Saturday, August 19, 2006

Leg 5: to Moot Hall

Mark Davies navigating with John Swift, Christine Bland and Martin (whom Christine propositioned earlier in the day, "Going out for a run tonight? Oh, so am I - why don't you come with me?). Last change of shoes and socks and with almost five hours we are off to the last three climbs. Halls Fell Ridge is still a joy even after 22500 feet of climbing and we are on Blencathra faster than the schedule requires. Mark heads off to Mungrisdale Common on a line that couldn't be bettered and before long we are heading towards the sheep shelter and river crossing. It is astonishing just how much the vegetation has grown in the last seven weeks and before the river we are reduced to a fast walk. Over the river and into thigh high heather. As Martin remarked - "Who ever thought of this as being Lucky Heather needs their head looking at".

Escaping the clutches of the heather we start to climb Great Calva (my 5th time this year, 4th by this route) and, as with Blencathra, this is very familiar ground. I deliberately recced this part of the route again and again so that no matter how tired I was when I got here I would know how much is left do at all stages on each of these last climbs. Taking more food and drink on the way up I can begin to consider 'just one more climb' and on Great Calva's summit I look across to Skiddaw in (nearly) the last light of the day and contemplate the last big effort before the final descent.

Leaving the summit Christine urges me on, reminding me that with
two and three quarter hours left "you have done it, all you have to do is get up there and down to the Moot Hall". It is not done until it is done and there is still a bit to do, not as much as there was. Down to the bridge and a good line across the valley bottom (thanks Martin) but the growth on the Skiddaw side is much high than 7 weeks ago and in fading light it is a struggle to find the trod we want. Martin, John and Christine all take turns to shepherd me through the rough stuff and only once do I find a thigh deep hole for my right leg.

This can be the hardest leg to navigate because it has an absolute deadline, too late on this leg can be really too late - as I know already. Mark is doing a great job and here I start to make it a harder still. I know on Skiddaw summit, in the dark, the ground is too rough to run by torchlight (unless time is very short), I also I am not going to have a fast time anyway and now it is more important to get to the Moot Hall by midnight than to trip or go over on ankle trying to save a few minutes and so I slow a little to a steady climbing pace. At the time I didn't realise Mark was already concerned about how time is slipping away but we reach the fence and start the final pull to the 42nd summit where we are battered by a strong very cold northerly wind that hasn't been felt since Scafell Pike. The clouds are down again and as we approach the Trig Point Jim Bispham and Keith Foster appear out of the darkness. Just after the Trig Point Ed Swift appears out of the gloom and we have almost for a party but the descent remains to be done.

Off the roughest stuff and a steady trot is adopted and, I think, Mark begins to relax a little as the lights of Keswick appear below us. I look at my watch for the last time to confirm there is time enough. Having got spread out on the summit the group is almost complete as we leave the car park at Latrigg and start the final stages.

Emerging from a ginnel into the market square with about twenty minutes left, flash guns go off and I touch the Moot Hall to finish. Hug and kiss from Pauline and we can both relax and enjoy the moment. Adrian & Sarah offer their congratulations as does everyone else, including strangers just walking by. It'll take about a day before it all begins to sink in and I really want everyone who has taken part to be here so that I can thank them because without them I couldn't have done it.

I had six fantastic support teams, 1 for each leg and 1 for all the road crossings. I am overwhelmed by the effort everyone made to enable me to achieve this.

At the conclusion of "Joss Naylor MBE Was Here" he writes

'To find words to express my gratitude to those who took part is beyond me'

When I first read these words I knew what they meant but I didn't understand what he meant - at the Moot Hall tonight I fully understood them.

Thank you all, especially Pauline, for everything today and throughout the last 11 months..

Leg 4: to Threlkeld (August attempt)

Arriving at Threlkeld with Mary White, John Fleetwood, Steve Kenyon and Paul Murray

With John Fleetwood (don't miss John's video), Paul Murray, Mary White and Steve Kenyon to tackle the leg where the weather was to difficult the last time. I fell stronger than here than in June as we set off 20 minutes behind schedule and 5 minutes behind June time. By the summit of Seat Sandal the 5 minutes on the June time has been made up and we are ahead of it by Fairfield although I am about 25 minutes down on my schedule. Climbing is still good although descending is getting slower as my legs tire but we reach Dollywagon Pike 8 minutes faster than in June, probably because I have been eating and drinking better all the way round.

