Monday, May 25, 2015

Bowfell and Rossett Pike

Rossett Pike summit cairn with the Langdale Pikes in the distance

looking back down The Band
The forecast was for low cloud but I really hoped it might burn off before we got to Bowfell.  We set off from The New Dungeon Ghyll along the road.  After about 3/4 of a mile, I realised that my watch was set to 'swim' so I restarted it.  We went along the track to Stool End Farm and then started the steady climb up The Band.

I had thought about picking up the Climbers' Traverse but in the cloud, I decided to continue to the Three Tarns before turning off towards Bowfell summit.

The Great Slab on Bowfell.  Usually a good spot for a bit
of a play around but not when it's cloudy and wet.
From a cloudy summit, we took a bearing and headed north towards Esk Pike.  I was looking out for Angle Tarn as a drop off point but it wasn't visible until we dropped down a bit further.  

There is a very small tarn/pool on the map where the path bends around and I thought we had identified this on the ground but couldn't be entirely sure.  It turned out I was right and dropping down a bit, Angle Tarn came clearly into view.  

We picked up the track around it to the junction of Rossett Pike/Rossett Gill and then headed up to the summit of Rossett Pike and along to the end of the promontory.

From here, we dropped back down to the Rossett Gill path and enjoyed a leisurely run down and along the track back to the Stickle Barn where we had a cold drink and some chips.

cloudy on Bowfell

coming around Angle Tarn looking over to Hanging Knotts

Dean on Rossett Pike

1:25k map (click for larger image)


Friday, May 22, 2015

Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man

Dean on the summit, Joanne shivering in the shelter

According to my tally sheet, I've so far been up Skiddaw eleven times.  It's my local big fell and it's easy to find your way around on so there have been plenty of times that I've headed up there on a whim.  I was quite surprised therefore that neither of my running partners last night had ever been up it.  They were in for a treat.

Downstairs at the start of the Spooney Green Lane track it was quite warm.  We thought that we would warm up going up Spooney Green Lane but I knew it would be very windy on the top floor.

I'm always a little surprised to be able to run all the way up Spooney Green Lane.  The very first bit, the very very first bit, that goes up to the bridge, is a rude awakening.  After a short downhill, the climbing starts, getting steep after the first gate.  Once up to the path junction where the track bends around, it evens off a bit and you can either pick up the pace or just run in the remainder of the climb.  Last night was a running it in type of evening but at least I got to the car park without stopping.

it's a bastard of a hill - beautiful view over Derwent Water though
From there it was past the monument and up the main track.  We met two young men, it sounded like they were German, who asked us the way and how far to Skiddaw House.  I thought it was five miles but looking at the map now, it was about three.  Better to be pleasantly surprised.  As we climbed past the Hawell Memorial, I shouted back to point them on the right track.  We wound our way up the track.  Once at the top gate, where the track goes around Skiddaw Little Man, we had a little run.  The cloud was coming in a bit now and it was windy and cool.

From the final gate, we continued to climb.  I pointed out the cairn set off the track which marks the trod which cuts off the final steep climb up to the south.  We ran along the top and dorked around at the summit for a while.  It was very windy now, we didn't hang around long, coming back the same way and dropping down the trod.



Dean at Skiddaw Little Man
As we went down towards the top gate, I suggested taking a different route.  We had planned to descent over Sale How to Skiddaw House and then around the Cumbria Way track.  The cloud was down and it felt like it would get dark soon (even though we knew it wouldn't).  We agreed to go back down the same way.

Dean and I headed off to bag Little Man, Joanne stuck to the main track and beat us to the bottom.

I found the descent tough, hard on the feet and the knees.  It didn't help when I kicked a rock and almost went flat on my face, just managing to rescue myself with some quick leg turnover.

