Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bowfell and Rossett Pike



A run from the 25th May, catching up on some blogging.

Carrying on with the Great Langdale exploration, we parked at the Stickle Barn and went up The Band to Bowfell.  Heavy cloud on the tops meant that an exploration of the Climbers' Traverse and a play in some of the gulleys was not an option.  The cloud was down at the Three Tarns area and we just followed the cairns to the top.  From the top, we took a bearing north until we dropped down at Ore Gap to pick up the path going around the west of Angle Tarn.  We continued on to Rossett Pike, going past the summit to the end for better views.  We then retraced our steps to the Rossett Gill path which we followed down continuing on back to the Stickle Barn.

looking back along The Band - easiest way up Bowfell

the Great Slab

Angle Tarn

Rossett Pike looking over to the Langdale Pikes

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hardly AC, Blake Fell and others

looking out from Carling Knott over to Whiteside and Grasmoor

at the top of the first climb challenge
This was a nice run on one of the first clear and hot evenings for a while.  We set off from the Felldyke car park and ran along the side of Cogra Moss taking the climb from the end of Cogra Moss up to the main forest track.  I like to challenge myself to run all the way up this section.  I just managed it today.  From here, rather than go left taking the track around to climb up Blake Fell, we continued straight ahead climbing alongside the fence up to High Penn and then on to Blake Fell.  This way was a pretty relentless climb and is the usual way I would come down from Blake Fell.

From the top of Blake Fell, Howard convinced us that there was Hardly Any Climbing over to Carling Knott (this was not true).  We worked our way back towards the fence corner summit of Burnbank Farm then, knowing the reputation of the farmer and not being clear about where the public access boundary was, we opted to miss out Owsen Fell and head down to pick up the zig-zag track through the forest back to the start.  Ironically, we crossed private land on the way back but it was a well cut track with little footbridges over the gulleys (probably for fishing access).

A good run out, about 7.5 miles.

steep climb up, looking back to Knock Murton

Low Pen

Blake Fell.  What is Howard leaning on?

I think this is looking back from the run back from Carling Knott

this looks like Carling Knott

one of the many 'piles of stones' in the area this one on Carling Knott

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Scafell Pike Trail Marathon 2015

On my way up to the stretcher box at Sty Head, pretending to be happy for the camera

the first 9 miles (part of the return is on the right)
Having seemingly got away with running 53.4 miles at the Hoka Highland Fling in April this year, an event after which I honestly expected to suffer, the chance to have a go at the Scafell Trail Marathon at the start of June was a real treat.

My main running compadre, Jonathan, had suffered a spate of running related maladies, that I have neither the time nor the inclination to go into here, since the Hoka and had decided to pull out of today's race.  Last year we had run the event and were pleased to finish, getting around the course being our main goal.  This year, having come away from the Hoka feeling strong, I was confident of getting around a mere marathon course and wanted to chip away at some of the niggling inefficiencies that I had identified after the race last year.

For a start, I thought I could save some time by stopping less at aid stations.  There are three aid stations (there are two but one is visited twice).  Ten minutes spent at each one equals a half hour wasted.  This year I planned to grab food/water and keep moving.

The other area that I thought I could make up time on was the descending, of which there is plenty.  Last year, Jonathan and I ran together.  Jonathan is probably a bit quicker on flat sections where as I prefer descents and rockier terrain.  Running as a pair, we went with the lowest common denominator, going easy on the flats and also slow and easy on the rocky bits and the down hills.  This year, I could go at my own pace on the down hills without having to wait at the bottom and also try push myself along where I could on the flats.  That was the plan anyway.

Another running buddy, Paul, had got a late entry and we agreed to travel together the 20 minute journey to Keswick.  We both did the usual race morning moaning about having to get up early and not really feeling up to running a marathon but, in reality, in the absence of acute injury, we were both very capable of getting around the course.  And we need to realise how lucky we are to live so close to the Lake District hub of Keswick.

