Saturday, November 24, 2012

Back in the Saddle

After an enforced lay off due to the return of an old knee injury, it was nice to get back out today.  The knee still isn't right, I have been referred for an MRI and x-ray, which is what I wanted to happen.  If, as I suspect, I have damaged my ACL, the more I do, the more damage I will do so I have been trying to take it easy.  I thought that a bike ride would be within the comfort limits.  It was.

20 mile route from home
Grand Designs
The route took us through Branthwaite and past the home of Judith and Alan Dawson which was featured on Grand Designs.  I used to know Judith through my work and some of my colleagues still keep in touch.

There are a few Grand Designs in the Lake District.  It's obviously a great place to situate a home.

It was a cold day but I was wrapped up pretty well.  My toes were freezing!  I need to get some of those overshoe things.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Armboth Fell

The much derided Armboth Fell. Our plan today was a linear walk from Armboth Car Park across to Watendlath, taking in Armboth Fell and High Tove, then continuing on to Rosthwaite where I left my car. It didn't work out like that but we still had a nice walk.

today's route

On arrival at the Armboth car park, the gates were chained up. There was no explanation as to why. We could have probably parked outside the gate but this would have been obstructive if the gates were later opened so we headed back along the shore road to the north end of Thirlmere, parking in the small car park at the end of the dam wall. I decided that we would try to take in Raven Crag. I know that it has been closed off due to a big tree fall in the forest but thought that it might be possible to get through.

looking south down Thirlmere from the car park at the end of the dam wall

Raven Crag from the forest track
Walking through a forest in autumn is a pretty special thing to do: a bit of a sensory overload with the smell of the pines, beautiful light and colours and the crispness of the air. The other sensory experience is the wet, squishy ground that we were walking on for the majority of this walk.
We continued up through the forest until reaching the top of Sippling Crag, which happens to be a Birkett and also affords a brilliant view along Thirlmere.
Raven Crag in profile from Sippling Crag

wider shot with Helvellyn and the Dodds visible to the left

We headed across from Sippling Crag towards Raven Crag.

On the climb down from Sippling Crag my knee started to hurt and so, when I was confronted with a sign saying that the path to Raven Crag was still closed, along with a very muddy track, I didn't need any more convincing to abandon the idea of going up there.

I've been up Raven Crag before, when the path was closed.

Continuing on the forest track past the turn off for Raven Crag, we headed to Castle Crag Fort, another Birkett.

Castle Crag

The good thing about Birkett seems to be that you can usually tell when a feature or peak will be a Birkett, unlike the Wainwrights.

Castle Crag is the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It is beautifully situated on a prominent peak overlooking Shoulthwaite Gill and it's easy to see why it made a good site for a fort.

The actual mound of earth making up Castle Crag isn't all that exciting though (unless you are an archaeologist).

The path goes directly to Castle Crag with a handy sign for anyone in doubt. Once you have had a look around, the best thing seems to be to turn around and go back to the forest track.

It's still a long way over the wet fells to Armboth or anywhere else so that's what we did.

from Castle Crag looking north along Shoulthwaite Gill

After walking 1k south on the forest track, the track splits and heads off on the unpleasant trudge across the top of the soggy fell. The best advice I can give is to stick to the double track. Stick to this double track for approximately 2k. It is wet but largely clean water, rather than mud. My waterproof socks worked well.

sky clearing above the Dodds

looking back along the track

not the top

Now if I am making it sound as if I didn't enjoy this walk, that's not the case.

I enjoyed the varying scenery and terrain.

I also enjoyed practising map reading.

Reading a map on indistinct terrain like the route over to Arboth Fell is more difficult than navigating through areas with definite landmarks.

I was able to use streams and contours to correctly identify where we were.

One thing I should have paid more attention to was having a look online at some pictures to see what the top actually looked like.

the top

At the end of the track, there is a mound of rock directly in front.

We wandered up here and stood at the top, unsure if we were at the summit of Armboth Fell. There was even a small cairn on top.

A quick check of the map showed that there was another rocky mound approximately 300m to the north that was 9m higher - Aha!

Off we went to claim a summit that I think we had both already decided not to return to in a hurry.

After posing for the usual summit dork photos, we agreed to head back down to Thirlmere and back to the car rather than carry on towards Watendlath. My knee was really hurting at this point.

summit dork

summit dork 2 (note the matching jackets!)

Armboth Fell summit

The climb down to Thirlmere was difficult.