Joanne was waiting for us at the bottom (I had the car keys after all).  Everyone was happy.  Nine miles and my twelfth time up Skiddaw.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Carrock Fell and High Pike

Dean celebrates on High Pike

After a lazy Saturday I was planning to get a decent distance in on Sunday.  Dean was keen to bag some Northern Fells and I planned a route around the back of Skiddaw.

Come Sunday morning and it was wet and windy outside so rather than get blown around the back of Skiddaw, I decided we could do Carrock Fell and High Pike.

We parked just off the road at an area called "Apron Full of Stones" and headed up the obvious track which continues up Further Gill Sike eventually reaching to summit of Carrock Fell.  It was very windy here and there was not a lot to see.  We dropped into the shelter just by the summit and took a compass bearing over to Miton Hill.  The cloud cleared a bit and we were able to see the track over.  From the second cairn, we took another bearing and then picked up the path, following over wet but easy ground until we intersected the Cumbria Way track.  We ran about 50 metres and then picked up the High Pike track.  After a few pictures at the top, we ran off to the north east and picked up the old mine road along Carrock Beck, crossing the beck further down and running a last mile or so down the road.

Easy running today, good company and nice to be out.

the initial climb up to Carrock Fell.  The path winds up past that tree

windy and wet at Carrock Fell summit cairn

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Around Gowbarrow and Little Mell Fell

Little Mell Fell summit cairn 

On Thursday I sort of had to pass through Penrith and along the A66 on my way home from a work meeting.  Great excuse for a stop off at one of my favourite running spots, Gowbarrow.  I had worked out a route I wanted to try out.  My plan had been to work around the familiar trails over to Little Mell Fell (small road section) and then have a go at contouring my way up Little Mell Fell.  I parked at the usual spot at the side of the road in the old quarry.  This has now been made into a National Trust car park and had a bit of a spruce up so National Trust membership is needed to park here unless you pay (although you're probably fine in the evenings).

I headed across the field, over the footbridge and along the usual path but carried on along the path rather than turning up along the wall to Gowbarrow summit.  The path splits at some farm buildings, keep to the right, and then it follows the wall around Norman Crag and up to Ulcat Row, where I went on the road for about a mile and a half.  At Little Mell Fell, after a short dash over a very muddy section, I began the weaving up the steep ascent of Little Mell Fell.  My plan was to weave left and right, zig-zagging my way up.  On fresh legs I think I would have managed.  it starts off steep and then has a rounded top.  I had to resort to a power hike about halfway up, where my track stops zig-zagging and goes straight up.  A challenge for another day, perhaps parking at the bottom.

favourite trails around Gowbarrow and through Swinburn's Park

Towards the top it got a little boggy but I was very pleased when the summit cairn came into view.

Little Mell Fell is a relatively small fell but from the top there are great views to the east over the Eden Valley and over to the Pennines.  To the North I could make out some Scottish hills.  To the west and south great views over the Eastern Fells as well as Blencathra.

There was a path off to the East which I considered.  Looking at the map, it looks like it would link up to the singletrack road, or I could always have contoured back to the way I came up.  I decided to head back down the way I came and then followed the road along, taking a right turn and then picking up the footpath on the right which goes past Priest's Crag.  There have been a lot of trees felled here but there are still beautiful wooded paths, made soft by leaves and dark by the tree cover.  Great to run on when it's hot and your feet are a bit sore.

heading into the woods

This track leads onto the open fell at Gowbarrow Park and what is probably my favourite secion of trail in the Lakes.  Winding singletrack, rocky in places, mostly downhill, steep drops to the left and great views over Ullswater.

This trail winds gradually downhill, getting significantly steeper and rockier towards the path junction where I joined the popular Aira Force track.

Feeling pretty tired by now, I took it easy along the side of Aira Force and the rest of the way back, checking out the various bits of art and sculpture that have been put in the woods.

