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.

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

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