Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hardly AC - Sale Fell

Running at night is great fun, the darkness, distant stars, the lights of nearby towns and villages, the moon, the outline of fells and clouds are all beautiful in their own way.  Taking photos of these things is very difficult.

Tonight six hardy hardly souls set off out for a quick circuit of Sale Fell.  A few nice hill climbs and a steady descent.  People gradually admitted they'd had enough after one lap and we agreed to head back to the cars with only Pete deciding to head back up to the top to put a bit more of a run in.

It's always nice to get out, no matter how short the run.  This was just shy of three miles and, although I would have been happy to go on, I was just as happy to head back, thinking of my plantar fasciitis which, so far, has been kept at bay through plenty of stretching, some strapping up but mainly I think, through keeping runs short and efforts easy.

Good times.

Castle Crag #afterworkwainwrights

Jonathan on top of Castle Crag

After a weekend lacking of motivation and feeling generally glum, I have bounced back this week with some after work runs.  The newly dark nights are a perfect excuse for some head torch exploration and the outlay of the Petzl Nao is starting to pay for itself.

Yesterday, we headed to Rosthwaite for a run up to Castle Crag and back.  It's a very familiar course but the darkness adds a bit of a challenge.  Flooded roads through Borrowdale were an indicator of the conditions we were due to experience.  Plenty of big puddles, high rivers and some outright flooded (up to knee height at one location) footpaths.  Once you've acknowledged your feet are going to get wet, you just let them get wet and get on with it.  Route finding was largely without incident.  In fact, the biggest challenge was taking a photo and keeping our eyes open when the flash on my phone went off.  This is a nice route and will be banked for a future Hardly AC run.  Big props to Jonathan for being a good running buddy and helping me past the blerch of the sofa.
I'm stood on the footpath

Jonathan trying to keep his eyes open

Friday, October 24, 2014


heading over to Watendlath Tarn

I got out of work early today and headed to Borrowdale.  I parked at Stonethwaite and followed the route which I think is the route of the Langstrath fell race.  It climbs steeply through the woods and then over to Dock Tarn.  The path gets very muddy and rocky here as it skirts the tarn, then it heads down to Watendlath, running alongside Watendlath Tarn before climbing back over to pick up the bridleway between Watendlath and Rosthwaite.  The final mile or so is along single track back to the bridge to Stonethwaite.

Five miles all in all, some steep climbs, particularly at the start and some very technical paths.  My heel is feeling a little better so hopefully will be back up to some decent distance on my runs before long.

Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite

Dock Tarn

a steep descent to pick up the path to Watendlath

at Watendlath Tarn, couple of people fly fishing from the boat

circling round into the jaws of Borrowdale

at the start of the steep descent

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sale Fell #afterworkwainwrights

Sale Fell looking towards SKiddaw

#afterworkwainwrights is my new idea.  To complete all the Wainwrights with runs or walks after work.  I get a fair few fells in after work.  Obviously more so in the summer months but I'm also hoping to carry on through the winter with the use of my dead smart new head torch.

I need to work out which I have already done but Sale Fell is a regular after work treat.

Today I was on my way back from Carlisle.  I got to Whythrop Mill at about 5.15 and managed to get the full run in before it got dark.  I've been off my feet a bit, with a sore foot, so running yesterday with Hardly AC around Catbells and then again tonight on Sale Fell is a real treat.  Hoping to head out tomorrow as well.

Hardly AC - Catbells

coming off the rocky top of Catbells

head torch train across the top - lights of Keswick behind

Hardly AC continue to roam the fells on a Wednesday evening.  A group of eight headed over family favourite, Catbells this week.  The dusky views over Derwentwater were beautiful but I lack the photographic skills to capture said beauty.  it was properly dark by the time we got to the top and, after the rocky shelf on the summit, we sped along the rolling trail of the top.  Before very long, we reached the turn off to the left and set off down the windy, rocky, slippery path down and then a left turn off this path to pick up the trail shelf above the road.  A slight hiccup here where most of the pack went a different way to me but we soon righted this and had a nice run back to the cars.

Less than four miles and just about an hour.  Fells in the dark are pretty cool.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hardly AC - Latrigg

top of Latrigg

A really good turn out this week, I think we had 12 runners.  Simple enough route around Latrigg, going up from Spooneygreen Lane to the summit, although we still managed some navigational calamities in the dark.  It rained an awful lot and it was dark and everybody had a great time.

coming back along the old railway line

Route in red

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sale Fell with Hardly AC

top of Sale Fell, my most visited Wainwright

A select group had a nice run around Sale Fell tonight.  From the usual starting point, up and starting a clockwise loop, climbing steeply to the wall then over to Lothwaite, along to Rivings and back up to the summit.  We then took the long downhill turning left at the bottom wall running round through Kelswick and through the woods before taking a steep climb back up to Lothwaite and back around the front of Sale Fell.  I took the ledge path across the front of the fell through the old quarry which was a bit slippery but ok, I was thankful for my super bright head torch.

Good running, nice to get out as always.  A number of wounded soldiers toughing it out tonight.  Well done team!

Sale Fell from afar

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Dodds and Helvellyn

looking back to Calfhow Pike, little nub that can be seen from far away

Our planned route didn't quite go to plan today.  Paul had found an old fell route called something like The Great Western Frontier.  I haven't been able to find any details on it but the basic route is along to Threlkeld from Keswick, up Clough Head and along the Dodds to Helvellyn, drop down, around the back of Thirlmere over Armboth to High Tove, down to Watendlath, down to Rosthwaite, up through the old quarries (Dale Head fell race route) to High Spy and then down over Cat Bells and back to Keswick.  My heel was really sore and it got worse travelling down from Helvellyn so we ran back a bit through the woods and then hopped on the bus back to Keswick.

topping out at Clough Head, Derwent Water visible with Cat Bells behind, our intended final fell

looking over the Dodds towards Helvellyn

climbing up to Raise.  The ski lift can just be seen on the horizon

cloud over Browncove Crags and Thirlmere

Helvellyn summit trig

the way back

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hardly AC - Lords Seat from Whinlatter

on Seat How

Plan for tonight's Hardly AC run was a run from Whinlatter Visitor's Centre around the green walking trail (Seat How), taking in Lord's Seat and Barf.  I thought this would be a good run to do for those just getting to grips with head torch running.  Howard had set off around some of the other fells and had arranged to meet us at the visitor's centre.  He was on 19 miles when we met up with him.

After a short run from Revelin Moss car park, over the road from the visitor's centre, we gathered at the visitor's centre and met Howard.  He quickly filled up on water and caught us up as we set off up the green trail.

The trail starts with a steep climb, evening out after a few minutes and changing to an really nice, fairly gently undulating single track.

The track curves around teasingly looking as though it is heading for a summit before winding away and dropping back down.

We eventually got to Seat How, a summit within the forest.  We regathered here and took a few pictures.  Some keen runners eyed up The Grind, the steep way up and down Grisdale Pike.  There is talk of a future Hardly AC handicap challenge.

We decided at this point not to travel over to Barf.  Howard had already been that way and said it was very muddy.  So, from Seat How we carried on along the track, veering off at the point where we recognised the track up to Lords Seat summit.

We regathered at the summit, didn't hang around too long as it was getting cooler but, head torches were applied, some even turned them on!  They were not really needed at this point but as we ran back down through the forest they were.

green track, nice trail

Seat How summit

Seat How summit (The Grind behind)

Lord's Seat summit - fading light makes photos blurry

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Barf and Lords Seat

Gerard and Stephen up on Lords Seat

Jonathan smiling for the camera
We met later on on Saturday to have a look at the route directly up Barf via The Bishop.  A bit too hard for a Hardly AC run was the conclusion but we still had a really lovely run out in great conditions.

We parked at the bottom of the scree opposite the old Swan Hotel and headed straight up.  You soon get to The Bishop, the painted white rock which supposedly marks the point where the Bishop of Derry fell to his death in the 1700s after betting that he could ride his horse up the scree.

The Bishop is actually quite low down on the scree but the way up is arduous.  After the rock, the path splits into two tracks.  We have taken both tracks, they both lead to the same point, below the rocky ledge just below Slape Crag but on this occasion, we confirmed that the path to the right is much better.

Up one rocky ledge by taking the gully through and then you cross Slape Crag on the path.  There is one slightly difficult step to make, a scramble with good holds, just time needed to work out how to bend your body around the rock.  Jonathan was last up and I was a bit concerned when I called back and heard no response.  Eventually though, Jonathan emerged, rubbing his knee which he said he had whacked on the corner of the rock.  Ouch.  We obviously gave him lots of sympathy and made sure he was ok before carrying on.

Jonathan on the steep eastern slopes, old Swan Hotel below
The path then winds up to the final shelf which becomes grassy again just before the summit.  As Stephen and I got up there, Gerard was already on top admiring the views.

After a few pictures on top, we headed across to Lords Seat.  This area can be a little bit boggy at times but was dry tonight.

We were running into the sun but it was the time of the evening when the light makes the mountains even more beautiful.

Gerard and Stephen got to the top first again and we regathered here.

We then set off down through Whinlatter Forest.  

As it was late and quiet, we decided to have a run on the mountain bike route.

