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...

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