Lakeland 3000’s in 24 Hours 2013

30 05 2013

The Lakeland 3000’s is one of  the toughest mountain challenges the Lake District, England, and the UK can throw at a walker. The challenge is to summit the 4 summits in the Lake District that stand taller than 3000ft. These mountains are Skiddaw, Scafell, Scafell Pike and Helvellyn. Anyone who knows the Lake District will know that these mountains are split across 3 different areas of the Lake District, making the route a giant 45 miles long with a total ascent of 11,000ft.

The team at the start of the Challenge

I met the group of 7, plus George my assistant guide outside the Moot Hall just before half 7, and after a short brief and kit faff we we on our way. 19:39 was the magical time that we needed to be back in Keswick by the following days. What was the next 24 hours going to hold? How we’re we going to feel when/ if we got back to Keswick? These were all unknowns to us, but one thing we did know was it was a beautiful evening and we we’re ready for the challenge!

We set off through the streets of Keswick heading northwards, Skiddaw was our first objective. We set off at a good pace, everyone was keen to get this first mountain out of the way. After heading up Spooney Green Lane past Latrigg we made our way up the steep and laborious Jenkins Path. As we climbed the sun was setting and casting an awesome light across the Lake District. We made sure we stopped from time to time to admire these fantastic views. At the far end of our views we could see the Scafell massif standing there, looking so far away at this point, and then over to the east Helvellyn. The extent of the challenge we were taking on had just hit home.

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By 21:44 we we’re standing on the summit of Skiddaw and we had made it just in time to see the sun drop out of the sky leaving an amazing  sunset. The usual Skiddaw winds we’re present so we were on our way back down the Jenkins path within 10 minutes. On our way down the path the darkness set in and the moon rose from behind the Helvellyn range. It came up completely full, massive and glowing orange, it was as though the sun had dropped out of the sky on one side of the hill and risen on the other.

On the summit of Skiddaw

We dropped into Keswick and picked up the kit that we didn’t need to lug up and down Skiddaw. Now we had the first tough bit of the challenge. The 8 mile road walk down Borrowdale to Seathwaite in the dark was going to be more of a mental battle than a physical one, but there was no use in moaning about doing it, so we just got on our way. We walked at a good pace down the road, looking pretty swish in our hi-viz kit!

Descending off Skiddaw

We managed to keep the pace up and ate up the road quite quickly, much quicker than I had previously thought.  2 and a half hours passed in the darkness and we arrived at the cargo drop I had pre-placed at Seathwaite. I put the water on the stove and dished out some food. Everyone started sorting their feet and filling their bags with more food and drink. 40 minutes passed, a little  longer than planned, and we we’re once again on our way. Unfortunately one of the group had opted to stop at Seathwaite so we left her in the tent where she could get some sleep till morning. We now had 25km until we got another chance to re-supply, or drop out of the challenge.

We we’re now on very familiar ground for me, we we’re going to follow the same route towards the Scafells that we take on our guided walks up Scafell Pike. We continued to make great progress up towards Styhead Pass. We arrived at the pass at about 4:00am and it was already getting quite light, light enough for us to take off our head torches.

Sunrise behind Skiddaw

By 5:00am we we’re high on the corridor route. We looked northwards and could see the obvious shape of Skiddaw standing what looked like miles away with the sky going pink behind it. Although we had made it underneath Scafell Pike, our second peak was to be Scafell. We followed the lesser trodden path that traverses underneath Pikes Crag until we were standing in front of Scafell. Scafell has multiple ascent routes, two of which were options for our ascent. Lord’s Rake will have been the easiest effort wise but unfortunately a big slab of snow was still present on the lowest section. This meant we had a tricky couple of hours to deal with, this time both physically and mentally.

Scafell

We had to ascend to Mickledore, Descend about 100m, ascend to the summit of Scafell, then Descend 250m and re-ascend 100m….once again, it had to be done so we just got on with it!  We tackled the loose rock up the Micledore in quick time and then started to make our way down the other side towards Eskdale. I located the East Buttress traverse which meant we didn’t have to descend quite as much. From the end of the traverse we made our way to the summit via another loose scree slope. It was 7:00am when we reached the top, 9 hours had passed between summits, it was good to finally be on another.

Team on the summit of Scafell

We descended off of Scafell and made it back to Mickledore all feeling a little bit drained. The heat of the day was starting to set in so we took a moment to have a rest. A short walk from Mickledore took us to our third summit, Scafell Pike (8:15am).  Although we had 3 of the 4 summits, we had only done about half of the distance.

