Tuesday, 27 July 2010

24th July 2010 - It's Just One Of Those Days When You Know That Something Is Going To Happen.....

Much, much more to follow in due course, including a full write-up and photos.

But, for now, all I want and need to say is;


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

w/e 18/7/10 - So how can anybody say, They know how I feel, When they are they, And only I am I.

All these months of training, of heading out onto the Lakes fells to get the route in my head, of heading over to Stoodley and plodding up and down to get the ascent in my legs….all now concentrated into the last mad few days of packing and prepping and resting and worrying and trying to clear the fog that surrounds my brain and gain the clarity of mind needed to get round on Saturday.

Just wrote a big, long blog about all sorts of stuff that’s filling my head….and then deleted it! Suffice to say the head’s not been focused on the BG at all, but has been swimming with an array of issues which convince me more and more that I want, no NEED, to find a different way forward, a more peaceful, profitable (not in the monetary sense) and harmonious way of existing in this modern world, which is so at odds with the way I feel and think. It can be done! The good news is that I have the will and desire to do it, I share that hope and ambition with another wonderful human being and, over the course of the last few months, we’ve come across others with a similar viewpoint.

This world is full of so many wonderful and amazing things, and we must, as a race, allow ourselves to connect more with nature and re-discover our roots. Re-discover what it truly important in life. Remember that everything that nature has given us should be valued and treasured and not treated as a commodity, for the purpose of making monetary profits.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that my head has been distracted. It means I haven’t spent nights awake worrying about the BG! I’m not having nightmares about Yewbarrow, I don’t see a great impenetrable barrier in my dreams, which turns out to be Great Gable!

Hopefully, as we head off to the Lakes tomorrow, I can start to focus my mind and get myself mentally prepared for what will be a tough day, I know that. The weather forecast is looking good after weeks of awful weather….but of course we all know you can’t rely on forecasts! It will be what it will be. The main thing is that the strong winds of the last few weeks are forecast to die out by Friday, and conditions look calm. That will make a huge difference.

Kirsten’s doing an amazing job of pulling all of my support together and packaging everything up into boxes. I almost feel on the periphery of it all! Fancy doing the BG for me as well Kirsten?

I’ve got great support, some of the very best in the business, people I trust and respect – what more could I ask for? I’ve just got to deliver on the day. I’ve rested up a lot these last 3 weeks, conscious of the fact that my body felt like it was falling apart and I had to, in particular, rest the sore foot and let the Achilles settle as much as possible. The foot’s had its rest – I have a feeling it’ll never be the same again after Saturday! And the Achilles – well I’ve done all I can. It’s a problem that isn’t going away, I think from now on I just have to manage it. Saturday will, I’m sure, leave it in a right mess and I’ll be wearing sandals or plimsolls for a month….it’s the price you pay if you really want it I guess!

Hopefully Saturday will be a great day out, a successful and happy one, and a culmination of three years of building up to this moment. Whatever happens, the fells will still be there, I’ll still love being out in them, the future will still be exciting and daunting in equal measure, and I’ll still have that wonderful support and love by my side.

Roll on Friday evening………………..

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

w/e 11/7 – The Storm Will Come and The Rains Will Fall…And Remove Their Hopes and Dreams Once Again to the Waters That Surround Them…..

Mountains are inherently dangerous and unpredictable places. The language used in modern-day outdoors speak is so inappropriate. The common term used is that someone has “conquered” a mountain. Never! A person is allowed to reach the summit and get back down again safely, having relished the experience and having been granted a safe passage in that instance. On another day, in different circumstances, that same person can be caught out by winds, cloud, storms, darkness…and fall victim to it.

We do well to remember at all times that we are but small, insignificant beings in this powerful universe.

The settled good weather this spring and early summer has lulled us into a false sense of security I suspect. Long sunny days, clear conditions, dry grippy rocks. The percentage success rate for the BG must have soared.

