In 2013 I'd been working on the Lakeland fells and seen several competitors from the 10 Peaks race looking lost on Great Gable. The challenge of climbing the 10 highest peaks in the Lakes nonstop seemed entirely logical and so I signed up for this years event. Conditions were looking pretty good with warm temps but a little bit of cloud and rain on the tops, great for those with local knowledge. With plenty of miles in my legs this year I made the conscious decision to race rather than just get round. Visability was down on the first summit of Helvellyn and I passed a few of the racing snakes who were taking the scenic route.
The long traverse over to Bowfell went well as I picked up some very useful trods before nipping up the Bob Graham rake which saved me at least 20 minutes on some of the competitors around me. My challenge suddenly increased when like a total numpty I managed to let my map blow away. Nonetheless I made good time to Mickledore and the choice of Foxes Tarn or Lords Rake. I went for the scree gully of Lords Rake cutting back left up the main fault line from the chockstone. Touching the summit it was straight back down the gully continuing down until I could pick up the traverse path which leads to Lingmell Col below Pikes Crag. Other runners were taking the more direct route to Pillar by the floor of Wasdale but I figured I'd be quicker going via Corridor Route and Great Gable. This bit felt like a score event with runners moving every which way.
Over the top of Great Gable still feeling strong I arrived at the checkpoint at Beck Head to the surprising news that I was the 14th runner through. It was a bit more complicated than that as competitors were free to climb Pillar and Gable in either order and the mathematics of the situation occupied my mind as I commenced the long drag up to Pillar. There were plenty of runners descending towards me, some who had already climbed Gable and others that hadn't. By the time I arrived back at Beck Head I reckoned I really was 14th overall. This was confirmed when I arrived at Honister Pass where I devoured a plate of pasta bolagnaise, a strong coffee and a can of Coke in quick succession.
Out of the door I opted to descend to Borrowdale and pick up the Cumbria way rather than the organisers recommended route via Dalehead Tarn. As I rounded the foot of Cat Bells I surprised the runner in 12th position who was following his map. Ludovic Maillard and I ran together to the base of Skiddaw where it quickly became clear he was a far better climber than me quickly dropping me and disappearing into the distance. We both managed to overtake Sue Savege in 11th place who was having a moment on the final scree slope. The weather was deteriorating fast as we topped out and turned for the final run home. Towards the bottom of the hill my energy levels crashed and my vision narrowed. Swallowing three gels in a row I was startled to see Sue closing fast behind me. The two combined spurred me into a sprint finish back in to Keswick. Right at the death I made my only navigation error of the day having neglected to recce the finish. Taking the long way round via the hospital I sprinted up to the front door of the football club in a time of 15:42 for 12th position and probably my best ever ultra result. A few minutes later Sue arrived by the correct route while Ludovic had finished more than 20 minutes ahead.
Wee video from John Pennifold showcasing the 10 Peaks experience! Just squeezed in in under 24 hours :)
For the past few months we've been working withe the ITV Countrywise team to develop one of their most ambitious shoots for the forthcoming series. Focusing on the Wild Ennerdale Project the plan was for presenter Ben Fogle to climb the iconic Pillar Rock which dominates the upper reaches of the valley. We eventually settled on the historical Old West Route (M) by which the top of High Man was first reached.
Images from Paddy Cave of Mountain Circles
The majority of the Lakes high crags are currently bone dry so we headed up to the sun trap of Pavey Ark with a couple of classic routes in mind. Caff had already visited the crag that morning as part of his 100 Lakes Extremes in a Day mission so the routes were well chalked. Astra (E2 5c) gave gave some great thought provoking climbing on warm rough rock. Bracken Clock (E2 5c) proved a stiffer challenge especially when rain stopped play for a few minutes. We were just organising our abseil retreat when the weather changed yet again and we were able to topped out in warm still conditions
For the past week Berghaus athlete Steve Birkinshaw has been out on the Lakeland Fells running the Wainwrights. Hundreds of folk have been transfixed by his online trackers relentless progress across the map. Joss Naylor's record of 7 days 1 hour has stood for 27 years yet Steve was back in time for last orders in a new record of 6 days and 13 hours for the 518km. More than 100 runners, including myself, took him up on his offer to run the final leg with him and witness history in the making. The reception in a crowded Keswick High Street as Steve ran up to the steps of Moot Hall was incredible and a fitting tribute to a world class performance.
This weekend myself and Nick Cannon-Jones have been working with Rockhoppers Mountaineering Club running a Rescue for Climbers course. The Saturday was spent braving the elements at Sandale Quarry developing the members climbing systems to proactively prevent problems in the first place. We then looked at some of the simple building blocks such as escaping the system and assisted hoists which can be used to solve many of the common problems which may occur
Sunday was a far nicer day and we enjoyed some dry rock (& the cafe1) at Shepherds crag in Borrowdale which allowed us to take problem solving into a multi pitch environment. Ascending and descending ropes were covered in detail before we moved on to a number of scenarios as we made a mass ascent of Jackdaw Ridge. Thanks to everyone present for some great input despite the conditions and fingers crossed you'll never need to use any of the techniques in anger.
I've just returned from a 9 day road trip across Scotland chasing some Classic Rock ticks with Rob and Jude. All told we totalled 6 Classic Rock routes from 9 climbs with 22 stars and 1175m of climbing plus a few scrambles, Munros and Corbetts thrown in for good measure.
We kicked off on a stunning day on the Cobbler climbing 3 routes. Recess Route (S) and Ardgarten Arete (VS) were pleasant climbs but nothing to shout about. However Punster's Crack (S), our final route of the day, more than made up for it offering 3 very different pitches including the infamous bulge.
Day 2 dawned cold and wet in Glencoe so we headed up to have a look at Crypt Route (VD). However this winters extensive snow cover meant that without crampons and ice axes we were unable to even to get to the foot of the route. The day wasn't wasted as we made an ascent of Bidean nam Bian ( 1150m) between the showers.
We went 'abroad' for day 3 taking the Corran Ferry over to Ardgour and Garbh Bheinn's Great Ridge via it's direct start (S). Despite some incredible downpours we made good progress before escaping off across the south face and up to the summit.
Staying in Glencoe with the promise of good weather we opted for The North Face Route (S) on the Buachaille which gave some great exposed rock climbing. A heavy afternoon shower put paid to our plan to continue up Agag's Groove. Heading north we made the trek into the classic Ardverikie Wall (HS). I walked past this famous route back in 2001 and it's been on my to do list ever since. It didn't disappoint giving amazing and in places bold slab climbing with every pitch memorable.
Day 6 found us across on the Applecross Peninsula gearing up for the obvious line of the Cioch Nose (VD) which we followed in it's entirety. Still heading north we then went for an less demanding day playing in the sunshine on the pinnacles of Stac Pollaidh which gave some amazing views across Assynt to Suilven and beyond.
The Old Man of Stoer (VS) was one of our main aims for the trip and an early start saw me braving the water to rig the Tyrolean. From pitch 2 we were able to look down on a huge dog otter hunting in the narrow channel which separates the stack from the mainland. We summited in blazing sunshine before the awe inspiring abseil back to the first stance. Other teams had arrived and we were able to use their traverse line to retrieve ours saving me the pleasure of a second swim.
With our legs feeling the pace and wet weather arriving our final day was spent on the Forcan Ridge which gives a great wee route to the summit of the Saddle (1010m) in Glen Shiel.