An extended Coledale Horseshoe run

Extended Coledale Horseshoe route

Extended Coledale Horseshoe route

There aren’t many places in the Lake District that I haven’t explored yet, but until a few weekends ago, the hills around Coledale was such an area. Whilst I’m not a Wainwright bagger by any stretch of the imagination, I do admit that I’m generally fond of ticking things off lists and my chosen list, in England and Wales at least, is John and Anne Nuttall‘s list of mountains in England and Wales over 2000ft (with a prominence of 50ft or more). There are 443 of them altogether, and I’m about halfway there.

I’d chosen to run the route, which encompassed none-less-than twelve Nuttalls, to see how my fitness was fairing up on a big mountain route. It worked out at around 24km with 1600m ascent, and took 3 hours and 8 minutes. In stark contrast to previous weekends in Scotland, the weather was incredibly mild, and despite being in shorts and a t-shirt I still found that I was far too hot hacking up onto the north-eastern ridge of Grisedale Pike. The views were non-existent but the running still very pleasant along the ridge over Hopegill Head and out to Whiteside and back. There were momentary lapses in the cloud cover and I did got some good views out over north-western Cumbria. Grasmoor was a bit of a slog, as was the out-and-back to Whiteless Pike; I’d chosen to do Whiteless not because it lies on the natural horseshoe (because it doesn’t, at all!), but because I’d never done it before.

My original plan was to run back over Scar Crags and Causey Pike (two more Nuttalls!), but that would have resulted in a couple of kilometres up the road, and so instead I descended via Outerside, which is instead I believe a Wainwright! This part of the route, despite my aching legs, was the most enjoyable of the day, probably due to the fact that I was finally out of the clouds. All-in-all, a very enjoyable day and I’ll definitely be back in better weather.

Arnside Knott fell race

A common mistake in fell racing is to presume that the hillier the race is, the more difficult it will be. Arnside Knott fell race on Sunday definitely proved that to be false, as I arrived at the finish line more worn out than most other races I’ve done. It was definitely more intense than Great Whernside a few weeks ago.

Lorna uttered something to me before the start to the extent of “make sure you’re at the front of the group at the start”, and with this in mind I soon found myself in sixth place, huffing and puffing my way up slippy limestone covered in even more slippy leaves. The “make sure you’re at the front” strategy was to avoid the bottleneck as the race route took us onto a little single-track footpath just after the start, and it worked perfectly. I was pushing myself to maximum intensity, but in a manageable way so that I could (almost) maintain my pace for the duration of the race. After just over a mile, the guy in front cramped up and I slipped up into fifth place. After a stretch of road the final ascent of the Knott began, and I managed to overtake once more, putting me into fourth place until the summit. I had lost sight of the lead runners by this point and all that spurred me on was the knowledge that I was being pursued closely.

Go! Paul Webb, the winner, setting the pace at the start (middle of the picture).

Go! Paul Webb, the winner, setting the pace at the start (middle of the picture).

After dodging some curious cows standing around the summit trig, I started the descent, doing my best to avoid ploughing into those still making the ascent (the route is straight out and back), whilst valiantly trying to maintain my position. A real sting in the tail came in the form of a steep ascent about a mile from the finish, and at this point my legs decided they’d had quite enough ascent, allowing two guys who had been chasing me on the descent to finally pass. I managed to hang onto sixth position until the finish, frustratingly being only one second behind fifth place across the line.

Heading for the summit - on the final ascent of the Knott.

Heading for the summit – on the final ascent of the Knott. Photo copyright Mark Cronshaw.

My finishing time was 37:48, whilst the winner (Paul Webb) smashed the course record by nearly two minutes, finishing in 34:56. The full results are available here.

Nearly there! On the finishing straight.

Nearly there! On the finishing straight.

The snow is here! Exploring the Munros of Loch Lomond

I thought we might get a little bit of snow for Lancaster University Hiking Club’s first Scotland weekend trip last weekend, but I didn’t envisage we’d be wading through waist-deep stuff most of the weekend. We were staying at Beinglas Farm Campsite, at the very northern-most end of Loch Lomond in Inverarnan. This offered easy access to not just the Arrochar Alps but also the Munros to the north-east of the campsite, on which I spent most of the weekend.

The initial plan on Saturday was to bag all five Munros to the north-east of the campsite, namely: Beinn Chabhair; An Caisteail; Beinn a’ Chroin; Cruach Ardain and; Beinn Tulaichean. However, logistics dictated that only four (missing out Beinn Chabhair) were realistically going to be achievable and so we headed up to park just south-west of Crianlarich to start the walk up Coire Earb. The weather was pretty miserable at first, with plenty of sleety snow as we hacked our way up onto An Caisteal’s northern ridge. Things cleared up, fortunately, and we even got a bit of a view from the summit. As it was the first fall of snow, no freeze-thaw cycles had occurred and hence it was all very powdery and pristine, which made for hard going as we waded our way onto Beinn a’ Chroin, via a steep, exposed and somewhat direct route up it’s north-western face. The clouds cleared on our way up and we got some stunning views over the surrounding Munros and down to Loch Lomond.

Pristine powdery snow! Just off the summit of An Caisteal.

Pristine powdery snow! Just off the summit of An Caisteal.

The wind was biting and I don’t think I really warmed up all day long, even on the ascent. When we reached the col between Beinn a’ Chroin and Cruach Ardain, some of the group decided to head down, whilst Calum, Jim, Laura, Daniel, Ben and myself decided to head on. By the time we reached the summit of Cruach Ardain (which we later discovered wasn’t actually the summit; how frustrating!), it was already dark and as we didn’t fancy adding an extra couple of hours navigating in the pitch black out to Beinn Tulaichean and back, we decided to head down instead.

Great views when the clouds cleared!

Great views when the clouds cleared!

That evening, the campsite owners were hosting a bonfire and firework display. We received a phonecall just after leaving our final summit to say our van would need to be moved as it was too close to where the fire was going to be (Daniel had the keys), but when we returned we found they’d decided to crack on without us and instead had left a good layer of ash on the van. More annoyingly, they showed clear disregard for any tents nearby (i.e., ours) and gave them a good coating of ash as well.

The forecast was much better for the Sunday, and as I decided it was about time that I run up my first Munro. I’d weighed up the snow the day before and decided it wasn’t icy enough to warrant crampons, and that fell running shoes would be fine. Of course, I had in mind that I might need to turn back before the summit of my target – the most western of the five behind the campsite: Beinn Chabhair.

The weather was perfect, and the bog to Lochan Beinn Chabhair fortunately frozen – for the ascent at least! It took me 52 minutes to run the 3km and 500m ascent to the lochan, with a few stops to de-layer and take on some food. A lot of time was spent skirting around unfrozen sections of the bog. From there, where there were another few guys starting their ascents, I started the wade up onto Meall nan Tarmachain on Beinn Chabhair’s north-western ridge. The “ridge” was very undulating, with chest-high snow drifts in places, and by the time I reached the summit I was feeling physically drained. I finished off my first PowerBar, started on my second (my “emergency” one) and ate a handful of snow, before slipping and sliding my way back along the ridge and down to the lochan. The descent was, fortunately, effortless, and I did literally slide most of the way down. I really enjoy descending in deep snow!

View from the ascent of Beinn Chabhair. I didn't take my camera, so had to rely on my phone.

View from the ascent of Beinn Chabhair. I didn’t take my camera, so had to rely on my phone.

By the time I was back at the lochan, my feet had recovered from the near-frostbitten state they were in on the way up (note to self: must invest in some waterproof socks) and the PowerBars had started to work their magic. The run back to the campsite was very enjoyable – despite an excessive amount of bog-wading – and I took the time to take in the surroundings in the euphoric I’ve-just-ran-up-my-first-Munro, my-toes-don’t-have-frostbite state I was in.

I can’t wait to get some more Munro runs in over the winter!

Great Whernside fell race

Last Saturday was the Great Whernside fell race, an annual affair starting from the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales. I’m gradually getting back into the running and so thought it about time I enter my first race in 18 months. I wasn’t sure how my fitness would compare with how it was before I got injured, and so didn’t really have a clue where I would come in the race.

The route is a classic and relentless 4-mile straight up and down, with barely any respite in either direction. Intense would be an apt description, as right from the off you are thrown up a barely-runable field, before being let loose onto the energy-zapping, shoe-snatching bogs that, whilst being slightly flatter, are equally as draining. A few rockier sections in between where a welcome break, despite being the steepest parts of the race. The descent is equally as punishing, not necessarily because of the terrain, but because it is fast.

Struggling my way up!

Struggling my way up!

I set out in around 30th position and soon worked my way up to 20th by the end of the first field. Lactic acid was pumping through my legs and my breathing was laboured, but I felt surprisingly good and decided to push on at the same pace. I picked up another couple of places over the next mile or so to put myself in around 15th at the summit. I naively thought that I would get a rest on the way down, but I realised this wouldn’t be the case as the guy in front set off back down at a blistering pace. I was soon overtaken by a few others, by managed to hang on to 18th position by none-less-than a sprint all the way down. I took a few tumbles in the tussocky bog, but fortunately didn’t do myself any injuries.

On the descent

On the descent

I was a mere few seconds from 17th place at the finish – perhaps had the race been 200m longer I would have got it – but in the end I was very pleased with my 36:25, especially when compared with the winning time of 31:49 from Ian Holmes. Can’t wait until the next race!

Thanks to Woodentops for the great pictures!

Back to the fell running: Two days in Wasdale

The Hiking Club’s final weekend trip of the year – the so-called “Big Weekend Out”, from 22-23 June – this year took place in Wasdale. We headed up on the Saturday morning and returned Sunday evening. The drive up wasn’t without incident, the funniest moment being when an oncoming car driver decided his small car wasn’t small enough to “squeeze” through the (very large, at least minibus-width) gap that Alexandros’ minibus in front had left. Eventually, after a small queue built up behind us, Alex had had enough and exclaimed “let’s do this Greek style” (he’s Greek, you see, ergo a little more confrontational than us Brits), and marched over to the car and said (shouted) something that must have done the trick; because after some sarcastic hand-waving to beckon the car through on Alex’s behalf, we were soon on our way again.

After squeezing ourselves onto the already-packed Wasdale Head campsite, walks were announced and after much faff, three groups set off in opposite directions. Jenni lead a walk over Ill Gill Head and Whin Rigg, Jack went for an adventure down Lord’s Rake, and Jim et al. had Pillar plus surrounding hills. I decided that my first “proper” fell run back after injury would be today, and I chose a route comprising Kirk Fell, Great Gable, the Corridor Route and Scafell Pike. I’m not sure why I went for such a long run for my first one back, and it’s probably why I’m still sporting a dodgy knee a few weeks later…

A rather packed Wasdale Head campsite

A rather packed Wasdale Head campsite

The weather wasn’t amazing: Plenty of cloud, a good amount of rain and bitterly cold winds made up most of the run. I was glad to be moving at speed. I had Kirk Fell and Great Gable to myself, only encountering a couple of other runners heading in the opposite direction. This welcome solitude wasn’t long lived, and as soon as I hit Styhead Tarn I found myself battling through crowds of ill-equipped and miserable-looking walkers, with the exception of a small few that looked like they were having as much fun as I was. The situation got worse on the litter-strewn summit of Scafell Pike, as group after group of 3 Peakers appeared out of the mist from all directions. Whilst many groups comprised of respectful walkers fittingly enjoying their achievement, there were just as many raucous parties demonstrating little respect for their environment or their fellow walkers – littering and shouting at the tops of their voices being the main crimes, with some seemingly incapable of having a quiet conversation with their mates standing right next to them without raising their voices to 70dB. Maybe I’m being too intolerant, and I’ll admit that I am biased in the sense that I am set against the contrived 3 Peaks Challenge that bring so much devastation and disturbance to the local communities (especially Wasdale).

Grumbles aside, I enjoyed the fast descent down to Wasdale via the tourist track. I pushed myself not only with a quick pace, but also by keeping my speed up down the more technical rocky sections, and I was very pleased that I don’t seem to have lost any of my descending abilities. I arrived back at the campsite, sorted my gear out and showered just in time for the heavy rain that stuck with us most of the rest of the evening to arrive. That evening, to avoid said rain, we retired to the Wasdale Head Inn and stayed there until kicking out time. The place is apparently under new management, and it definitely seemed an improvement from last time me and Lorna were in there.

The tricky move on Yewbarrow's northern ridge scramble

The tricky move on Yewbarrow’s northern ridge scramble

The weather was somewhat similar on the Sunday, and breakfast was had out of the rain still snuggled in my sleeping bag. I got up and packed away, ready to go for 9am, which is the time we’d agreed for announcing walks. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Hiking Club trips, other people’s conception of “9am” was a little more fluid than mine, and after standing around in the rain for a few hours the last couple decided to eventually get out their tent at 11am. A few of us had decided the evening before that Yewbarrow would be a good option, which proved to be a popular option when we announced the walk. We walked over the ridge-shaped summit from north to south, taking in the lovely but all-too-short scramble from the col between Yewbarrow and Red Pike. It is barely a scramble, but there is one trickier grade-I move that I spotted whilst offering foot- and hand-hold suggestions. Fortunately, the rain stayed off, and we even enjoyed some fantastic views over Waswater.

After getting worried that Jack wasn’t back yet (who went out on his own in the morning and was 3 hours overdue), and subsequently finding him taking a snooze around the back of the pub, we headed back to Lancaster.

Great views back down to Waswater from the descent off Yewbarrow

Great views back down to Waswater from the descent off Yewbarrow

Welsh 1000m Peaks race… kind of

The event I’ve been sporadically training for in the past few months turned out to be a bit of a washout. Rain, rain and more rain was the order of the day, and said rain meant that only two of the five 1000m peaks were actually visited on the day. The race took place on 9 June.

The evening before, all the competitors received an email stating that the summit of Glyder Fawr would be missed out, and instead of the route over the Gribin ridge, the Miner’s track would be taken up Cwm Tryfan and over and down to Pen-y-Pass.

When we arrived on the morning, however, little route cards were being given out which indicated a completely changed route, with a low-level route completely bypassing the Carnedds and heading along the North Wales Coastal Path to Bethesda, before taking the old road up to Ogwen Cottage. Many were not happy and out of the 180 entries, less than 100 started.

Despite the route change, I still enjoyed the first 10 miles of road and trial running and arrived at Ogwen Cottage in just over 1 hour, feeling fresh and still full of energy. I helped myself to some flapjack that was being given out, and headed up to Bwlch Tryfan and onto the Miner’s Track. The rain was pretty ridiculous, and the outflow to Llyn Bochlwyd was more a case of wading across a thigh-high stream, rather than the hopping across stepping stones that it normally is.

The Miner’s Track had became a not-so-small stream and the descent to the Pen-y-Gwryd was quite tricky, both because of the wet rock and boggy grass. My legs still felt okay on the run up the road to Pen-y-Pass and I hit the checkpoint at around the 3 hours mark.

It was then just a matter of weaving in and out of the tourists heading up the Pyg Track (easier said than done!), before branching off to the summit of Carnedd Ugain, where the marhsalls looked to be having a cosy time huddled in a tent, and then along to the finish on top of Snowdon. I finished in 4 hours 24 minutes, about 55 minutes behind the winner and in 30th position.

Pyg Track

Me heading up the Pyg Track

The summit cafe was packed full, which a good number of shivering fell runners and mountaineers. I met my parents there who thankfully had dry clothes and an insulated jacket for me to change into before the long walk down into Llanberis, for a well-earned coffee in Pete’s Eats.

Should the route have been changed? In my opinion, definitely not, but with the death in the 2007 race and the recent death in the Buttermere-Sailbeck fell race, I can understand the organiser’s decision – a decision that must be an extremely tough one to make.

A run around Langdale

Time for more Welsh 1000m Peaks training! I did this run on 29 May 2012.

I thought I’d better try and squeeze another long fell run in before the Welsh 1000m Peaks race, and being car-less meant I was limited to where public transport could get me. Fortunately, the Lakes has a good (but expensive) public transport network and it’s relatively easy to get from Lancaster to Ambleside, albeit with a rather early start. I caught the 7am train to Windermere and then the bus to Ambleside and finally the Old Dungeon Ghyll. I dropped my bags off at the National Trust (who were more than happy to look after them for the day) and set off on my run.

From the Stickle Barn car park, I headed up to Stickle Tarn and then east onto Martcrag Moor. I took a direct (pathless) route across the moor to the Stake Pass and then the runner’s trod up Rosset Pike, finally joining the main path just before Angle Tarn. From here, I went on to Esk Hause and then up Scafell Pike via Great End and Broad Crag.

The run started in heavy cloud cover, but by the time I got off Scafell Pike it had started to clear. There was a surprising amount of people up on the hills for a midweek day, and a worrying number with very little gear or no gear with them.

Scafell Pike

A cloudy summit of Scafell Pike

I next went over Esk Pike and Bow Fell. My plan had been to top up my water bottle from the stream in Ore Gap (between Esk Pike and Bow Fell), but with all the dry weather recently, it had completely dried up. After Bow Fell I was forced to drop down a few hundred metres before I found a small trickle in Buscoe Sike – not ideal but I didn’t have much choice! I tried to pick out the racing line under the scrambly ridge of Crinkle Crags, in practice for the Langdale Horseshoe in October, and I managed to stick to it pretty much perfectly. It fortunately took me over Rest Gill, which was flowing quite fast, and so I replaced the dodgy water I’d acquired previously. The final hill was Pike o’ Blisco and it was the first one that I had to myself. I spent a good 15 minutes sitting around on the summit, taking in the glorious views and sun.

Pike of Blisco

Summit of the Pike of Blisco – lovely and sunny!

Back down in Langdale, I had about an hour to wait until my bus and so had a pint of shandy in the Stickle Barn whilst drying out and watching the world go by – lovely!

Langdale

Back down in Langdale

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

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!