I'm really pleased with this route, it's got some really nice runnable sections as well as the direct climbing of Little Mell Fell and even a bit of road if that's your thing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ling Fell

Ling Fell summit trig 

Wednesday's after work run was a trot up Ling Fell.  I had a bit of a wander, choosing to hike up the steep part rather than try to run the easier gradient that we usually use for descending.  I though there was going to be a downpour and was resigned to the fact I would get a soaking but I managed to get around with only a light drizzle on the top.

Rainbow over Sale Fell

Keswick Mountain Festival 25k recce

the boys looking pretty tired on the way over from Watendlath

The Keswick Mountain Festival has been going for a few years now.  Lovely local event with speakers, sporting events and have a go sesssions for various outdoor activities.  The trail races this year include a 5k, 25k and 50k courses.  The courses are designed by Charlie Sproson of Mountain Run.  They are great courses with an emphasis on trail running rather than open fell running.  Last Saturday a few of us got together to have a run around the 25k route.

for the Lake District, there's not an awful lot of climbing in the course.  This is near the high point, the relatively lowly Walla Crag.  The course doesn't go over Walla Crag but we were nearby so why not?

First mistake of the day was thinking that I was running a half marathon (13.2 mile) course as opposed to the 15.5 miles that a 25k equates to.  This was a week after the Highland Fling race and, although I'd had a few easy runs during the week, my legs were still tired.  We met up in the carpark near to the start of the race and made a more or less immediate wrong turn, mistake number two, adding in an extra mile or so, we eventually found our way over Castlehead Wood to the short road section before the climb up to Walla Crag.  At this point, two of the party decided that the pace and climb was a bit much and that they would circle back to the start.  Fair enough, they ended up doing about 11 miles and it was going to get a bit tougher.

From Walla Crag there are nice trails down to Ashness Bridge.  I headed off down Cat Gill and needed to climb a little way back up to pick up the nice high level trail.  On the descent to Ashness Bridge, I slipped in mud and, although I managed to keep my footing, I felt like I threw my shoulder out in the frantic windmilling I did to stay upright.  We had a walk/run up the road, picking up the trail alongside Watendlath Beck up to Watendlath.  I was expecting this section to be difficult, having run it in the opposite direction plenty of times, I thought that it would be uphill all the way in this direction.  It was actually quite easy to run.  Looking at the gradient on the map, it's quite level.  Just before we got to Watendlath, I decided the drizzling rain was too much for my pertex top and took my bag off to change into my waterproof jacket.  Mistake number three, I had left it in my car.

nice trails over from Watendlath
After an initial steep climb out of Watendlath, there is nice running all the way over to Rosthwaite.  It gets steeper towards the end and one of our group, Joanne, took a spill scraping her knees quite bad.  Down at the bridge by the Hazel Bank Hotel, I told her that her road runner legs would put her in front from there on in, the route flattening out considerably.

The route from here follows the Cumbria Way, alongside Derwentwater and back around to Keswick via Portinscale.  I ran out of steam a bit at about 14 miles, I think having done a long run the week before, I underestimated the difficulty of the course (which isn't very difficult).  It didn't help that I thought I was doing 13.2 miles rather than the 18 it turned out to be.  Of course, I was also still a bit tired from last week.  Mistake four?  With a few walk breaks thrown in, we made our way all around.

It was a very enjoyable run out and big respect to Joanne and David who both extended their long run records significantly, I think Joanne almost doubled her trail distance record.  Harry also said it was the longest he had ever run.  Well done mate.

As I predicted, Joanne's road running came into it's own and she finished strong.  Although she did say she wanted to throw up at the end and seemed to need her husband's assistance to take her shoes off.  She's entered for the event next week, I'm sure she will smash it and I'm happy we were able to show her all the wrong turns to avoid on the course.

classic Keswick view over Derwentwater.  The route goes all around the lake

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hoka Highland Fling 2015

Roughly 18 miles in, approaching the top of Conic Hill, ready for a nice descent with great views over Loch Lomond opening up in front.

