A Windy Hill Top – Part 2 of Weekend in the Lakes.

Right lets climb some mountains. We are after all surrounded by the beasts and whats the point of going to Lakes if you’re not going to climb anything. The original idea was to climb the Pike from Great Gable but with the recent dumps of snow the reports were still showing that both peaks were hiding beneath snow drifts and Great Gable was a little icy on some of the more challenging sections of her back.

The back up was to concentrate on the Coniston Fells. I’d already done the Old Man and some of the others to the south, but both of us had failed to do Wetherlam. Once told by a friend this mountain is off the tourist trail but can be reached via several routes.

As we started the walk, the word of the day was ‘Up’ followed by ‘Steep’ Straight away we were climbing through disused mines and quarries and before we knew it we were trekking our way down to the river bed through a forest only to climb out of the gorge to a field of sheep on the side of a hill. As the trail rounded around a corner we found ourselves with Wetherlam looking down on us from the left.

At this angle she looked like any other mountain, a sheer cliff face with a ridge over looking a valley floor. But as the path took us in a kind of horse shoe route up and down to her base, the true scale was revealed.

This was not going to be a usual ‘stepped out’ climb of the lakes. It was not going to be a steep walk. This was a scramble, this had scree, and as the clouds wrapped around the peak and the wind blew in the mist to haze our view of what lay ahead. We began with earnest to climb.

The start the hike was as you find on Crinkle Crags, or climbing to the summit of Bowfell. Steep rocks, with a kind of worn path leading you to the summit. From the start we spotted cairns every couple of meters suggesting this was not the straight forward walk we thought. Before long we had broken though the mist and clouds to find that the path we were following which zig-zag its way up the side was slowly being blocked and cordoned off by snow.

The sheets of snow that prevented us from continuing were just that. The water that was running down the mountain was melting the snow from the bottom up so what you had was a sheet of thick snow bridging across rocks leaving often large voids beneath. It was at this junction I thought best to turn back but my walking buddy found a way.

So we scrambled around snow covered path to find the path further on ahead. All the time trying to spy the next cairn and find a safe route to it. Say what you like about them, but these piles of rocks have helped me to navigate my way to the top and back down again several times when the path and visibility has not always been great. Onwards we trekked  and as the scramble turned into a bit of a rock climb as the steep path turned into a sheer climb, we hugged the rock face shouting warnings of scree as we clambered nearer to the summit.

The top of her was patched up in snow and as we navigated around the snow drift to attack the summit from the south we found that the wind carried us up to her crown. The wind ripped and roared past, over, below and through us, and with every gust it tried to push and shove us over in a playful spirit but with sense of underlining menace . Occasionally the wind would  get a little more frustrated that we were not playing and decided to out right attempt to blow us off the mountain in angry from s refusing to play its games.

The original idea of the walk was a circular one, taking in several more peaks before we returned to the car and as we headed east to come off her snowy peak we encountered several snow drifts, some on the edge. The wind was not getting restless at beating us black and blue and the wind chill was not adding to the fun. We decided that the only safe way back was the way we knew and to head on down. As we descended the cloud broke and we saw snow filling the ridges and troughs, giving the impression that the mountain top was flat like a dining table. While we were sticking to the path and making sure we were with insight of cairns we both agreed that we could have easily strayed away and  seeing how the snow was bridged further down the hill-side with the water melting the drifts from bottom up we knew we had made the right choice. None of us knew this mountain and I didn’t want to dance along on the carpet of snow to only to be buried at waist height, or sink into a tarn, swamp or bog.

I think that while the day was filled with excitement, the fear factor was stronger than when I walked Grib Goch, and there was something about the fairy tale opening of the walk with the empty mine shafts and blasted   out  quarries that nature had reclaimed which slowly changed into the bleak stoney atmosphere of a foreign planet with a mix of climbs as we grew closer to her summit.

The Lakes has always been a place at the bottom of my list. But the more I visit and the more I bag, my opinion of the landscape looking samey changes. But with the scrambles and scree this makes yet another Wainwright and mountain that makes me want to visit the Lakes more.

Advertisements

How Lonely is the Long Distance Runner?

Wow, that’s a question. I have yet to read the book or see the film that goes by the same title. Well goes by the title of ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ and while this is not going to be a rip off or even an interpretation of what Alan Sillitoe wrote it is going to be an examination into the world and mind-set of runners.