The team on the summit of Scafell Pike

We stopped for some lunch (breakfast really) on the summit and enjoyed not having to pick out a space amongst hoards of people, something that was bound to be happening about 4 hours later. As we rested we sat and admired how far we had travelled already. but we could also see Helvellyn standing on the skyline about 10 miles away.

Helvellyn in the distance

We were soon on our way again. We headed over Broad Crag and Ill Crag to Esk Hause where we dropped down to Angle Tarn. Our route now traversed around the side of Rosset Pike to the Stake Pass. This next section of the walk was to prove to be one of the hardest parts, just as the books had warned. It was now about 10:00am and the sun was starting to radiate some real heat. At our own paces we trudged our way up to the summit of High Raise, a summit that didn’t come soon enough. Our route up was via a steep grassy slope, all 300m vertical ascent of it!

Once again we had to rest on the summit. 5 miles down, 5 to go to get to Wythburn, our next re-supply. By this point we were slipping back on time, I think most of it had been lost on our way up Scafell as we had to take the longest route up. From the summit we descended down to the Greenup Edge from which we picked a route through the Wythburn Bog. Fortunately the bog wasn’t all that boggy so our progress wasn’t slowed up too much. This part of the walk seemed to drag on and on, the valley didn’t seem to want to end. By 13.10 we were in the Wythburn Church car park re-supplying our bags once more. The original plan had been to have another 30 minute break here, but some quick timings in my head, plus not knowing how people would fair going up the steep slopes to Helvellyn, we had to call it short and head off ASAP. Naomi had been waiting for us at Wythburn and she had made us all some bacon sandwiches. At this point in the challenge they were amazing, and exactly what we had needed. Unfortunately this last section had taken its toll on a couple of the guys and so they decided not to continue.

The grassy slopes of High Raise

 

From the car park the track is steep right from the start. We set off with the aim of getting up Helvellyn in 2 hours. As we reached the end of the trees I sent Colin and Tony off ahead as they we’re travelling much faster than the remainder of the group. I was happy they knew the route so the next time we would see them would be in Keswick in a few hours time. I continued to plod up the steep slope with 3 of the guys. We actually made amazing progress and reached the summit of Helvellyn after just 1hr 30. It was now 3.00pm, we had 4hours 45 minutes to descend off of Helvellyn and walk 6 miles back to Keswick. Our chances were now looking good again, provided we made a reasonable time off of the mountain.

On the summit of Helvellyn

Just over an hour passed and we had reached the roadside. Neil, one of the guys who had dropped out at Wythburn had waited for us and wanted to complete the final few miles along the road. It is always a shame to finish a walk along a road, but on this challenge we just wanted to finish, however it was. Once again we got into our stride and started to eat up the distance. Mentally we weren’t helped by the miles to Keswick signs and markers every mile. Each mile felt like 2 miles on our legs.

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It took us just under 2 hours to get back to Keswick. The final mile as we made our way back through the back streets took ages, but finally the Moot Hall came into view, we had done it! Colin and Tony had completed the circuit in 21hrs and 50 minutes, and I finished with the 4 other guys in 22hrs 38mins, both great times for such a challenge.

We rounded off the challenge with some champagne to celebrate, as well as finding the closest bench to sit down on!

Thank you to all that came along and took on the Lakeland 3000’s. It was a fantastic challenge, made better by having such a good group!

For a full album of pictures please follow this link.

If you would like to take the Lakeland 3000’s in 2014 please drop me an email at lakelandmountainguides@live.co.uk to register your interest.

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Great Gable to Glaramara – International Trekking Training

19 05 2013

As you would have read in previous weeks, LMG regular Neil is heading out to Nepal in October so is keen to get as fit as possible. In recent weeks we have completed Bowfell & The Crinkles as well as the Coledale Horseshoe last weekend. Today we went for a long horseshoe, a route that probably isn’t considered by many each year.

Starting from Seathwaite the training began instantaneously as we took the steep staircase up next to Sourmilk Gill. We were soon stripping off our outer layers as the sweat began to pour. As we met the wall we branched off of the path and picked a steep line through the boulders. We climbed into the mist and soon meet the summit of Base Brown. Horizontally we had probably done no more than 400m, but we had climbed over 500m vertically!