2015 was going to be a non-event year.  "I'm not going to enter any races." I had said.  My plantar fasciitis has been bothering me on and off for a few years now.  I had worked out that I aggravate it by running hard.  Hard as in foot stomping fast.  I could quite comfortably put in twenty miles at an easy pace but a parkrun would ruin me.  So I said that 2015 would be a year where I just get out on the fells; nice long, easy paced days.  No pressure.

Of course, I would have to do the St Bega Ultra.  It's a beautiful 35 mile run, I've made a lot of friends from doing this event last year and I wouldn't want to miss that party.  But apart from that it was going to be a non-race year.  Well I really enjoyed the Scafell Pike Marathon last year so I would probably do that one, but that would be it!  Maybe a triathlon or two...NO!

Well one of the many peccadilloes of the Hoka Highland Fling is that it sells out really quickly.  My good mate Paul started bombarding me on Facebook and I was vulnerable.  I quickly signed up before it was too late.  Phew!  Then I had a think about it.  What have I done?  There was only one thing to do, I quickly started to bombard my other friend Jonathan who is just as vulnerable as I am.  Despite chronic hypochondria, Jonathan signed up and we were all set for an ultra adventure.

This was going to be my longest run to date.  I had done a 46 mile run on the day before my birthday last year, attempting the Northern Fells just falling short due to poor equipment.  I had also done a few 50ks and the St Bega Ultra which is about 37 miles.  Jonathan had also done the St Bega Ultra and Paul has a bit more experience, having done things like the 69 mile Wall race and The Cumbria Way Ultra at 73 or so miles, one that I had to DNS due to plantar and hip issues.

drop bags all sorted
Training had been just doing some running really.  I had made the mistake on the Cumbria Way of doing too much and wore myself out before the race.  I decided I pretty much had the miles in my legs due to regular running and just needed to be sensible.  I think being well rested going into the race was one of the smartest things I did.

I volunteered to drive us.  Jonathan talked about getting a hotel but I was up for roughing it and setting off early and coming back late.  As we got a bit nearer, I capitulated and he booked us a hotel for after the race.  Good move Jonathan.  My line of thought was that we wouldn't sleep anyway the night before the race so we might as well be heading up to Glasgow.  So we met up at 1.30am on Saturday morning.  I had gone to bed after work and managed a few hours of sleep but it's fair to say I was tired.  We utilised service stations for comfort and coffee breaks on the way and rocked up at the Burnbrae Hotel, designated parking place for the weekend at about 4.30am.  Outside it was dark and pouring with rain.  We sat in the car and reflected on our wisdom.  For a good 40 minutes.  Then we got our kit ready and set off on the ten minute walk to the start.

The race has a cool system for drop bags.  Pack your own.  You then drop them off at the start and they are transported to the various aid stations.  This had lead to lots of discussion on the Facebook page.  Pies, pizza and all sorts of nutritional wonders were planned.  My basic strategy was Nakd bars, one an hour, a tried and tested fuelling technique.  These are savoury, made up of pretty much all natural ingredients and have a good fat content from the nuts in them.  My aid bags consisted of three or four of these bars as a top up to carry and a few treats including, at latter stages, cans of coke and a veggie sausage roll.

drop bags loaded

Sign in was well organised.  One advantage of being up so early was that my digestive system had had a chance to 'work through' and I was able to start feeling unburdened by last night's dinner.

"stairs?!" coming out of the underpass and heading off into the unknown.

early doors, nervy runners gathering
We lined up at 6am in the second wave of runners and before long we were heading out under the iconic bypass and through the streets of Milngavie and onto the trails of the West Highland Way.  It was cool with a light drizzle, not much wind.  Perfect running conditions.  We staunchly walked the slight inclines during this part but the first twelve or so miles to Drymen are pretty flat.  I clocked into Drymen in 2:13.  We had run almost the whole of the first section and taken an easy pace.  I had got ahead of Paul and Jonathan a bit on some of the downhill sections but I utilised my lead by taking a pee stop and waiting for them.  There is a water station at Drymen, no drop bags here.  I stopped to put a plaster on a hot spot on one of my toes.  It's good to sort these things out early.  Jonathan did the same and Paul took some pain killers.  Paul had been to the physio a day or so before the event.  He said that the physio had sorted his hip/back but told him not to run.  Ahem!

