The Fellsman

May 12th, 2010 by Simon C

Well here we were. 9am in Ingleton, at the start of the Fellsman. Time to see if all the intense training (ahem!) paid off. Fortunately the rain that had been forecast earlier in the week has stayed where it belonged, in the south of England, and we had dry mostly sunny weather, though with a strong cold wind.

The first steep climb up Ingleborough was a shock to the system, but we had to force ourselves not to try to keep up with everyone else – it's not the first hill that matters, but the last! This was followed by Whernside, then a descent into Kingsdale (with a slight diversion caused by a temporary stile having been placed across the wrong wall!), a painful slog up Gregareth, and a long stony descent into Dent. We'd done the first 20 miles, in almost exactly 5 hours, and I was shattered.

We allowed ourselves a few minutes at the Dent checkpoint, savouring the free oranges and sausage rolls, before forcing ourselves to leave. A long gradual ascent up Blea Moor followed, not as bad as expected, followed by a long gradual descent to Stone House, then a slightly shorter, much less gradual reascent up Great Knoutberry Hill, and finally a long relatively flat run in via Dodd Fell to the Fleet Moss checkpoint at the 38 mile mark. Our aim had been to get here before 7.30pm, the cutoff point for grouping where everyone is forced to join together in groups of at least 4 for the overnight section. Fleet Moss is a notorious bog and we didn't want to get into any heated debates about the best way across! Much to our surprise, we made the deadline with 10 minutes to spare, and were soon off again.

The next section was the one that we'd recce'd a few weeks ago, so we allowed ourselves to relax a little – bad mistake! It went well up to Middle Tongue, managing to avoid the bogs entirely (it helped that it had been fairly dry for the last few weeks) – but after that it went rather less well!

I was using the Harveys map, which showed the wall/fence we needed to follow; I knew to stick to this until a tarn, then head off in the same direction and we'd hit the Hell Gap checkpoint. Unfortunately, there was a second fence, not marked on that map (though marked on the OS 1;25K map in my rucksack!). I didn't notice the junction and we followed the wrong fence, and only realised the mistake when I saw Wharfedale spread out in front of us, rather than out of sight over the hill to our right! It cost us about an hour by the time we traversed back round (too low) and climbed back up the path to the checkpoint, where we confused the marshals by not having been grouped yet!

We got grouped at Cray, with some folk who we'd been leap-frogging all day, so our paces were roughly matched. Buckden Pike went smoothly, and even Great Whernside wasn't too bad, though between us we failed to find the optimum route. The descent from there was by what in retrospect was probable a poor route choice, heading down a path marked on the map but not on the ground, looking for a vague traversing path which led to the next checkpoint. We got there, but it was slow. We'd probably have been better off sticking to the top of the ridge and following a fence/wall line down directly above the control – slightly longer but with little room for error.

All that remained was the very long descent back to the Yarnbury checkpoint we were were ungrouped as dawn had now broken. We should really have stayed grouped for a little longer, as one of the group had fallen behind due to a painful knee so we should have stuck together – but Carmen and I did the decide thing and waited for him, as by now we weren't racing against anyone else, just determined to finish in more-or-less one piece. We partly ran, partly walked, partly stumbled down the tarmac for the last few miles, back into Threshfield.

63 miles (including the unplanned diversion near Middle Tongue!), 11000 feet of ascent, in a shade over 19 and a half hours – plenty of room for improvement next year 🙂

More photos
A map of the route
Fellsman website

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