From Base Brown we followed the gentler terrain up to Green Gable and then clambered over the boulders to the summit of Great Gable. The mist that was forecasted to lift showed no signs of moving so we descended to Styhead Pass (400m!) to have a bite to eat.

From the pass we followed the good track up to Esk Hause. While we walked we were passed by loads of runners completing the Scafell Pike Marathon.

From the hause we made a short but steep ascent onto the summit of Allen Crags. With our fourth summit in the bag we now had the long undulating plod northwards across Glaramara. We chatted away and once again soon enough the summit came. As we reached the summit the mist did begin to break a little and we enjoyed some views over towards the Langdale Pikes.

We descended down the long Thorneythwaite Ridge to Seatoller and managed to get some fantastic views down the Borrowdale Valley to Derwent Water before we walked the final mile back along the valley to Seathwaite. A good day of about 11 miles and 8 hours on our feet, can’t be bad!

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Scafell Pike from Seathwaite 16.05.13

16 05 2013

I waited for the moment I was bound to wake up and realise it was all just a dream, but I didn’t suddenly find myself waking all bleary eyed in my bed, it was real! Yes! I had just had an entire day on the fells and not had to don my waterproofs!!!!! Well folks, that was summer, and here comes the monsoon season! haha

Today I was guiding a lovely couple from Singapore up Scafell Pike. We started off from Seathwaite in our sunglasses it was that good! We made fantastic progress all the way up the Corridor Route which was made extra enjoyable due to the lack of wind and forecasted rain.

We made the busy summit after just over 3 hours and had a nice leisurely lunch and took our time to enjoy the views that have been so rare recently. We did start to get a bit chilly after 20 minutes or so, so we headed off towards Broad Crag Col. This part of the walk felt like a bit of a novelty despite having done it dozens of times before. I think it was due to the fact we have had to descend back down the corridor route in recent months due to the weather, so I hadn’t walked this ground for a while now.

After conquering the boulderfields of Broad Crag and Ill Crag we strolled through Esk Hause and then to the top of Grains Gill. The sun had a final hurrah as we descended by the gill back to Seathwaite. We reached the cars and about 5 minutes of driving down the road the rain finally decided to show its face for a brief shower.

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The Coledale Horseshoe – International Trekking Training

12 05 2013

I have jabbered on about how good the Coledale Horseshoe in previous blogs, so I will save it all for this entry. To break it down, it is one of my favourite walks in the UK and I love getting the opportunity to share it with other people.

Neil, a regular of LMG, is heading off to Nepal at the end of the year and is currently getting as hill fit as he can. The Coledale Horseshoe, in my eyes, is one of the best routes in the Lakes for getting fit for international trekking, and in the past I have taken people around it who have gone on to summit great mountains such as Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and Kala Pattar. The route has loads of ascent, and is a good length at 10 miles long. Finally, the route also replicates a type of training called Interval Training. After the initial steep slog up to Grisedale Pike the route is made up of a series of short climbs followed by periods of lower intensity (descents and flats).

We set off from the car park and made a point of not putting our waterproofs on until we really had to, a moment that we knew would happen later in the day. We made fantastic time up the Kin Ridge onto the summit of Grisedale Pike where we just beat the incoming mist. We didn’t linger long as the winds we’re picking up so we headed over to Hopegill Head. From the summit of Hopegill we made the longer descent over Sand Hill into a windy Coledale Hause where Lexi ran off to tell a man whose mountain it was!

We opted for the more sheltered route around the back of Eel Crag and soon enough we we’re standing at the summit of our 4th peak. We we’re doing amazingly well for time and Neil was enjoying the training route so far. We kept up the pace over Sail after which we found a small trench to the side of the path to shelter in for a bit to eat. We finished off this higher part of the route over Scar Crags and Causey Pike before descending into the centre of the valley.

Neil was keen to continue with some more training so we opted to head over the 3 optional peaks in the centre of the valley, Outerside, Slight Side and Barrow. We made quick progress over these, especially as we purposely upped the tempo and didn’t stop till we reached the top of each peak.

By now the weather had gotten really poor so we made a rapid descent back to Braithwaite. Despite the rain, another grand day had on the Coledale Horseshoe!