Out of Drymen and we soon entered Garadhban Forest.  This was still on good ground but the route started to undulate here.  Running downhill is one of the things I find easy and I again caught myself getting ahead and then hanging back to wait for Paul and Jonathan.  As we came out of the other side of the forest, we saw the climb of Conic Hill.  This is the only really significant climb on the route.  We took the climb easy and then again I bombed down the other side and waited for the others.  I was a bit angry with myself because running hard downhill is obviously harder on your legs and feet and waiting at the bottom of descents took away any advantage of doing so.

the crew out of the forest and about to tackle Conic Hill

nice long run down to Balmaha

At the bottom of the long descent of Conic Hill there is another wooded area before the second aid station at Balmaha.  This was just under 20 miles in and my bag for this stage was just some Nakd bars to top up my supply and a little packet of dolly mixtures (which I carried unopened for the remainder of the run).  There was already a huge pile of unwanted goodies on a table that you could take your pick from.  I had a few jelly babies and Jonathan got his blisters sliced off by a medic. This was also the point that Paul called it a day.  He had been struggling on the descent and decided he might as well start to follow his physio's advice at this point.  We tried to persuade him to continue another 7 miles to the next aid station but he had made his mind up and there was no point him continuing with over 30 miles to go.  Paul said he would get the train to the end and have a drink ready for us.  We shook his hand and continued on our way.

starting the descent of Conic Hill

The next few miles were fairly easy, along roadside tracks.  There were a few climbs and a short section on a shingle beach but we just walked these and then enjoyed any flat or downhill sections.  The views across the loch were fantastic.  Had I been in the lakes I could have named the snow capped peaks but I am ashamed to say that I was only half sure that it was Loch Lomond that we were running along side.

Rowardennan was the next check point at 27 miles.  I ran in here to be told that my drop bag wasn't there.  I was a bit miffed as I was looking forward to a can of coke but I made do with a few swigs of Jonathan's coke and some Nakd bars and other goodies from the left overs.  We set off again, walking at first to allow our food a bit of time to digest.  Jonathan and I felt that 30 miles was a significant point, we felt we would have it in the bag from there.  We also both felt really low in energy at about the 30 mile point.  The Nakd bars were not satiating but I knew I just had to keep putting fuel in.  I broke bits of and chewed them up.  They did the trick but I viewed them more as medicine than a snack at this point and would have been quite happy to never see another one.  

At about the 33 mile point, we came across a woman who had taken a nasty spill.  She had people with her, we stopped and asked if we could do anything but those attending to her seemed to have things in hand.  It was nice to see that her husband put a thank you message on Facebook afterwards and was able to contact the very kind lady who was helping her out.  

Coming into Inversnaid at about 35 miles, I was glad to see my very own drop bag.  I topped up with some rice pudding and then we headed out on the rocky, undulating next stage.

Jonathan risks sitting down at Inversnaid (35 miles)

After an initial walk, I started to pick up the pace but Jonathan, who struggles a bit on more technical ground, was hanging back.  He really didn't seem to be enjoying himself on this bit and it seemed to go on for quite a while.  Towards the end of the section, I ran off ahead and got into the next and final check point at Bein Glas (41 miles) a bit ahead of him.

Jonathan tries to bend down to tie his shoe laces at 45 miles in.
I used the extra time to change my socks and scoff my sausage roll.  Jonathan came in and, after a little almost puke, seemed quite strong and got me a cup of coffee (which was far too hot to drink).  I squeezed some Robinson Squash'd (those little pouches of cordial) into my water bottles to take the taste away of the electrolite tabs (stroke of genius but I was worried about it exploding in my bag).

