwen as the weather improves

Bethesda 022-9Llynnau Mymbyr with Snowdon in the distance

Bethesda 031-10Snowdon beyond Llynnau Mymber

Bethesda 046-11The last of the sun

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

First Bluebells of 2011 – 02 May

A meandering route from the Duddon Valley on Monday morning took us to Bigland Barrow, another of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells. Some of his routes are a little contrived, seemingly to make it worth the walk but after the last couple of days’ miles I was very happy with the very short stroll from the nearest road. As well as providing a “bad weather” alternative to the high fells the outlying fells, more often than not, provide extensive views and Bigland Barrow is no exception.

High Moss 026Looking north east to the Eastern Fells with Red Screes and some of the Kentmere fells prominent

High Moss 033A long haired cross between Belted Galloway and Highland Cattle, perhaps?

These unusual bullocks were very docile and apart from the occasional look back to at us they carried on eating in the sunshine. In the field beyond we found a hillside of Bluebells – the first we have seen this year in any significant numbers. Every year, we say we will go to Buttermere to see the best display in the Lakes, behind Rannerdale Knotts and every year our diary is full of other things and it looks like we will miss this year’s too.


High Moss 023


High Moss 022

Not as extensive as the area at Rannerdale Knotts but the Bluebells here are just as beautiful especially on a sunny Monday morning.