Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fixing the Coast to Coast

near the end of the walk looking back up the path
Wainwright's Coast to Coast is 40 years old this year.  To celebrate, and thanks to a generous donation by the Linley Shaw Foundation, the Fix the Fells Lengthsmen decided to put on a series of drain runs along the route.  On Friday, two groups left, one from Stonethwaite and one from Grasmere, meeting up somewhere on Greenup Edge (in a hailstorm apparently).  On Saturday, two more groups left, one from Grasmere and one from Glenridding, meeting up at Grisdale Tarn.  I joined the Glenridding group.

Lanty's Tarn
We headed up past Lanty's Tarn and along the path on the north side of Grisedale Beck.  The group leader was Richard Fox of Fix the Fells.  Richard is passionate about the lakes and has a lot of interesting stories to tell.  He took me over the original bridleway path up to Grisedale Tarn.  The commonly used path, just below the tarn on the Glenridding side, is very difficult to walk on as it has some big rock steps.  It was probably created following a landslide.  The original path is at a much better gradient - it would have been designed to allow horses to travel over it.  The path has been covered in areas by falling rock but it can be picked out if you know what to look for.  Richard said that he would love to close the new path and reinstate the original path but it would be too difficult at the moment due to lack of funding and the potential misguided objections of people thinking that a path was under threat of closure.

on the right track but still a way to go.

the other group successfully located
Not long after crossing the footbridge, we saw that we were behind schedule so decided to press on, leaving the work for the way back.

We were right to do this as a little further along, we passed a coast to coast walker who told us that the 'other lot' were sat up at the tarn taking it easy.

It was nice to see some old (and familiar) faces at the meeting point.  After several catchups and some sandwiches, we parted ways again again headed back along our respective routes.  We stopped off to complete the outstanding jobs on the way and ended up getting back fairly late.

On the way back, we diverted slightly from the track to have a look at the Brothers' Parting Stone, a memorial to William Wordsworth's brother John who died at sea.  The stone marks the spot where, on the 29th September 1800. William and John said farewell to each other for, unbeknownst to them, the last time.

John was a Commander of the East Indiaman "Earl of Abergavenny", a ship that sank off Portland on the 5th February 1805, claiming the lives of John and another 300 people.  Canon Rawnsley arranged for part of one of William Wordworth's poems to be carved in the stone.

trying to read the poem on the Brother's Parting Stone
Here is a link to the poem.  It is impossible to read in full as it is weathered and worn.  I'm not sure how much of it is carved into the stone but I can recall making out the last verse:

Brother and friend, if verse of mine
Have power to make thy virtues known,
Here let a monumental Stone
Stand—sacred as a Shrine;
And to the few who pass this way,
Traveller or Shepherd, let it say,
Long as these mighty rocks endure,—
Oh do not Thou too fondly brood,
Although deserving of all good,
On any earthly hope, however pure!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Illgill Head and Whin Rigg

up on top of the screes, not getting too close to the edge

I had a great time mixing up camping and running at the weekend.  The weather was great, very mild and I thought I should try camping when it's not so great.  My main objective for today was to camp in the rain.  I know it sounds daft, but I wanted to practice getting my tent up and down when conditions weren't ideal.  I was also planning to run-camp-run again but the weather the next day was so bad that I decided to leave it at run-camp (I am supposed to be having fun after all).

Here is a map of the run the night before:

Here are my notes from my tent on the first night:

"10.40pm and I'm all set in my tent.  I had so much fun on Friday that I thought I would try camping again.

Kirk Fell from the car park
I'm at Wasdale Head, camping at the Wasdale Head Inn campsite.  £5 per night and great facilities, modern toilets and showers and a pub!  I have resisted the temptation to visit the pub this evening but might swing by in the morning to see what breakfast is like.

I had a late start tonight.  I finsished work just after 5pm and then got caught in some traffic, arriving at Wasdale Head for about 6pm.  By the time I had signed in, paid and got changed into my running gear, it was about 6.20pm.

There were various options for this evening's run.  The best would have been an ascent of Kirk Fell, around to Pillar, on to bag Steeple and Red Pike and then down the Dore Head scree back to the campsite.  I knew that I could only do this option if I had plenty of time and didn't want to attempt it in low cloud.

Another option was an ascent of Kirk Fell and then back down Black Sail Pass.  This would obviously be quicker.

the route goes up over the trees on the left over the screes
which are in the middle of the picture.
When I got to the Wasdale Head Inn and saw the cloud around Kirk Fell, I opted for a safer option: a run over the top of the screes, coming back along the road.  Although the screes were also in cloud, I felt more confident navigating over them and thought that it wouldn't matter if I ended up running back along the road in the dark.

path liable to flooding
From the Wasdale Head Inn, I took the footpath along to the NT campsite.  There is a sign that says that the path is liable to flooding.  Too bloody right!  There were several large puddles to negotiate and two river crossings but I emerged relatively unscathed at the campsite.