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Challenge Event Recce – ClifBar10 Fell Run – Wythburn to Langdale

11 05 2013

Everyone has days in their life where they astonish themselves. I’m not about to tell you I was impressed with the way I ran today, this tale is about how I astonished myself with sheer stupidity. I’ll set the scene…

Colin, as you may have read in last weeks Challenge Event Recce Blog, is doing the ClifBar10 Challenge and had another section of the fells he wanted to recce. The section that he wanted to Recce was the route up from Wythburn through the boggy terrain, followed by the route from High Raise to Angle Tarn. As this is quite a long stretch we decided to do it in a linear fashion so met outside the Old Dungeon Ghyll in Langdale. We dumped my car in the car park and took Colin’s back around to Wythburn so later on we can descend to the ODG and drive back to Wythburn in mine.

We got out of the car at Wythburn in the rain and it seemed it would probably be the theme of the day once more. We set off from the car park and started to make our way up the Wythburn valley to the northern side of Steel Fell. This valley is notorious for being boggy, both at the bottom and also on the plateau at the top before you climb towards High Raise. With all the rain we have had recently, the bog certainly was boggy. We made excellent progress up by the Gill and once we reached the plateau we started picking our way around the larger bogs.

We eyed up the various routes onto the summit of High Raise and we finally opted to follow a large beck called Birks Gill.

Shortly after we started up the slope I stopped dead in my stride….

“S**T! I’ve left my Car keys in your car!”

Colin looked at me. it was either a look that meant he hadn’t heard me, or a look that was saying he was hoping he had heard me wrong….

“Bugger! I’ve left my bloody car keys in your car, what a tool!”

I felt stupid, what an absolute idiot!

I don’t know many people who would have taken the news as well as Colin did, but he told me to not worry about it and put it down to ‘one of those things’. Despite this, I still felt like a fool.Keen to continue with the recce, and not have to retrace our steps over the horrendously boggy ground we carried on up the hill whilst thinking of a plan.

The options that ran through our heads were:

Go back, get the keys, then head back up – This had no chance of happening!
Head up to High Raise and then head back and cut off half the route – We were already soaked, and having fun!
Descend to Langdale and then complete a 10mile road run back to Wythburn, via Dunmail Raise – sounded appealing, would be hell.
Get a Taxi/Bus back to the car from the ODG and stomach the cost – This looked the most likely.

I continued to curse myself, asking myself how I managed to get a First Class Honours degree, and then pull something as stupid as this off. It may have been easier to take if I had forgotten the keys in the car, but I had actually made a concious decision to put them in the door compartment!

Anyway, we trudged up the final slope onto the wind blasted summit of High Raise. Surprisingly, there was no-one around.

Our next major point was Angle Tarn so we set off down towards the Stake Pass. Now running again we we’re warming up. I managed to slip on the grass and slide for a few metres. Water was flying up around me as though I was sliding down a flume at a water park! If I wasn’t soaked before, I definitely was now.

We reached the pass and headed up and over the ridge to Angle Tarn. From Angle Tarn we descended down the Rosset Gill path which had now turned into a river. Just as we reached the base of the Mickleden valley the sun started to appear, and then blue skies. It was like a different day, it was a welcomed change from the constant rain we had been running in for the previous 3 hours.

We got back to the ODG and called a taxi. £27 later we were back in Wythburn.

If you are reading this Colin, Thank you for your patience, and thank you for not beating me over the head and leaving me to die in the bog! haha Another Epic to remember in the years to come!

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Scafell Pike from Seathwaite

9 05 2013

The MWIS forecast held big numbers and words such as ‘mobility will be tortuous’…what were we letting ourselves in for.

I was woken by the sun shining in through the window, had the forecast been wrong? We’re we actually going to have some nice weather on the fells? Or maybe I was still dreaming!

The sun continued to shine as I drove to Seathwaite, but I could also see the cloud building from the west just as the weather man had said it would on the TV this morning. As I started to get my kit on the heavens opened, the rain was here, and I certainly wasn’t dreaming anymore. Our biggest concern would be the wind, with different forecasts predicting gusts of between 55-85mph, I was hoping it would be the lesser of the two.

We set off with our sights on the summit, whatever the weather we we’re going to give it our best shot. We followed our usual route up to Styhead Pass via the Stockley Bridge and then joined the Corridor Route where we enjoyed some more sheltered walking. Up until this point the rain had been coming in bursts, and the wind had been very bearable, we we’re getting away with it!

As we turned up from Lingmell Col onto the final slopes we entered the mist and the winds started to get stronger. We made good progress and soon enough we we’re standing on the summit. The wind must have been hitting the other side of the mountain because as we reached the top we got hit by more force than experienced all the way up. The wind chill was also massive so we made a B-line for the summit shelter.

