Friday, May 31, 2013

Hen Comb

Hen Comb summit cairn.  Coming out of my left elbow is Robinson then the top of Dale Head.  Fleetwith Pike is prominent at the other end of Buttermere.

I found out tonight that "Hen Comb" apparently means, "The fell that looks like a hen's head".  What I already knew was that is was a medium height fell that could easily be ticked off after work.   This is perhaps why I have left it so long, always thinking that I'll save it for when I have not got much time.

8.5 miles in 2 hours

We parked by the telephone box and headed across to Hudson place and the path through the woods.  This path is nicely worn in now and it's a great surface to run on.

I'm trying to build my knee muscle up a bit.  I'm finding climbing difficult at the moment.  Tonight was good practice as there were some gentle climbs.  I think the best training is probably to keep climbing hills.  At least, that's what I tell myself.

We missed the shortcut at Watergate farm and ended up at Maggie's bridge.  We took the path back to High Nook Farm and then got onto the fell track.

After a short climb up the start of Black Crag, I realised the error of our ways and we descended back and over Whiteoak Beck.  From here we headed up to the ridge and followed the track to the top.

The usual summit dork antics ensued but it was pretty cold so, after a few pictures and a quick look at an inviting path to the South, we decided back the same way was the best way.  The run down was great fun.  For some reason we got down a lot quicker than on the way up.

Jonathan on Hen Comb.  Red Pike visible behind the cairn.

Hen Comb.

We turned the other way at the bottom to complete a circuit of Loweswater, heading along the roadside path back to the car.

Refreshments were enjoyed outside the Kirkstyle Inn.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


from the summit of Wansfell looking back to Wansfell Pike and Windermere

route map

The inlaws are over again.  We planned a big family meet up at Brockhole today.  Thinking my extended family would take themselves some time to organise, I set off early and squeezed in a Wainwright.  I parked in Ambleside then headed up the road by Stock Ghyll until I saw the obvious path up to Wansfell Pike.  From here I crossed the ridge along the side of the wall until I got to the true summit.  I spoke to someone on Wansfell Pike who said that it must be annoying for walkers who think that Wansfell Pike is the Wainwright summit.  Luckily, I had consulted A.W. prior to my journey who advised that:

" the south-west extremity of the ridge there is a rocky bluff known as Wansfell Pike, which is commonly but incorrectly regarded as the top of the fell."

steep and hot climb to Wansfell Pike

up on Wansfell Pike

the continuation along the wall to the Wainwright summit.  That must be Frostwick and Ill Bell on the horizon
back to Wansfell Pike and Windermere

The summit, also known as Baystones.  There's a few Wainwrights in that direction that need bagging...

From the summit, I found my way over to the road and headed back down the same way before meeting with the fam at Brockhole.  Very hot today, tomorrow is a bank holiday but the forecast is not good.  I'll keep my options open.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fairfield Horseshoe variation

looking back up towards High Pike from Low Pike

I missed out Nab Scar and Heron Crag, the usual first (or last) fells on the Fairfield Horseshoe, because I've been wanting to bag Stone Arthur for a while.  It sits on an offshoot of Fairfield and the ridge down over Heron Pike and Nab Scar is much more appealing when descending.  Today, I parked along the roadside at Grasmere and headed up Stone Arthur, on to Great Rigg, up to Fairfield and then around over Hart Crag and Dove Crag continuing on to High Pike and Low Pike.  After Low Pike, I descended to the valley bottom and took the track down past Rydal Hall and then carried on around Rydal Water and Grasmere heading through Grasmere village back to my car.

13.12 miles

Stone Arthur from Grasmere

I'm still struggling a bit with my knee and so the climb to Stone Arthur was a bit of a drag.  There were a few places where I could have taken a more direct route but I decided to stay on the track which curves around to take in Stone Arthur summit.

Stone Arthur summit looking over Grasmere.  Coniston fells on the middle left horizon.  Silver How to Blea Rigg in front with Pike o' Blisco in the middle ridge above the summit.

