Phew What a Scorcher!

July 6th, 2011 by Simon C

At last, a weekend of warm dry weather, perfect for climbing or a nice walk in the hills. So of course we were doing the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, 2 days of running up and down hills carrying camping gear. This year we started at Chapel Stile in Langdale, and headed for an overnight camp at Steel End Farm near Thirlmere. YAC was represented by Carmen and me doing the Bowfell (all the courses are named after hills); Alan and Peter doing Carrock Fell; and Graeme and non-YAC Will on Kirkfell.

This year's courses were tougher than usual, so everyone suffered. Ours went northwards over the hill and into Easedale, before heading north west into Langstrath. Here we had the first major route choice of the weekend – contour round Langstrath or go down to the valley bottom and up the other side. We opted for the latter, with hindsight (and a view of the planner's recommend routed) we should have gone for the former, but I don't think we lost more than about 10 minutes on a 2-hour leg. A traverse of the Glaramara ridge was followed by the usual Saunders sadistic descent to the valley floor and straight up the other side, then finally a circuit of Ullscarf before a tricky steep and rocky descent to the last control and the finish – 7 hours and 44 seconds. We felt we'd done just about as well as we could given our fitness levels, and were pleased to be lying 14th out of 58. Alan and Peter arrived an hour or so later, 41st out of 104. Unfortunately Will had sprained an ankle so he and Graeme hobbled slowly home and couldn't continue on Sunday, but still managing to finish a creditable 39th on day 1 – without the injury they'd have been looking at a possible podium finish.

The next day we were expecting things to be a bit easier, Sunday usually being an hour or more shorter than Saturday. More fool us.

The route started up Dunmail Raise before heading back west via Easedale to Langstrath again, via an endless switchback of descents and reascents. A misjudged traverse (too high) round Bowfell slowed us as we picked a way through broken crags, after that exhaustion set in. A steep grassy scramble up the NW ridge of Kettle Crag (no, I hadn't heard of it either) led to another climb onto Lingmoor Fell for the sting in the tail, some orienteering-style micro-navigation to find a re-entrant in a bank of re-entrants, and a knoll in a field of knolls. We finally crawled across the finish line some 7 hours 48 minutes after starting. 22nd on the day, and 19th overall, but the most telling statistic is that there were only 29 finishers out of 58 starters! Peter and Alan appeared an hour or so later, with a final position of 48th out of 106 (61 finishers).

Another great weekend, though the hardest event I've done for a long time.

A few photos here – not many as I was too hot and bothered to take my camera out!

Our routes:
Day 1, 17 miles and 1900m ascent
Day 2, 16 miles and 2000m ascent

Full results here and more details of the SLMM here.

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