We stopped for just 5 minutes before needing to move once more. Because of how cold it was in the wind we opted to return back the same way down the Corridor Route. Our good progress continued as we made a fast descent back to Seathwaite where we finished much less wind battered than I had envisaged at the start of the day! Result!

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Challenge Event Reccee – CliffBar10 Fell Run

7 05 2013

Lakeland Mountain Guide regular, Colin Gardner has set himself some challenges in recent years, but at the end of June he is going to undertake the gruelling ClifBar10 race. The race takes on the Lakes’s top 10 peaks over a 73km course, with 5600m of ascent, in just 24 hours – madness you may agree!
Colin has been putting in some epic levels mileage over recent weekends but wanted to head out with me to reccee some sections he was a little less sure about. After consulting by email about the sections he wanted to cover, I suggested we start in Wasdale.

We met on the village green at 8.30am and there I was, for the second time in my life, in fell running gear – what was I doing? haha Fell Running is a sport that I have always stayed away from for a few reasons. Firstly, I didn’t think I would be that good, secondly, I didn’t fancy putting extra pressure on my knees, but here I was, about to give it a shot with an experienced fell runner on a gruelling 10 mile circuit.

We set off up the path across the nose of Lingmell and then walked at speed up the Brown Tongue path.  I could already feel the advantages of being out for a run instead of a hike, I was travelling so lightweight! The MWIS forecast had predicted an amazing day by all accounts, clear skies, sunshine and hardly any wind, unfortunately at this point in time it was misty and it didn’t look like changing any time soon.

Shortly after branching off on the Mickledore path Lexi managed to scare the crap out of me. Some moron had littered the fells with a glow stick which she decided to pick up and bite. She then proceeded to roll around on the floor in discomfort whilst foaming from the mouth. I managed to grab her and wipe away the foam and then wash her mouth with water, but I was still concerned she may have ingested some of it. I smelt my glove that I had wiped the foam away with and it stank to high heaven, so god knows what it would have tasted like! Fortunately within a few minutes she was fine, but I was infuriated. I am not preaching to you good people reading this, as I am sure you wouldn’t litter the fells, but I will ask is that if you see litter on the paths, please pick it up. I know we shouldn’t have to clean up after other inconsiderate people, but we need to lead by example and help clean up the fells. (Thank you!)

Anyway, we headed up towards Lord’s Rake as it is one of Colin’s potential routes (of 2) to the summit of Scafell. As we neared the rake we noticed it was still full of snow and was definitely not an option in our fell shoes. We traversed across and picked up Rake’s Progress (the path that meets Lord’s Rake from Mickledore) and followed it up to Mickledore. Keen to get our planned circuit done we didn’t head up to the summit of Scafell via Foxes Tarn and we descended back down Mickledore.

The second objective of the trip was to do the traverse across Pikes Crag on the western face of Scafell Pike. In the mist we located the path and followed it across until it met the main motorway heading up Scafell Pike. We traced it up and popped onto the Corridor Route. We now started fell running for the first time and it was amazing! Jumping from rock to rock, over puddles, carefully selecting each step at speed, it was exhilerating. The best thing was we made super fast progress, well actually the best thing was that I hadn’t fallen over and broken my face! As we neared the end of the Corridor Route we bumped into a familiar face, Tony Williams, another LMG regular. After a quick chat we headed off to Styhead Pass where we had a quick snack.

From the pass we hiked at speed up Great Gable and soon enough we were on the misty summit. We didn’t stay long in the winds and headed off of it’s western slopes down to Beck Head. After locating the tarn which would be one of Colin’s checkpoints we joined the path that traversed around the back of Kirk Fell. For the first time we got some views as the mist seemed to start to lift. We stopped for a bit to admire the views down Ennerdale and to the Black Sail Hut, as well as to Haystacks behind it.

We continued our run to the Black Sail Pass where we returned to a fast walk and made our way up to the summit of Pillar in a very good time. After another short break on the summit we set off heading back to Wasdale. We ran at a good pace and finally the sun started to shine through, and then soon after the mist lifted. We got back to Wasdale in the sunshine in about 45 minutes and it was fair to say I was pretty pooped, but, I had survived!

Lexi was fine for the rest of the day, and I was so very impressed with her own fell running abilities. All day she was either up ahead setting the pace or running alongside! I also think I may have found a new hobby, and fortunately me and Colin are back out again on Saturday!