We set off with 12 miles to go, or two 10ks as somebody helpfully put it.  We were both confident that we would finish and, after an initial walk, I started to press on again.  I was feeling strong again but Jonathan wanted to walk more than I did.  On reflection, maybe he held me back enough to give me the energy to push on but with about five miles to go, I ran on ahead.  Crossing a road at the 50 mile point I felt really strong and ran past a good few people on the next section which went along a bit of road and then back into woodland.  When my Garmin read 52.4 miles and I was counting down the last half mile or so, a kind race official ran past me in the opposite direction and said, "just a mile to go!"

Soon after this, I was through the gate and running along side the river, past the bag pipe players, who I gave a quick salute to, and then into the finish, throngs of people cheering us on.  I overtook one last person at the start of the red carpet and then bounded down the finish straight to cheers, cowbells and photographic flashes.

I had finished in a time of 13.42 not the fastest and feeling as though I could have knocked a good chunk of time off but happy.  Very happy.

Beer, change of clothes, walk around, watch some more finishers come in, another walk around and then I found a shivering Jonathan in the medical tent wrapped in blankets and foil with Paul tending to his every need.  He was ok, a little bit cold and in need of calories but he was ok.

We lugged our bags onto the bus back to the start and then got a taxi back to the hotel.  We walked into the lobby of the premier inn with our bags only to be told we were staying at a different premier inn, a few minutes down the road.  So we groaned our bags back into my car and drove down to the other hotel.

Into our hotel to find out that the bar/restaurant closed in ten minutes.  So Jonathan got onto ordering a pizza while Paul and I drove to Tesco to get juice and other bits (including some nappy rash cream for chaffage).  Paul was disappointed to discover that it was too late to buy alcohol.

Back at my hotel room I enjoyed a long soak in the shower, a soft bed, big tv and big doughy pizza washed down with fresh orange juice.  I slept very well.

It's the Thursday after the event as I write this and I seem to have got through the event without injury other than a small blister under by left big toe.  This really was a great event, really well organised and a beautiful area to run in.

I'm off to look for another race.  I think I've talked Jonathan into a 100k somewhere.

finish straight

Jonathan caught stopping his watch (rookie error)

elevation profile

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blake Fell and Gavel Fell

from the top of Blake Fell looking over to Ennerdale valley centre right (Pillar Rock can be seen jutting out) and Grasmoor group of fells.  Beautiful evening.

Less than a week to go to the Hoka Highland Fling and Jonathan and I had promised ourselves not to run too much.  This happened to coincide with the finest weather we've had all year.  So we had a little run out.  After some difficulties finding Cogra Moss (I think Jonathan was on autopilot as we ended up at the start of the Blake's Heaven race in Lamplugh) we set off at an easy pace along the track and through the forest.  We continued around turning north and then looping back as we joined the Blake's Heaven route climbing up alongside Sharp Knott and on to Blake Fell.  It was a little bit windy higher up but we really couldn't complain.  From Blake Fell, we followed the fence over to Gavel Fell.  There is a nice downhill section, crossing a small beck and then climbing back up to Gavel Fell.  We climbed on the east of the fence, we should have climbed on the West.  I thought I saw a track up through the heather but it was wet and scrubby.  There's a nice track on the west of the fence.  Carrying on over by the fence, I told Jonathan there was a nice surprise for him.  As we descended down to the beck, he recognised the track we had climbed up two weeks earlier.  We had both remarked at how nice it would be to run down the track rather than climb up it.  Well here we were at the top.  We enjoyed the mile of downhill and then we were on roads for the last mile, taking it easy again.

Gavel Fell looking in the same direction

Jonathan speeding up a bit on the long descent with a scary big horny cow watching him

dropping down to Ennerdale