Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A weekend of rest (well no running)

Friday afternoon saw me finish bus duty and run down the ginnel to find Bob and the van. A quick drive to the lakes and we were parked in Hartsop and ready to walk (I did get changed out of work wear at some point).

It was a glorious evening and quite a while since I had been on these particular hills..... in fact about 30 years when I did a similar route on a very wet cold day when camping at Brothers Water. It could not be more different with sun, clear skies and amazing visibility.

We set out up the water company track and onto the hill. I do not know what this farmer used to mark his sheep and lambs but it had run and they were all dyed a variety of red and pink. The climb up the fell side when we left the track and took on Grey Crag was vicious but actually didn't last all that long.
I have not run Kentmere for a while and need to go back
The evening sun cast fantastic light and shadow on all the surrounding hills so that every tiny feature was highlighted. I soaked in the view and studied our planned route for the next day. Then it was off towards Thornthwaite Beacon for a bit before contouring across to Threshthwaite Mouth.

The ground was dry, very dry. The scramble up the rocky path from Threshthwaite Mouth was so much easier than my last visit on an abortive JNC in horrendous conditions. I lay in the sun on Caudale Moor and soaked up the views as I waited for Bob who was not far behind. The rest of the route should be easy as it was almost all down hill. The easy grassy path led down and then slightly up to Hartsop Dodd.

 Three lovely Wainwrights on a superb evening. What a wonderful way to end the working week. All that remained was the return to the van. I had forgotten just how steep the drop back to the valley was. It didn't take long but my knees were complaining and I was glad to reach the bottom. We made a donation to the Patterdale Charity box and left to find a camping spot for the night. It didn't take long to drive the length of Ullswater, ignoring the crowds in Patterdale and be glad we were not stopping there.

We parked up at Martindale 'new' church and settled in for food and sleep.  I slept well despite the early dawn chorus and by 8 we were up fed and ready for off. It looked like being a glorious day.

Bob originally set out to do 10 peaks in each of the 7 wainwright books =70. This all happened quite fast and so a new challenge was born, to complete all of them in a year. Having started with one plan and now switching to another has left some oddities and some weird route choices as we try to sweep them up.

 We set out along quiet lanes and found the track to the old footbridge across the stream and onto the side of Place Fell. I knew this from the L42 and was sure it would be a gentle start to the day. I explored the peaks off to the left and then realised Bob had caught me up, not seen me and was heading up to Place Fell.

A quick jog caught him up. The boggy flat area was almost dry and we were soon on the first summit. There was a very stiff wind making it chilly but the views across to Helvellyn and Skiddaw were superb. Descending we met our first walkers and looking down Boredale Hause seemed horribly crowded. We were soon down and overtaking a big group of walkers.
We were on top of that last night
As we were aiming for Angle Tarn Pikes we lost most people as they stuck to the lower path. The Tarn itself was beautiful and I enjoyed myself overtaking some mountain bikers who were struggling on the rocky section of path.

 I think I have been to Brock Crag when I have orienteered on this area but could not be sure.

We had the place to ourselves and found some of the wettest ground of the day. The view down to Brothers water and the peaks of the previous night were great. We returned to the main path and met up with the big group of walkers for a few minutes. We also met the first of several people who needed navigational help. The day was clear and the paths were huge so I was a bit taken a back that people could be unsure. I would worry for them in bad weather.

Most people were heading for The Knott so as we cut off for Rest Dodd we were alone again. I don't think I am anti-social but I do like to have the hill to myself. Sitting just below the summit of Rest Dodd and checking out the ext section I spotted the herd of deer in Bannerdale. It was an easy walk down and along to The Nab.

The view to Hallin Fell and the obelisk was very clear but it would be some time before we arrived there. We were making good time and I started to hatch a plan. We had more than enough time to complete today's route and add in Sunday morning's. I was going to keep quiet but Bob must have esp and sensed what I was plotting. We agreed to review it but it did seem possible. The descent off The Nab was even steeper than Hartsop. We were both intrigued by 'The Bungalow' which we now know is an old shooting lodge. It has a vaguely colonial air and is rented out as a grand holiday cottage. A short walk on the valley floor led us back towards Beda Fell.

We had to check which bit was the Wainwright and were relieved to find it was Beda Fell and Beda Head rather than Bedafell Knotts. I suddenly remembered how Rowena and I had run across this area on a SLMM and I knew where all the paths were. The stroll along to the end of the ridge was lovely and the views just kept coming. We dropped to the valley floor, past the old Martindale church  and set off up the sloping diagonal path to Steel Knotts.

The wind was even more fierce now and as we turned back south it was quite a struggle. We headed to the wonderfully named Gowk Hill and several ruined farm buildings before climbing up to Wether Hill. For what seemed like the first time in the day we now had the wind on our backs and a mostly downhill section. We were soon on Loadpot Hill and contemplating Bonscale Pike. I do not think I had been there before and it was quiet. We contoured , on a different path each, to Arthur's Pike.  Bob was convinced there was a direct way down so we stayed close to the edge and after Long crag sure enough there was a way. It was steep but grassy and safe. It dropped us onto the bridleway and an easy route back to Howtown. we opted for the off-road bridleway via Mellguards to drop down directly on the church. I shot off ahead and made a brew, vital refuelling before we completed the day by adding Hallin Fell to our tally. It was a very short and easy walk and a great way to end with superb views from the obelsik over Ullswater and across to Cross Fell on the Pennines.

 We managed a photo in the ever strengthening wind and then it was back to the van. We were worried enough by the wind to move it across the road and away from the trees and rooks.By the time we had eaten it was almost time for bed. The wind rocked the van and we did not sleep so well. The worry of rain did not materialise though and so the plan of more peaks on Sunday was on. It was going to be an odd day of collecting in some outliers. First stop was the Aira Force car park and a walk up Gowbarrow.

We had orienteered on here too, but not for many years. The waterfall was beautiful even after a relatively dry period and we had the place to ourselves. We wandered across the trods and up on to the open fell climbing steadily until we got to the trig point. A huge path building plan was underway and they were mammoth sacks of stone everywhere. It seems a shame but I guess the erosion makes it necessary. Heading down off the hill we met quite a few walkers on their way up. The benefits of an early start. Next stop was the other side of Kirkstone and we prayed the lay-by would be empty. It was as not many ascend Wansfell from here. This was wet, wet, wet. Heaven knows what it is like after rain. It was a fairly quick out and back with a discussion of the best way to get to Troutbeck Tongue. Bob sat in the van refuelling and I sat in the sun with coffee and a book. It wasn't long before we were ready to search out our next parking spot. Sorting out a route to take in Sour Howes, Sallows and Troutbeck Tongue was not easy. In fact I think Wainwright had a touch of sadism including the latter as it really does stand alone. The parking opposite Lime Fit park was all take so it was over to plan B. Fortunately there was space at the end of Dubbs lane.It was also very warm down here. WE followed the big track we knew from mountain biking and after hopeless attempts to get a lamb back into the correct field we struck out uphill to Applethwaite Common or Sour Howes. On these lower tops the wind was gentle and I sunbathed while Bob caught up. The contour round to Sallows was fast and we were soon on Garburn Pass. There was nothing for it but to take a direct line here and just head NW down and across the hill.

 I reminded me of a leg on the LDMT but in reverse. The sight of masses of blue bells kept us going along the valley floor and across the streams. It was a stiff but short climb up the nose and then we were on the summit.
The last one of the day. I was not looking forward to the long trek back out along the valley track but it actually passed quicker than I had expected. I half planned a refreshment stop at the caravan park but knew it would make getting going again hard work.

We pushed on, climbed to Dubbs lane and powered our way back to the van. What a great weekend.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

Not The Wrong Trousers, but possibly The Wrong Shoes (again)

Race 5 of the Runfurther series was the Kintyre Way, with a choice of 351/2 miles or 67 miles. We had already had much debate about the cut-offs and I was last man standing. Dick was anxious he would no make the cut-offs on a good day, Emma wanted to do a grand slam and so understandably did not want to risk it and Andy is not meant to run due to his stress fracture until June. I was worried about my knee which hurt at Evesham and then the weather forecast and the horrid cold I had suffered all week.
Home for two nights
What a load of excuses! Driving up on Friday night I was gradually coming round to the idea of sticking at it. One of us ought to and it was a long way to drive to run 30 odd miles. (well Andy was driving, but you know what I mean). The long race had a start time of 5.30am and I guess that was another reason I was uncertain. We had agreed to meet in Tarbert on the Friday evening, at registration if Andy and I could manage it.

