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Planner’s Comments

My first Mountain marathon was the Saunders Harter Fell class based in Grasmere and since then I have competed in numerous mountain marathons, predominantly on the score classes. With this experience my initial planning ideas were a good area, interesting but not too technical control sites, plenty of route choice, varying terrain and the overnight camp within reach of the shorter courses.

With this in mind the Loweswater fells and Ennerdale valley was the first place that I considered. With my local knowledge and experience I also knew it would be a good area for a mountain marathon if we could get access and agreement from the landowners. The initial armchair planning started immediately after last year’s Saunders with numerous visits to control sites, route choices and visits to farmers over the winter.

The area was split into three distinct areas – the south and north sides of Ennerdale and the Loweswater fells. The other main planning factors were the routes through the Ennerdale valley and how to get the courses to the South side of Ennerdale. Ideally I would have liked to have taken all courses onto the south side of Ennerdale but this was not feasible for the shorter courses.

The start was originally planned for near the event centre and courses all headed south from there. This gave me two problems – a lot of low level running for the longer courses around the lake and everyone covering some of same ground on the second day. So an alternative was sought. With agreement from the Controller to walk the competitors along a quiet road, the choice was made to use the former Anglers Inn car park which was a fantastic starting point.

The limiting factors on the South side of the valley were the distances and a bit of a bottleneck on the flank of Caw Fell as I did not want to take you into the Iron Crag intake as the ground cover is predominantly thick heather. The longer courses all had an immediate route choice of bypassing Crag Fell by a longer path route to the south or a shorter but rougher choice to the north.
After the first controls the route choices were more subtle and I positioned the controls to allow you to make a choice on how much you contoured around the valley or took a higher longer but possibly faster route. The courses then split to cross the valley near Gillerthwaite or a forest track run to take you to the south side of the High Stile range.

The limiting factors on the North side of the valley are the narrowness and also areas of dangerous ground in Birkness and Bleaberry Combe. I also wanted to give the three shorter courses a high level experience with some route choice. For the shorter courses I looped them around in an anti-clockwise direction and all touching the main part of the ridge. I also kept all the courses at a high level to give you the best of the terrain and some good high level running and choices that would take you around the dangerous ground
All courses had choices of dropping from the high level either directly from Gale Fell or down some of the rough paths around Scale Force.

For Pillar and Klets I tried to give several route choices and measured all to try and make sure none were the obvious choice so everyone went the same route. For Pillar the main options were how to cross the Ennerdale valley and then a selection of either east-west controls or west-east the climb and height differences were similar so it was down to personal choice.
For Klets the main decision was at the start to either head north and pick one or two controls before heading to the south side or do a full horseshoe collecting controls on the way and then, for both courses, which way round do I pick the 2 controls on Melbreak.
Talking to and listening to competitors at overnight camp I know different route choices were taken on all the courses and some options that I hadn’t considered which as a planner is good to hear.

The Sunday course area which was more compact gave me different problems, my experience of planning orienteering events helped on how to give you a variety of route choices, how to get the distance and also to try and not create too many trains. I split the courses from the start heading south and then headed you all in a general anticlockwise direction. The main problem was the route choices around Blake and to try and take you either side but this did lead to lot of people heading south along the hound trailing trod on the Western flank so in hindsight I could have mixed this up a bit and gave more choices of going in the forestry or not.

For Klets and Pillar the main choices were heading in a westerly direction towards Gavel then looping back round to the North before heading through the forest to Knock Murton or heading predominantly north to Burnbank and collecting the controls on Gavel before heading west. I hope you all enjoyed the sting in the tail of Knock Murton and this was put in to give you a nice run with a spectator view and also to make any close races more of a head to head finish.

I have enjoyed the planning experience and hope you enjoyed my courses and your visit to the North Western lakes. It is a beautiful area and one of the lesser visited parts of the lakes.
I would also like to thank the two competitors that stopped to help the injured lady on the shores of Crummock and my friends in the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team in their swift and professional response to the incident.


Major route choice options – there was a lot of discussion at the campsite on this leg of the Kirkfell Day 1 course. For competitors not on the Kirk fell course, which route choice would you have taken, High or low?


And a small story to finish:
A competitor handed an Iphone in on the Sunday and there was just enough charge on the phone to read the message of a name and Braithwaite. When I got home I checked the entries and there was no person running under the name so I checked Braithwaite and once again no runner with that name. I then searched the telephone directory but no person by that name lived in Braithwaite. Scratching my head at this point and whilst driving to Keswick realised it may be the name of a house, so a postcode name search was completed and lo and behold the house was in Braithwaite. When I returned the phone the young lady was very surprised and over the moon. She had lost the phone a month earlier on Starling Dodd and was amazed to get it back in working order. Thank you to the competitor who handed it in.

Alan Irving

2017 Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon