Spine Challenger Recce – Day 0

Wednesday the 30th November finds Jim and I travelling down the country from Newcastle to Edale, ready to begin a full recce of the Spine Challenger course. For those of you not in the know; Jim is my girlfriend’s father, and a well known marshall on the Montane Spine series, and the Montane Spine series is a pair of races which run North up the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District. The Spine Race covers the entire length of the Pennine Way (268 miles), whereas the shorter Spine Challenger “only” goes to Hawes (108 miles).

Jim, as always, seems thoroughly prepared and in control – I’m very lucky really. He’s sorted the accommodation, the meeting points on the route for support, the transport, and well, pretty much everything really. If you’re reading this Jim – thank you!

A fairly eventless journey down the A19, A1, and a variety of Peak District country roads deposited us in the car park of the Rambler’s Inn in Edale, where we’ve fed and watered ready for the morrow, and the start of the Recce (Glorious sunsets on the way through the Peak by the way). Plus, I can recommend the Robinson’s Trooper Stout – very tasty if you like your porters…

And now for the nerdy boring bit; we plan to cover the entire course, from Edale to Hawes, in three days. The first day will be from Edale to just shy of the M62 (32 miles), followed by kipping in the Carriage House. Day two will continue from the day one end point, up to Thornton in Craven (34 miles), and resting at the Stone Trough Inn. The final day will be from Thornton all the way to Hawes, tackling the (apparently) toughest section of navigation through Gargrave, and dealing with Malham and Pen-y-Ghent (41 miles).

So that’s all for now; I’ll leave you with some pictures of the sunset we saw, and see you on the other side.


Stanley Ghyll and Birker Force

With the OMM 2016 just round the corner, I’ve been trying to get out and about a little more to get some miles in my legs. The first run of much interest for a while took place this weekend when we went over to Eskdale to celebrate my brother and my birthdays (our birthdays are just 16 days apart).


The original plan was to get up early and head up via Eel Tarn and Burnmoor Tarn to hit Scafell Pike, and descend back down via Scafell, Slightside and the Great Moss. I’d anticipated about 3 to 3 and a half hours for this round, which would have worked out quite nicely if I’d woken up early. But as Saturdays often work out, we ended up sleeping a little longer than expected, and by the time we were up, fed and watered the 4ish hours it would take for the run and subsequent cool down/shower would put me way out of sync with everyone else.


Not wanting to pass up my opportunity to run in one of my favourite Lakeland valleys, I had a quick peruse of the map for a shorter route which would provide a bit of ascent and excellent views. I settled on a classic round (for us), joining the riverside path as quickly as possible from Christcliff, running down (West) to Stanley Ghyll, up Stanley Ghyll, East across the tops above Birker Force, back down to Low Birker, and back along the river.

I won’t blather on about the views, which were exceptional as always. I will be just a little nerdy, now having a running watch, and say that I was out for 56 minutes, with an average pace of 6min30/km. So now, I’ll leave you all with a few photos of my run. Enjoy!

Oh, and see you at the OMM…


Lumley Fee Bunkhouse

A couple of weekends ago, we stayed at Lumley Fee Bunkhouse, just outside of Kendal, with a group of friends for a weekend of walks, drinks, catching up and good food. It was fabulous! We can’t recommend the bunkhouse enough, it was simply stunning!

Wainwrights Challenge – (almost) The Dodds

On our continuing mission to seek out new hills, far from civilization, the next target was The Dodds – the fells making up the northern end of the Helvellyn range. Fortunately we know people who live in Threlkeld, which removed difficult parking issues, and provided us with a BBQ to come back to in the evening.
Setting out a little later than planned, we crossed the A66 with ease (not something you hear every day), and started the climb towards Threlkeld Knotts. If you haven’t explored this area I’d really recommend it. Although part of its appeal is that it’s much quieter than many of the surrounding areas, so don’t all rush at once…
Threlkeld Knotts is a hidden gem. Much like my other favourite Lakeland fells, it’s not the biggest, but offers excellent views just off the beaten track. It also provides an interesting route up Clough Head, passing a couple of disused quarries. The higher, smaller quarry contained a couple of locals pissing about on dirt bikes which looked like a cracking way to spend a sunny Saturday morning. From then on we saw no one until the final traverse onto the southern flank of Clough Head.
Neither of us have previously explored these fells, which is where a large amount of the appeal of The Wainwrights lies. Clough Head provides unparalleled vistas across to the Northern Fells, with bonus views of the Eden Valley and the Pennines. What’s not to love? We also bumped into a group reccying the Bob Graham round – good luck to them for their attempt at the end of the month.
The joy of the Dodds is that once you’re up, the hard work is pretty much done. There’s a bit of a sting getting onto Great Dodd, but really it’s comfortable yomping the whole way along. The problem is that it’s totally exposed, with Lucy being blown all over the place on the summit of Great Dodd.
Watson’s Dodd is, by comparison, nice and gentle – an extended plateau protruding between Great and Stybarrow Dodd. Unfortunately due to the BBQ in the evening we had to turn around. Skirting around Great Dodd, we dropped onto Mosedale Beck to join the Old Coach Road back to Threlkeld. At Mariel Bridge we were treated to a parade of green-laning Landrover Series who kindly offered us a lift to Dockray. It’s a shame that was the wrong direction as it looked awesome.
It looked like there was a quick cut from the Coach Road back to the track to Threlkeld. It doesn’t exist. We took a bearing which should have dropped us right on to the cut, but found nothing. Before accusations of crappy navigation are thrown around, my nav is not that bad, and Chris backed me up when we got home; obviously he’s had the same idea in the past, with the same result.
Finally we were tramping back up past the little church in Threlkeld to enjoy a well deserved BBQ. Nipping back into Kewick we availed ourselves of the excellent beer selection in Booths, and rounded the day off with a tasty 7.5% bottle of Halcyon.