Going downhill was much more painful on my knee but I took my time and we eventually made it back to the road.

We had a few kilometres to walk along the road back to the car.

There is a nice track along the shore of the reservoir but I decided to walk along the road as this was easier.

We headed into Keswick where, after the usual coffee stop, I checked out walking poles but decided they looked like too much of a hassle. I stocked up on Mr Vikki's Banana Habanero and then headed home.

My athletic endeavours are going to have to be non-knee using for a while. I think I might have re-injured my ACL which I had reconstructed about ten years ago. If I have, I won't be fellrunning for a while.

Lots of swimming, maybe cycling? Mountain biking is pretty low impact right?

favourite picture from today, looking north from Fishercrag area. Great How visible centre right by Thirlmere

Jonathan tempting fate

can't work out what these are - nearest I can find is Entoloma cetratum but doesn't look right

rainbow over the dam wall


Monday, November 5, 2012

Castle Crag

After yesterday's exertions, and as I was carrying my injury, we opted for an easy walk today.  It felt a bit like we were cheating.  It would have been a great day for an epic run, walk or bike.  Cold autumn day, snow on the higher ground but blue skies and sunshine.  Nevertheless, Castle Crag is a classic so that's where we headed.

route taken

From Rosthwaite we headed along to the river and then along the river where the path has been rebuilt since the devastation of the 2009 floods.

We crossed over the nice stone bridge and then through the fields that always have big scary cows in them.

We then took the steep path up before the main track enters the woods.  After climbing the wall, we then went up the zig zag scree path to the quarry and the summit.

Retracing our steps, we went back down to the wall before heading north along the Allerdale Ramble to the river where we turned back and followed the course of the river back to Rosthwaite.

We stopped on the way back for a look in Dalton's Cave before heading into Keswick for the usual stop off at The Lakeland Pedlar. 

one of those big cows

the Jaws of Borrowdale

scree path to the quarry

looking out from the quarry level over Borrowdale

top of Castle Crag

from the top looking north to Skiddaw, Lonscale Fell and Blencathra all snow capped.  Walla Crag is jutting out centre-right just under and to the left of Blencathra behind.

snowy Scafells visible in the middle

really pretty section of the River Derwent.  I saw a kingfisher fly backwards and forwards here

finished off with a play in Dalton's Cave

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Grizedale Ultra Trail 26.2 Recce Run

The Grizedale Ultra Trail 26 is on in a few weeks.  It's a marathon distance event run along the lines of the Lakeland 50/100.  Some navigation is required but I have been assured that the route card/road book is idiot proof.

With a pretty rotten weather forecast for Saturday, I decided to avoid the high fells and head for a recce around part of the Grizedale route.  Thankfully, a map, GPX route and route card are available from the website.  Here is the route of the full event:

The course is made up of two loops.  It starts with the Western loop before crossing over at the Visitor's Centre for the second loop on the East.  I have been mountain biking around the forest on the Western loop, in fact, it looks very like the green mountain bike route, so I opted for a run around the Eastern loop as I am less familiar with this area.

Here is the route I took.  I met Jonathan at about the halfway point (at Red Nab) and he ran the second half with me.

It was hailing and snowing as I sat in my car in the car park.  I looked out of the window at the ticket machine and thought to myself, I am going to get wet and cold and I'm about to pay for the privilege.

Geared up with waterproofs, fluids, food, map, route card and all the other essentials, I headed off.  After an initially rough, stony and wet climb up, the track soon turned into pleasant wide forest roads.

The forest roads undulated for the next few kilometres before heading off into the woods on some muddy singletrack.

At the end of the singletrack was the first point where I had to think in terms of navigation and the route card.  It was clear enough when I thought about it but the route goes downhill quite steeply at this point so my brain was thinking the worst, that I would find myself climbing back up.

The rough track continues down and eventually comes out at a road.  The next bit goes along the road and around the South side of Esthwaite Water to Hilltop and Near Sawrey where, at the end of some farm buildings, the route climbs up to Moss Eccles Tarn.

This is a popular route with mountain bikers and I met a large group travelling in the same direction as me.  I played with keeping up with them for a bit but soon decided that it wasn't a clever tactic and, at Moss Eccles Tarn, I stopped to take some pictures and let them get ahead.

Moss Eccles Tarn is a very pretty place, especially at this time of the year with the autumn colours.  The tarn was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1913.  She kept a boat here and enjoyed spending time here with her husband.  I know that because that is what it says on the sign.

