Saturday, 5 September 2009

Slip Sliding Away!

Another attempt at the Three Shires route and not the best of days for it either. The weather all week has been poor and I kept checking the Lakes weather forecast on Thursday and Friday to see if there was a hope of a good day. Initially I was going to head up there on my own being as Chris was off doing the Ben race but then last night I caught young Al Fowler on Facebook and asked him if he fancied a SLOW (Slow for him anyway, normal pace for me) trek round the route, which he did.

On waking this morning the cloud was low and the forecast was for rain with cloud on the peaks and 50mph gusts on the ridges and they weren't wrong. I picked young Al up just after 7:30 and off we headed. Not really much in the way of rain on the way up but on arriving in Little Langdale the peaks were in the definitely in the cloud.

After some faffing I we headed of for Wetherlam. This weeks trek up Wetherlam was again fraught with wrong route choices but not in the same way as my last trip. We headed up the path through the bracken but I'm not sure if we missed an offshoot as we seemed to be a little too low. Anyway, we headed up to try and correct it but never really found a path after that. The slog up Wetherlam is a bl00dy long one, it just goes on and on, even when you think you are nearing the top your not. The going was very wet and the rocks very slippy. I slipped a few times on this ascent. After around 1:15 mins (at my pace) we eventually made it to the peak and by now, the gusts were hitting us. I was going to take a photo at this point but I just wanted to head off and get out of the wind, sorry. If you really want a picture, imagine this but looking a little more like a runner than a ballet dancer.

As the tops were in cloud we headed of to Swirl How and took the path rather than the grass but still being extra careful of the slippy rocks. It's only a short run down before you start the ascent up Prison Band to Swirl How, a climb I have started to like more, probably because it doesn't go on that long. However at the summit of Swirl How, the wind was really hitting us now from the south West and the rain was stinging a little as it hit my face, so again, no photo, we just headed off.

It was at this point I gave impressed myself. With no landmarks other than the gradient of the mountain I managed to navigate around Great Carrs and find the path down the other side towards Three Shires stone. I think I stayed a little too high though and joined the path a little early but not too far wrong. We stopped for a minute and Al took the opportunity to eat a Blueberry Jam butty he'd brought, commenting on how good it tasted and then headed on. Coming down this section I reverted to my ballet dancing training, the ground was so wet. I must have slipped and slid about 7-8 times coming down here. As we ran I recognised parts of the route but a little further down we took the wrong path. There is a path to the right that heads on as you reach a cairn and another path that heads left (according to the map). I have never noticed these two paths before but today we manage to start heading down the wrong one until eventually I noticed the road that passes the 3 Shires Stone, but it all looked wrong, plus I could see the valley and parts of Swirl how to my right. When we checked the map, I realised what we had done, but it wasn't too hard to get ourselves back on the right path.

Eventually we crossed the road at the 3 Shires Stone and my watch said 2hr 10mins. Damn, I haven't made this yet in less than 2 hours, I just hope for good weather and not losing time on route finding on race day. Al later admitted he reached a bit of a low point here and just wanted a cup of tea. I nearly brought a flask with me but decided against the extra weight at the last minute. Shame really. Onward though up towards Blisco and it was only here that we actually first saw another member of the human race since leaving Little Langdale. I decided to take the opportunity to eat a tangerine I had with me and it was "Lovely". Food tastes SO nice when you are tired and haven't eaten properly. This prompted a discussion too over how nice the Blueberry Jam butty's were and if it was just the body making them taste much nicer because you were hungry.

I couldn't really make out the two craggs we needed to negotiate and in trying to avoid the early off path route Chris chose last time, we ended up on the same route Chris chose last time. Never mind though it all looked familiar ish to me anyway and we made it to the Pike O Blisco, Well Al did!. I couldn't be ar5ed hitting the wind again so never made the final ascent and chose to wait for Al to come back down.

Still in the cloud we headed east now for the descent to Blea Tarn. With the intention being to stick to the path, we failed and ended up following a runners trod, which this time felt like a MUCH better route than the one Chris and I chose last time. It did however bring us a little lower than last time but once I saw "The trees" near the wall I knew roughly were I was and the direction I needed to head in. Luckily, we came out right at the stile where we needed to be, hopefully I'll not make the mistake of going too far down the wall in the race now I have my markers to head for.

The path down through the bracken to Blea Tarn was much better than last time. The bracken had started to wilt and it was much easier to pick out however with the very wet rocks higher up the going wasn't much faster and as I had been sliding all over the place all day I chose to take my time. Eventually though we ran through the woods and across the "Compulsory Footbridge". Why it's compulsory I don't know? I wonder why you can run right across the steam it traverses, it's not deep! Today I had no issues with my feet like last time although by now, the battering from the wind had taken it's toll and my legs were wrecked, but it wasn't going to stop me finishing the route.

The climb up to Lingmoor is like the "sting in the tail", as Al said. With tired legs there was no way I could have done ANY running, not that I had managed much on any of the uphills anyway. Whilst the path is not too clear the route is easy, you just follow the wall right to the summit. My legs had nothing left and the 2nd Tangerine, the last of my gummy bears and the Strawberry Yogurt flavour (Yuck) energy gel did nothing for my energy levels either. On the summit though we took a quick rest and readied ourselves for the last run back down.

The race map suggested the path veered away from the tourist path but we ended up staying on the path. I assume this is to avoid the two small lumps we had to cross, but on race day the route from the summit it supposed to be flagged anyway so I'm not worried about this. Anyway, we reached the zigzag descent which I had been looking forward to (Because it looked like fun) but when I got there the path was quite rocky and not as much fun as I had hoped. But the best part about this is that I could see the car and new it was nearly over. Thank God!!!!!

Back at the car, we changed into dry clothes and I had a butty I had left there. Amazing how nice a cheap and nasty Tesco Ham & Mustard butty tastes after 4hr 30mins on the fells. But it wasn't good enough, I needed Peanut M&M's. On the drive back I resisted the urge to stop at the garage to get them but with a brief stop in Kendal to call at Pete Blands Shop, Al nipped to the shop for a drink and bought me some. MMMmmm!!!

Back at home I had a nice hot bath. Only the 2nd bath I have had in this house as I'm a shower man. I could have fallen asleep right there. However, Chinese for tea and an early night.

I'm glad I have eventually finished the route but have decided that on race day, if the weather is similar to today's, then I'll not be doing the race. Last year though it wasn't too bad and the clouds lifted so I'm hopeful of a nice day for the 19th Sept. C'mon everyone prey for a good day for me!

Finally, I'd like to thank young Al for coming along and being patient with me and my slow pace. I'm sure his legs must have kept getting cold waiting for me to catch up. Cheers Al!

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