Accounts of three BG attempts by Settle Harriers during 2007
Alex Pilkington – 21st December
Yes – the shortest day of the year!
Here’s Laurence Ormerod’s account of Alex’s second successful round of the year. Perhaps Alex will add his own story too soon (he did – see below).
Alex sailed round his BG yesterday in 23:09. Going clockwise, started at 8 pm. He had road support but the first hill support was me at Dunmail, just to Sergeant Man. After that he was alone again to Wasdale where his brother Roger left the car briefly to help him up Yewbarrow, and then he was alone again to Black Sail where Murf, another Settle Harrier, met him and went to Newlands. I joined in again along the road back (having supposedly put in a day’s work between my two parts!).
An amazing achievement I think. By Rossett where it got light, he’d been just under 12 hours in the dark and cold with just an hour and a half of me in support. The bright moon set at Steel Fell and Alex said the 2 hours from where I left till daylight was horrendous, he really wished he could just die and be done with it! I had done my Mr Motivation bit and told him once it was daylight he’d be better, and despite losing some time before dawn he said that was the case and apart from ice on the way across to Foxes Tarn, the rest was OK to Wasdale. In fact, Alex described Wasdale and going up Yewbarrow as “warm” and said they had “had the picnic” sitting on the grass!
I put some pics up at www.flickr.com/photos/laurenceormerod/sets/72157603519232262/ . There are some of my round (hardly should be mentioned in same e-mail as this one) and other summer jollies there too.
And…here’s Alex’s own account
At it again…. its less than 4 months since….
I can’t recall who put the idea in my head about doing a winter round, maybe it was the run up Ingleborough with Oz the last full moon, it just seemed so perfect for running and adventure? I mentioned the idea to my brother Roger at the start of December that I may make a call for some BG road support assistance; he later said he thought it was just a joke! Anyhow, the weekend before I checked the long range forecast and it looked as if the cold and clear weather would last, that’s when I thought I would give it a crack (and test my new mega head torch out!).
After hurriedly preparing things I decided the late call would be better suited to a low key solo attempt, I didn’t want to get bogged down with logistics, I was happy to just to run by myself and maybe have company when offered it. I decided on a 20:00 departure, going for me, the usual and familiar clockwise direction. I did not want to relearn all the key bearings for an anticlockwise tour, hence a clockwise choice seemed best.
I got my pack down to 8lbs, which seemed heavyish, but I did not want to skimp on spare clothes and emergency gear. I departed quietly at 20:00 from Moot Hall leaving Roger to get his Kebab and a beer – it was going to be a long night for both of us. Skidaw came and went quickly, as did Calva and Blencathra, a crystal clear night allowed the stars to be used for simple navigation (useful up Bac-o-Blencathra!). On the decent, Halls Fell ridge looked steeper than ever, the sides dropping away steeply into the darkness.
It was good to see Roger at Threlked where the temperature had now dropped to -7degC, I had a bowl of stodge and a cup of tea before reading myself for the long drag south. I added an extra layer as the wind was coming from the south and I would be on high ground all the time. The moon seemed brighter than ever along the ridges and the map was superfluous. The hard bit on this leg is Fairfield, I despise having to go all the way up and back for just one peak! The only consolation was the lovely sight of the moon light reflecting off Grisedale Tarn (almost romantic…).
It was really good to see Roger and a sleepy Laurence (only hours after his earlier dinner party), by now (4 o’clock) my body was telling me to get some sleep, also my stomach didn’t want any more food, however my legs still felt fine, I managed a couple of bananas, some tea and a can of Redbull – what a mix! It was good to be led off on Leg 3 by Loz, this was going to be the tough one and I clearly recall Loz’s words; “just get to Bowfell and you’ll be fine…” suffice to say after departing from Loz, it was the hardest, darkest, loneliest 3hrs running I have ever had to do (the moon had set which didn’t help), sleep monsters set in, and it was pretty tough nav along this section, I was too tired to get the map out, but got lucky and found the indistinct (Langdale race) line to take me across the moor to Rossett Pike. Slow going and some time lost here, but the rising sun made me pick-up (like a Class A drug!) and sure enough once on Bowfell summit, I felt I had cracked it and the next mountains passed quickly. However the next problem soon appeared – Scafell, I quickly decided not to go up Broadstand and decided to go via Foxes Tarn, the approach to this however was steep ground covered in big iceflows, it was pretty tense getting across/up/under and around some of these and hence it took a lot longer to get to the top of Scafell than usual.