At Brackenclose, the mountain rescue landrovers were out.  I recognised a work colleague operating the radio.  I don't think he recognised me and I didn't hang around due to the soon to be fading daylight.

Passing through the campsite, I picked up the path along the wall that leads up towards the top of Illgill Head.  As the ascents evens out a bit, and the wall bends around a depression, the true top is seen and there is another few hundred metres of climbing to do.  Here I left the wall and headed south to the summit.

There is a nice gentle grassy saddle between Illgill Head and Whin Rigg, a bit muddy in parts but overall a delight to run on.  The cloud came down at points but I was able to make my way over the path towards the pools just before the ground rises again to reach the summit of Whin Rigg.

The track splits in several places and it gives the option of venturing very near to the edge.  I did this for a while.  It really is an amazing sight looking down the screes into Wast Water.

Whin Rigg is about a mile away.  From here, there is an option of a gentle or steep downhill to the foot of the lake.  I took the steep way, cutting down to the path alongside the impressive Greathall Gill.

moody Wasdale tops from Illgill Head shelter cairn

grassy saddle looking over to the Irish Sea and Seatallan, Middle Fell and Buckbarrow

grassy ridge run

down to Wast Water

from Whin Rigg

steep descent down to cross at Lund Bridge

Lund Bridge
At the bottom of the descent, I crossed a few fields and then across Lund Bridge up to the road.

It was about four miles along the road back to the campsite.  The light was fading at this point but not enough to need to get my headtorch out.

As I ran along the road, the Wasdale Mountain Rescue team passed in convoy."

I later learned that they had been out to a double incident around Piers Gill.

all calm at the bottom

Wasdale's amazing screes.  They continue at this angle for another 250ft down into the lake

Wasdale Mountain Rescue leaving
"The run along the road was pleasant enough, my mind was on getting my tent set up and getting settled.

The tent setting up routine is much smoother now.  I did it without the back up of having my car nearby.

I've also managed to pack better, meaning that there is some spare room in my bag.  Some of this will be taken up by additional food and clothing needed for an extra day but it will make packing easier if I am able to get everything in without a squeeze."

I had a veggie hotpot for dinner.  A bit unusual, it was like mashed potatoes with vegetables.  After a coffee, I settled down and wrote this."


morning campsite
My plan for the morning was to take on the first route I had looked at.  I woke up to heavy rain.  I did want rain.  I set about organising things and did a good job of packing from inside my minuscule tent.

I then put my waterproofs on and put the rest of the tent away.  When I stepped outside, I saw that the cloud was very low.  Very very low.

I had a little run over to the toilets and back, just to prove to myself that I could have run and then decided to not bother running this morning.

In summary, I'm pleased with the refinement to my camping set up, packing etc.  I had a good run last night and a good experience camping.  No more long runs now before the GL3D.  I'm as ready as I can be and I'm looking forward to it.

wet and cloudy campsite

the screes this morning

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Run - Camp - Run

At the Wainwright summit of Seathwaite Fell after an early climb on day two

Goal setting is all about picking something achievable but with enough doubt to make it a challenge.  What I know about myself is that, if it's too easy, it's not satisfying.  As JFK said, we choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

While I may not be going to the moon, the GL3D is a real challenge for me.  This weekend I had challenged myself to run, camp out and run again the next day.  I'll be doing this for three days in the actual event.

As well as to practice back to back running, I wanted to practice some of the practical tasks such as putting the tent up, packing all my kit and getting enough rest and nutrition to keep going the next day.

I had my bag packed on Thursday and set off straight from work on Friday.  I arrived at Seatoller Farm campsite, paid my £6 to camp, got changed and set off running at about 5:50pm.  I worked out that I needed to be heading back down for 8:30pm but could get away with 9pm.  I had a headtorch with me just in case.

I had two yet to be claimed Wainwrights in mind: Glaramara (almost as hard to say as it is to spell) and Allen Crags.

3d map showing the nice run down from Esk Hause

map with elevation.  Start was from Seatoller

following the wall up
I started by running back onto the Borrowdale Road and along to pick up the track to Thorneythwaite Farm along the Allerdale Ramble.  I missed my intended path as it looked to be going in the opposite direction.  I realised I had done this a bit further on so chose a wall to follow to the ridge intending to meet up with the main path.

At the top of the ridge, I looked down into the next valley and saw that the path was below so rather than drop down, I followed a wall along the top, over Comb Head to eventually get to Glaramara.

Pike O' Stickle and, to the left, Harrison Stickle.  Little nub of Loft Crag sticking up to the left of Pike O' Stickle

Glaramara summit.  Derwent Water to the right of the cairn with Skiddaw behind.

