Monday, 10 November 2014

Return to the Lake District (aka She Died On The Fells) - Part 1

Having been to the Lake District in September to recce part of the Lakeland 50 route with Nici, when she asked if I'd like to go back in November I said "Ah Jesus, really? Must I?"   HAHA fuck no, I counted the weeks and then the days and then the hours!

We stayed at the Ambleside YHA this time. A train up to Oxenholme, train to Windermere, then a taxi to the hostel. First impressions - arriving there on a Friday evening - was that it wasn't as friendly or runner/hiker orientated as the Coppermines one, the bar seemed to attract a lot of people just out for a drink rather than there for outdoorsy type stuff, but it was warm, clean, just a mile and a bit from the town and so it worked well.  More runners and hikers arrived on the Saturday so it felt more like our kind of place.

After checking in to our palatial bunkroom we ran into Ambleside to stock up on some food for the weekend.  Had dinner in the bar, got our stuff ready for the morning, set the alarm for 04.45 and went to bed.

On the Saturday we were doing another recce of the Ambleside to Coniston legs of the LL50. Here's my description of that:-

Ambleside to Chapel Stile (CP12-13)

We had about a 1.5mile run to the start of the actual route going down into Rothay Park. That was far more pleasant done via headtorch than last time in daylight with lots of people around. After a slog up a bridleway and a few gates with various differing methods of opening same (which is great stuff when tired and brainfogged during a race) we were out onto the fell.  Awesome downhill running along here, we woke every bog creature around with our yells of joy.  Sunrise didn't really happen as such, it was very clouded over so eventually we just got to a point where the headtorches weren't needed anymore and put back in our vests.

Onward we went, past the Skelwith Bridge Hotel, Chesters, Elterwater and onto the path opposite the cave entrance.  We had planned to restock on water at Wainwright's Inn as we'd run out before Tilberthwaite the last time and had a bit of an ordeal getting some from a mardy farmer woman. But we got to this point far faster than on the last recce and so the pub wasn't open.  Their 'outside tap' for dogs was cleverly piped down into a bowl thing and neither of us much felt like filling up from that so we carried on.  We were both carrying an extra 500ml anyway and it was far colder and wetter so we weren't too concerned.  The Baysbrown campsite hadn't even a tent in it letalone a tap so meh to that too.

"Straight on footpath thru houses (QUIET PLEASE) and down walled path, through gate".

^^ a direction that will never be forgotten thanks to some twonks in September :p

Along here we once again resisted the lure of the Most Dangerous Swing in Britain.  Here the legend of the tale of She Died On The Fells was born.  Nici fell off the swing and had her eyeball pecked out by a crow.  Just one of several near fatal mishaps on our journey.

We took note of where CP13 would be located in a field on the right at Great Langdale Beck, and then I saw some of my favourite creatures....

Loads of them actually. I'd been quite disappointed not to see any from the train the day before, it doesn't feel properly like Cumbria till I've seen a Herdie, so I did literally jump for joy on entering this part of the course.  They have such friendly faces and they stop what they're doing to look at you - it feels rude not to greet them.  After encountering about 7 or 8 of them and waving at each I said to Nici "ooh I feel like the queen!".  Nice work if you can get it eh.

Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite 

"Continue on track and bear L to Oak Howe Farm (QUIET PLEASE). Turn R on public footpath after main barn (SP New Dungeon Gill). Continue on clear track for 1.2km to gate in wall........"

Hah!! Doesn't mention the feckin rabid bullocks we encountered in September though does it.  I was very relieved to see an empty field this time, though we did still run faster through that part.

On through boggy fields, over streams (lots of extra water up there this weekend) and over two mothers of stiles (I'd call them ladders myself).  And at that stage of a 50 mile race they're fair sadistic.

Italian Hill was next.  This was a killer in the heat before, and pretty tough going this time too, but we got up faster and knowing just how long it was made it a bit easier. Over a cattle grid at the summit of Side Pike Pass and then some smashing downhill trail to Blea Tarn. The terrain around here is lovely - downhill stony/rocky trail, narrow paths alongside a drop down to a stream, nice ankle turning territory, loads of bracken, slopes on the right, mini waterfalls, truly a great place for running.

"Very boggy ground of Bleamoss" - the poles were taken out for the first time here, and we were quite glad to have them, the ground was saturated and the bog was hungry for shoes. *She Died On The Fells. We got through ok though, did the check on the wooden gate, then had some downhill road running for a bit.  This bloody hurt but my new 212s did better than my other shoes would've done.

Soon we were on the track to the white NT cottage. This place is a crock of shit.  There's no water tap so why exactly is it even worth a mention?  Somebody died around here, I won't post the pic, it's too emotional :p but that NT b.s. needs to be removed.  Her little legs carried her far but she still DOTF :p

Uphill a bit on track, then some stony slippy downhill to Mardy Farmer Woman's place. We cocked a snoop at Her Mardiness and ran on.

Then followed a bit of country lane running to Tilberthwaite car park where CP14 will be located. The steps up out of this didn't seem half as long or as bad as we'd remembered but that made no odds to me, I knew what was coming.

Tilberthwaite to Coniston

"At triple fork, 300m from CP, take middle track uphill (SSW). DO NOT enter quarry on LH track, DO NOT take lower path down to Crook Beck. Continue up for 200m (CARE - steep unfenced quarry side to L of track) to cross small waterfall/stream bed. Continue 500m, up rocky section"  - aka the Wall of Death

We had taken lots of photos here before, looking around the quarries etc, and had decided to plough on through this time. Still all very scenic and such but as it was the lead up to the WoD my guts were already trembling.  The small waterfall was raging after all the rainfall lately, I was so shitted up nervous that I put my foot straight into it rather than stretch enough to reach a dry rock. Made no odds, my feet were soggy by then anyway, but it didn't help the nerves.  I must admit the WoD wasn't quite as horrendous second time around as I knew IT WOULD END and I wouldn't die.  Unless I slipped off the right edge into the ravine. But I got up it anyway and was able to speak afterwards, unlike the last time and Nici gave me lots of praise even though we'd misconstrued which bit exactly was the WoD :-)

Having lived through the hell of WoD and the 2 inch wide path after that, still running along beside the ravine, we started to have fun again. Clag was descending but it felt great.

The section up here (between Low Weather Crag and Yewdale Fells) is one of my favourites.  No sign of humans, animals, buildings, electricity lines, nothing - just pure open fell.  Perfection.  The stream by the tree was too deep and fast to cross so we cut across through some boggy reedy stuff, found a narrower bit and got across that way.

We stopped briefly at Scab Rock for some food (did very well on this recce, hourly refuelling and it made a hell of a difference to the last time) and to see if my sacrifice was still there. Nothing but some crow skeletons. Silly birds. *SDOTF

"with valley of Crook Beck again on R. Past small tarn on R to summit. Over summit and continue steeply down L (SSE) on rough path to reach main track"

It's funny how often it is true that words can paint a picture and yet with the Lake District they just can't paint enough. You have to be there. The atmosphere, the feeling of clean air, the rain, the space, the joy, the pain, the tiredness, the joy.  The joy.

Eurgh. I'm getting silly.  Carry on.

Ok, So we carry on over the summit and then see one of my favourite places ever, Coniston Coppermines Valley. I won't go off into one about the beauty of this place again.  Just visit it. Down down down a steep rocky track, taking in the sights and enjoying being back there again. Couldn't see Old Man Coniston, he was all clagged up :-) 

Down a steep concrete track/road, OUCH, into Coniston village and the end.  I messed up on bus times and so we found ourselves with an hour or more to spare. Had to go to the pub, godammit :-) Then we caught a bus back to Ambleside, chilled a bit and got ready for the next day's adventure.

Awesome second recce. Felt faster and stronger, we fuelled better and had more fun. Happy with that one.

(I've saved the swearing for Return to the Lake District (aka SDOTF) Part 2) 

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