The 22 hour schedule has slipped away but the reality is that it slipped away on this leg in June, seven weeks ago. If the 22 hours had really mattered I would have had to wait until next spring because seven weeks might be sufficient time to recover enough for another attempt but it isn't likely to be enough time to recover completely.

John and Paul urge me, gently, to climb at a comfortable pace - reminding me that there is plenty of time until midnight and that almost all the climbing on this leg is done already and for the first time there are so many hills behind me that I can look around the skyline and see, not where I still have to go, but I can see where I have been and it is fantastic!

It may not look like it on the video but as this leg developes I am beginning to really enjoy it. Nethermost passes and then Helvellyn where Keith Foster meets us with more drinks. Leaving Lower Man the realisation begins to dawn that I will probably reach Threlkeld with about 5 hours left, with good visability and enough strength to be confident of reaching the Moot Hall before the end of the day - its not done until its done and I'm not getting carried away but I feel a gradual relaxation and it helps me enjoy this leg a little more.

Mary continues to give me food and drink on the climbs and to carry it on the descents so that I have no distractions and nothing to worry about. Steve carries the kit and the rest of the food and drink and all in all I am very well looked after.

Whiteside, Raise and the Dodds pass quickly and comfortably as Blencathra and Skiddaw appear on the skyline like the old friends they have become since February. Previously I had considered the Dodds fairly uninteresting but today they provide an opportunity to savour the Lakeland ridges and I do long to stop, not because of exhaustion, but just to drink in and enjoy the experience of the day but I have do the savouring on the hoof, without stopping.

Clough Head is the last of this leg and the steep descent to the Old Coach Road is terribly slow but I have so little left in in my 'descending legs' that there is little else I can do.

John prefers a slightly longer but much more runnable path from the Old Coach Road and we are soon travelling quickly to the road pass the water treatment works where Jim Bispham & George Roden from Westmorland & N Lancs LDWA are to open the gate for us. Threlkeld is reached with just over 5 hours left and I enjoy my final helping of bananas and rice pudding.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Leg 3: to Dunmail (August attempt)

Lead Navigator (Mac) arrives at Dunmail just behind Colin Jones

Breakfast done and I am off with Colin Jones (with Mac & Sandy, the trail hounds who will actually do the navigation), Alastair Murray, Phil Cheek and Annette Morris who is going to meet us at Esk Hause with more food and drink. Climbing Scafell is as hard as it was the first time, perhaps harder and although the pace is a little more gentle we are still ahead at the summit where the cold strong northerlies are particularly unpleasant. Despite the effort of the climb I struggle to keep warm and turning at the summit the wind almost blows me backwards over the cairn.

Dropping down to Foxes Tarn gets us out of the wind eventually but I still add another layer because we won't be out of the wind for very long. Phil constantly reassures that the climbing pace is more than fast enough and ensures I am eating and drinking at every opportunity. Back up to Mickledor and into the wind over Scafell Pike and we have just done about 4000 feet in under 3 miles. Broad Crag and Ill Crag are reached easily and the better weather allows us to edge ahead of the June time and stay ahead of the schedule. Great End marks the end of the really rough ground and an opportunity to start jogging again. Turning towards Esk Pike we can see Annette sheltering at the start of the climb as the Langdale Pikes appear on the skyline - another distraction not to be thought about while they are that far ahead.

Bright sunshine accompanies us up Esk Pike as the climb reveals views into Upper Eskdale, surely the very best of the Lakeland valleys. Looking back the Scafells are bathed in sunshine and can the views can be savoured - we've been there and can afford to look long and enjoy it. Bowfell provides a blast of cold air at the summit as if to remind us that we can't be hanging about enjoying the views. By now I think I have eating and drinking about sorted, not too much food at once and plenty of water in between the carb drinks.