The car park at the Theatre by the Lake was bustling when we got there at about 7.45 in the morning.  The Keswick Triathlon is on the same day and the car park was filled with the hyper-nervous type A pheromone of triathlete, the sort of athlete who, when leaning their bike on their car,  are more worried about their bike getting scratched than their car.  Despite this mockery, I have a lot of respect for these people, especially as they were about to plunge into Derwent Water so early in the morning, at least I was only going to run up and down England's highest mountain.  Triathlons are on my to do list, I'm just enjoying the journey a bit too much to actually get there for a while.

Check in was pretty easy.  We opted to walk the 20 or so minutes to the start rather than get the ferry (which ended up being cancelled anyway).  We got to the start at Nichol End Marina early enough to avoid the big queues for the toilets.  After a short delay to wait for people who had booked the ferry and then had to walk around, we were off.

The first nine miles are relatively flat and almost the whole stretch is runnable, the only real incline being the climb over behind Castle Crag.  Last year, Jonathan and I had a strategy of holding back at the start, going at an easy pace in order to preserve energy, knowing that we would be tired towards the end.  I hadn't agreed or discussed running with Paul but we set off together at what felt like a pretty fast pace.  The race is congested at the start and the start of any race sees people running off quickly only to get reeled back in as the race draws out.  After about five minutes, Paul met up with a mate he had run other races with and the two chatted away.  I had thought that I would set off slow, aiming to conserve energy like last year.  Instead, I decided to push on and had a thought that I could take on food as I climbed up from Stockley Bridge.

Splits for the first nine miles on the left is the 2014 times, 2015 on the right.  Every mile is significantly faster in 2015.  Note the much slower mile 7 in 2014 which is where the route goes over single track trail and then a steep descent to Seatoller, backing up my theory of being able to descend faster this year.  Mile 9 is where the first support station is so a quicker turn around here might account for some of the difference, although I do remember running rather than walking along to Stockley Bridge this year.

Styhead Tarn
The real climbing starts at Stockley Bridge.  The winding track up to Styhead Tarn is steep and disapears into the Gill in places.

From Styhead Tarn, the route cuts across to the Corridor Route before climbing steeply to the summit of Scafell Pike

It was starting to get a bit cold as I started to climb so I stopped to put a jacket on.  I had picked up some flapjack at the food point at Seathwaite and was gradually biting bits off and chewing it down.  I got to the checkpoint at the stretcher box and was looking forward to making decent time across the Corridor Route.

I told a fellow entrant to follow me for a quicker way onto the Corridor Route than the track further up that a lot of people were taking.  I made up a few places by doing this but then kind of crashed.  I think I found the Corridor Route relatively easy last year as I was waiting for Jonathan.  Without him to pace me, I just tried to push on but ran out of fuel.  I hadn't practiced with gels before the race and, in hindsight, taking a gel at Styhead Tarn would have been a good move.  I ate a Nakd Bar but this is slow burn energy and didn't give me the kick to motor along that I wanted.

I enjoy this mental aspect of running, it's like a meditation, listening to your body and being aware, doing systems checks.  I knew that I would pull around but I didn't have something sugary like a gel to give me a quick kick.  I felt like I slowed down and just gradually made my way up to the summit.

Again, 2014 on the left, 2015 on the right.  Mile 12 is slower in 2015.  Mile 12 is pretty much the whole Corridor Route so it backs up how I felt.  The other miles were significantly faster though and would more than make up for the slow 12th mile.

After 13 miles (pretty much at the summit of Scafell Pike) in 2014 my time was 3.19 in 2015 my time at this distance was 2.52 so I was 27 minutes ahead (or about 2 minutes per mile).

another reason to avoid the corridor route, crowds of people and not a lot of places to pass

Stockley Bridge is at about mile 9 and 17.5 and is where the real climbing starts on the way out
From the summit, I expected to be able to make up some time over last year.  The ground here is very rough and really only gets nicer as you start to move away from Great End towards Esk Hause.

It felt like any advantage I had from being able to descend and cross rough ground at my own pace was cancelled out by the wet weather and very slippery rock compared to last year.

I did feel like I got ahead at Esk Hause as the path becomes a mixture of dirt track and stepped stones and lasts almost all the way back to Styhead Tarn in this manner.

I stopped at the Sty Head checkpoint to take a stone out of my shoe and then continued back towards Stockley Bridge.

