Thursday, 21 July 2016

Keith's JNLC - 19 July

Keith left Pooley Bridge on Monday at 20:00, right on time, with Jim while we met Nigel at Dunmail Raise later the same evening. Pauline took Nigel to Kirkstone Pass to meet Jim and Keith while I tried to get some sleep in Nigel's car and, almost, succeeded. Keith was about 10 minutes early at Kirkstone Pass, just as he predicted, and Nigel brought him to Dunmail right on schedule. After a second breakfast we set off for Sty Head where Pauline, Nigel and Ed would meet us with more food and drink.

Climbing out of Dunmail Raise and into the hot sunshine at 5 o'clock in the morning suggested it could be a long, very hot day.

Keith at the top of the climb out of Dunmail Raise

Brownrigg Moss with Greenup Edge straight ahead

Keith climbing towards High Raise

Looking back down to Brownrigg Moss

Although Keith is still going strongly minutes are being lost here and there so that we both realise his 22 hour schedule is unlikely to be achieved, on this, the hottest day of the year. The next couple of hours confirm this but also confirm that a sub 24 hour completion is still very possible.

Leaving High Raise

From High Raise - the skyline shows much of the remaining route

Taking a minute on the way to Rossett Pike

Looking into Great Langdale from the climb up Bowfell

The long, relatively low stretch from High Raise to Bowfell is stifling and we both long for the cooling breeze which is blowing above us. This is Keith's nadir and while he seems reluctant to believe the clock he is still travelling fast enough. Bowfell is something of a contrast with what has gone before but it provides a spring with cool, clear water we both enjoy and a steep rough climb into the cooling breeze we both craved.

More than anything, with only a few minutes lost on the climb it convinces Keith he can reach Greendale Bridge within his allowed 24 hours. Esk Pike and Great End are summited without losing any more time before the descent to Sty Head where Pauline, Ed and Nigel are waiting.

Pauline and Ed make sure Keith eats and drinks all he is capable of while Nigel fills all the water bottles we think we can carry although we know they won't be enough. This next section, from Sty Head to Pillar, is the most demanding climbing on the route and while we have the breeze the partial cloud cover that helped from Bowfell has gone now.

Leaving Great Gable

Kirk Fell with Pillar and more beyond

Descending Great Gable with Wasdale beyond

Nigel leading Keith up Kirk Fell

We reach Pillar about an hour down but, more importantly, still moving fast enough and with plenty of time in hand. The same can't be said about our water though - Keith has a little cold tea left and Nigel is down to a last mouthful or two as I drain my water bottle. In addition to the outstanding summits we now have another objective which is the spring below Haycock. Scoat Fell, Steeple and Haycock are all gained without any further loss of time which allows us to spend time at the spring drinking its cool clear water and eating a bit for the last couple of climbs.

Seatallen, as ever, delivers the 'sting in the tail' and while the summit views justify lingering, today isn't the day as Middle Fell beckons.

Wasdale Head from Middle Fell

Nigel on Middle Fell

Keith on Middle Fell - just the final descent left

Following Joss off Middle Fell for Greendale Bridge

We just started descending Middle Fell when we saw Joss coming up to meet us - the perfect way to end a fabulous day on the fells. Keith reached Greendale Bridge 23 hours and 14 minutes after leaving Pooley Bridge. Having shared half the journey with him I know just how hard a day it was and how deep he had to dig to get there so my congratulations are heartfelt.

Huge "Well Done", Keith, it was a pleasure and privilege.

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