Rossett Pike marks a change in terrain, no more rocky ground and plenty of runnable paths and grass between the summits but it also marks the beginning of a long stretch to Pike O'Stickle. This is about halfway now and in June the effort made to get here is begining to tell on my legs. Only a determined effort during the approach to Pike O'Stickle allows me to reach the summit on schedule. Colin senses I am beginning to tire and accompanies me to the summit with words of encouragement. Revived, a little, I get to Harrison Stickle just ahead of schedule and Thunacar Knott exactly on schedule, just as in June. I am slowing down now and can't quite keep up with the schedule. This is a long leg and all the hard(est) work is at the beginning but it is at the end the price is paid. Sergeant Man and High Raise pass without incident and we take a route of Phil's to Calf Crag and now only Steel Fell and its descent are left before Dunmail.

I am not unhappy about slipping behind the schedule; 24 hours is the objective, after all, and Colin reminds me about how good the position I am in actually is. Tiring , sure, but with plenty of time to get along the Dodds before tackling the final three. We are aboout twenty minutes down arriving at Dunmail.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Leg 2: to Wasdale (August attempt)

View from the Breakfast Bar at Wasdale

Road crossing is quick, fresh shoes and socks after a quick foot massage as well as a bit too much warm rice & bananas but I am terribly aware of the consequences of not eating enough. After about 6 minutes I am ready to get away and Rob leads off into the darkness. Grey Knotts is an awkward climb that does everything it can to prevent a steady rhythm developing and before long I am struggling to keep up with Rob and Doug. A quiet word from Chris and the pace eases. Rob was and maybe still is puzzled because he was only trying to maintain the pace we used previously but this time I have eaten so much that I feel sick. I know, however, that it will pass and all I have to do is hang on and try not lose too much time. Over Grey Knotts and Brandreth to the climb to Green Gable and although this section is a little slow we are still 10 minutes ahead and I am beginning to enjoy this, my favourite section of the route.

Even in the dark the character of each of these hills is striking and Great Gable's steep rocky sides are a pleasure to ascend. Leaving the summit we know dawn isn't far away and that the darkness hasn't prevented us keeping to the schedule. Descending isn't a great strength of mine and Great Gable provides a number of entertaining routes to Beck Head and this time the rocks are dry and I am happy with darkness and dry rock - the last time it was daylight and very wet. The cold northerly wind suddenly makes its presence felt here and we stop to put another layer on and despite that the split times for this leg are within 1 minute of each other with the June attempt the quicker. Kirk Fell provides an opportunity to start eating again as the first traces of the new day can be seen in the sky. No spectacular sunrise but a gradual draining away of the darkness as we climb Pillar. There is a lot to be said for a morning start but nothing quite compares to the soaring spirits that daylight brings - I know a morning start involves a new day too but by that time I was so tired that even dawn couldn't make things seem that much better.

Seven minutes ahead at Pillar and we see broken clouds on the high fells around us. It is just not possible to not look over to Scafell where the biggest climb on the route awaits but that is a distraction that has to be shut out - Steeple is the next summit that matters and it is only ever the next summit that matters. Low swirling clouds rob us of the views down Ennerdale from Steeple and I think about a hot sunny afternoon on a recce in June, sitting on Steeple's summit wondering if it was possible for life to get any better. Turning our backs on Ennerdale we head towards Wasdale. Chris continues to ensure I eat and drink enough, Rob continues to encourage while they alternately route find and hang back to shepherd me to the next summit. Doug carries and provides food and drink on demand - I can't ask for anything more from the three of them.

Red Pike is crossed, Dore Head passed by and Yewbarrow reached in sunshine at twenty to seven on an unforgetable, beautiful morning and from here it is really difficult not to glance over to the slopes of Scafell. Down the scree for breakfast of rice pudding and bananas with a view down Wasdale to die for.

Leg 1: to Honister (August attempt)

Mark, Self, Phil & Chris (What about these tights?)

As midnight approaches my nerves begin to calm down for the first time in a very long day that started before six in the morning. The little sleep I managed during the day seems to have done no good at all and I feel sleepy until the caffine tablets kick in. The last seconds are ticking away and I constantly think about how much there is to do before I can stand here in front of the Moot Hall again, in less than 24 hours (I hope). This will be a constant distraction throughout the day, unlike the last time when I didn't know how much there would be to do to get back to the Moot Hall. Midnight signals the 'off' and we are away - off into the darkness at a pace that won't last very long but as it subsides it brings a calmness from the knowledge that I can do this, I have done this and all I need to do is take 11 minutes off the last time and not worry about how to do it.

A last minute injury to Tony Bland on Friday evening triggered a small panic as I tried to contact Mark Seddon to ask him to navigate this leg. Mark called back, as we were getting into the car to drive to Keswick, to confirm it wouldn't be a problem and again everything seems to be in place.

Newlands Church passes by silently as Mark, Chris and Phil chat constantly to help pass the time and prevent the enormity of the task from intruding, too much, on a great day out. Dry and hard underfoot, even after leaving the tarmac, the climb up Robinson takes us back into the clag and a cool wind. The path along the ridge that is so easily followed in daylight can barely be found and with visibility reduced by the clag rather than the darkness concern about our precise location mounts until the tiny tarn just before the summit is reached. Over the summit and descending on as straight a line as Mark can manage we drop out of the clag and find ourselves in the right place for the climb up Hindscarth in much better nick than I was in June. Before the summit the clag envelopes us but Mark leads us straight to the summit and away again towards Dale Head.

This is going well and I am eating and drinking almost to the plan, confident that if every leg goes just a little better then I will have a good chance of being on Skiddaw with time to descend to Keswick before the day is done. This, however, is a distraction and a trip or a stumble here could bring it all to an end.

The final pull up Dale Head seems protracted but soon enough the summit looms out of the clag and the first road crossing beckons. Descending on the right line we find Ed Swift waiting on the hillside above the Youth Hostel and we run into the car park 5 minutes up on the schedule. The leg has gone quickly and without incident - just what I wanted.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

John Fleetwood's Video

Better weather this time and I got back to the Moot Hall in 23:39:32. Details will follow in due course.

John Fleetwood came along to navigate Leg 4 over Helvellyn and The Dodds - he also brought along a video camera. The results can be seen at

Thanks John

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday 11th August

It is about six o'clock and the sun is bright on Winter Hill and the weather forecast is still looking pretty apart from some low cloud tonight but it is only a forecast. Almost time to start sorting kit and making butties. I haven't done much this week, just 20 miles with 2500 feet of climbing and Tuesday morning was the last time I was out - the rest of the time, it seems, was spent watching the weather forecast for tomorrow. I am probably more nervous at this stage than I was last time but, perhaps, I can get through it before setting off and be in better nick on the first leg. Better to go and get on with things and not have time to worry about tomorrow.

Support Treams
1 Tony Bland, Mark Seddon, Phil Dewhurst, Chris Heys
2 Rob Green, Doug Fleming, Chris Cripps, Alan Greenwood
3 Colin Jones, Alastair Murray, Phil Cheek, Annette Morris,
4 John Fleetwood, Paul Murray, Mary White, Steve Kenyon
5 Mark Davies, John Swift, Christine Bland
R Pauline, Ann Jones, Ed Swift, Keith Foster

Holidays, injuries and other commitments mean a number of changes and more than half the runners weren't on my June attempt.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday 4th August

Last Saturday's "Coope's Dozen" was run in almost perfect conditions, no breeze, no hot sunshine and the Pennine Peat bogs of WInter Hill are almost all dry and very runnable. Social 19 miles at an enjoyable pace even in the faster group and with two refreshment stops times are a but meaningless although perhaps I only suggest that because we enjoyed the cakes so much that we didn't get round in under 4 hours. Pauline and I had a trot round Kentmere Horseshoe on Sunday in fairly breezy conditions before going to watch the Red Arrows at the Windermere Air Show. Three outings on Winter Hill during the rest of the week to complete everything except the final week's eating and resting.

Last Week
65 miles 12700 feet

Next Week
Watch Borrowdale and do a few gentle miles over Winter Hill on Sunday and then just a few more gentle miles at the beginning of next week before next Friday's second attempt.

Support Teams are very nearly sorted although injuries have forced a couple of changes this week and may force further changes next week. Weather forecast looks decent - no rain, no hot sunshine and plenty of cloud cover. This is still 7 days away and so could change and the height of the cloud base is not yet available - anyway, as I saw the last time, you just have to try to cope with the weather whatever it does.