3d rendition of the mountain section.  The corridor route rises from left to right before the course goes more steeply up to the summit.  Scafell Pike summit is on the top right.  After the up and down of Broad Crag its fairly easy gradient to Esk Hause but the ground is very rough.
coming past Sprinkling Tarn on the way back to Sty Head

approaching Stockley Bridge about to run along that valley

After the long run down, I was looking forward to the valley floor and thought I might have a nice run along the flatter part of the second half of the course until it climbs rudely up and over to the hanging valley of Watendlath.  I enjoyed a steadyish run along to the food station at Seathwaite.  I spent a bit more time here and again, could have really benefited from some fast burn energy.  I had continued to use Nakd Bars, something that had worked well for me on the Highland Fling but what I realised afterwards was that this was a very different run.  I had been trying hard and pushing myself today.  On the Highland Fling I had use a more self-preservation strategy, doing slow steady miles and fuelling with solid food.  This increased effort today needed a different kind of fuel than the slow burn nuts etc that make up a Nakd Bar.  I was also finding the Nakd Bars hard to digest.  Again, a gel would have been good as it is liquid and theoretically digests easier.

up on the nice section looking back to Borrowdale, about to descend to Watendlath after the killer climb

On the way back, Seathwaite is at about 18.5 miles.  I remember spending what I thought was far too long here last year.  I also spent a lot longer than I wanted to here this year, although it felt quicker than last year.  The miles around here 18/19 are still overall quicker than last year on the splits.

From Seathwaite, the route goes along what I think of as the back way to Rosthwaite, going through the youth hostel grounds before starting the steep climb up towards Watendlath at about 21 miles in.  This part has wiped me out both times I have done this race.  Again, a gel might have worked but there's no getting away from it being a real bastard of a climb after 21 tough miles.

From Watendlath, there is a nice trail down to Ashness Bridge.  I had to walk parts of this because the Nakd Bars were sitting heavy and I thought I was going to be sick.  I stopped for a bit longer than I wanted at the last feed station at about 24 miles.  At this stage I felt fine for energy but needed to try to settle my stomach.  I had some coke and sweets but it didn't really work.  I was pretty disappointed here because I thought I could have gone quite fast on this section.  Overall, I think the last seven or so miles were slower than the previous year.  This was mainly due to having to walk in order to prevent myself puking.  I spent longer than I wanted to at the aid station but I don't think it was longer than last year.

 2014/2015 splits

From Ashness Bridge, the route climbs up along the terrace at Walla Crag.  This is where I fell last year, tripping over on my own tired feet so I took extra care this time.  After dropping to Great Wood car park, the last few miles go around Friar's Crag to the finish.  I crossed the line in a time of 6.13 which was a good chunk of time faster than last year.

One last analysis.  2015 results are on the left this time, 2014 on the right.  Up to Sty Head, I had made up 14 minutes on last years time (which is a fair amount over the distance of about 10 miles).  The section up to Scafell Pike summit was about 10 minutes faster, to Esk Hause was 6 minutes quicker, back to Sty Head was 3 minutes quicker and to Watendlath Beck was about 11 minutes quicker.  It was only the last section which was about 2 minutes slower.

Going forward, I think I could make up time on the Corridor Route if I got my fuelling right, on the descent from the summit if conditions are right, on the climb over to Watendlath, along the valley to Watendlath Beck, again dependent on correct fuelling and then on the last section.  Still, I was very happy with my performance.

My family were waiting at the finish and having two small girls jump on your legs after an event like this is both painful but quite nice at the same time.  Paul came in not long after me, he said he enjoyed the course and felt like he had managed quite well despite some niggling injuries.  I had a few cramp attacks as I sat down, nothing too bad, and I guzzled some coke and crisps and then headed home for a bath.

I'm looking forward to having another go next year now.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Blea Rigg and Silver How

Silver How overlooking Grasmere and Rydal

Sunday morning started off with a meet up at 8am for a swim in Bassenthwaite.  I'm just getting used to being out in the open water so it was great to have a swim with some others.

I did alright, I managed to do some proper swimming as previously I've found it too cold to keep my head in the water.  A neoprene cap sorted that out.