Got to Wasdale at 10:45, good to see Roger yet again, he had some stories to tell about Loz locking himself out of his van and also battling with ice on the narrow road up Wrynose… My body at last seemed to return to normal daytime working order and I managed some decent food and had a good rest, ready for the next killer – Yewbarrow. On the way up I took a call from John Murfin, he was on his way up to meet me at Black Sail. Pillar was the first place I had passed another being and that’s after 17hrs, quite remarkable for the Lakes, in fact I only passed 4 people on the whole tour! It was sure good to see John there (in his waffy shorts – still only minus 3!), my legs where indeed feeling tired now and the Rucksac felt like a lead weight, so I kindly offered it to John, who was raring to go up Kirkfell and warm up (see picture somewhere round here). Also my feet where hurting now, mainly because of the ground being so hard, and so good old faithful (Roger) kindly ran up Green Gable with my trail shoes and it was with great relief that I put these on.
Time was still favourable for my 23.30 schedule, but I decided not to get comfy at Honister and carry on the plod up the relentless Dalehead (this hill always seems bigger than it really is!). We came down the direct way off Robinson, which was bone dry and full of grip. Another shoe change at Newlands and then the home straight – well as good as. Loz accompanied me down this section, and it was great to be on road, with the moon shining brightly again, all felt good. Forty minutes or so later Keswick arrived and the welcome sight of friends, wife, family and Moot Hall, the all important time of 24hrs was made – 51minutes in hand.
I can’t say I’d recommend doing a Winter Round (solo), but it was truly exhilarating (at times) to be out in such perfect winter conditions, both night and day. I learnt a few things, as you do:
the effect the cold has on performance, especially with wind chill
bodyclock, probably wise to condition yourself beforehand, if running through the night
not to do another Winter BG…
I have 42 summit pictures which Oz could use for a new ‘recognition’ game at the next annual dinner…?
Thanks to all who helped me, and another bunch of favours I owe now!
Alex Pilkington – 26th August
My 42 Peaks…
Having supported a few people on BGRs and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of it, I thought that I really should give it a go… I had done several recceing trips with friends and with the dog, with some even covering ½ the round itself. I knew I could do it, but was not sure what it would be like going for 24hrs and like most runners I wanted to do it as fast as possible. My advance preparation was a little lacking; even though I knew in January that I wanted to do it before the end of the year. I had not really started to plan it out in detail, or indeed do any serious homework on it until the end of June (after my annual ankle injury had recovered!).
I did however press on for an attempt on July 13/14th, I had 4 people to assist on the fells, which was stretching things just a bit and that fact combined with a dreadful forecast, I decided to scrap the attempt. A similar theme occurred on two more occasions and at one point the frustration of the terrible weather and of organising it all was getting too much, in fact so much so that I was ready to do it just on my own – be warned – the BGR becomes very absorbing! Thankfully Kerry stepped in here and she proved to be far more persuasive and resourceful in recruitment than I ever was, and within a few days we had a pool of 7+ helpers. Some where concerned that I would be moving too quick for them (which was not the case!), this is where I had another uncertainty – what schedule should I aim for…? I was comfortable recceing 2+ legs at 20hr pace and feeling OKish at the end. However I did not want to bite off more than I could chew, so given the good forecast I settled on a 21hr schedule.
Being late August, I was also conscious of the shorter days and realised a fast tour would mean less time in the dark and ultimately a quicker finish – bingo!. With everything well organised and a perfect forecast (what a gift that was!), I set off at 04:00 on Sunday 26th August up Skidaw with Mike Wynne (he knows this leg well now!), it was dark with some low cloud, but in general no problems, I was running comfortably and making good time up on my schedule. Coming down Hall’s fell was beautiful and it was dry, making it a lot nicer to descend quickly. I only had a quick stop for a brew before starting Leg 2 with Matt Foxwell (an old school friend of Kerry’s and a Kendal Athletic runner who is another prospective BGer). I had some food on the go (cold pizza for breakfast – nice!), and appreciated the crystal clear views while trotting over the Dodds, all the way I felt comfortable making up a few minutes each section and before we new it Dunmail Raise was reached and my road support team (Kerry, Roger and Ben Pilkington) waiting there (as well as two car loads of Chinese people…. Roger informed me that they where the support crew for the Chinese BG attempt – which I believed…!).