And so to July, and a definite change in the prevailing conditions. The rain, so noticeable by its absence over the last three months, has returned with a vengeance, and the winds have suddenly appeared. They were a feature of the previous 2 winters, and I remember several days battling into gale force winds on the high fells last spring.

Is this a longer-term change for the summer? We’ll have to see, but it shows no sign of abating yet. Perhaps I will regret not going on 19th June as I originally planned….it was a perfect day! (not that I do “regrets”!).

Certainly Andy Kitts didn’t have the weather on his side last weekend. The rain had started by the time he set off from the Moot Hall at 7pm ,although there was no sign of the winds to come.

He had a good leg 1, ably navigated by Bob Wightman on good lines. He came down to Threlkeld on schedule and feeling good.

Six of us set off on Leg 2, as the darkness descended and the rain increased in intensity. Progress up Clough Head was ok, and we found the trod in the darkness. But once we got to the summit, the wind started to hit us.

The climb out to Great Dodd went ok as well, and we found the summit with relative ease despite the gloom. Somehow though, after taking a correct bearing off the summit, then waiting for the other 4 to catch us, we headed off track. Having downloaded the garmin, I can now see we were on a perfect line for Watsons Dodd…and then headed off right from some reason L We had to “relocate” several times…including passing straight over the path without recognizing it. The conditions were awful…wet, windy and low visibility, but I still shouldn’t have got that wrong.

In the end, we realized we’d dropped too low to the right, plotted where we were and took a line pretty directly back up and to the summit…having lost 20 minutes.

From there though, the navigation was back on track, taking surer but slightly longer options a couple of times. But the weather was getting tough. The wind and rain was straight into our faces, the visibility was dreadful. Andy and I touched the top of Helvellyn, but the other 4 had disappeared somewhere behind us. Usually, the rule would be keep going and let them fend for themselves. But in conditions like these, it was out of the question. Safety was paramount. So we headed to the relative calm of the shelter and waited for several minutes for their headtorches to appear.

From there, Nethermost’s cairn proved most elusive even though we were stood right by it, the wind threatened to knock us off Dollywagon, then I almost ran us straight off the edge J before we made a good descent down by the fence post and around to the hause.

Going up Fairfield, the wind really kicked in. Progress was slow, being knocked off our stride regularly. The rain was more like being in a car wash. Time was slipping away and the new day was beginning to dawn as we arrived at the top. Andy was still going well though, in the circumstances. If the weather would just improve, he was going strongly enough to make up the time and still complete.

He climbed superbly up Seat Sandal, we took a reasonable line off there in the clag and down to the reeds, before dropping steeply down to Dunmail and the waiting cars, some 55 minutes over schedule.

I’ll be honest, I’d already spoken to Andy on the way up Seat Sandal and suggested it may be wise to call it a day and come back in a couple of weeks. Not because he was lacking in any way, far from it. I have so much respect for how he kept grinding out the miles, his spirits remaining high despite the weather.

But, down at Dunmail, the leg 3 crew were ready and waiting and he was driven on! We stood in the torrential rain, eating bacon and sausage sarnies (thanks Stef, Kirsten and Dave!), before Kirsten got me into the car and drove us back to the tent, me shivering with cold. I got the wet clothes off and climbed into my sleeping bag…and promptly slept until 10am!

The weather didn’t relent. Andy battled on bravely until the decision was made at Great End to head down and call it a day. A wise decision I think. That’s a great training run, and I’m pleased he’s decided to do it all again in a few weeks time. He deserves that chance, he will do it given decent conditions.

Me? I’m praying to the weather gods and keeping everything crossed that the conditions are going to turn better by a week on Saturday!

TOTAL for the week – 15mls & 6,000ft

Monday, 5 July 2010

w/e 4/7 - Don't Doubt The Fact There's Life Within You, Yesterday's Endings Will Tomorrow Life Give You

And so, finally, the training can start to wind down, the legs can start to recover and gain strength, and the long journey nears its end. The next few weeks are about rest, recuperation and building myself up mentally to have what it takes on the day.

I do feel confident this time. Yes, of course, the doubts surface from time to time. But they're quickly dispelled by a look at the schedule and a sure knowledge that those times are achievable...and I know that because I've spent plenty of time out on those fells this year, training and supporting other people's BGs. This time last year, I felt daunted by it all. Now, I have an excited anticipation and can't wait.

This week provided some good training, but also a reminder that the weather's not usually as kind as it has been these last two months when you're on the high fells. A timely reminder perhaps. I might as well get used to the fact that I could have a rotten, wet and windy day....but I just have to keep going.

After last week's long training weekend, I took a few days off to recover, although I didn't really feel like I needed them. But on Thursday, I was on the road again, heading to the Lakes to stay a couple of days with my sister.

I parked up at Threlkeld at 2pm-ish in sunshine and showers, but having driven through some very wet weather. The climb up Clough Head felt sluggish, the wind was picking up, I didn't feel at my best, But, as a measure of how my fitness has improved, I was on top in 46 minutes, so I was actually moving fine.

My plan for the day thereafter was to take it quite easy, make sure of my navigation for BG support on the 10th, and see what the split times were like. The clag was right down once I got to Great Dodd (4 minutes under schedule, despite only trotting and then walking slowly uphill) and the rain was starting in earnest. The wind was blasting straight into my face and I was wondering whether to drop down Sticks Pass. But that inner voice said I couldn't and musn't. This was almost a test. "Drop out here and you might as well not bother turning up on the 24th!"

So, head down, plough on regardless, making a stupid nav error off Stybarrow Dodd which took me too low and saw me having to climb back up to the col, but still manage Raise in schedule. Thereafter I was hitting time easily, making up minutes on Helvellyn, Nethermost and Dollywagon.

The next section would be interesting. I wasn't sure about my schedule to fairfield, or, for that matter, which way to go. The drop down the zig-zags and then straight up holds some attraction. But several folks have now told me that the route from the hause is much better. Time to see whether there was enough in the schedule.

Down the fenceposts on greasy, slippy grass taking it very, very easy. Around to the hause and the start of the never-ending climb. But, as I touched the summit cairn, I was pleased to see my time was under 36 minutes, whereas I've allowed much more in my schedule. I turned around not looking forward to the descent and doubting I could make Seat Sandal in 25minutes.

In fact, again I think an indication of the amount of training I've put in and how I'm more accustomed to the terrain, the descent was over before it had begun really and I surprised myself by arriving at the hause so quickly. Up Seat Sandal at a slow-ish pace, I was on the top in 24 minutes and peering through the clag for a route down.

Now I know I should have taken my compass out here!! But, in my defence it was torrential rain, strong winds and I was getting cold. So I headed off in roughly the direction I thought I should go, wondering if I could make this descent in the allotted 25 mins.

In fact, I was heading a little too far to the right and as I got lower, I could sense and start to see this. So I had to climb back up a little and trend left to find myself at the reeds on the "nose" above the final descent. A last slippy, slidy descent through the bracken and I was down at the stile in 21 mins, despite the error.

Bless my sister, she'd agreed to pick me up at Dunmail and I was bang on time to meet her. I'm sure she was thrilled to have a soaking wet, muddy runner climb into her car :-)

Friday was a much sunnier, but still very windy, day. I'd already planned to have a lazy morning and then pop out for a couple of hours. In fact, I decided to head to Whinlatter Forest for some shameless Wainwright-bagging. I parked at the car park below Whinlatter and headed straight up the wall to Greystokes, then followed the "ridge" to Broom Fell and Lords Seat, before dropping down to Barf and a wonderful view over Bassenthwaite and across to Skiddaw.

Back up from there, along to Seat How, and then some interesting navigation to get through the trees and onto Whinlatter itself, before dropping down steeply to the north to meet a forest path and back to the car. A lovely 9.5 mile jaunt on unfamiliar fells.