We failed to spot the chippy in time as we passed through Cairndow and could not find one in Inverary or Lochgilphead but we did find a great little pub in Ardrishaig for our tea. We drove into Tarbert to spot the Runfurther banner flying by the harbour and quickly parked up to register. We also donned our new committee T shirts (thanks Fastrax) and went out for a photo call.
Proud owners of Committee T shirts -Thanks Fastrax
Then having checked the maps and had a natter it was off to find our accommodation for the two nights; the wooden wigwams at Stonefield farm. They say they sleep 5 and I guess they would and in more comfort than a tent so for the three of us it was luxury. I was feeling wiped out after a week of my cold and so was first to bed, just to be resting and horizontal. I didn't sleep badly but 4.30am came round all to fast. I sat eating my breakfast by head torch and trying to make as little noise as possible until 5 when I woke Andy.

He drove me down to the start and put up our RF start banner before taking a few photos. There were only 17 entered on the long route so it did not take long to get us organised and off. The weather was sticking to the forecast of dull and heavy showers so most of us had cags on and less than half had opted for shorts.

We started uphill almost immediately on a big forest track but with some narrower boggy bits at first. The cloud was down and it hard to see far or take in many views even as it got lighter. After a bit the forest track ended and we were out on the hillside. The path deteriorated and I smiled. My studs gripped well and I was happy again. I reeled in a few that had overtaken me and enjoyed the path as it snaked back into the forest. The track down to Skipness was soft and not too long. Only 3 ladies were competing and I had a chat with Charlotte here.

 She had done the Fellsman when I did Evesham and was worried it was too soon. The weather seemed to be picking up and we ran along the coastline for a few km to the CP at Claonaig Bay. At least it was a quiet and picturesque road. There were several caravans perched on grass above the shoreline and plenty of spots to park a small campervan ;)
Arran I think
The village was really only a cluster of houses but a ferry goes from here so there was a bus stop, toilets and car park, plus lots of support waiting for the relay runners who were setting off just after us. After a couple more km of road we turned off on another forest track and climbed. The relay runners were starting to come past now and we shouted encouragement at each other. We soon left the forest track and got to some very muddy boggy bits. It had rained a lot. The path they had created westwards towards Clachan was great, although once we entered the forest we were soon back on stony tracks again. We had a diversion on the last bit of route into Clachan and it gave me a few moments of doubt as it didn't really match what I expected but I soon found myself on the A83 and heading into the CP.

22 miles done so 1/3 of the way now and I was enjoying myself and pleased I had given the long route a go. Sadly there was then another section of road before we headed down past a posh house to the shore for a very short while.

The next 5 km stayed parallel to the main road but mostly on very very muddy paths through bushes  and with the odd section of pebble beach thrown in. Debbie caught me up here and we sort of ran together for a while. When the bushes ended we hit the beach for real. A 4km section of pebble beach that was tough going. Dry seaweed was the best line but wet seaweed was lethal as I found to my cost.

Debbie on the pebble beach
We also got wet feet- salty water which was not good with about 40 miles to go. We had one very heavy downpour but the views out to Gigha and the other islands were stunning. We rounded the headland with a trig point at 2m asl and entered the caravan park for a short section. Then it was back onto the beach, but this time sand. At the ferry jetty we turned inland for Tayinloan and the nearly half way mark. Debbie and I settled down for tea, soup, oranges and more then grabbed our drop bags and were off again.
Carra and the ferry to Gigha
I should not have sat just the 10-15 minutes we did as I was stiff and struggled to get going.  There was a short loop on the beach and then across the main road and onto a big track that took us up and up and up some more to the wind turbines on Deucheran Hill. I had time to look back out to sea and Gigha looked interesting but the smaller island just south, which I think is Cara, had an amazing lump of rock and cliffs at its end.The weather up on the hill was cooler and although it didn't rain the cloud was low and it was a bit gloomy. This section was not a favourite as it has about 15 miles on forest track or minor road. Not only could you see just how far you had to go stretching ahead but it was starting to make my feet sore. The last few miles took us over a hill south of Grogport and I got views across to Arran.

I have never been but it looked nice and mountainous. I refilled my water bottle at the Carradale CP and set off just behind Debbie and a relay runner. Debbie disappeared ahead and the relay runner went with her. We hit the coast again for a short scramble over rocks- fine when your legs area good but in danger of unducing cramp at this stage.

I then caught the relay runner and we tried to make sense of the route description. In the end I gave up and just followed the blue markers.There was more forest track and then a nice rough path down into the Saddell Water valley and Ifferdale Farm. Debbie was just leaving the CP as I arrived. Water was from a very long hose pipe and I hoped it was OK. From Ifferdale there was.... yes you guessed, more forest track and it really did seem to go on. I finished my water and refilled from a peaty stream but running downhill was now a trail and my feet felt like they had been hammered.

