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A competitors view by Peter White

This year will be remembered as the worst weather we have ever had. It started well enough on the drive up to Coniston village on the Friday although it was a bit blustery. On the Saturday the wind and rain got up and then we saw the course!!! It was going to take us over two high areas near Coniston which were South and North of the Wrynose Pass. What was worse was that having got to CP1 we could not see a good way to CP2 except the path over Swirl How at 800m altitude and Hell Gill, the alternative we considered was to go north until we hit the Pass, but that was over rough ground, bog and boulders and in any case only saved 100m of climbing. We opted for the pathway route as it was thick mist, cold, raining and blowing a gale. So in our waterproofs we soldiered on. We had passed John and Judy, being careful, on a steep climb just after CP1 and when we got to the Pass we also passed Kathy and Leslie, who had decided to retire, because of the cold and with not enough clothes. We stopped for some food on the way up to the well named Cold Pike, and then continued towards the Gaitskill Buttress where we also started to get very cold and in spite of being within a few hundred metres of CP2 because of the mist and cold decided for safety reasons to short route to the overnight camp. Two other competitors helped us down and so we arrived at the overnight camp at Stool End Farm in the Langdale valley, firstly to meet Rachel my partner of a few years ago, who was looking for a stream to bathe her injured ankle, and then in the camp site to find Dave and Vyv there, who had also decided to short route. Kathy was also there and she had arrived by car. The weather had improved significantly. We pitched tent and wondered how John and Judy had got on. We had almost decided that they must have retired when at nearly 8pm they arrived. They had completed the course, aided by the improving weather. Needless to say they were Cock a Hoop and many hands helped them pitch tent and settle in. Dave reckoned the wind was over 75mph which is hurricane force and with the rain explains the difficulties many teams were having. Counting tents Vyv thought that nearly half of the competitors had retired. We will have to wait for the results to find out.

Sunday was a much better day. However, except for Dave and Vyv, those left teamed up for the day. CP1 was easy enough as it was not far from the path and nearly overlooking Red Tarn. We thought we could see competitors at CP2 (Blake Rigg) and made a bee line in the correct direction but when we got to where we thought we had seen the CP, it was plainly not there. After a bit of thinking and consulting with another pair equally at sea we decided that we had got to Black Crag and had further to go over this lumpy featureless moorland. It was the old problem of thinking we had gone further than we had. From there it was a nice walk to CP3 at Birk Fell across the Wrynose Pass and up the hill. By this time it was very hot and sunny. we went over the top and around the back of the hill which turned out to be a good choice. Ate some more food and chatted to the Marshal at the CP who was camped a little way down from the top. He said he had been blown off the top the previous day. We sympathised with him. From there we could see the path to the old mine workings. When we got there Kathy said let’s go along the edge of the forest which we did but it turned out to be a bit patchy so had to follow the compass bearing again, ploughing through waist high bracken at first then chest high bracken until we looked down and could see competitors going to and from the last CP on the Yewdale Fells. We would have got there on our compass bearing but seeing them confirmed it was quicker. The route then was along a nice little valley with a stream which turned into a very steep descent. At this point we were running out of time and thought the finish would be at the bottom of this narrow, steep and slippery path. Fate had one more trick we then had to run along a mile of road to try to be inside today’s 8 hour time schedule. We did not quite make it by about 15 seconds.

Walked back into the camp site to be met by cheers from Dave and Vyv who had finished hours ago. Not a great success for Reading Joggers, one out of 4 teams completing the course but, in the atrocious weather, survival must take priority. We did well last year perhaps we will do better next year. We did have the consolation of doing day 2 with nice views and you can’t win them all.

Points to note; a pedometer might be useful to get a better estimate of distance travelled and as I have said before an altimeter if I can afford one. Map available if you are interested.

Peter White