What a difference a day makes! At the end of day 1 the predominant comment from competitors was that they had struggled to run over the difficult terrain. At the end of day 2 most people were commenting on how much better the terrain had been.
As with all mountain marathons a lot of “armchair planning” and “time on the ground” is spent in advance of the event, trying to come up with courses that will be both challenging and inspiring. With the 2005 Saunders this planning process was made especially difficult by the restrictions that were placed on me when we were granted permission to use the area. This coupled with the many steep sided valleys and boulder fields made the area a difficult one to plan on. On the positive side my decision to use the Ennerdale and Wasdale area allowed us all to experience some of the wildest and least known fells in the Lake District.
For the shorter courses (Harter Fell / Wansfell / Bedafell) my main planning challenge was finding ways of getting competitors between the start and overnight camp and back again without making the courses too long. I had originally hoped to have the overnight camp higher up Wasdale but was unable to get the necessary permissions, so ended up with a camp which was 10 Km straight line distance away from the start point. After studying the map I was left with only two sensible choices, the route to the east of Pillar through Black Sail Pass / Dore Head or the route to the west of Pillar through Scarth Gap, Ennerdale Forest and around Haycock. After a couple of visits to the area it was obvious that the second option offered much easier terrain, so I chose that for the return route on Sunday and used the first option for the Saturday courses. I knew that this would make for a tough first day, but decided that over the two days the balance would be about right.
On the longer courses (Klets / Scafell / Bowfell / Kirkfell / Carrock Fell) I wanted competitors to see as much of the area as possible, so took the decision to direct the day 1 courses straight through Ennerdale Forest to the western edge of the area. As there are few available crossing points through the Forest all of the longer courses were forced into a narrow corridor to cross the valley. Once through the valley I was able to offer a lot more route choice and navigation, with the area around Lank Rigg proving particularly challenging in the mist. On day 2 I chose to send the very longest courses through similar terrain to the day 2 shorter courses, but gave them an extra loop around Grey Knotts to make them the correct length. The Kirkfell / Carrock Fell courses returned through a similar route taken by the day 1 shorter courses, as sending all courses back through the Haycock / Ennerdale Forest route would have resulted in too much congestion in that area.
On a more technical matter a few people seemed to have some difficulty in plotting the control features on their maps, which is I believe due to a commonly held misunderstanding about how grid references work. When plotting a 6 figure grid reference what you are given is a reference to the bottom left-hand (south-west) corner of a 100 metre square in which the control feature appears. On a 1:40,000 scale map like we were using each 100m on the ground is represented by 2.5mm on the map, so the feature will be somewhere within 2.5mm to the right (east) and top (north) of this point.
A good example of using grid references is the pond used as control 106. Looking at it with the naked eye you might think it should be 211 123 or even 211 124. However take a ruler to it – and virtually every compass has one built in – and you can see it is slightly less than 2.5mm to the right of the 20 northing line so the correct grid reference is 210 123, the one I used on the course descriptions.
An event like ours would not be possible without the help and support of the land owners. For this year’s event we are indebted to the Forestry Commission and the National Trust who, along with United Utilities form the Wild Ennerdale Partnership who manage much of the land we used. Thanks are also due to Willie Richardson for the use of Gatesgarth Farm as the start and finish location and to Joss Naylor for providing the overnight camp.
As planner I would also like to offer my thanks to the many members of the Backpackers Clubwho travelled long distances to help collect in all of the controls after the event. During the weekend I was also ably assisted in running the starts and finishes by a number friends and other volunteers who turned out to do the often tedious jobs which are vital for an event like this to take place. Thanks to you all.