I gave my cycling buddies a head start and continued on the muddy and wet track past Wise Een Tarn and up the hill back into the woods.

The route goes along the main track for a bit before cutting off to the left and steeply downhill, across the main track and on to more down hill to Belle Grange.

The path down to Belle Grange is steep and slippery.  It looks like an old pitched path with narrow stones rather than the newer stepped paths.  The leaves on top of this path made it quite dangerous (it does tell you to take care in the route description).

there is a nice path under all that water

the path down to Belle Grange was very pretty but also slippery and steep
Lake Windermere

The route goes South along the shore of Lake Windermere for a few kilometres but I headed north to meet up with Jonathan.

I had arranged to meet Jonathan at 11.30am at the Red Nab car park.  I had a bit of a wait.  I'm not going to say too much about the wait.  It was good practice for when things go wrong.  

I hung around for half an hour, taking pictures of passing boats and pacing about trying to keep warm.  

Then I took some more pictures.  

Then I hung around for a bit more.


Jonathan turned up, put on his new inov8s and, after some more pussying around, we headed off.

The next two kilometres were flat, along the shore of Lake Windermere before heading steeply up through the woods.

I did a back up check with my GPS and was pleased to see that I was spot on with my grid reference.

After the climb up, the path opened up a bit over some fields and down to Far Sawrey.

nice open track down to Far Sawrey

St. Peter's Church in Far Sawrey

From Far Sawrey, the route goes across fields and through woods.  It then goes along some road before going back into some woods.  Up until now, where the path has been waterlogged, we had been able to find a way around, hop across stones or take an alternative route.  Admittedly, this had involved a fair bit of mud trudging but here was the first point where there was no option but to get wet.  Jonathan went first through the stream.  He then came back across to take a picture of me going across?  I never asked him to do this!

Just after the stream crossing, the path leads up to a road, a bit further down the road, the route goes along a narrow section before opening out again onto the forest roads.
Another few kilometres on forest roads before the route dips down and back to the original climb up from the Visitor's Centre.

The total distance was about 17 miles.  Terrain wise, working from memory and by looking at the map, it looks as though this loop is a bit more difficult than the first.

It took me just over four hours.  If you factor taking off about 45 minutes when I was waiting for Jonathan and another 15 for the additional distance up to the car park and back, take off a bit more for the numerous photo stops, map reading and navigation but then add it back on because this will be the last part of the run and I will be exhausted.  I'm expecting the full marathon route to take about 7 hours.  That means that I might be finishing in the dark.

Refuelling at the cafe consisted of chips, coffee, pie and beer (and the balance is restored).

I enjoyed the route very much.  It seems really well planned and has a lot of variety.  Running in the forest is something I like to do but usually struggle to plan (and follow) a route.  The route card in general was easy to follow.  There were two potential places where I was less than 100% sure of the way to go.  The first is:

 5. Thru woods for 400m to clearing and road junction. Turn sharp L (E) at footpath marker (not R past bench)

On re-reading this, it is more obvious but when I was running I found it hard to work out if it means past the bench but you go left not right.  What it means is that you don't go past the bench (which is right).

The second place was after the run along Windermere shore where it says:

15. Follow main track avoiding paths off. Thru gate by wall. Straight on (SP Far Sawrey)

There are two tracks here.  The main one, the one we took is lower.  To the right of this track, there is a gate and a track goes through this but the track soon ends (ok, we took this track first).

Despite being less than 100% sure, we managed on each occasion and some detailed map studying would have confirmed it on each occasion.  I think the organisers said that there will be some signs up on the day itself.  These are very minor issues and I wouldn't want anybody to be put off by me raising them.  The route is very easy to follow.

I did pick up a bit of an injury on this run.  I'm pretty sure it was from hanging around and getting cold before setting off running again.  Jonathan feels very guilty for keeping me waiting so it would be unfair for me to rub it in by highlighting his lack of competency that may have ended my chances of completing this event (despite me sending him the co-ordinates for his Sat Nav).  It feels like an ITB type injury so I'm hoping rest and stretching will help me out before the big event in a few weeks time.

So despite my injury niggle, I am really looking forward to this event.  There are three in the series so I might see how this one goes before looking at the others.  I think this is designed as a stepping stone for people looking to do the Lakeland 50 and Lakeland 100 and those are both events I would like to do in the future, I never was keen on my toenails.

Here is the website for the Montane Ultra Trail 26 series.