You may have seen my previous post (here) where I did about 2/3rds of the route over 3 days. All walking with a 1:50 OS map.
This recce was organised by Open Adventure, the race organisers.
Caldbeck is the start of the race which is in a village. You get given last year’s map which is 1:50 OS with the route clearly marked. The recce event split naturally into 3 paces with me being at the back of the middle pace. Each group had an experienced race person who gave some great tips on best route options.
So the recce.
I knew the climbs would be tough. They were.
But it was the constant bogginess of the terrain that I wasn’t prepared for. I knew it would be boggy but I didn’t comprehend for how long or to what extent. This shows my lack of experience. To make matters worse, I forgot my gaitors which would have really helped keep out the moor debris. I collected a lot of debris!
I’m jumping ahead here.
From the start, it’s a nice easy road up for about 2 miles. As long as you pay attention to the map, you can clearly see which track to take towards the fells. I assume you will always have a runner in sight for this part but I have no intention on relying on what those in front of me do. I learnt the hard way on my 1st 50 miler that this does not end well.
Once you’re on the open land it all get very wet and it appears to be a constant slow climb for miles – which is pretty much is. You have to climb up High Pike then eventually drop back down to the river. Crossing this was really scary for me. It was only up to my calf but the force of the current meant I was not steady on my feet. I had to cling onto rocks in the water to steady me. I will be using my poles across the river in the race.
Once you survive the potential drowning (OK, I’m dramatic), you climb up towards Blencathra. I strongly advise you to have some compass/map knowledge here if the weather is bad. We opted to climb up Blencathra even though you can avoid this climb and go around the bottom. On a clear day I will take the bottom route, on a poor day, I will opt for the high route, just so I have the Blencathra path to follow.
Now the drop down Blencathra is via Halls Fell. I genuinely had no idea what this was like and once I saw what I needed to do, I freaked. It’s basically a scramble down a ridge and how you get down it is up to you. From what I learnt, it’s best to stay on the ridge rather than to try and drop down to what appears to be a easier route to follow. Appearances can be deceptive.
Now if the weather is really bad I have no idea if I will attempt this scramble down or go for the alternative (but not preferred) route via Blease Fell. This route is a nice, easy to follow path but it is longer. And if I’m being honest with myself, I think you should attempt to stick with the Halls Fell route to remain true to the race route. I’ll aim to stick with Halls Fell even though I am very apprehensive about it.
Once you’ve survived the scramble, remember to tell yourself that you have completed a good section of the worst bit. I know I will repeat this constantly.
It’s a nice jog down to Threkeld village for the 1st Aid point.
What happens between here and Helvellyn, I have no idea. This is the only part of the route I haven’t had a chance to recce. I have looked on OS 3D maps – a lot.
So how do I feel after this recce?
For a few days after, traumatised. It was following this recce that I revised my time goal from 16 hours to getting under 21 hours. Getting under 21 hours will be more realistic but I’m still not sure if I can manage that.
To put things into perspective I did Gower 50 in just over 13 hours, Race to the King (54 miles) in 12 hours. The maximum elevation gain being just under 6000 feet. The lakes race is 12,000 feet! I did a 35 miler (below photo) with 6000 feet in 8.5 hours the other week over similar but not as harsh terrain. Leg one is the toughest.
Basically my aim is not to die.