Left to right from Glaramara summit: Lingmell then the sea is just visible between this and Yewbarrow (with Middle Fell and Seat Allen to the left and right), on to the prominent slope and square top of the mighty Great Gable, with Pillar sticking out over the side of Green Gable.
High House Tarn
Glaramara stands at the top of a long climb.  It's definitely in contention for the best of Borrowdale.  From here Allen Crags was about a mile and a half away.

The run over to Allen Crags was on a mix of terrain, rocky, boggy and grassy in different areas and the evening light was beautiful but it did have me a bit concerned about losing daylight.

It is more or less downhill from Glaramara but I did encounter a few rocky steps that needed careful negotiation.  I toppled over at one point scraping my knee.  I also managed to put my foot into a bog up to my knee.  This was not a welcome event as I thought that's my trainers wet for tomorrow as well.  Eventually, the ground starts to rise again up to the summit of Allen Crags, standing at a height of 784 metres, which is one metre higher than Glaramara.

from Allen Crags summit cairn towards Great End with the sun starting to set behind 

deep snowdrifts in Ruddy Gill
Once on top of Allen Crags I was able to relax a bit.  The navigation and running from here was fairly easy.  It was almost all downhill and was on a well defined path that I was familiar with.  If you are going to be out in the dark on the fells, better to be somewhere like this.  With a head torch and spare batteries in my backpack, I was happy.

slab of snow broken away
The run down from Esk Hause was on a nice new gravel path.  These paths are great to run on, level and forgiving, but they do seem to have a tendency to wash out.  Today I was running and not building paths so it suited my purpose.  I followed the path down towards Sty Head, past Sprinkling Tarn.  On the way I stopped to check out the huge snow drifts in Ruddy Gill.  Most of the snow on the fells has now melted but there are pockets in gills and other sheltered spots.  The path criss-crosses across the water.

Once at the stretcher box at Sty Head, I turned to the north east past Styhead Tarn and followed the rougher path down Styhead Gill to Stockley Bridge.  I passed someone heading up, obviously for a wild camp somewhere.

On the level, my mind turned to the next part of my challenge, setting up camp and taking on food to fuel the next day.  It was a few miles back to the campsite.  I followed the path north to Seathwaite farm and then back along the road.  The run was ten miles in total.  Much shorter than a GL3D day but long enough to feel tired and ready for something to eat.

Sprinkling Tarn wit the Gables behind

in low-light (camera has brightened this picture) heading down to Stockley Bridge with the slopes of Glaramara in front

the gate just above Stockley Bridge

my Fix the Fells Colleague Ian at the same gate about a month ago

As I run into the campsite, about 8:45pm, just starting to get dark, it's time to get my tent sorted out, make some dinner and get settled for the night.  I got my drybag out of my car and pulled the tent from the top of it.  

veggie curry
My tent is fairly easy to set up but one drawback is that the inner is pitched first, meaning that if you are setting it up in the rain, it needs to be done quickly otherwise a puddle will form inside.  I think I could use the strategy of mopping up any rain puddles with my dirty clothes.  At least tonight it's dry.  

Tent up, mat down.  I have an inflatable mat which takes up a lot of space in the drybag but it's very comfy so I think I will stick with this.  Once the mat is inside, I can sit just inside the opening with my feet out while I get my campstove sorted.

I had a quick recovery drink and then got to cooking.  I have the Jetboil Zip stove which I got thrown into a subscription to Trail Magazine.  It's very neat, inside the boiling container fits a gas cylinder, stand and stove fitting.  This clips neatly to the container and it boils really quick.  It's not so good in the wind but as long as you are in a sheltered position, it is fine.  I boiled up some water, heated my boil in the bag veggie curry camp meal in it and then made coffee with the hot water.  This was all done in the dark (although I had a headtorch).  In the event, I expect to be getting back in the afternoon and so will have daylight to get all this sorted.

So, Friday, 10pm and I'm snug in my tent.  It's a small tent, so I'm very snug.  It's so small that I can't sit upright.  I want to sit upright because I need to burp!  Lesson number one for camping in a very small tent - don't eat and then lie down straight away.  After a few roll overs, I managed to do that burp and feel much better.  I read my book for a bit but pretty soon I am settling down for the night.

the morning

It was a very mild night, which was pleasant to camp in but didn't give me that much practice.  Lessons learnt: I had brought extra layers in case I got cold in the night and I didn't need any of them.  A good hat kept my head warm.  I will label the various little drybags I have as I spent a lot of time yesterday night looking through them for various things.  Earplugs are worth their weight in gold, although the campsite was nice and quiet.

good morning
I woke up around 6.30am, laid in my tent for a while, stretching out and chilling out but eventually had to get up for the toilet.  Porridge and coffee for breakfast really set me up well.

The morning was colder than the night (probably because I was outside of my tent) and I was glad of a few additional layers to put on at this point.  I packed up my tent and was very pleased that I managed to repack my drybag rather than just chuck everything in my car.

From waking up, having breakfast, packing up and being ready to run took about an hour and a half.  I was by no means rushing so it's good to know the timescale for planning for the GL3D.

I will probably want to be setting off running at about 7am in the event so it will mean about a 6am wake up.

Jonathan and Gerard turned up as planned and I jumped in the car down to Seathwaite Farm for the start of the run.  Gerard obviously had some climbing in mind.  In fact, he said as much.  Here's the route information for day two:

Back up to Stockley Bridge, direct ascent of Seathwaite Fell, over past Sprinkling Tarn up the rocky way to Great End, across to Scafell Pike, back down the Corridor Route over Sty Head to Great Gable, on to Green Gable and then down the Gillercomb valley back to Seathwaite and back along the road to Seatoller.

12 miles, a lot of climbing

Seathwaite Fell
We started off on the same track I had returned on the night before.  We crossed Stockley Bridge and headed up towards Sty Head but then turned off to make a sharp ascent of Seathwaite Fell.

Seathwaite Fell has two summits.  The Wainwright summit to the East has nicer views but is shorter than the true summit.

Great End behind
We then headed over to Great End, taking the rocky path (what path?) up The Band.  We larked about on the rocks a bit, pretending we were clinging onto cliff edges and trying to get a camera angle to give this effect.  After a while we decided we should carry on and headed up to the top.

Great End on the top isn't half as impressive as Great End from the side.  We took a few pictures and then proceeded across the rocky plain to Scafell Pike.

The wind was up a bit on the top of England. We had planned to carry on to Scafell but it looked like the cloud might come in so we headed back the same way picking up the drop off to the Corridor Route back down to Sty Head.

Gerard, clinging onto a cliff edge
At the top of the col, there was a big snow bank.  We sent Jonathan off ahead to test it out and when we saw that he got down ok, we followed down.  It was a pity it didn't go all the way down.

Now people say that the Corridor Route is a boring way up or down Scafell Pike.  I really enjoyed the run down though.  The path is clear and fairly gradual.  At one point, the popularity of the path is demonstrated by the fact that there is an arrow showing the way up over some rocks, not something you typically find on a higher path.



Jonathan on Great End with Great Gable behind (yep, we're going up there) Green Gable to the right.

Scafell Pike summit cairn up ahead

top of Scafell Pike
Down at Sty Head, I really didn't want to climb Great Gable.  As usual with these things, I'm fairly easily persuaded and trudged off up the nose.  My knee is still struggling a bit with climbs and Gerard and Jonathan got ahead as I grumbled my way up.

Gerard showed us a 'better' way off Great Gable towards Windy Gap.  I think the usual way is better.  Gerard's way is apparently a Bob Graham way and maybe more runnable but there were still a lot of ankle turning rocks about and I think I would have preferred a climb down the rocky steps.

It doesn't take long to get to Green Gable from Great Gable.  I always think it should be called Red Gable because of the red path that leads up to the summit.  The views of Great Gable Crag from Green Gable are, err.. Great.

I had got some energy back by this stage and so enjoyed the run down from Green Gable.  At the top of Gillercomb valley we ran down another, shorter snowbank and then joined up with the path down the valley.  As we got further on Jonathan was suffering a bit with cramps and blisters.  I lent him (actually, he can keep it) a plaster and we said that a bit further on there were some good pools to get in to relieve his cramp.

descending to the Corridor Route

Jonathan - Crash Test Dummy

Gerard on a skilfully controlled descent, "Wahay!"  

looking back up, the walker shaking his head at us has disappeared (I hope he's ok).

Piers Gill takes a bite out of Lingmell

helpful arrows, now I see why they call it the tourist route

before I know it, I'm on top of Great Gable

descending to Windy Gap

Jonathan catching up

from Green Gable looking back to Gable Crag

Gillercomb valley

the hanging stone on Base Brown
So where was I?  Oh yeah, Jonathan, cramp, pools:

click for video

We thought he was going to just put his legs in.  Well it seemed to work.  Gerard and I stood in a pool lower down.  It really does help loosen your legs.  At Seathwaite Farm I decided to run the extra mile and a half to my car rather than get a lift with Jonathan.

Back at my car I waited for Jonathan (who was changing into dry clothes) and chatted to the National Trust guy.  He told me he used to be a runner too.  We had a really nice chat.  He told me that the Seathwaite road is one of the most popular places for car theft.  Thieves will dress as walkers, asking people where they are heading, obviously to get an idea of how long they will be away for.

What can I say?  What a great weekend I had.  This practice run has helped me to put my mind at rest about a lot of things.  It's also helped me to fine tune my plans.  I wonder if I can fit another camp in before May...