Stone Arthur seems to be one of those Wainwrights which isn't a proper summit.  It's really an offshoot of Great Rigg (which is an offshoot of Fairfield).  From Stone Arthur, the path continues to Great Rigg. 

From Great Rigg, looking along the ridge towards Heron Pike with Windermere beyond.

in the other direction up to Fairfield with Hart Crag visible around the top of the horseshoe

Soon afterwards, I got to the top of Fairfield.  There were plenty of people there, sitting in the various shelters having lunch.  After a quick sandwich stop, I headed back along the other side of the valley, towards Hart Crag.

flat top of Fairfield and St Sunday Crag

Coffa Pike

over to Hart Crag
Hart Crag summit.  Red Screes is at the end of the flat top on the right, Ill Bell is the triangular fell middle right and High Street is visible on the far left.

From Hart Crag, I followed the wallside path to Dove Crag, then continued along the wall to pick up High Pike and Low Pike.  From Low Pike, I descended steeply to the valley floor crossing the river just south of Buckstones Jump.  Buckstones Jump is a band of rock, obviously harder wearing than the rock around it, which has created a natural dam with a pool at the bottom and a waterfall going into it.  A great place for a wildswim.  There are a number of other pools and waterfalls as the river descends.

Dove Crag summit cairn looking back up to Fairfield and Hart Crag
down the ridge to High Pike

from High Pike looking down over Windermere

and on to Low Pike

looking back up to High Pike from Low Pike

Buckstones Jump

natural pool at Buckstones Jump
I followed the track down to the Rydal Mount road and then followed the tracks around Rydal Water and Grasmere.

There were loads of bluebells out.  No doubt I have failed to photograph them properly, some areas were just plain carpets of blue.

I stopped for a look in Cotswolds Rock Bottom in Grasmere and then for a can of Coke at the Co-Op before carrying on along the road back to my car.

Nice to get out for a walk when I'm not in a hurry.  Three more Wainwrights bagged and 13 miles under my belt.



Monday, May 20, 2013

Round Latrigg Fell Race Route Recce

A quick recce of an upcoming race tonight.  A hot and sweaty climb up to the car park.  Stephen and Gerard ran all the way up but Jonathan and I couldn't manage it.  This is something to aim for.  A nice descent down to the railway path and then a few miles back along the railway path.  Still got to work on my shorter speedwork, I couldn't keep up towards the end but it was a nice run out and a good line in the sand.

course route

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Carrock Fell and High Pike Navigation Practice

Summit Dork - High Pike

The forecast was atrocious.  Severe weather warnings, heavy rain, risk of lightening and very low cloud.  A perfect day for testing waterproofs and practising navigation.  I've been looking at this route for some time.  It's a fairly straightforward 7ish mile loop around the Caldbeck area.  Carrock Fell and High Pike were Wainwrights that needed bagging too.

6.5 miles

path up to Carrock Fell
We parked in an area labelled 'Apronful of Stones', how lovely.  We took the steep path up alongside the beck and carried on directly to the top of Carrock Fell.  Not long after getting up the steep part of the path, the clagg was down and visibility was approximately 20 metres.  I was pleased about this as it gave me a good opportunity to practice using my compass.  Where the path came very close to the beck, I took a bearing and we successfully followed it to the summit of Carrock Fell.

Pleased with myself, I took another bearing to Miton Hill.  We ended up on Round Knott.  If you look at the map, you can see that we approached Round Knott from the north east.  My natural inclination would have been to go straight across, carrying on in a south west direction, dropping towards Iron Crags.  A further compass bearing showed that we should turn and got us back on the track over Miton Hill. 

Carrock Fell

chief navigator - on Carrock Fell

193, 194, 195
Another technique we practised was pacing distances.  I estimated that it was 300 metres before we would join up with the Cumbria Way track.  At roughly 65 double steps per 100 metres, this meant that in 195 paces before we got to the track.

The picture on the right shows where I stopped at 195.  That is the Cumbria Way track right in front of me.  I was pretty impressed with myself for that!

