Who am I – I describe myself primarily as an orienteer but have done many MMs in the past. My first Saunders was Wansfell in 1979. Two years later I managed to win Wansfell and start progressing through the classes. I won Kirkfell in 1997 and have competed in many KIMMs, LAMMs and Mournes over the years. I have never planned a Mountain Marathon before and was invited to plan this years race by Controller, Roger Smith, who has offered great support and advice throughout the planning process.
To start Roger advised me of Start/Finish location and proposed overnight camp. The first task was to see how practical it was to get the shortest class between the two and back again, without necessarily covering the same ground. Having done that I then looked at how far out I could send the longest course within the bounds of the map and felt they could move north across Hard Knott and travers across and come back south via Wrynose Pass. Unfortunately Mosedale was deemed OOB hence the dog-leg around to the north
I started off the detailed planning by looking at interesting route-choice legs (rather than control sites) and wanted to try and give each linear class at least one such leg. Bowfell 1-2 & 2-3, Kirkfell 9-10, Carrock 1-2, 4-5, Harter 1-2, 4-5, Wansfell 3-4, 4-5. These were quickly set in stone and I then tried to find a route back from mid-camp with different challenges for each course.
My initial courses were in the main slightly too long and Roger encouraged me to shorted them. We debated back and forth over whether courses should meet exact course length guidelines which would then compromise the navigational challenges.
Then we came to the debate about control sites, what features were available at the start and end of legs, and what were appropriate to the expected skillset of the entrants. I was told to treat Wansfell & Harter as though they had limited previous experience, hence the profusion of hill tops, stream bends and ruins. Carrock and above were assumed to be competent mountain navigators and hence I could find more challenging sites. There is of course the limitation of the hillside itself and finding a feature which is “fairly” represented on the map and the ground. In my view this is because a map at 1:25000 with 15m contours leans more towards art rather than science. The map will give a good general indication of the land form but there will clearly be more bumps and lumps on the ground.
One such control is #125 at the foot of the rocky spur to the west of Dow Crag visited by Pillar & Carrock in the cloud on Day 1. Using Grid References to identify the feature most people correctly identified it on the map at the 600m index contour. However, some failed to appreciate that the spur foot will never be at that height and was at least one contour lower. Without pre-marked maps it is difficult to spell it out any more clearly. I think some people also had problems with this control because of our society’s progression to rely on electronic gadgets rather than using map and compass skills. More than one person told me they “knew” they were in the right place because their altimeter told them they were at 600m.
And talking of equipment brings us on to #137 visited by Klets, Pillar & Harter on Day 1. Originally I wanted to put the control between two small hills but was advised the feature might be too hard for Harter competitors. It was suggested that I use the boulder to the north west which was sat on the stream at 266 961, as the stream would be an easy navigational aid for the more inexperienced. This I agreed to do. Unfortunately there was another boulder in an adjacent grid square at 266 960 and several Harter pairs plotted this (larger) boulder in error. When we think about how much it costs to purchase appropriate shoes, clothing, tents, rucksack and sleeping bags to compete in these events, knowing that the SLMM uses grid references for control identification how many competitors pay the extra £5 for a map roamer grid reference tool?
I can only apologise to competitors on Harter & Klets courses who were inconvenienced by Control 116 on being stolen on Day 1. The majority of controls were put out on Tuesday and checked by someone different on Thursday when it was still in place and must have been removed on the Friday. It was not deemed to be at risk as it was not on a path – those controls were put out Friday afternoon.
It was felt that the Harter Fell course times be stopped at the control before as not only were the leg before & after compromised, but teams who failed to find control would not be pushing hard down to finish compared to later teams who found the replacement control and were still racing to camp.
After talking to many of the Klets competitors, Roger & I decided not to void the course but to work out a “best guess” adjustment on time lost at the control, by analysing approximate speed through previous controls. My thanks to all competitors for being so understanding.
Finally I hope most of you enjoyed your weekend – life can be very sedentary and it is these weekends which make us feel alive.
2015 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon
What an enjoyable event was the 2015 SLMM, only made possible by the combined efforts of a myriad of people. So there are a lot of people to thank.
All landowners and tenant farmers were cooperative. The owner of the Event Centre field at Torver, Pat Barr, was continuously supportive and helpful.
Similarly the Wilkinson family at Tilberthwaite were without fault. Given the hassle they frequently get from “tourism”, we were welcomed and supported without any constraints.
David Johnstone, the Event Organiser, got the job done well, always cheerful and relaxed, at least on the outside.
Brian Dearnley, who negotiates access, had a relatively straight forward year. But still a lot of hard work, carried out with his usual competence.– easier than in some years although, as ever, frustrating at times. Last year we had 24 Sites of Special Scientific Interest to be avoided. This year there was one.
The “staff”, mostly familiar faces returning from previous years at the SLMM, brought an excellent attitude with them. Working long hours but, knowing what to do and just getting stuck in and doing it.
Excellent reliable and enthusiastic support from the small team that put out checkpoints, and undertook numerous tasks on the fells.
I would like to particularly mention those members of the Backpackers Club who have been supporting the event ever since it began. A very valuable job in, firstly, just being in certain sectors of the competition area, which adds to the safety of the event, and also spending Sunday afternoon collecting in a lot of the checkpoints, which makes the final mopping up on Monday a manageable task for the hill team.
And finally, a big thanks to The Boss, Chris Hall. Chris has stepped back a little from the heavy work but is now in a position to watch what is going on and gently nudge us all back into line as we drift off.
Richard Tiley planned well. It’s not easy. He was imaginative when selecting checkpoint sites and intelligent, when planning courses. It definitely was not just a case of joining the dots to make up the distance. Rather, he focussed on setting a number of problems to be solved while also ensuring that the technical difficulty was appropriate for each course. For some teams, the navigational issues were challenging, particularly in the cloud on Saturday, but the event description does state that “many checkpoints require accurate navigation, especially in misty conditions”. So we were only fulfilling expectations.
Course lengths were more or less correct although each class had a handful of teams who finished well within the specified winners time. Those teams will need to enter a longer class next year. Similarly, there are teams who need to enter a less challenging class next year. The exception to this was the Klets class, with 9 teams faster than the specified winner’s time. Sunday’s courses could have been 25% longer for Klets and that would have provided the planner with more opportunity to set route decision challenges. Saturday’s course created a wide variation of routes. Sunday’s much less so.
On Saturday we were unfortunate to have checkpoint 116 stolen. Despite this not being our fault, we still realize that it will have marred the day for some competitors. We fully sympathise. I hope the solutions we selected to deal with the problem, and described in the Planners Notes were acceptable. A case of the least worse option.
A word of caution, for next year. The competition rules state “it is forbidden to climb maintained walls or fences. Enclosed farmland may only be crossed on a public right of way”. The final details repeated this statement in two separate places. It is vital that we maintain good relations with landowners and farmers, if we want the event to continue and receive the support and welcome that it currently experiences. Damaging walls is one of the best ways to upset these relationships. So the SLMM has a very firm view on anyone who is found to be disregarding this rule. We will have no hesitation in disqualifying teams guilty of such action.
And to finish on a positive note, I sat and watched a steady stream of teams visiting checkpoint 144, a hilltop just above the last control on Day 1. Folk were tired by this time and it would have been quite easy for one member of the team to stay at the foot of the hill with two rucksacks and the other member go to the top to check in. But not a single team did that. Both took their rucksacks and both climbed the hill. Doesn’t that show a good attitude to the rules of the game?
2015 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon