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Windy Weather Window – 214 in 214

Here in the Lake District, the weather has been absolutely shit for the last week. Heavy rain, gales and even more rain. Last night the weather maps suddenly looked a bit more promising. Maybe even a window of good weather for late morning. I made plans to make good use of it. 

The great thing about working for yourself is being able to work when you want. So this morning I was up at 5am. I did question my faith in the forecast. It was lashing down. Then as if by magic, walking my son Ash to school, it started to look a bit more promising. By 10.30am, I was changed into my running gear and heading off to Longsleddale.

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My run started by the bridge at Sadgill, and then up the ancient, rocky drover’s road to Gatesgarth Pass. The sun had now come out and grey clouds were streaking across the sky. I was getting buffeted by strong gusts of wind. At the pass, I branched off right towards Branstree, the ground frozen solid. Except for the top couple of centimetres, which were as greasy as crude oil. Nearing the summit, the wind was phenomenal. I could hardly stand up and took refuge crouching behind a dry stone wall. I put on my cagoule, as I was freezing cold, the wind whistling through gaps between the stones. Feeling better equipped, I left my shelter and battled to the summit.

From here the wind was more or less behind me. Yet it was so strong it made me feel like I was running like a drunk, totally out of control, pushing me this way and that. It only took 10 minutes to get to the next summit, Selside Pike, and I rested in the stone shelter at the summit. 

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Returning back the way I’d just run was a battle of perseverance, right into the teeth of the wind. The noise from my cagoule and hat was incredible. When I bent into the wind, some of my steps didn’t even penetrate, I was running on the spot. It was exhausting work, and half an hour later, I made the stone wall near the summit of Branstree and shelter. I ran down along the wall, in the lee of the wind, with old snow drifts for company. To think that last year I ran these hills in the height of summer and struggled with heat and dehydration…

Another battering on the summit of Tarn Crag, then a reprieve on the downhill towards Grey Crag. A moment of doubt at the bottom of the hill crossing a bog. It was only as I was half way across and committed, that I recognised danger. The moss a vivid pea green colour. It sucked at my legs like a man eater, the moss visibly sinking a metre around me. Making myself as light as possible, I somehow managed to get across.

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If anything, the wind was picking up. As I left my final summit, Grey Crag, I was literally crouching down with my hands on the ground trying to pull myself along through the compression zone. Further down, the wind eased for a second, then came at me in a powerful gust that lifted me off my feet, blowing my legs sideways. I landed awkwardly, bending my fingers of my right hand backwards and skidding downhill on the sodden grass. As I picked myself up, I shouted out “YES!” 

Isn’t it a humbling experience to be reminded of nature’s power?

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That’s 12 Wainwright’s down, 202 to go.

Graham Patten

29th January 2016