Next time I will carry Hokas to change into after Tayinloan. (serious medical issue with ultra runners- short memory, already thinking about next time). The official photographer popped up all over the place and he was at the head of Lussa Loch along with the coastguard guys who were the rescue vehicles. I had thought the forest track was tough on my feet but part was along the loch it turned to tarmac and that was no better.

 I hobbled on and tried not to think about the time draining away. I did at least know that, barring real disaster, I would not be timed out now. I had anticipated a relatively easy end to the ultra with a road for 8km in to Campbelltown. In my dreams. The reality was a crippling hobble where I forced myself to run the flats and downs as much as I could and tried to power walk the ups.The road was described as undulating.......   and it was! Various support crews were out looking for runners and all offered encouragement. At last I spied the A83 again, surely I could run now. I did try, honest but even running this last 1.5km was not continuous and it was a joy to run on the grass for the last 100m.  At last. Job done. Debbie had only finished 12 minutes ahead of me and I felt sorry not to have stuck with her as mutual encouragement would have been good. We refuelled for a bit and then wandered off to find the showers. the walk to the other end of the football pitches was well worth it. Then it was a short walk in the other direction to find the pub and all the others. they had all completed. Emma was first lady on the shorter route and shared her time with Nigel A, Dick was slightly miffed that Marie and Harry just beat him and Andy was delighted that even walking he beat a fair few runners. We enjoyed the buffet and a drink before the prize-giving and than had a chat with the RO. We then suddenly realised we needed to go and collect in all our flags or we would be in danger of missing the bus home. We beetled off to the waterfront and stuffed them into bags the best we could. Ironically my legs felt fine, if only my feet had let me run. It was an interesting bus ride in the dark with sheep and deer on the road. Dick got out at Tayinloan to collect his car from their start and we met up again back at the wigwams. I fell into bed and was so glad I had showered earlier.  I slept well, no surprise there. By 8.30 we were all up and having a little RF meeting before heading home. Will I go back? Probably. I wasn't in the best shape when I set out and now know what to expect underfoot. I should be able to knock over an hour off this years time so I guess I will need to return. I am not a fan of the forest tracks but I would like to see the views again, and more of them if the weather allows.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A long weekend in the Lakes

No running but that is OK. My knee was still sore from Evesham, I was tired and mid week started with a cold. The forecast was OK although not great.
We drove up on Friday night after a birthday tea and cake for Bob. The best card was from his brother " 70 is only 21 (degrees C)".  We  had planned a big route and were in bed early ready for our early start. It took minutes to move the van to the farm at Town Head where we settled down for breakfast. £1 for a days parking seems very reasonable. We set off up the lane and then headed up the steep hillside on some very easy zigzag paths. We were on Helm Crag before most people were even out of bed.

 After a quick play and scramble around on all the rocks we set out along the ridge to Gibson Knott which seemed a bit insignificant. I took us on a short detour to Rough Crag and then on to Calf Crag where we nearly caught up two runners on a BG recee. Dropping to the col and Mere Beck we got wet feet and it stayed that way even as we climbed. With heads down we climbed and climbed some more..... and then realised we were almost at Sergeant Man. Oops that was not the plan. We shot off downhill to Tarn Crag and then headed south to Coledale tarn.

Three tents were wild camping here and it was very still and peaceful. Heading up to Blea Rigg we started to meet other walkers.

The views were now great , especially into Pavey Ark and the Langdale Stickles. Now we did head for Sergeant Man and the summit was now quite crowded. There was also a control for the GL3 day event which we then had to explain to the other walkers. I had thought GL3D was quite expensive but Bob thought otherwise so maybe we will do it next year. The next section was going to be easy as the out and backs were over and we were up on the ridge.

It also got even more crowded but I suppose it was Bank Hol weekend and we were above Langdale. We contoured across to Pavey Ark and then Harrison Stickle quickly followed by Loft Crag (Gimmer to climbers).  We got a bit separated here as I got the bit between my teeth and Bob slowed down.

