In 2012 I had the pleasure of reporting from The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc following The North Face athlete Jez Bragg around the course as he attempted to repeat his 2010 win. (Link to blog). In 2013 I'll be back but to attempt the CCC, a shorter version of the main event featuring a 100km route from Courmayer to Chamonix via Champex with 5950m of ascent

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Lake District 24 Peaks Challenge

 Descending off High Crag on day 1

Following on from last weeks 3 Peaks work I've been back out with another group raising money for charity but this weekend it's been on the far more interesting 24 Peaks Challenge in the sunny Lake District. This two day 31 mile route has the added advantage of minimal driving and comfortable B&B accommodation each night.

Day 1 saw an early start from Buttermere for the stomp up Red Pike. The weather was stunning as we maintained a good pace along the High Stile Ridge as far as Haystacks and on to Moses trod for the traverse around to windy gap and up to Great Gable. The classic Ennerdale fell race was also being run today and we used several of the sneaky runners trods but we were off the route heading for Scafell before the leading competitors came through. The descent off Gable is always tough on the legs and heat was starting to get to some folk so it was a great relief to spend a few minutes at the spring just above Styhead Tarn. our pace began to slow on the long climb up Corridor route but there was no rest to be had on the summit. The hundreds of other walkers and '3 Peakers' were easily out  numbered by the millions of flying insects enjoying the windless conditions. Our route now led along the ridge over Great End and Esk Pike as far as Bowfell before the long and unrelenting descent to Langdale down The Band. 13:40 after starting the whole of our team were safely down nursing a healthy glow and pouring fluid down their necks in preperation for tomorrow.

Sunday involves climbing 4 more peaks than day 1 but there is less distance, ascent and the terrain is far easier underfoot. We had to complete the route to High Row, Dockray in 10:20 to get under the 24 hours. the first brutal climb up Red Screes from Kirkstone Pass had the groups tired legs screaming in protest but they persevered and things looked a whole lot better from the top with our route stretched out in front of us. Cooler temperatures made keeping our momentum up a lot easier and we were soon on top of Fairfield mentally preparing for the tough middle section of the route. The scree descent to Grisedale Tarn is never pleasant but the National Trust have just started to build a proper pitched path at the bottom. A quick blast up and down the steep Seat Sandle and the team put their heads down for the direct climb of Dollywaggon Pike. I nipped off route to replenish a few waterbottles but had to work hard to catch a motivated group who had the end in sight. The final few miles of this challenge are a real pleasure following the undulating ridge over Helvellyn, Raise and the Dodds. The flying insects were back with a vengeance which also helped to keep the pace high and a very happy group reached the van and a waiting bottle of champagne and a few chilled beers in a great total time of 22:58.

Although slow paced, events like this offer a huge training benefit for ultra runners. In the last 3 days I've spent nearly 30 hours on my feet in the hills with a pack on my back. The varied terrain and thousands of meters of ascent and descent will have tested my physical endurance, personal admin, nutrition and hydration strategies and clothing & footwear choices over an extended period as well as toughening me mentally and physically. I've not found any glaring holes in my preparation at the moment so will now refocus on increasing my baseline speed over the ground. There's also the small matter of the Celtman Extreme Triathlon in less than a months time...

Summit no 4 - Haystacks

Ennerdale & Buttermere Valleys

The scree descent off Fairfield (summit 14)

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