And then, I headed off quickly to Wet Sledale to meet Kirsten and pitch the tent in strong winds, ready for a Saunders weekend.....a weekend to either make us closer or have us arguing ;-)

Unfortunately, K's knee is still nowhere near right and therefore our original plan to do Kirk Fell was ditched and we dropped down a class to Carrock Fell. We had a start time of 8.22 and Saturday morning saw us all packed up and raring to go on a bright and breezy morning.

With the CPs in hand, we plotted a rough route and off we went. This was also unfamiliar terrain, low-lying hills with few features. The navigation on day 1 was fine though, with good visibility. the running wasn't so good. Few paths, lots of tussocky ground and it was more of a fast walk than anything....until the final descent of the day saw us drop near enough 1000ft straight down into Longsledale. Kirsten was struggling on the downhills with her knee, but frustration got the better of her on this one and she took off at full speed, determined and brave. We passed several pairings down here, not even our Mudclaws maintaining grip, and were soon at the bottom and clocked in as 40th pair out of 98 starters....a great result considering the limitations on Kirsten's speed.

We pitched the tent right next to the stream and lazed around, drinking cider(!) and snoozing, before cooking our delicious packet tea!! Off to sleep quite early on luxurious Inov8 rucksac mats(!) to awake to the sound of strong winds and rain. Day 2 was going to be very different!!

We packed up in a dry interlude and set off at 8.15-ish. The first CP was straight up the other side of the valley. A 1000ft steep climb, on tired legs which hadn't had a warm-up....tough!! We found CP1 and then headed up to cross Kentmere Pike on our way to CP2. As we hit the ridge, the weather really hit! Low cloud, gales and driving rain.....lovely!

We headed over Kentmere Pike, bagging a new Wainwright in the process ("touch and go Kirsten" ;-) ) and dropped down to CP2. CP2 to CP3 was an interesting one, involving a rough, steep descent before a climb up the other side of the valley. Unfortunately, for the only time all day, I switched off navigationally here for a moment and we ended up following another pair climbing too high and to the right. The saving grace was a fence which allowed us to place ourselves and "re-locate" to find a good line to CP3.

Thereafter, the ground was fairly featureless and, looking at the split times, some people made some huge navigation errors between here and the end. I'm pleased to say we didn't! And, rather than following the crowd (as a lot of people were doing), we stuck to our guns and took our own lines, mostly making up time, only once dropping a few seconds.

Kirsten was really struggling on her knee by now, doing a remarkable impression of Quasimodo with her running style ;-) and I'm so proud of her for digging deep ;-) and keeping going at the best pace she could. We touched the cairn on Langhow Pike, took a good line directly east to the next CP and then made the final small climb to the wall corner and the last CP. The run in should have been fast and light....but Kirsten only had one leg working now(!) and her face was rather pale with the pain as she hobbled along. But she made it. we clocked in and had actually finished 35th on the day, for an overall position of 38th. A superb result for her first mountain marathon and being in such a physical state. Well done lass!! You never cease to amaze and impress me. Time to get the knee sorted now in preparation for the Ben.

Oh, and we never argued. We were both quite happy with the navigation and worked well as a team....and I think Kirsten very much appreciated my motivational chat to get her through the pain on Day 2!!! :-))) Why do I have a feeling she'll be getting her own back in a couple of weeks?!?!

A great weekend, a fantastic week, a superb spring of training....all heading towards the one goal. Whatever happens, I've loved the journey, loved being out, doing things that make me really happy. Whatever else life throws at me, whatever problems occur, however other people want to act, I will always continue to be myself and do what I love best....being out on the fells puts it all into perspective and enhances and reaffirms the belief that THAT is where life is really lived, where the senses are enriched and the mind is calmed. Life at its essence.

TOTAL for the week - 48mls & 13,000ft