We swam out to a couple of buoys and I think I went a bit too fast, getting tired and needing a rest when I was out there.  Paul was very kind to hang back with me and we gradually made our way back in with plenty of rests.  I've ordered a swim safety float, it floats behind you and acts to make you very visible to boats.  It can also be used to keep some kit in and as a float aid if needed.  I'm looking forward to getting more practice in over the summer.

Ghyll Scrambling at Stickle Ghyll
After saying bye to my swim mates and warming up a bit, I met up with Dean and we headed to Great Langdale for a run.  The weather was a bit dull, I had planned to go up Stickle Gill from Stickle Barn and then decide whether to head over Harrison Stickle and to the left, coming down Rossett Gill or The Band, or my other idea of going right and navigating to the difficult to find Blea Rigg and then on to Silver How at Grasmere, coming back along the valley.  If you have read the title of this blog post, you probably have an idea which choice we made.

The climb up to Stickle Tarn was a nice warm up.  We passed a bloke carrying a sleeping infant on his back.  We decided to head towards Blea Rigg.  I remembered from my last visit that there are a few different peaks in the area and picking the actual summit out can be a bit difficult.  We enjoyed some navigation practice but did succumb to getting a grid reference from the GPS to be absolutely sure that we were heading to the right peak.

Harrison Stickle across Stickle Tarn

Some good navigation practice despite us resorting to taking a grid reference. We identified the distinct pincer like shape on Stickle Tarn and took a bearing over towards the summit.  We took the top path and then it was a case of estimating the distance to Blea Rigg, which we knew would be a high point.  I was looking out for the steep slope to the north east.  We headed up a little peak near where the paths merge by the two small areas of water.  There was a bit more water about and I couldn't be sure that the water we saw was the water visible on the map.  We took a grid reference at this point and saw that we were still a bit off the true summit.  As soon as we came back down from here, it was pretty obvious which the true summit was.

Dean at Blea Rigg

and me

From Blea Rigg we worked back down to the main track and enjoyed some nice running mostly down to Swinescar Hause, then picking up the track again and enjoying runnable tracks over to Silver How summit.  From here we dropped on a nice track, steep in places with some single track, down to Chapel Stile.  We dropped a bit sooner than I anticipated and came out further up the road than where the track comes down at Harry's Place Farm.  We had a quick check out of the Langdale Boulders, a famous climbing spot and then headed back down the road for a bit before picking up the track back to the Stickle Barn where I once again enjoyed chips and Dean watched me eat them.

Dorking at Silver How

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Buttermere Loop

Bothy with a view

up on Red Pike.  Rannerdale Knotts, scene of Wednesday's run below with the mighty Grasmoor behind.

Gamlin End from Haystacks summit with the two lakes of Buttermere valley on the right

Paul on the last bit of scree
My plan on Saturday was to complete a high level loop of Buttermere, along the High Stile ridge, over Haystacks, crossing over Honister Slate Mine, up Dale Head and along to Robinson before returning to Buttermere Village.  

I chose Buttermere as it was the headquarters for the Lakes Charity Classic & Buttermere Bash paragliding event.  I thought we would see some paragliding action as we circumnavigated the lake.  

There were a few paragliders out, including a few who took a very scary line down the cliffs of Fleetwith Pike, twisting and falling at quite a rate.  I'm not sure if the conditions were too challenging or if we timed it wrong though as we didn't see as many as I thought we would.

Rather than the usual route, steep and direct through the woods on the far side of the lake from Buttermere Village, we went around Crummock Water a bit and headed up Scale Force.  

This was further but more gradual and made a difference to the usual huffing up the steep path.  We continued across the rough ground on the High Stile range, exploring a little bit before taking in the scree descent off Gamlin End.

Paul ran down with his phone in his hand taking a video, only his video stopped recording after a few seconds.

We climbed up to Haystacks summit, after passing the famous tarn, and then decided to take the track down to Warnscale Bottom past the beautifully situated bothy.

We ran along the village/road side of Buttermere, there is a nice enough track here but it is always really busy.  More so today with people from the Buttermere Bash event.

Back at Buttermere village and we had covered 12.5 miles and a significant amount of climbing.  Nice day out.

The Gables over Innominate Tarn

not a bad view from the bothy window

back down on the level looking back to Haystacks