Littledale, Caton and Glasson on the bike

Clougha

Clougha Pike from Little Fell Lane

I promised that next time I go out on the bike I’d take my camera, and I’ve stuck to my word! I was revising all day yesterday and had my final exam this morning and so was itching to get out into the sunshine. My house mate Adrian suggested a bike ride and so I suggested the same route as I did a few weeks back, over Littledale and down to Caton, but this time armed with a camera! I also bought a pair of new wheels (Fulcrum Racing 7s) last week and haven’t had the chance to test them out yet.

After Saturday’s run my legs were still feeling a bit on the achey side, and the big hill up from Lancaster to the Littledale area was hard going. We took a few breaks and that meant I could get a couple of photos. We had quite a big break by Littledale Crags to take in the great views and fantastic weather.

Littledale Road

Littledale Road from by Littledale Crag – great scrambling location!

Littledale

Littledale

From there it was a quick descent to Caton and back along the cycle track to Lancaster. As we were both still feeling fine we decided to carry on to Glasson, following the Lune cycle path all the way, before coming back the same way. The weather was fantastic – warm and sunny with the slightest of breezes to keep us at a nice temperature. Cycling along the Lune felt very easy and it felt great to be out on the bike. I’m tempted to go for another long ride this week to try and build up my cycling legs!

Aquaduct

Aquaduct over the Lune

Fairfield, Helvellyn and the Dodds

The Welsh 1000m Peaks race is quickly creeping up on me and unfortunately revision has got in the way of any serious training – the last time I did anything over 10 miles was a good two weeks ago. So, time for a bit of a serious run!

Lorna, Imogen and Darren were heading up to Keswick for the Keswick Mountain Festival yesterday, and so I asked if they’d drop me off at Rydal Hall on the way up. From here I headed up onto Nab Scar and along the ridge to Fairfield (second week in a row!). After a short break and a bite to eat, I descended to Grisedale Tarn before heading up the well-managed path other Nethermost and Dollywagon Pikes and onto Helvellyn.

Amazingly, the cloud lifted as I got to both Fairfield and Helvellyn, leaving me with some staggering views. Helvellyn, being the third highest mountain in England, had crowds of people on the summit and there was a queue going over Striding Edge. It was also the first mountain in Britain that a plane was landed upon in 1926, and for the first time I stumbled across the plaque up there that commemorates the event.

From Helvellyn, I headed across the Dodds to Clough Head, before descending to St John’s in the Vale. It was only the second time I’ve been across the Dodds and the first time was in thick cloud, so it was nice to see the view yesterday! The run turned out as 17 miles with 6000 ft of ascent (27 km / 1800 m), taking me just under 4 hours.

After the run we all headed to Castlerigg Stone Circle and then Keswick Mountain Festival. I’ve never been to the festival before and enjoyed the good atmosphere and freebies – including free YHA membership for the year!

Castlerigg

Castlerigg Stone Circle, one of around 1,300 stone circles in the Britain constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages.

KMF

The “Airbag” at Keswick Mountain Festival. The idea is to cycle as fast as you can onto the ramp and fly onto the airbag. Looked great fun!

Derwent Water

Me and Lorna by Derwent Water – what a setting for a festival!

Fairfield horseshoe fell race and leader training at Haweswater

Quite a busy weekend! On Saturday was the Fairfield Horseshoe fell race and Sunday I ran a bit of a “leader training” day for the Hiking Club at Haweswater.

Fairfield Horseshoe fell race

The Fairfield Horseshoe race is one of the classic Lakes races and has been running (no pun intended!) since 1966 when it was first organised by the Lake District Mountain Trial Association. With a distance of 10 miles and an ascent of 3000 ft (16 km / 910 m), it is surprisingly runnable. Apart from the initial drag up onto Nab Scar, the ascents are all gradual and there are few rocky sections, meaning a blistering pace was set by the leaders – we were left trailing in their wake after a few miles of frantically trying to keep up!