Obviously these tracks are not meant for running on and it's not something I would do at busier times as mountain bikers would be very unhappy to come across a group of runners.  On this occasion, we didn't see anybody else and enjoyed a nice run through the forest.

Gerard, first time at The Bishop
Gerard sat on top of Barf with Stephen about to go up the final bit of track to the summit

top of Bark

at Lords Seat

heading over to Whinlatter Forest from Lords Seat
We headed down once we hit the second section of forest track and then worked our way back to the track which takes you back to Barf.

We took the steep track down through the woods.  Head torches were needed for this final section which is very steep but brought us out at the car.

the last bit of the MTB trail.
7 or so miles

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gear and Safety

I'm very happy that my little running group Hardly AC has taken off.  We started in the summer months with a classic loop around Gowbarrow Fell and since then have put on a different route every Wednesday evening.  I didn't really have any aims for the group, I wasn't even particularly wanting it to be a group, I just posted on Facebook that I was going for a run and invited others to come with me.

It's been really rewarding to see new runners and runners new to the fells getting out and feeling confident about getting around our routes which sometime, yes I'll admit it, have a fair degree of climbing.  So far we have been blessed with daylight and good weather and these have been ideal conditions to get used to running in the fells.  I really want people to keep coming out on a Wednesday but it's time to take a serious look at safety and kit.  A few bits of essential kit can give you the confidence to carry on going out in bad weather and when it gets dark.  It will hopefully also make sure that, if something does go wrong, you are equipped to get down safely.

I'm not pretending to be an expert but I've learnt a fair bit with trial, error and the advice of others.

Please have a read and I would welcome comments or corrections:

For me, important planning factors to consider are weather conditions, route/terrain and distance/difficulty.  Gear for a crisp winter weekend is very different to a wet and windy winter evening.  I have a range of kit to choose from and to try to make sure I take what I need, I have a simple checklist:

I'm not suggesting you need everything for every run but if I go down this list and decide whether I need it or not for the run I have planned.

I've already seen a couple of omissions:

First is a headtorch.  I've just bought a brilliant one for £150 but they start at £10.  Go for the brightest you can afford (you will be more confident and able to go faster) and think about the need for spare batteries.

As well as this I will take a first aid kit.  Not a full kit but essentials such as a range of plasters and a bandage.  In a group I would say that it's not necessary for everyone to have a first aid kit but it's important to think that groups can be split up, choosing different routes.  

Going down the list, drink/food may not be required for the shorter distances we plan but if you stop, get lost or have an energy slump, you will be very glad of it.

Map/compass/gps.  I'm not a fantastic navigator, particularly at night.  Practice makes perfect and the group situation does give some security.  A GPS is a useful back up, it should tell you more or less exactly where you are.  Spare batteries are another consideration.  If you can't use a map and compass, learning to do so is very rewarding and empowering.

A phone is obviously useful if you do need to call for help.  I have been in situations where I have been absolutely fine but out on the fells for much longer than anticipated.  A text with a revised ETA can prevent unnecessary worry.  Phones can also have location aps, compass aps etc but I would say use as a back up rather than first option.

There are times in the winter where you can be confident that a waterproof is not needed.  However, a spare top and emergency shelter should be considered essential.  What I have learnt through experience is that if one person doesn't have something like a warm top or an emergency blanket/shelter, it makes the group vulnerable.  If you have been running (and sweating) you get cold very quickly when you stop.  If you give an injured runner your top to keep warm, you need to find a way to keep warm yourself.  Some people use a buff as a hat.  Buffs can have a multitude of uses including keeping your head/face warm or as an improvised bandage.

Spikes if the conditions warrant it and cash if you find yourself wandering into the wrong valley.

When it comes to buying kit, you pretty much get what you pay for.  Some of the more expensive equipment is designed to be superlight and aimed at racers.  Having said that, something like an OMM or inov8 smock jacket is a great piece of kit that will tuck away nicely into a back pack.

One recommendation I will make is one of these emergency shelters:

Shop around because I'm sure I picked one up for about £5.  The foil emergency blankets are pretty useless really.  This will sit in the bottom of your bag and hopefully never have to be used.

Cotswolds, George Fisher, Planet Fear, Needle Sports all have decent gear to check out.  If you're on a budget, some decent gear can be found in the discount shops like Mountain Warehouse, Field and Trek, but you do get what you pay for.

As I said, I'm no expert.  This is some of what I have learnt.  I don't want to scare anybody away but I think the group responsibility thing is important to emphasise.

If you're unsure, there are plenty of people in the group who can give gear recommendations.

It is invigorating to realise that you can go out in (almost) any conditions.  Have a look at the photo's below to see:

one of my favourite days out - worth a read here.

Blake Fell in very different conditions to last week

Jonathan, about to get cold and rained on, for fun.