Everyone knows were a funny lot. People come in from the cold wrapped up to the nines with gloves, coats, hats they turn the heating on full blast and comment how icy and freezing it is and it has started snowing. Or they comment that the rain is hammering down so much it is bouncing. With this weather report you can guarantee that if there is a runner in close proximity then they will grab their trainers and be off for a run. Even the very name we take pride in. ‘Were runners’ I picked a parcel up the other day before going for a run and because of this I had my Liverpool Half T-Shirt on. The Post Office official commented and asked if I was going for a ‘jog’ before I could reply she had apologised and corrected herself with the word ‘Run’ ‘You don’t jog do you? You run, you’re a runner I’m a runner’ While the words ‘jog’ and ‘run’ don’t bother me I know in the fraternity of our sport anyone who takes it seriously is a runner.

Yes we are crazy, we know that. We run because we enjoy the freedom, buzz, energy and maybe the solitude and boy is there a lot of that. I am at the moment after hitting ‘Publish’ going to lace up the shoes and be on my way for a good 90 minutes running where the only company will be that of my own and for people who know me that is not always enjoyable.

But at the same time there is a community and camaraderie between runners. As we run and see other runners we wave, nod, even go as far to say ‘Hi’ if we can mange wasting our precious breath on speaking. As we go into running shops we talk about times, races, routes. At the start and end of races we chat and laugh. On route we sometimes talk and laugh, if people stubble we ask if they are okay, we offer water and energy gels around but while all of this is happening we are also in our zone. Running our own race on our path to a hopeful PB or course record.

So how lonely is running. Is the Long distance runner alone on the field, starving off the exhaustion with only his or her thoughts for company. When I ran my first Marathon I have never felt so alone yet there were hundreds of people around me running as one. The crowds were calling my name and cheering us all on but yet I was running my own race my own route.

The mind set of running is strange. We are a big family, large support and only a runner will be able to understand or comprehend an other. Our community is large and extensive we welcome new members to the fold but yet when we run we run on our own with our own thoughts and goals and I’m not going to lie Manchester Marathon saw me almost throw in the towel as my body began to shut down. Every movement required a strong conscious effort to move. As my legs filled with concrete and my head dropped I thought I was going to die out on the field and then the realisation that I wasn’t alone helped to bring me back to the land of living.

But in training you don’t have the luxury of crowd support or fellow runners and part of the training is becoming strong, telling your mind you are strong enough to keep running. Running is a solo sport, hobby, ambition, lifestyle. You will only ever understand a runer if you become one and even then you will never understand how every individual feels as he crosses the line after 26.2 miles or comes in from a 20 mile run on a Sunday morning.

That is where the true loneliness happens. Not being able to share your relief and joy of long distance running, not being able to explain your thoughts and feelings as you picked up pace, tackled the hill, popped a gel cause you thought it was the right time. Everything about running is personal to you and to you alone which in itself is a nice thought.

 

A Snow Pace

Well it is pretty simple what this post is about. Last night Manchester received a very small flutter of snow that coated the cars and the pavements and when I woke to see this my heart sank. Sundays have been put there so runners can go on a long run, and everything else about the day was perfect. The sun was out and the temperature was warm, well it is winter, but it wasn’t freezing cold.

I thought I’d wait till the afternoon, allow the winter sun to melt some of the snow and those  Christmas shoppers to mush it all up. By mid day the snow was still covering the ground like a blanket. I took a look outside my window and thought, it’s not that bad… It’s just a scattering and I’m on a minor pavement, the main pavements will be fine. So with this I slipped my trainers on and went out for a jog.

Now being that it was bad conditions that I wasn’t use to I thought I would just do a quick 5K. Well I say quick I mean I wasn’t going to go at it like the clappers but I wasn’t going to walk it neither. What I found was for the first time I had a slow pace and the secret was the snow. I was doing about 8.50/mile, that is even slower than my half marathon pace. However the 5k soon turned into a 7 mile run as I was feeling the urge to carry on. The conditions changed from normal pavement to Ice, to thick snow, to melting snow, to slush, sometimes in the matter of a couple of steps, other times entire streets would be different.

I really enjoyed the run and the pace, and while the pace may have only been 20 seconds slower than my normal long run or race pace, I felt good. My heart rate was at 156, and I felt like I could carry on for many more miles, and if I had packed my water bottle I would have ended up doing another lap.

Hopefully there will be more of these conditions so I can hone my marathon pace to perfection.