Week in the Lake District

Wow, what a week that was! Lily and I had been planning a week camping up in the Lakes for sometime, and we’d both been looking forward to getting away and doing some running in the mountains. I was also hoping to use this week to reccy some more of the Bob Graham Round, and a number of Belper Harriers were hoping to come up and join us for the Lake District classic, the Fairfield Horseshoe fell race on the Saturday.

Leading up to the week, the weather was not great and we were in two minds whether we should change the tent for a cottage, but fortunately, the weather improved dramatically and the weather turned out to be incredible, perfect for camping and mountain running – clear blue skies with no clouds and temperatures getting towards 20 degrees.

We decided to camp in Grange in Borrowdale for the first part of the week due to its proximity to the various mountains we wanted to run over, and with it being a great campsite. We then moved on later in the week to Chapel Stile in Langdale, as this was nearer to Rydal where the Fairfield Horseshoe was to start.

BGR Leg 1

On the Sunday we decided to reccy BGR Leg 1. We did this before at the end of last year, however the weather was not great which made navigating harder than it should have been. However this time, the weather couldn’t have been better. Lily had planned to run/walk from Latrigg up over Skiddaw and back down the Cumbria Way. She dropped me in Keswick and I set off, catching her on Jenkin Hill half way up Skiddaw. The views were magnificent on the top, allowing me to see the lines coming off Skiddaw, up Great Calva and up Blencathra.

View from Skiddaw down to Keswick

Coming off Skiddaw was so much easier this time as I wasn’t in thick cloud, and I could clearly see the stile I needed to take to get over the fence to descend to Hare Crag. I easily picked up the trod and descended down, thankfully this time with much fewer bogs in the way! Since I had already run Leg 1 before, there was no need for the map throughout the run as I was able to go from memory throughout.

The climb up Great Calva was easy enough, and heading up I met another guy reccying the route. We seemed to be going at similar pace, but after a brief chat at the summit he hopped over the fence and started descending down the fence line. Previously, I had taken the direct line off the summit through the thick heather as there was a very smll trod, so I thought it would be good to compare lines, mine against his. So I headed off but due to the time of year, I just couldn’t find my trod! So, I headed towards the fence line, hopped back over the fence and raced down a well worn line with the fence to my right, trying to keep the guy ahead in my sights. It turns out that, that this way off Great Calva is probably a lot safer and more reliable, as you simply follow the fence, and then follow Wiley Gill until it joins the River Caldew. Last time it was hard to find a decent crossing point of the river, but on this new line, the crossing was easy.

View from Hare Crag across to Great Calva

The climb up Blencathra was a drag as always, but I made sure to keep turning round and enjoy the views. My next decision was which line to take off the summit of Blencathra. Previously I took Doddick Fell, but since the weather was near perfect, this time I chose to take Hall’s Fell. This is a lot more technical than Doddick, and the upper section reminded me of Striding Edge. I eased my way down and soon the running became easier. In hindsight, I’m still not sure which line would be quicker to take – I know that Doddick would be safer though!

Upon reaching Threlkeld, I caught up with the guy from earier, Andrew. He was about to run Leg 2 as well, and has a BGR attempt on 10th June, aiming for 20/21 hours. He asked if I fancy joining his support team, which is very tempting and would be great experience prior to my attempt. Despite not overly pushing myself, I reached Threlkeld in exactly 3 hours, which I was really pleased with. This is actually under 18 hour pace – something I will most certainly not be aiming for!

BGR Leg 1 (Keswick to Threlkeld): 12.4 miles, 5,017ft of elevation.

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BGR Leg 4

The following day (Monday) I planned to run BGR Leg 4. Lily had some work to do so it made sense for me to head off running for the day. Leg 4 starts in Wasdale which is one of the most inaccessible valleys in the Lakes, and ends at Honister. I therefore needed to find a way of getting to Wasdale without using a car. The simple answer, run!

Lily dropped me off first thing in the morning in Seathwaite, and I set off, taking the bridleway up Styhead Gill towards Styhead Tarn. Again, the weather was incredible, but it was even hotter this time, and by the time I reached Wasdale after 5.5 miles and just over an hour of running, my bladder in my Salomon vest was nearly empty. Thankfully the line up Yewbarrow goes alongside a beck so I was able to refill easily.