The start

The start of the race at Rydal Hall, photo courtesy of Lorna

The route avoids the tourist path up Nab Scar and instead heads up the valley for about half a mile before swinging up along the intake wall. This part of the race is flagged, but from Nab Scar onwards we were free to pick our own way between checkpoints. I was in a group who seemed to know where they were going and picked all of the best racing lines along the ridge.

After 47 minutes I arrived at the summit of Fairfield and began the rather long descent over Dove Crag and High and Low Pikes. The wheels came off on this section and I really struggled most of the way down, loosing quite a few places and probably a good five minutes – if not more! From Low Sweden Bridge the race heads back to Rydal Hall along the stone track, which was probably the most painful part of the race. I finished in 1:47:41 in around 100th position out of 300.

After the race, me and Lorna went for a stroll down to Loughrigg Tarn to make the most of the sun.

Loughrigg Tarn

Lorna walking down to Loughrigg Tarn

Haweswater

The club had decided to run a leader training course on our Sunday trip to Haweswater and it fell to me to run it. We had six people interested and I decided the best option would be to take them on a bit of a walk and introduce the basic concepts of navigation and group management to them so they felt confident enough to get out into the hills and practice.

Haweswater

A rather windy Haweswater reservoir

We headed up Kidsty Howes and onto Kidsty Pike. The wind was pretty strong (40-50mph) and it made progress slow in places. We took a few bearings on the way up and I introduced the concepts of back bearings, transits and resections. I demonstrated the use of transits by taking a back bearing from the summit of High Style to pinpoint exactly where we were along the ridge.

The descent was from Low Raise straight down to Randale Beck, giving the opportunity to walk on a compass bearing. I set the aim of getting to a set of waterfalls on the map and fair enough, we got there exactly! After the walk we went to the Bampton Arms in Bampton for a quick drink and to meet up with Richard’s group who had walked there along Haweswater, before heading to Penrith for chips.

I had great fun teaching people to navigate and I think they all got something out of the day as well. I will definitely look into running more days like it in the future.

Low Raise

Heading to Low Raise from High Raise

Lúnasa at the Dukes Theatre

Who said this blog was only about mountains!? I thought I’d diversify a bit and talk about a gig I went to last night.

I was actually looking at what films were on at the Dukes Theatre (literally a few hundred metres down the road from my house) when I spotted that the celtic band Lúnasa were playing. I’d never heard of them before but liked what I read, and at £12 for a student ticket, we couldn’t really go wrong! This was on Wednesday night and so I popped in first thing yesterday morning to see if they had any tickets left for me and Lorna. They did, and luckily for us there were some left right near the front! Lúnasa are a traditional Irish instrumental band, who started playing in 1997. They’ve recorded seven albums and are quite famous in their own country. The name comes from Lughnasadh, an ancient Irish harvest festival.

The gig started at 8pm and they did a few fast and furious sets with plenty of virtuosic twiddly bits leaving us wondering how they moved their fingers so fast. A few softer songs followed and the first half was finished by a tune with a brilliant double bass solo. The second half started with the same vigour as the first before we were treated to a few solo performances, the highlight being a haunting tune played by Cillian Vallely on the uilleann pipes. The uilleann pipes are the national pipes of Ireland and produce a much softer and sweeter tone then the more common Highland bagpipes. A unique blend of chanter (which plays the main melody), drone (the drone in the background) and regulators (keys enabling chords to be played) means some extremely impressive and complex harmonies can be created – they really don’t need any accompaniment! The gig finished with a soft mournful piece called “The Last Pint”.

The mixture of good music and witty banter from the band made it a very enjoyable gig. The Dukes Theatre is a fantastic venue for live music as well – I only wish they would put on more bands!

Back on the bike

It’s amazing how good a quick bike ride in the sun can make you feel! I was fed up of sitting indoors revising with the sun pelting down outside and so I thought I’d take a short break and go for a 15 mile bike ride through the Forest of Bowland. From Lancaster I headed up through Quernmore and on to Littledale, before dropping down to Caton and cycling back along the Lune.

Littledale is a beautiful area and I really kicked myself for not taking a camera with me. The lighting was fantastic over Lancaster and up to the Lakes. The wind farm on Caton Moor looked quite majestic. I’ve vowed to do a bigger ride around the area on a similarly sunny day armed with my camera to take some photos.