Once on this track, we estimated a further 100 metres before the track turned off to the right to High Pike.  Bizarrely, we were a bit further off with this estimation but it helped us to work out which path we needed to take.  We had a go at running up the track to High Pike and got most of the way.

After monkeying around on the summit for a bit, we took a bearing straight off the side down to the main path.  We were heading for a path junction and my plan was to aim-off: to deliberately intersect the path before the junction so that we were clear to continue north, rather than wonder if we had gone past it and head south.  However, as we set off the cloud lifted a bit and we could clearly see the path junction so we just headed towards it.

up to High Pike.  The seat in profile

nice place for a seat

High Pike

this plaque agreed with my compass

Cloud lifting slightly allowing us to see the path junction

Jonathan avoids the bridge
We then took a nice track down through the old mine area, along the side of Carrock Beck, down to the road.  We ran along the road for about a mile and then got changed and headed to the pub for a pint.

This was a successful day.  It's great to get out when the odds are against you.  My navigation was successful and my confidence in this area is growing.

Oh, and two more Wainwrights bagged!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Great Lakeland 3 Day 2013

Paul, after taking a short cut to Great Rigg on day one

The 2013 Great Lakeland 3 Day (GL3D) has been an event I have been looking forward to, with some trepidation, since marshalling at the 2012 event.  This was a big deal for me, I had done a lot of preparation, practicing navigation, testing out my tent, checking I could fit all my kit into the 59L drybag allowance and of course, getting lots of running in.

Looking across to Sheffield Pike, just the Glencoyne Valley
in the way.
My plan was to go to the event centre, at Dowthwaite Head Farm, the night before to pick up the map and then to come home and plan my routes.  When I got there I was told that the maps had gone to Ennerdale in the back of somebody's van.  A slight set back.

I phoned Paul, someone I had been running with before who was also entering the event.  We agreed to run together and he kindly offered to give me a lift.  Paul was planning on entering the Elite course, I was planning on entering the B course.  When we got the map and had a look at the proposed courses, we decided on the A course (middle distance).

Day One:
From Dowthwaite Head, up and around Glencoyne Valley, down to Greenside Mine, steep climb up to Birkhouse Moor, over Striding Edge to Helvellyn, along to Grisedale Tarn then scoot around Fairfield to Great Rigg, along the ridge to Nab Scar, down to go around the back of Rydal and Grasmere Lakes, up Helm Crag, along over Gibson Knott and Calf Crag, picking up the Cumbria Way up to Greenop Edge, down Greenup Gill to Stonethwaite, onto the road up to Seatoller and then down the track to Seathwaite Farm.

Day One - 28 miles

Striding Edge covered in mist
Once we had worked out how to get out of the campsite (we were considering running along the road to Glenridding for a while) we found our way pretty well up to Helvellyn.  Crossing Striding Edge in the mist was an interesting experience, possibly less scary than usual because we could not see the big drops on either side.  From Helvellyn we turned off too early to contour around Dollywagon Pike.  It actually wasn't a bad route option as it missed out the steep descent to Grisedale Tarn but it was completely accidental.  We worked out that we didn't need to go to the top of Fairfield to reach the checkpoint on Great Rigg and so took another contour below the summit.  On the flat section of Rydal and Grasmere, my stomach started to bother me and I feel like I owe the toilet cleaner at Grasmere Garden Centre an apology.  All cleared up, we climbed up Helm Crag.  This was a low point for me, completely lacking in energy.  Looking back, I was pretty dehydrated at this point.  I climbed slowly, one foot in front of the other and eventually got some energy back as we headed along the ridge to pick up the Cumbria Way path.  I slipped on the wet rocks coming down Lining Crag and grazed my knuckles.  The thin blood and increased circulation from running was certainly pumping it out so, when we got to a stream, I stopped to put plasters over my knuckles.  We were both very tired and we walked most of the last section from the road along the track to Seathwaite Farm, just picking up a run as we entered the field.

the bad step down near the end of Striding Edge

Paul at the checkpoint on Helvellyn

Heading towards Dollywagon Pike before turning off too soon

Grisedale Tarn

looking down onto the next checkpoint on the other side of Rydal Water

Helm Crag summit - no we didn't climb it

heading over the Cumbria Way to Borrowdale

Eagle Crag from Stonethwaite - flatish ground now!

back at the Seathwaite Farm campsite

After we checked in, we moved quickly to get our tents up in the relatively dry weather.  I cooked some food and had a recovery drink, sorted my gear our and settled down for the night.  I spent much of the evening filing down rough bits on my feet, stretching my legs out and massaging and kneading my leg muscles.  My tent is too small to sit up straight in so it made for some interesting contortions.

Normally, after a long run, my legs twitch at night, making it difficult to get to sleep (it drives my wife mad) but I slept really well on the first night.  Earplugs are an essential camping item.  There were people in a tent next to me playing annoying music late into the night.  How many times can you play a song before it isn't All Right Now?

Paul said that he had a rotten nights sleep.  No earplugs I guess.  On checking the results after the event, I saw that we were in 4th and 5th place after day one.  This is effectively equal 4th as we were running together and the difference is the few seconds it takes to click into the checkpoints.  There were 15 competitors in the A group and 11 out of the 15 did the whole course (didn't miss any checkpoints).

my tiny tent

Day Two:
After stomach issues on day one, I was up early to make sure to 'use' the toilet before setting off.  There was a queue for the one cubicle and, like the others in the queue, I resigned myself to the fact that others would hear me use the toilet.  I think I performed quite well under pressure.  Well enough that I didn't have any troubles of that sort on day two.

Day Two - 30.2 miles

From Seathwaite Farm we climbed up Sourmilk Gill, along the Gillercomb Valley and up to Green Gable in the mist.  From here we skirted around Great Gable and Kirk Fell to Pillar where we picked up the climbers' track to Robinson Cairn.  We descended directly into Ennerdale Valley and then, after deciding to miss out High Stile and Red Pike due to very thick cloud and timing restrictions, we headed up and over Scarth Gap Pass into Buttermere.  We ran along the lakeshore to Crummock Water and then ascended steeply up to Melbreak.  Dropping back down into Loweswater, we ran around the top of Crummock Water to follow the rough track up to Coledale Hause, taking the mine road to Braithwaite.  We followed roads around to Derwent Water where we ran along the shore and through the wood up to the campsite at Ashness.

looking down on the campsite from the climb and scramble up Sourmilk Gill

wet conditions

ghostly figures following us at the top of the Gillercomb Valley

Green Gable check point

Robinson Cairn on Pillar

down to Ennerdale

Scarth Gap Pass (I don't think they realise that this is the ridable section)

Looking towards a cloudy Melbreak
We made a navigation error on the approach to Pillar, dropping down too far into Ash Craggs, adding about 1k to the distance and meaning that we had a significant climb back up.

The run down the rocky front of Pillar to the Ennerdale Valley was really unpleasant, very slippery and wet then heading through a bit of forest. We made a decision at the bottom of the valley to take the wet weather course which meant missing out High Crag and Red Pike, a big ridge between Ennerdale and Buttermere.  We made this decision due to time restrictions, the course guidance said that you should reach Melbreak by 1pm and we were not going to make it.  These fells were also in heavy cloud, not fun to navigate in given the craggy nature of the ridge.  At the time, I was disappointed but, when we got to Melbreak I was pleased not to have this additional climb and descent in my legs.

It was a slog up Melbreak.  We chose the steep route.  The top was covered in cloud and we ran through brambles until we eventually found the north top and check point.  We were here at 2pm but were confident that we could make up time on the rest of the course.

finally we found that windy path down Coledale Hause
After descending the steep side of Melbreak and running along roads, across a field, bizarrely bumping into a work colleague on the Crummock Water shoreline path, we headed up Gasgale Gill.  This is a horrible path and I struggled with energy at this point.  After a couple of miles, we got to Coledale Hause but again, in deep mist, took a wrong turn and ended up at the path junction between Crag Hill and Grasmoor.  We ran back down (another 2k onto the route) and then eventually found the path down to Force Crag Mine and ran along the road to Braithwaite.

