It definitely feels like spring has arrived in the Lakes. Today was a gloriously still day out in the Northern Fells. I was working with Karin who is just about to depart on a big Greenland expedition. Her team are attempting to circumnavigate the ice cap with a Windsledge as part of a bigger project. This was her final chance to look at crevasse rescue and develop a system for retrieving 1000kg of sledge from a crevasse if the unthinkable should happen. We began with jumaring and abseiling and developed these skills to include freehanging transitions. The afternoon was spent looking at a variety of hauling techniques up to a monstrous 12:1 ratio.
The Windsledge Project looks very interesting. It's already been tested on a number of expeditions but this will be the biggest challenge yet. Kite skiing is an amazing way to travel but you are limited in the amount of kit you can tow behind you in a pulk. This new concept opens up some intriguing possibilities.....
The end of a great weekend of trail running in the Lake District. The Berghaus Trail Team selection weekend brought runners together from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland for a couple of days of presentations, socialising and a spot of mountain running based at Greenside Youth Hostel above Glenridding. The weather played ball, their was a real buzz about the hostel and a lot of smiling faces.
Echoing the surge in popularity of long distance events there was a real focus on ultra running among everyone involved. Gary Morrison won the distance award with 3 x 268miles (The Spine Race) but easily more than half of those attending had run more than 100 miles.
From the Berghaus Trail Running stable Steve Birkinshaw and Helene Whitaker gave very different but insightful presentations on their motivations and future plans under the title 'Inspiration'. Steve's plans for his Wainwright Run are well advanced and his map is a work of art which clearly demonstrates the huge amount of planning that goes into these challenges, a thought echoed by Helene which has contributed to many of her successes.
We were also introduced and had the opportunity to try the Berghaus VapourLight range for the discerning trail runner. These were developed for two of Berghaus' athletes Phillipe and Anna Gatta for their Great Himalayan trail run. For me the Hyperthem reversible jacket and the Hyper Smock look very interesting. The reversible idea for different temperatures has been around since the 80's with varying amounts of success so great to see an updated version in a tailored runners fit. I'd love to see a hooded smock version which would maximise the protection in a very lightweight piece. The Hyper Smock claims to be the lightest waterproof in the world. It could be even lighter if they forewent the zipped arm pocket but I'm a big fan of waterproof smocks and I'll certainly be having a look at this for my plans this year.
I do think Berghaus have missed a trick with their colour scheme. Much of the new MtnHaus clothing that was developed for Leo Houlding's 'Last Great Climb' was produced in a wide array of vivid colours which looked visually stunning but also has an important safety element. From a Mountain Rescue point of view looking for someone in a bright green or yellow jacket is far easy than for someone camouflaged in dark blue.
Ben from Torq gave a very informative lecture on a scientific approach to nutrition. From a sport science perspective it clearly demonstrated how things have progressed in the 17 years since I was last in the lab and I took away a few things to try this season. Interestingly many ultra runners, both elite and novice, while agreeing with the physiological science felt that gels, bars and energy drinks don't address the psychological needs of trying to run big distances. Simon from organisers Freestak did admit he was going to throw something at the first person who mentioned pork pies! Ben recognised the importance of real food but one of his suggestions was still to focus on carbohydrates so a lean ham sandwich or savory Snackerjack rather than rice pudding, a cheese sandwich or the infamous pork pies! A maximal uptake of 60-90g of carbohydrate an hour will still have a net deficit when running and fats have been shown to slow down gastric emptying and increase stomuch issues. As someone who has experienced these problems but feels the need for real food for events over 12 hours this struck a chord and is something I'll try and put into practice
We escaped from the confines of the youth hostel on Saturday with a short group run up towards Helvellyn. Apologies to the many walkers who met a long crocodile of fifty runners enjoying the sunshine. Conditions were even good enough to tempt a few hardy souls to follow the lead of Mr Birkinshaw and sample the delights of an icy Red Tarn! For many the paths of the Lakeland Hills were far rougher than those on which they typically run but without fail they were blown away by the scenery and the potential for adventure.
Saturday evening was spent 'rehydrating' while watching 'The Dragon's Back'. This legendary race along the spine of Wales had only run once way back in 1992 and was won by Helene Whitaker and Martin Stone. Twenty years later in 2012 it was brought back to life. Steve Birkinshaw's win was captured by Slackjaw Films in this award winning film. After the credits we were in the amazing position of being able to quiz Steve about his win and the stories that didn't make the film!
Sunday dawned clear and bright and a longer run was the order of the day. Steve and Helene had brought along a few friends from the fell running world and soon small groups of runners were scattered over the Lakeland Fells! Swirrall Edge is probably at the limit of what can be described as trail running but gives a stunning way up onto the tops. in a chilly wind we looped round via the Dodds before enjoying a technical descent back to Greenside
On the evidence of this weekend and many other races the UK has a thriving and friendly trail running scene. On the back of this is plenty of amazing writing and photography. In a similar vein to the iconic 'Ride' magazine is a new publication focusing on high quality writing from the running world. Like The Wind looks like a very interesting development. Online there are bloggers covering every aspect of our sport. Many were in the Lakes for this weekend and have written up their experiences
I've spent the last month in Nepal's Gokyo Valley running mountain safety for a BBC Natural History shoot. Our focus for the forthcoming One Planet series was the Himalayan Jumping Spider.