The route I rode was actually a shorter version of a run I did last night and part the reason it was so short was because my legs were still aching!

Littledale

Littledale Crag, taken in the Autumn of last year.

Three Peaks fell race

I’ve got a valid excuse for the delay in posting about this race, which took place last Saturday. I had my Master’s project (effectively a lengthy dissertation) due in last Monday and the first of my exams today (in Advanced Relativity and Gravity, and Advanced Particle Physics – scary stuff!). I thought I’d take a break from the work this evening and so I’ve finally got a chance to write about what was one of the most enjoyable days out I’ve had this year!

The Three Peaks fell race is in its 58th year, and attracts people from all over the globe. The entry limit for the race is 1000 and it also sells out without a few weeks of entries opening. And rightly so, as I personally think it’s one of the best, and indeed toughest, races out there, standing at 23 miles and with about 5000 ft of ascent. Ironically, it’s not the height gain or mountainous terrain that make it tough, but more the relentless pace and long flat sections that you have to pace perfectly – go too fast and you’ll end up in agony by the end, go too slow and you’ll miss the cut off times! They’re quite severe cut off times as well, many people get “timed out” each year.

The record for the current course is an incredible 2:46:03, set by Andy Peace of Bingley Harriers in 1996. The fastest ever record was set in 1974 by Jeff Norman, in a time of 2:29:53, on a considerably different course. The race has gone through many permutations in its rich history, and the start was originally at the Hill Inn. The first race, back in 1954, attracted only six competitors!

Last Saturday was the second time I’ve done the race, the previous time being the year before when I hit “the wall” big-time on the ascent of Ingleborough (affectionately know by competitors as Ingle-bugger) and was in agony for the whole of the descent. I finished in 4 hours 48 minutes then, and my aim for this year was simply to beat that time.

Joe Symonds

Joe Symonds from Hunters Bog Trotters, the overall winner, ascending Ingleborough.

The weather was somewhat similar, very windy but with sunny spells. However, this year, it was much colder and conditions underfoot a lot boggier, making the overall pace slower. Nearly 800 of us set of from Horton at 10:00am and after a run through the village, spectated by a surprising number of people, we were off up to Penine Way towards Pen-y-Ghent. It always gets me what an amazing atmosphere there is at the start, there are always loads of people out in Horton and along the Penine Way to Pen-y-Ghent.

I set off faster than last year and arrived at the summit of Pen-y-Ghent nearly 5 minutes up. By Ribblehead I’d gained 10 minutes and was still feeling great. I started to struggle a bit on the ascent of Whernside (the race goes straight up the side, which is horrendously steep at the top), but felt great again descending and running through the checkpoint at the Old Hill Inn, in exactly 3 hours (still 10 minutes up). Lorna and family were waiting just past the Hill Inn with some water and I took the opportunity to take a quick break. By this point, a lot of people I was running around had started to slow down and a group of us (including Wendy Dodds, who won the race back in 1983) went on a bit of an overtaking spree all the way up Ingleborough.

Me

Taking a well-deserved drink on the way up Ingleborough, kindly provided by Lorna!

Notice the windshirt and gloves in the above photo. It was unbelievably cold for the time of year on the summit of Whernside and I was still warming up back in the valley! With the wind chill it definitely felt below zero, and in fact the Fellsman race (a 60ish mile event through the Dales) that was taking place the same day had to be cut short with numerous entrants suffering from hypothermia.

Me

Me at the finish. Notice Wendy Dodds a few seconds behind!

I got much further before I hit the wall this year, and that eventually came about a mile after the summit of Ingleborough. It was my own fault really – I always misjudge how long the descent from Ingleborough back to Horton is and set off far too fast from the summit. I finished (in slightly less pain than last year) in a time of 4:22:57 and a position of 276 (out of 660ish finishers), nearly half-an-hour up on last year – which I was pretty chuffed at!

The race is just fantastic, the atmosphere around the course is electric and it has a real special feel about it that not many other fell races I’ve competed in have. The aim for next year is sub 4 hours, watch this space!