Lakeland 3000 : The Full Monte

The actuality

Keswick – Skiddaw -Keswick

Skiddaw

Skiddaw summit

The Start: Keswick Moot Hall

We started a little early keen to get off and the weather was just fantastic. We made very good time on this first section, 2hrs ahead of schedule which we maintained almost until the end. That buffer was to prove a real lifesaver both mentally and literally.

Skiddaw has a reputation of being a bit boring, often referred to as Skidbore by many. I can’t agree, get up early and avoid the crowds and the place can be quite inspiring. The views from the top on a clear day can be fantastic. They were when we got there, brilliant blue skies and uninterrupted views of the Solway Firth and Scotland beyond to the north and similarly south to the Scafell Pikes, which is where we were headed next.

Coming down, back towards Keswick we began to meet other folk on their way up. One commented that we must have been up early, we told him why. With his well wishes still in our ears we continued down at a pace and remarked that was likely to be the only time we’d appear to be early as from now on we’d be seen to be walking into the latter part of the day.

Keswick – Seathwaite

Scafell Pikes

Scafell Pike

The route through Keswick down to Seathwaite follows the Borrowdale valley through the heart of the Lakes. It’s one of the most beautiful areas of the area with the road winding along the eastern edge of Derwent Water. It’s just over 8 miles down to the farm at Seathwaite where we were planning to meet Tim and walking for the most part in the shade amongst the trees was pleasant enough. The traffic was not as busy as we’d expected and we only had one or two near miss incidents, with white vans mainly and where we had to walk on the road rather than the path. We got to the rendezvous point nearly three hours (2hrs 40min) ahead of schedule at 11:20.

Seathwaite – Scafell Pike

The pull up the corridor route was always going to be equally taxing as it was the last time we were here two weeks ago. It was maybe not quite as hot but very dry and we’d already done 18 miles by the time we left Tim and Jan at the farm. The path is an unremitting if steady pull all the way, about 6 miles passing Styhead Tarn about half way. You can’t actually see Scafell from this route, it only come into view once you reach Lingmell Col. From the col the path ascends towards Scafell Pike before it’s safe to traverse across to Mickeldore. We went too high and gained maybe 100m or so unnecessarily, expensive.

Scafell Pike & Scafell

Scafell

Mickeldore and Scafell

The route between Scafell Pike and Scafell can go three ways, Broad Stand, Lord’s Rake and Fox’s Tarn. According to Wainright Broad Stand is impassable for walkers and while that’s not true really it is a good scramble, a DIFF at least and is notorious for there are several fatal accidents on it every year. We had reconoitered the Fox’s Tarn route two weeks previously so although we were ever so slightly tempted, remembering the height loss and the awful scree, to try an alternative but we stuck to the plan.

Fox's Tarn Gully

Fox’s Tarn Gully

The decent on the southern side of Mickeldore is horrible lose and steep scree and more to the point it’s over 200m down to the start of Fox’s Tarn Gully. On the way down you know all this has to be regained on the way back to Scafell Pike. The gully to day was almost bone dry, a huge contrast even to two weeks ago and even more so when Tim and I had done it just a few weeks before that. Then it was like climbing up a small waterfall.

Once the actual tarn is reached, literally a small pool with a big boulder in it, the path ascends steeply up scree in a long leftward curve to the summit which is marked by a rather inconspicuous pile of stones. Just time for a short halt, some food and photos and to admire the views to the whole of the Cumbrian coast, which were spectacular. Then off back down the scree, gully and up the other side of Mickeldore to Scafell Pike proper. We arrive at the top of England at 16:20, stillover two hours ahead of the planned schedule despite the longer stop at Seathwaite and the brief halt on Scafell.

Scafell Pike – Angle Tarn

Skiddaw

Looking north to Skiddaw

The scree slopes have been hard work and we stop for another refuel and more photos. The look back towards Skiddaw shows just how far we have come. Then realising while we have done 3 of the 4 summits we are less than half distance and there’s a long way to go.

There’s an air of determination now more than ever, this has become a test.

The route now drops away from Scafell Pike and up again towards Broad Crag and again down and up to the shoulder below Great End. From here down all the way to Angle Tarn via Esk Hause its longer and more tiring than we remember. Angle Tarn at 17:35, and we’re still two hours ahead, that means the planned times are about right.

Angle Tarn – High Raise

I’ve only done the route between Angle Tarn and High Raise once, earlier on this year when the ground was frozen solid. The path from the outfall of the Tarn starts off distinct enough but disappears on several occasions in tracts of bog. Luckily the ground is so dry that these don’t cause us any problems. We pass a couple who have come up from Langdale who indicate the way they came suggesting the way down was easy. We have to disappoint them slightly and say we’re off the other direction towards Helvellyn. “.are you sure? .. rather you than me.“. We cross the Cumbrian way at Stake Pass where there is a distinct path marked on the map, the isn’t one on the ground and we take a wandering line to the crest of the broad ridge that leads to High Raise. It is a slog up steep seemingly never ending boggy peat. There’s one point of light relief, we see a big stag standing less than 150m away but there’s no time for the camera, he’s seen us and is off and gone before I even attempt to make a move. Just time for another photo at the trig point on High Raise. It’s not an official peak in the list but it feels that way.

High Raise

High Raise – Wythburn Church

Wythburn Church

Wyhthburn Church & midge shelter

Now this is new territory, neither of us has been here before and the path, again well marked on the map is nowhere to be seen. Taking some chance that the dry conditions will mean that if we get off line a little the bog will not swallow us up we make a bee line for the edge of the burn where we know the path should be. The bog wasn’t completely dry and by the time we’d gone a mile or so neither were we. The path wanders down the alongside of the burn for most of it’s length. Cccasionally distinct but narrow at other times nowhere to be seen and even in these dry conditions calf deep bog. The light is becoming quite poor even though it’s only eight o’clock or so. The gathering clouds have already indicated that there is wet weather to come with the odd shower. It’s over 4 miles from High Raise to the church and it does feel every inch that. The beauty of this little valley lost to us for the most part in the concentration of the task in hand.

The halt at the church was a life saver the midges obviously cousins of those on Skye. The shelter gave us time to refuel, test the head torches and gather ourselves for the last summit, Helvellyn.

Helvellyn

The pull up to Helvellyn is steep and I was suffering, badly. Contrasting this climb with the last time I was here when, in balmy sunshine and the odd light cloud, I had fantastic views over Thirlmere. Now it was definitely dusk, indeed dark, head torches brought into use well before we got to the summit and it was beginning to rain. The wind was getting up too, this was not fun. Sheer determination and an unwillingness to fail for the both of us, got me up.

The gradient eases a little as we reach the shoulder below Nethermost Pike and we make better progress, backs to the wind and driving rain. Some thoughts of should we go back and get down off the hill before the weather gets worse? cross my mind. It seemed to me the best way down from here would indeed be to go on. Amazingly as we near the summit shelter we see lights coming towards us, three people, barely audible grunts of recognition exchanged between us as we pass. This is no place to stop for even the briefest of pleasantries.

Helvellyn shelter

Helvellyn shelter

Then the summit shelter, as the wind is driving the rain horizontally, the shelter actually works and we’re able to sit out of the wind and eat, check the GPS, and try to grab a photo. This is the last summit after all. The GPS is a real life saver in all aspects of the word. The weather has closed in even more it’s now raining harder and it’s foggy we can’t see a thing. The light from our head torches bounces straight back in our faces, it’s as good as a white-out.

GPS, route, waypoint H5, bearing, and now we walk scanning the path ahead and the edge 2m to the right of us above the 1000ft drop into Brown Cove with the new head torch.

I have never been quite so glad to see a made up path, nor so glad to have been so prepared that I had the route and way points programmed into the GPS. Not smug just relieved and thankful. It may be technology Jim but got us off the mountain.