There were plenty of views to drink in and past mountain marathon routes across this area to reflect on so I did not mind. Looking back at Gimmer I could see climbers but it must have been chilly. Pike of Stickle has a little scramble to the top but we did not linger in the wind.
A great Birthday treat
It was time for more wet feet as we went north to Thunacar Knott, although in fairness it was drier than I have sometimes seen it. The wind was behind us now as we climbed Raise and it was decision time of how many more to include. We had hours of day light left  and it seemed a shame to miss out any at all. From Low White Stones we set off downhill to Sergeants Crag. It was a big drop but did not take that long. Neither of us had been on this fell side before although Rowena and I had run close on a SLMM. Eagle Crag was even lower but too close to miss out now. These two had tiny paths and despite being close to Stonethwaite I did not think they are visited that often. Sitting admiring the view I had a brain wave. Rather than climbing back to Long Crag and contouring round Greenup Edge as Rowena and I had done we could drop to the big coast to coast path, climb the big craggy but unnamed nose and cut the corner to Ullscarf.  It had a bit more climb but was definitely shorter and was more interesting.  We got separated again en route to Ullscarf when I found a lovely little sheep trod that took me directly to the fence at the northern end of the bogs. I was just starting to worry and think of retracing my steps when by luck I spotted Bob on a totally different line.

The cloud built up at this point and we had a few spots of rain. Fortunately it came to nothing but it did make me want to push on. We knew the next leg would involve a drop and a climb; there was no alternative. We hit a great line just west of Cat Gill and the rocks. It was very steep and there was no path  but it led us perfectly to an easy stream crossing. It avoided The Bog and the climb onto the Steel Fell ridge was very gentle there. Despite avoiding The Bog it was still wet underfoot until we gained the fence and stated to climb to the summit cairn. It was warmer now we had dropped out of the wind and the threatened rain had disappeared.

 My knee complained badly as we descended the nose all the way down to the lane but it had been a great day out.  16 Wainwrights for Bob as his birthday treat!!

Sunday was spent helping at the Northern O Champs that our orienteering club were organising. Neither of us were planning to run, just a day of volunteering. I had a rather nice job of manning the road next to assembly. Not lots to do really and a great place for meeting lots of friends. We were one of the first there and I knew by the time Bob and Chris etc had done download all day we would be one of the last to leave. It drizzled miserably for some of the morning and the cloud was very low but it could have been much wetter. I did not really regret not racing as I seem to damage ankles when I take my eyes off the floor to run and study the map. Instead I collected some controls at the end of the day and David kindly gave me the ones on the open fell which were relatively straight forward and gave me lovely views across Windermere. The last time I had been on Blakeholme was the fell race where you row across the lake, run up and down and then row back. It was years ago now. Eventually all the gear was collected in and we were free to leave. We drove to Walna Scar road for the night. It is a favourite of ours and was wonderfully quiet.

I had never noticed this before?

The overnight light rain stopped by morning but the cloud was very low. Bob decided it was so low we should do our planned route backwards. I wasn't at all convinced but I think my cold and sore throat were making me grumpy.  It seemed a long time to climb to the col and then drop all the way down to the Duddon Valley. We crossed the fields and aimed for Birks where the forest felling had not been quite so destructive as at Grassguards. Now there was a big climb.

Up and up on Harter Fell. I went exploring and found the tarn near my control on the Klets we did there and then I scrambled around the summit before chatting to a fell runner receeing the Duddon race route.  It was sunny but cold now as we set off for Hardknott Pass. Today was certainly a day for wet feet! We started up the race route and then wandered across to the summit crag. There were a couple of spots of rain and then it stopped.

 We made a beeline for Cockley Beck. The only path was in Mosedale and I was sure that would be at least as wet as the open fell side. As we joined the road we met more fell runners and a biker who wanted his photo taking.  The fields behind the farm at Cockley Beck were a muddy swamp. The cattle had created a real mess and didn't look too pleased we were joining them either. It was a joy to gain the fell side and start the climb to Grey Friar.

 Bob already had that Wainwright and he was lagging a bit so we cut the corner and picked up the contouring path below Swirl How towards Levers Hawse and then Goats Hause. It gave me time to contemplate the CPs and routes Matt and I had taken on the SLMM there. Wow some stiff climbs and big distances (perhaps that is why he won't do another with me now).

The wind was fierce on Dow Crag and I pitied the climbers that had camped near us ready for a long day on the rock. Back at Goats Hause I met the fell runner from Harter Fell again but it was too cold to stop and compare routes for long.

 Brim Fell was calmer and we stopped a few moments before our last peak of Coniston Old Man.
Old man on Old Man?

 We quickly overtook a descending party and struck due south on a route we had never tried before. We arrived at the quarry area and carried on. Bob moaned his feet were wet again but it was a nice grassy descent and dropped us nicely onto Walna Scar road with just a short section to retrace back to the van. What a joy to be able to climb into the van, make a brew, sit with the door open and soak in the view, have a bite to eat, get changed....  and then think about driving home.
111 Wainwrights now done since New Years Day and although Bob has completed what he set out to do I think he will now go for doing all of them if he can.