Before starting Leg 3 I had some pasta and a brew which took a surprisingly long 15min (the time just flew!) this meal really kept me going on Leg 3. John Osborne was now supporting me and I was aware of perhaps not eating as much as I should have been on this leg (John was happily munching his way through things though!), I was continuing to drink plenty though. As we neared Scafell the fells got busier and busier, the walking pole army was out in force and 40ft dog leads, whipping around just waiting to trip me! We had to queue to get to the summit of the highest point in England… Again I was making steady progress against my schedule, so much so that I missed my rope man (Roger) on Broadstand, I kind of knew it reasonably well from helping Laurence Ormerod on his round, it was dry so I soloed up it and found it a whole lot easier than I remembered, John skirted round up Lords Rake and met me on the descent back down to Wasdale. My rest at the end of Leg 3 was again a surprisingly long stop of 20min – probably too long, I forced food down which I did not feel like and felt all the worse for the stop, I was just too comfy in my chair!
I was expecting the next Leg to feel hard…and it did to start with, also made harder by the fact that Ben Lonsdale was turbo-charged and raring to go. I needed some of his energy! I also felt the effect of the unwanted food on the ascent of Yewbarrow and was queasy, uncomfortable and rather anti-social all the way up, all the while Ben was bantering on. Finally on summiting I rejected the food then and had some water and felt OK surprisingly quickly… we where ready to go again! From here on to the end all I could take on was small sips of flat coke and sweets, my digestive system had shut down! It didn’t seem to bother me too much as I was still ‘haulin ass’ over Leg 4 and was enjoying the almost empty mountains and fantastic views (one of my favourite sections of the round!). On reaching Honister I chose to keep pushing on and only stopped for a quick hello to the crew and goodbye to Ben.
Steve Walker quickly caught me up on the ascent of Dalehead, I could hear my legs saying not another hill! It was summited in the darkening dusk, with a full moon rising to the east. Things slowed down for us now, due to the loss of daylight and we where happy just doing a forceful walk. Robinson was descended without any trouble. A quick stop was made at Little Town for my first change of shoes bye-bye Inov-8s, hello road shoes and they felt like bliss and put a spring back in my step! I could smell the finish (and raced Ben P there!) reaching Keswick 35min later at 23:13, which was a pleasing time of 19:13hrs for the round, feeling happy, elated and somewhat tired.
Thanks to all those who gave up their time and helped me on this very memorable day, I’d be happy to return the favour and hope that some of you will do it one day soon! And word of advice to prospective BGRs – Plan and arrange your support as far in advance as possible, or better still get someone else to manage it for you! (concentrating on the round is enough in itself). Try and arrange a fallback day as well for your support team in case of less than ideal conditions (having done 10hr reccies in the fog it is not a bit as enjoyable and also a lot harder physically and mentally). Also do some really long reccies and learn the route…!
Laurence suggests I go for a fast one next time – so watch out…!
Laurence Ormerod – 29th June
A heartfelt thanks for your help on Friday.
It was a really great day, more or less as demanding as I thought (well, OK, not as demanding as if I had been on the cusp of making it!), and a lot more enjoyable that I had thought. Each one of you gave great support, either over long miles of fell with dark, rain, wind as the case may be, or by turning up at a key moment and making me feel like it was a special effort after all. Once I had decided that even if it did not look like a 24 hour round, I’d carry on anyway, the whole day took on a great feeling of just enjoying the hills and being pretty sure I could fight the battles and win out.
The sched looked roughly like this: lost 15 min on back O’Skiddaw (nav strategy). Kept that to Dollywagon. Lost 10 Fairfield and Seat Sandal then 7 overstayed welcome at Dunmail. Then kept this half hour to Harrison (33 down there and on time for that leg, so thought could have saved day at that point which is almost half way, 21st peak). But then had real energy crash and upset stomach and down another half hour by Scafell Pike, then 24 min over Broad Stand – lot of fiddling there. So an hour and a half late leaving Wasdale. Kept that to Pillar but then had second crash on Kirk and Gable so about 2 hours late by Grey Knotts. Going down with kids added another quarter hour (I was enjoying the party by now). Then took it easy over last bit, 20 mins more to Robinson and the rest of the 3rd hour over to Keswick. So I don’t think I can ever get the 24 hours now – am certainly not going to try – and maybe on a good day would be about a 25-25.5 hour pace. Good enough for me at this point.
Anyway, it was a great day so thanks again for all your help, support and encouragement. It really did make it one of my happiest days in ages, it’s so good to be pushing yourself with the company of a great bunch of people.
I will certainly be on for more good challenges so expect a call, and call me anytime you have one of your own to knock off!
Note: Laurence also completed the BG in 1989 in sub-24 hours