Swirls Car Park – Keswick

The Finish: Keswick Moot Hall

Finish Keswick Moot Hall 03:24

The path down to The Swirls car park is just long and steep and slippery. By the time we get to the bottom we’re absolutely shattered, thoughts of hitching a lift more than cross our minds. There’s about 8 miles of road to do before Keswick and the hotel but the rain has eased off and with a few mouthfuls of food and water we’re off again. A little too fast at first, anxious to get back, so we slow to a more manageable pace knowing we’ll make it, just a couple of hours or so to go.

The road is undulating and there’s a steep uphill section just before the lights of Keswick appear, now it’s down hill all the way. We miss a turning into town and add another half mile or so. Almost too tired to care about a photo at the finish we hesitate but make the effort for that last shot of me in front of the Moot Hall, where we started 21 hours 35 mins and some 47 miles ago.

 

Sunrise 4.36

Sunset 21.49

 

Six AM Start

 

Actual time

Location

Light

Leg Distance

Leg Time

 

Notes

Fri 12/06/2009

Keswick Moot Hall

daylight

0

0

06:00:00

Start

05:45

Skiddaw

 

5.25

2.5

08:30:00

steep uphill

07:30

Keswick

 

5.7

2.5

11:00:00

down hill

09:00

Borrowdale

 

 

11:00:00

road

Seathwaite

 

8.33

3

14:00:00

road

11:20

Halt

 

 

0.3

14:18:00

20 min stop

Scafell Pike

 

3.68

2

16:18:00

long uphill

Scafell

 

1.13

1.2

17:30:00

vertical

15:20

Scafell Pike

 

1.13

1

18:30:00

vertical

16:20

Broad Crag

 

0.5

0.3

18:48:00

uphill

Esk Hause

 

1.23

0.5

19:18:00

downhill

Angle Tarn

 

0.75

0.3

19:36:00

down hill

17:35

Stake Pass

dusk

1.5

0.75

20:21:00

flat

High Raise

dusk

1.6

1

21:21:00

steep uphill

19:15

Wythburn Church

dark

4.3

2.15

23:30:00

long down hill boggy

21:15

Halt

dark

 

0.3

23:48:00

20min stop

30 min

Helvellyn

dark

2.3

1.2

01:00:00

steep uphill

The Swirls Car Park

dark

2.5

1.2

02:12:00

down hill

Keswick Moot Hall

dawn

8

3.5

05:42:00

road

47.89

23.7

 

finished

03:20


View The Real Lakeland3000 in a larger map

Life Saver:1

Wythburn Church

The halt at Wythburn Church was really welcome. The slog over High Raise and down Wythburn had taken it out of us. A chance to sit and think, to eat, refuel for the task ahead. There’s a seat in the churchyard, we sat a while, not long, the midgies arrived insatiable in their need for human blood (or whatever it is they eat). We could not stay there and yet we needed the rest so going on was NOT an option. We tried the church door in hope but anticipated it beeing locked. It was OPEN! and we hurried in away from the swarm. That sheltered rest was literally a life saver.

Life saver:2

HeadTorch

The head torch I bought recently, a LED/LENSER H7, £46+ which I thought at the time was a bloody hell of an ammount to pay for a torch. It wasn’t, buy one. If you pardon the pun it’s bloody brilliant! worth every penny.

Life saver:3

Life Saver

If you have read any of this blog you will have seen the Maps and GPS tracks I’ve plotted from all the walks and runs I have done. For the 3000 I had pre programmed the GPS unit , a Garmin etrex Venture HC, with a number of short sections of the walk as routes and waypoints. I hadn’t plotted all the route but just one or two key sections where I was either unfamiliar with it or where I anticipated that the darkness or bad weather may require us to really navigate.

I plotted the bearing off the top of Helvellyn, that got us off in the whiteout, this was a real lifesaver.

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