Leg 4 begins with a brutal climb out of Wasdale up Yewbarrow (there is no easy way out of Wasdale!). Whilst only 0.7 miles, it averages 42%. And there is no path. Thankfully, over the years a very small trod has been indented into the mountainside by fellow Bog Graham runners, so I was able to follow this faint line. I had not reccied Leg 4 before so I was reliant on the map and route notes to ensure that I was picking the fastest and most efficient lines – like on Yewbarrow, there are various trods created over the years which don’t follow recognised paths, and it was key that I could find these. I also had GPS in my Viewranger app if required. Thankfully, since the weather was so good and clear, I could clearly see where I needed to go and more ofthen than not, which lines I had to take.

View from Yewbarrow into Wasdale

I had read that when Billy Bland ran his record breaking BGR (13:53), the only time he had a slight meltdown was on the ascent of Red Pike, so I was cautious of this climb! However, despite being a drag, especially after Yewbarrow, it wasn’t too bad – although it since turns out looking on my GPS trace, that I went to the wrong summit and missed the actual one by about 20 yards! The only real issue I had, was finding Steeple. This is after Red Pike, but is out of view, just over the far ridge. Due to this, I started heading towards Haycock, but thankfully quickly worked this out and corrected my line.

The rest of the run went smoothly, and it was a really enjoyable day out in the high fells. After Steeple, I summitted Pillar (where I stopped for a quick sandwich), Kirk Fell, and then Great Gable. Both Kirk Fell and Great Gable are hard, steep, rocky climbs, especially after descending from the previous peak, but a slow and steady hand on knees climb brings you out eventually to the top. Once on top of Great Gable, that is the last big climb of the round done. A rocky descent follows before a quick climb up Green Gable, and then a very smooth, runnable line takes you over Brandreth and Grey Knotts. Finally it is a very steep and fast descent down to Honister where the leg finishes.

View from Great Gable back over Kirk Fell, towards Pillar

On my GPS, the leg was only 11.7 miles, but took 4:28 (with moving time of 3:25). Like on Leg 1, I was very pleased with this effort, and felt I had more in the tank – it turns out I ran this leg at 19/20 hour pace. The final issue when I reached Honister was that I had no phone signal, so the only way back to the campsite in Grange was to run! Thankfully this was nearly all downhill. After 6.5 hours and 21 miles of incredible running, I finally reached Grange, and a lie down in the River Derwent followed to soothe the legs. That was a fantastic day out in the mountains.

BGR Leg 4 (Wasdale to Honister): 11.7 miles, 5,731ft of elevation.

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Newlands Horseshoe from Grange

On the Wednesday Lily and I decided to head out and run one of our favourite routes – part of the Newlands horsehoe. We have both run this before, and decided to head out from the campsite in Grange towards the bottom of Dale Head, at which point follow Tongue Gill as it climbs steeply towards the old slate mines. Once above the mines, it flattens out and after crossing some pretty boggy ground, you reach Dalehead Tarn.

Lily decided to head up High Spy and make her way along the ridge towards Cat Bells, whereas I went for an out and back up Dale Head. In comparison to the climbs previously undertaken on Leg 4 of the BGR, this wasn’t too bad. After enjoying the 360 views at the summit, I decided to take the Borrowdale race route off the summit – straight off the side back down to Dalehead Tarn. Whereas it took 16 minutes to reach the summit going up, it only took me 4:30 coming down! It was an exhilarating descent, and one I can’t wait to do in the Borrowdale fell race later this year!

View from Dale Head down Newlands Valley

I then set out to try and catch Lily, heading up High Spy and over Maiden Moor before dropping down to the col before Cat Bells. It really is great running over that ridge, with great views all around, and great terrain to run over. I saw Lily coming off Cat Bells and arranged to meet her back at the col after I had summited and then turned back. A fast descent off Cat Bells followed, and then a steady run back through the valley to Grange and a nice jacket potato at the tea rooms. After all the running so far that week, I was pleasantly surprised how well my legs were coping, and how well I was climbing. I felt really strong and could really notice how the training is paying off.

9 miles, 3,125ft of elevation.

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