Wainwrights Challenge – Little Mell Fell

We have given ourselves the challenge of bagging all of the Wainwrights within a year. We’ve already been up a few, bu decided to start from the beginning and do it properly.

We started on our 3 year anniversary and ticked our first one off: Little Mell Fell. Straight from work, we headed over the A69 and took the Alston road, over the top. It was a lovely evening, we were so lucky.

We turned off the A66 on the way to Keswick, and headed to the Lowthwaite where we parked up just opposite the footpath onto the flanks of Little Mell Fell. Following this up until it started to contour and then drop, we turned off the path up the gentle(ish) hill to reach the trig point.

Standing at a mere 505 meters, Little Mell Fell isn’t large by Lake District standards, but holds a situation shared only by its larger sibling Great Mell Fell – way out on its own, completely separate from any of the nearby large ranges. This isolation means that even with its diminutive stature, the views from the top are just awesome! Ullswater, the Helvellyn Range, Blencathra, the Solway Firth, and the Northern Pennines surround you with views even Scafell Pike would be proud of.

Reaching the top, we took in the views and got the stove out to start boiling the water for our boil-in-the-bag Extreme Food. Tucking into our meals, we watched the clouds begin to boil dramatically over the far eastern fells. By the time we had finished the temperature had begun to drop, plus it was passed 9.30. Time to head back down from our idyllic eyrie and towards home.

Little Mell Fell is surely a hidden gem within the National Park. Everyone drives by it; if you’ve been to Keswick you’ll have seen it sitting there in isolation, nestled behind its larger sibling. It is however, well worth a visit, giving vistas far in excess of the moderate climb required to reach its summit. But enough for now, it’s time to let the pictures do the real talking…

New Fell, New Shoes

Historical Note: This should have been published about three weeks ago (prior to the OMM Lite), but due to my PhD and generally feeling a bit all over the place, it never was. Either way, this is my account of a new fell, new shoes, and a few lovely photos from upper Eskdale.


Firstly, I’m sorry for the large gap since the last post. It turned out that after my Byrness – Windy Gyle – Alwinton I had picked up a foot injury which was then exacerbated on the Pooley Bridge Daffodil Run (an excellent run by the way). I was also shifting much more slowly than I would have expected on the Daffodil Run, and the following weekend at Thrunton I failed to even complete a 5km bimble. Breaking point had been reached, and as hard as it was, I had to accept that the only option was to stop.

Until last weekend.

I have family friends who live just above Boot in Eskdale, one of my favourite spots to start from for fell running. With Scafell to the North, Hardknott to the East and Harter Fell to the South, as well as all the associated fell sides and ridges, what more could you ask for?

The answer to that question is a fresh pair of Salomon Fellraisers. After chatting to Lucy, Jim, Kip, and a few more people I can’t list off the top of my head, we’d come to the conclusion that my old Fellraisers had finally bit the dust. A moment of silence please for our fallen friends. I’m glad to say though, that the new pair were just as comfortable as the last (after replacing the footbeds with Inov8 footbeds; sort it out Salomon) and we were soon under way.


My planned run was an extension of a loop from almost exactly a year before – up past Eel and Stony Tarns, only this time instead of turning round to head down past Hare Crag, I continued up to the summit of Slight Side.


I’m ashamed to say that this was the first time I’d been up Slight Side, and all I can really say about it is that it was worth every step of the way. At 700-odd meters, it’s no snip of a hill, although it is somewhat dwarfed by its neighbours of Scafell and Scafell Pike. The weather was perfect, after a bit of warming up my running was thoroughly enjoyable, and the views were to die for; I think I’ll let the photos do the real talking.


All too soon it was time to leave my panoramic eerie, and I decided to descend this time via Burnmoor Tarn. The plan was to head down Broad Tongue and drop directly onto the top end of Burnmoor, but as often happens with my running I got overexcited and ended up contouring around the precipitous sides of Oliver Gill. This added some undesired time to my excursion, but I then had the pleasure of passing a shepherd out at work, and boy can they move! As I arrived at the shore of Burnmoor I turned back, expecting to see the shepherd still making his way along the hillside. Not a chance, he was over the brow of the hill behind and moving fast.


After a quick jog, and a final consultation of the map, I crossed over Whillan Beck and enjoyed an unexpectedly fast track back down to Eel Tarn and finally Christcliff. From the gate to the top of Slight Side and back to the gate again had taken almost exactly two hours, and I sauntered back up to our friends’ house for lunch feeling better than I had done for weeks.

Interestingly, since having been out on my run, my research seems to have picked up again. Coincidence, or simply wilderness therapy providing a clear head? I’m inclined towards the latter, so the main thing I’ve learnt from the past month or so is – not running is bad for me. Oh, and new shoes make a hell of a difference!

Post by Johan