From here we followed roads around to the base of Cat Bells and then along the Derwent Water shoreline path.  At the road we met another competitor who was looking for a footpath through the woods to the campsite.  We had about 30 minutes left before the course closed but luckily, I was familiar with this path and was able to find the way through.  we ran into the camp and checked in with about ten minutes to spare.

Force Crag Mine - our path is just above and to the left of the river

Day 2 Camp, Paul all set in his tent

I stood in the river for a bit to cool off my feet and legs.  Then we had a beer, some food and I settled down again for the night.

I was feeling good at this stage, having got the two main days out of the way.  I wanted to get my tent up quick in case it started to rain.  I thought that it didn't really matter that much if it was raining when I got up because I could quickly pack up and get going.

I had plenty to eat and settled down for the night, stretching as best as I could in my tiny little tent.

The results table on the right shows our day 2 performance.  There were five people who did this course on day 2.  As well as Paul and myself, who missed two checkpoints, two did the whole course, one dropped out after Robinson's Cairn.  Because we missed out High Crag and Red Pike, and because a wet weather course was not officially announced, we didn't get an official ranking.  Later that evening, at the campsite, the organisers made an official call that everybody would do the wet weather version of their course on day three.  This was because people were taking longer than expected and they wanted to ensure that everybody finished at a reasonable time.

Day Three:
After not as good a nights sleep as the first night, I was up and afforded myself the luxury of an americano coffee from the coffee van before heading off along the road to Ashness Bridge.  Day three is traditionally shorter, finishing earlier.

Day 3 - 16.5 miles

Day three started with a run along the road to Ashness Bridge, up to Walla Crag, into Keswick picking up the old railway line to Spooneygreen Lan for an ascent of Latrigg.  We then ran down the other side of Latrigg, across to the old coach road for a direct ascent of Clough Head which we thought was as easy a way as any to get to the checkpoint on Calfhow Pike.  From here we took a, slightly longer than necessary, route back to the event centre at Dowthwaite Head Farm.

Surprise View

Ashness Bridge
My feet were hurting on the ascent of Walla Crag.  I stopped to fix my shoes but not spending enough time doing this, and poor sock choice meant that I started to blister early on in the day.

I was struggling fairly early on, finding the climb up Latrigg tough going but it was the steep climb up Clough Head that really did me in.  Once we were up, again in heavy cloud, I got a bit of energy back and managed some running along the top to Calfhow Pike.  I persuaded Paul that following the fence line halfway down Mosedale Beck and then cutting across on the contour to Dowthwaite Crag was a good strategy.  I don't think he was convinced and in my tired state, I headed towards the wrong path, meaning that we took a longer loop around than necessary.

Latrigg check point

Paul successfully uses his compass to find Clough Head

Calfhow Pike

sunny Dowthwaitehead
The last checkpoint was a few hundred metres up the stream and it wasn't until this point that I got the, "I'm going to do this" feeling of completing a challenge.

Running into the field at Dowthwaitehead, Paul and I shook hands and enjoyed the feeling of finishing an epic challenge.

After checking in, and collecting our bottle of cider each, we sat on the grass and tucked into the veggie chilli.  As we sat there, the sun came out and the cloud lifted from the felltops.  Well, anyone could find their way around when you can see where you are going.

day three results
As mentioned above, we didn't get official results because we missed out some checkpoints on day two.  We were in 4th place on day one and got 3rd place on day three.  The big achievement for me is getting through the three days.  I had intended to do the shorter B course but decided to step it up and go for the A course.  Prior to this event, the longest run I had done was a marathon so to break my distance record on the Saturday, and then again on the Sunday and still finish on the Monday is a real achievement and I'm really pleased with myself.

Total distance: 74.4 miles
Total time running: 26:14:50

I'm going to have a few days off now.

Update: 10/06/2013
The video is up for this year's event.  Wait until the very end!