One of the benefits of planning is the opportunity and incentive to get outside and get to know a beautiful area of Cumbria really well. From the snow and ice of the New Year, (including falling into an icy and orange-coloured bog), sunny but cold days in early spring, back to sleet in April then ‘hot enough to fry eggs’ days in May to the rainy and cold June I have had the pleasure of observing the Wasdale Fells in all their variety and glory. I have discovered and explored small pockets of incredible beauty, watched raptors float around the crags and laughed at new-born lambs staggering around. Listening to the songs of such nationally rare birds as skylarks, cuckoos and yellowhammers, as I drank clean water from the streams I was in awe of the luxury of having such an area on our doorstep.
The limitations of access added to the challenge of planning and forced me to take lines across the hills that I would not have anticipated originally. Avoiding damage and disturbance to sensitive areas made some courses less than ideal from a runner’s and navigator’s point of view, however it is important for both ourselves and future generations that we protect and respect the delicate ecosystems that make this area unique.
For those who might be interested in the planning process here is a brief overview. The course planned first is Wansfell/ Bedafell as this has to take the shortest route to the mid-camp with easy navigation. This places a limiting factor on the start location – hence the long walk this year. Getting the shorter courses out of, and back into, Wasdale Head was the biggest headache. After Wansfell the next course to be outlined is Scafell as this gives the envelope into which the other courses must fit. I wanted as many courses as possible to go round the south of Wastwater to avoid covering the same ground and take the pressure off the north side. This meant a trek through the fields at the south end of the lake for these courses which involved a different kind of navigation. The mid-camp was in a lovely remote location but there are some areas nearby where access was limited so the routes in and out had to go both north and south and use the forest tracks to some extent. I found the hardest course to plan was Carrock Fell and the easiest was Bowfell. Of course, now that it is all over, I would change some of the courses, for instance I would put more route choice in Klets south of the lake. I would be interested to know if anyone on Scafell etc went from 116 to 148/105 via Eskdale. This choice involves very slightly more ascent but is easier underfoot. The planner’s choices showed that I hate contouring and will go up and over every time, so they are not necessarily the fastest routes!
I spent far more time poring over maps at home than I expected to, as each access limitation that arrived required re-planning the courses until we had the final routes accepted. Then it was a case of getting out on the ground again to check control sites and potential map corrections.
The unpredictable weather leading up to the event caused some sleepless nights as we had to decide whether rivers were crossable or whether courses needed to be altered. I added Control 130 (boulder/sheepfold) at the start and finish of some courses to encourage crossing the beck in Mosedale at a safer place. As it was the water levels fell and the promised heavy rain on Friday didn’t materialise. The weather turned out to be perfect so we were very lucky.
We all had the privilege of spending time in this part of the world and I hope that you enjoyed the weekend as much as I have enjoyed the last six months. I would recommend volunteering as planner for the experience and challenge of the event. The thank-yous from competitors at the finish were much appreciated and make it all worthwhile.
Chris Hall, the controller; Brian Dearnally David Johnstone and Mark Hawker and the rest of the team have been a pleasure to work with and I have learned a lot from them about how an event such as this is put together. It is also good to be associated with an organisation that places such importance on supporting local projects and encourages beginners to take up mountain marathons.
See you all next year – but as a competitor this time!
Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
Worm Gill has a local reputation of rising rapidly when in spate. The farmer at Scalderskew was so concerned about the level of the water that he phoned us on Thursday. On Friday afternoon we abandoned trying to erect the marquee because of the winds. I eventually persuaded them to return on Saturday morning. Those of us there on early Saturday morning witnessed a transformation. There was not a cloud in the sky, the wind had dropped and the streams were down to crossable depths. So, whilst most of the rest of the country was flooded, we experienced near perfect conditions. The Controller’s, and your, prayers to the Gods had been answered. We even had the bonus of a midge free Mid Camp. So, many thanks to you who braved the elements to join us on what turned out to be a fine weekend.
There is a significant, and increasing, amount of work that goes into getting an event like ours off the ground. In a place like Wasdale, with its proximity to one of the Three Peaks, we have to fight the local dislike of those that arrive in the middle of the night, wake everyone up with their shouting and singing, leave their rubbish strewn all over the place and generally make a nusiance of themselves. It is to the credit of all those involved in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon that those same locals have asked us to return. So a big ‘Thank You’ to all of you in general, and the marshals in particular, for maintaining our reputation as a responsible organisation.
We have a policy of supporting local organisations and projects whether it be, this year, the Forestry Commission’s Wild Ennerdale or a National Trust wetlands Project, the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team or the local Commoners Associations. All of these, in their different ways, are part of the Event.
So this brings me to the ‘Thank Yous’.
We have a Team that comes together each year to get the Event going. They are small in number.
The central Team consists of:
- David Johnstone – The Organiser. He is responsible for all the logistics from the toilets to the food.
- Brian Dearnaly – The Fields Officer who deals with all matters relating to land clearance and permissions. He is also a deputy Controller.
- Mark Hawker – Web Administrator who is responsible for the SLMM web site. Runs Registration. He too, is a deputy Controller.
After our de-brief, we will stand down for about two months and then start the whole process again. It takes about 9 months to get an event like this up and running.
Then we have all the other people who help in the week running up to the event.
- Rhona – Our resident doctor
- Karen – Our resident physiotherapist
- Joe – Helps set up the controls on the hill. Our expert stile builder, car park manager.
- Paul – with his land rover who delights in taking it to inaccessible places to rescue the injured or tow someone out of the mire.
- John – Our plumber for setting up your water supply and David’s right hand man
- Phil & Barbs – Help set up the controls on the hill. Responsible for the starts.
- The Binks’ – More of David’s support team. Look after the camp when you are on the hill and have everything ready for your return on Sunday.
- Andrew – from SI who provides competition services over the weekend and is the fount of all information over the weekend.
There are a few others who turn up at the weekend to assist in Registration. They turn up and we make them welcome and are happy that they should experience an event like this from a different perspective.
Our thanks to the following people and organisations for making this event possible :
- Colin Lindsey and National Trust West District for access to a large part of the competition area
- Gareth Browning of Ennerdale Forestry Commission for the forests around the Mid Camp
- Penny Webb and National Trust North District for the area to the North and West
- Andrew Naylor of Row Head Farm – The Event Centre
- Duncan Elwood of Scalderskew – The Mid Camp
- The Commoners Associations of Kinniside, Stockdale and Nether Wasdale
- Adam Naylor and staff at the Wasdale Head Inn
- Hilary and Maria of Fell and Dales Catering
- Pete Bland and staff of Pete Bland Sports for supplying prizes
- Jennings Brewery for supplying prizes
- Cowmire Cider for supplying prizes
- Wasdale Mountain Rescue
The sharp eyed of you will have noticed a major omission in the list of credits above. There is no mention of a planner. This was quite deliberate. She should have the final credit all to herself. The planner joins the Team for a year with the opportunity to put into practice their ideas for a mountain marathon. This year I asked Jane to perform this task and she attacked it with enthusiasm.
As stated at the beginning, the Gods provided the weather, however, she provided the courses. The combination was to produce a memorable event. So from all of us a big thank you to her.
So to next year. Put the weekend of 6th/ 7th July 2013 in your calendar and we will meet again.
If you have ever thought of planning a mountain marathon then drop me a line. If you have not thought about it then now is you chance.
Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon