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A Lucky Horseshoe

A Lucky Horseshoe – 214 Summits in 214 Days   

Thick, dark grey cloud hung over the tops like a blanket. It didn’t look promising at all. Yet first thing this morning it all looked so good when I left my home in Kendal. The Kentmere peaks white with late spring snow. Clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight.

This morning was my only window of opportunity to get a long run in, before a family trip to the West Coast over the Bank Holiday weekend. So I’d set off early, and was now parked up in Little Town in the Newlands Valley, jogging up the road, wondering what the morning had in store for me.

Deep snow lay amongst the heather and had drifted onto the narrow path running along the ridge up to the first summit of Ard Crags.

It was shin deep, the top few centimetres were frozen, making the going hard work. Running was impossible. So it was hands on knees, post holing upwards. I’d hoped the snow was windblown along the ridge, making progress easier, yet it had drifted into a deep cornice.

The views made up for the difficult underfoot conditions. Sunlight was streaming over the Catbells ridge, warming the air. Creating spectacular thermal clouds, quickly rising and enveloping the higher tops.

The going became slightly easier along to Knott Rigg, and running became child’s play. I had a huge smile on my face. 

Robinson was shrouded in thick white cloud. Wet bog lay under the soft snow. All I could do was keep pushing on as best I could, round Buttermere Moss, then up the steeper slopes, into the mire. There were great views behind me. 

Then as I neared the summit, a total white out, the cairn just about the only dark object around. I needed a compass bearing to find my way off to the col of Littledale Edge, following the fence and bounding downhill in huge steps in the deep snow.

I stopped, mesmerised. The cloud was lifting, sunlight was getting through. In seconds the sky was bright blue and the whole of Hindscarth appeared out of nowhere. Again, the climb to the top was an effort, then the fun of the downhill, and a nice ridge run to Dale Head. 

Slabs of snow came loose on the descent to Dalehead Tarn, rolling away into huge snowballs. Another grunt up High Spy, thermal cloud swirling around the cairn.

The final run for home along the ridge down to Maiden Moor was a blast, the snow wasn’t as deep, and patches of heather and grass were showing through. The first walkers of the morning appeared, all wrapped up, overloaded with big rucksacs, ice axes strapped on the back. 

Catbells was my final summit, looking stunning with the late spring snow.

I changed back at my van, and drove to Rheged, to my friend Peter Sidwell’s cafe, for a strong flat white coffee, and eggy muffins with crispy pancetta.

I flicked through the photos. This is surely my favourite Lakeland horeshoe, and this morning, a lucky one at that. 

I got back home to Kendal just after midday. My little boy Ash excited about heading off soon for a train ride on La’al Ratty, and wild camping somewhere nearby on the coast.

8 Wainwright summits today, that’s 128 down, 86 to go.

© Graham Patten


Tale of the Kentmere Trail

Tale of the Kentmere Trail

Staveley is where it all began for Lakeland Trails, way back in 2004. This year marks the 15th consecutive event in the village, although the model has changed over the years.

My original idea was based on my favourite Alpine trail race, the iconic Sierre to Zinal in Switzerland. This is a 31km point to point course, with a ‘Tourist class’ for the less competitive, setting off around 3 hours before the “Race”. I always loved these mountain races, and thought it was such a good idea combining these two events. The camaraderie both out on the course and at the finish were tremendous.

Garburn Trail 2006

Garburn Trail

So I robbed both ideas, and created a 21km point to point, off road, trail running route from Windermere to Staveley, over the lofty heights of the Garburn Pass. It was called simply the Garburn Trail, and we had both a Challenge and Race, pretty much as we do now.

80 people took part in that first event in September 2004. Many of them were my friends who I’d cajoled into taking part. British fell running champions Rob Jebb and Lou Roberts won that very first event. 

Garburn Trail 2006 – Runnersworld rated this “the most scenic race in Britain”

People seemed to like the idea of a European style mountain trail race on a marked and marshalled course. So I had much bigger plans in mind for the following year. Cumbria Wildlife Trust were our chosen charity. I found out they had a supply of badger costumes, their mascot. 

So I asked Rob if he’d help promote the event, having an impromptu photo shoot on Orrest Head, friends donning badger costumes, running with Rob. The poster we produced looked fantastic. A combination of stunning scenery, fun and excellence.

Garburn Trail 2006 – Finish arena at Elleray School in Windermere

Lakeland Radio were roped in to come to the event and do a live broadcast, and local business Lakeland Limited came on board as our first sponsors. £500 seemed a lot of money in those days. 

Girls love Garburn

I shamelessly promoted the event on the Fell Runners Forum, under a thread entitled “Girls love Garburn”, asking the question why such a high proportion of the fairer sex had entered. Back then, fell running was pretty much a male dominated sport and one or two fell runners took exception to an event of this nature on their ‘hallowed turf’. As the rants on the forum developed, I laughed to myself as the entries rolled in. More and more women were entering, particularly in the Challenge event. 

Garburn Trail 2006

You can imagine “Mr Beard” moaning to his wife about “This bloody trail race happening in t’Lakes, with a website, course waymarking, marshals everywhere. And it doesn’t even go to the top of any of t’fells”. Meanwhile, “Mrs Beard” is thinking, I quite like the sound of that, has a look online, enters, then tells all her friends too!

Garburn Trail 2007 – Finish arena at Windermere

Within weeks we’d reached our 500 limit. This time the course started in Staveley and finished at Elleray School in Windermere, a drumming band welcoming the runners home. Kids ‘Fun Trails’ bouncy castles, face painting, food stalls – we haven’t changed much since.

Garburn Trail 2007

In glorious sunshine, National cross country champion Steve Vernon, and World mountain running champion, Vic Wilkinson, took the race honours. The event was a success on every level.

The Lakeland Trails was born

So much so, that at the finish, I opened a box of pre-printed flyers announcing the next one in Coniston in a few months time. The Lakeland Trails was born.

Each year more people took part in the Garburn Trail, finishing at Staveley. We got national coverage in newspapers and on TV. Running magazines gave us awards for the most scenic race in Britain, the best race in Britain. No one else back then was organising family friendly sporting trail running events, although soon our model was getting copied all over the UK.

Flooding – 2009

In 2009 we had some of the worst June weather on record, with the snow line down to around 1200 feet, below this heavy rain and flooding. Working with Kendal Mountain Rescue, we reverted to our emergency route in the Kentmere valley. This was a 17km low level alternative, avoiding the exposed Garburn Pass.

Kentmere Trail

The surprise was how much everyone enjoyed this shorter course. We were inundated with requests to keep the course the same. So we did, changing the name to the Kentmere Trail.

Kentmere Trail 2010

Entries reached 1000 for the first time the following year and we haven’t looked back since. This year, over 1400 competitors will be running on the beautiful trails around Staveley.

Selfies on the Summit – 2017

As more people were taking up the sport of trail running, we added a 10km event to our  programme around 6 years ago, then introduced the 5km Sport Trail last year.

Sting in the Tail

An idea in 2012 to have a bit of fun on Reston Scar culminated in the name “Sting in the Tail” and we got all creative, making a trig point out of printed correx boards.

Sting in the Tail 2012

Now there’s always a crowd of supporters on the summit, with cow bells, drums, horns, you name it. A fantastic motivation for the final climb before the mad, fast descent back to the finish on Staveley Recreation Ground.

Kendal Mountain Rescue 2017

We have been incredibly fortunate over the years to have the support of our local Kendal Mountain Rescue team at the event. Over £10,000 must have been donated to them from this event alone over the last fifteen years and long may our partnership continue.

Kev Kendall in 2012

Now all that remains is for me to wish you the very best of luck this weekend. I know that the views will astound you, the bluebells are nigh on perfect. Don’t forget to slow down a bit and look around you. Take it all in.

Batala Lancaster 2017

Save something too for that last lap around the finish field with the drums from Batala Lancaster pumping you with adrenaline.

Good luck and see you on the start line!

Graham Patten

30th April 2018


Breakfast Run

Breakfast Run – 214 Summits in 214 Days  

I had no appetite when I got up. It was so early. A strong coffee, and I was off, driving away in the darkness. Breakfast could wait until after my run. 

This morning I was heading to Wasdale, making the most of my day off work. The plan being to run over the final leg of the Joss Naylor Challenge route. The fields were white with frost. A bright half moon in the clear sky overhead, although there was a lot of cloud about. An osprey at the estuary near Greenod, labouring for lift whilst clutching it’s catch. A nice surprise at this early hour.

I took the short cut over Corney Fell, the single track lane over the moor busy with traffic, everyone driving like lunatics, flashing their lights, overtaking on blind bends, oblivious to the ice on the road. It was only as I crested the hill and saw the bulk of Sellafield in the distance that the penny dropped. They must be on the early morning shift, racing to get to work on time.

Sunrise was dramatic through the clouds. Soon I was heading off on foot, leaving my van near Joss’s house, close to Greendale bridge. My legs already tired from a heavy training schedule. The higher peaks were blanketed in thick cloud. So I reverted to plan B, a new route taking in the lower peaks and a complete circuit of the lake.

The woodland track from Greendale bridge along the stream was edged with primroses, in the far distance the call of a cuckoo. I crossed an ancient packhorse bridge, and started the steep climb to Whin Rigg, views of the famous Wasdale screes opening up as I gained height.  

A snow flurry near the summit, the first of many throughout the morning. The ground was dry, and the cold northerly breeze was refreshing to run in, although I was well wrapped up. Glimpses of the lake between snow showers, soon reaching the summit of Illgill Head. My legs were loosening up, and I was enjoying myself, making good time on the descent to the National Trust car park at the head of the lake. Gorse was in flower, bright yellow, and suddenly the sun came out.

Up the steep climb of Yewbarrow, familiar from last year’s Bob Graham, the sky now bright blue. My technique here is simply not to look up until I’ve counted 500 double steps. By this time, I’m nearing the summit.

Another brief snow shower along the ridge, then I contoured around the rocky slopes of Stirrup Crag to the col at Dore Head, the rocks icy and dangerous.

By Red Pike, there was a sprinkling of snow on the ground. Rocks now patterned with green lichens and white snow flakes.

There were dramatic views from Scoat Fell, the northern grassy slopes crusted with snow and ice, rock glazed with a veneer of frost.

Cloud was building up on the arrete to Steeple. Another shower of snow flakes on the fast descent towards Haycock, the summit cloud playing games.

Now you see me, now you don’t. Ennerdale glimmering in the distance.

Caw Fell sticks out, a lonely summit at the end of the ridge, overlooking the sprawl of Sellafield. The Isle of Man clearly outlined out to sea on the horizon. I was thirsty, so descended, taking a contouring route amongst boulder fields around Gowder Crag. Coming up trumps with clean, clear springs, the water cool and refreshing.

There’s a great fast downhill trod towards Seatallan through the tussocks, I caught a toe on a hidden rock, almost face planting, although my momentum saved me, first speeding up then staggering back upright from a near horizontal running position. 

A steep, grassy line down avoiding the eroded trod, Greendale Tarn a shining level down below. Two walkers were at the summit of Middle Fell as I jogged up the final climb to the summit cairn. “Go on, how long did it take you to run up here then?” I looked at my watch – “Over four hours”, I replied, “Although I went the long way round!”

Buckbarrow was my final summit of the morning and I couldn’t resist running down to the small cairn perched on the crag itself, overlooking the valley.

I found a route around the crags, taking care down the steep slope amongst the gorse, admiring the many stone wall sculptures, testament to the living legend of Joss Naylor.  

A frenzy of small birds were making a racket in the garden by the farm. I stopped and waited, and a sleepy tawny owl flew across the road, chased by a noisy mob of blue tits, chaffinches and blackbirds. 

What a morning run – now I was ready for breakfast.

11 Wainwright summits today, that’s 120 down, 94 to go.

© Graham Patten


Long Run Home

Long Run Home – 214 Summits in 214 Days 

I was the only one on the bus. Understandable really, as it left Kendal bus station at 5.45am. It was surprising that I was actually on it myself. A rare night out with Claire, drinking far too much white wine with our meal. Then “one for the road” at Burgundy’s Wine Bar. This turned into another bottle of red with friends we hadn’t seen for years, ending up a very late night. 

Remembering a vague plan to catch the early morning bus. With a sore head, I thought I’d spend some time power napping on the way. The friendly bus driver had other ideas, keeping up a constant stream of chatter, with me in full view of his mirror, sitting in the back.

Amazing to see how much engineering work had been done already around Thirlmere, since the devastation by Storm Desmond. I couldn’t believe the scale of the landslides on the east side of the lake.

My new friend dropped me off at the footpath near the dam. Jogging up the steep climb through the forest, many trees fallen over like skittles. It was a gorgeous morning. There was a cold, northerly breeze. Blue skies and hardly a cloud in the sky. 

Sunlight filtered through the trees, the air having an Alpine feel. As I neared the summit of Raven Crag, there were new wooden steps and a boardwalk, frosted white. The view down towards Thirlmere was breathtaking.  

On the switch backs, preferring the rough, underfoot conditions of the steep woodland, to the monotony of the graded forest road.

I run through the quiet campsite of Shoulthwaite. Crossing the deserted A591, I follow an ancient trail around the corrugated mound of High Rigg.

Veering off the trail, climbing steeply through snow flattened orange-brown bracken stalks. 

Reaching the summit, with spectacular view of Blencathra and Skiddaw. I run down to St Johns in the Vale church, taking photos of the daffodils in the pretty graveyard.

I find a path meandering down to St Johns Beck. A dipper flying out from under the new footbridge. It’s domed nest crammed full of youngsters, balanced on the new steel bars underneath.

Skylarks serenaded me along the Old Coach Road to the climb of Clough Head. The last time I was here was during my Bob Graham Round last May, when it was pitch dark.

This morning the ground was white with frost. Leaning into the steep climb, pushing on my thighs to keep up momentum.

From the summit, a lovely run down towards Calfhow Pike. The ground rock hard up to Great Dodd. Clumps of grass, white with frost near the summit. 

An easy run to Watson’s Dodd. Along the ridge, visiting Stybarrow Dodd, Raise, Whiteside and Helvellyn Lower Man.

The mesmerising ridge line of Helvellyn, edged with snow, getting ever closer.

Old snow marked the descent down Swirral Edge. Crouching down, skiing the short, steep slope on my studs, using my hands as brakes. 

The haphazard, broken rocks were scored by winter crampons. I run along trying to bring life to my freezing cold hands. From the small cairn on Catstycam, a steep grassy descent down to Red Tarn.

Suddenly I’m spreadeagled on the ground, sprawled amongst rocks, bleeding from my hand. I pick myself up, my toes bruised and sore, my fingers red with blood.

I take a great route off Birkhouse Moor, straight off The Nab, amongst steep rock, picking my way down through the rough terrain. Eventually meeting the rocky path near Mires Beck. 

Refuelling at the Helvellyn Country Kitchen Cafe, with a late brunch, a full cooked breakfast, with a flat white coffee.

I found out they’d only recently re-opened after the floods. Michelle, the owner, showed me photos on her iPad, with flood water one metre deep inside the cafe.

Missing the bus to Ambleside by a few minutes, I find out the next one is nearly two hours away. I look at my map, seeing a line from Hartsop, climbing up to Thornthwaite Crag, and along my favourite ridge, Froswick, Ill Bell and Yoke. 

I shouldered my pack, and set off on my long run home.

7 Wainwright summits today, that’s 109 down, 105 to go.

© Graham Patten


Days like this

Days Like This – 214 summits in 214 days

There was ice on the windscreen, ruling out Kirkstone Pass, so I’d have no option but to go the long way round on the M6. It was 5.15am and I was heading for Braithwaite, near Keswick. There was no need for me to set an alarm. I was in bed and asleep by 8.30pm last night. Knowing I’d wake up eight hours later, give or take. I’d already packed my gear, and my running kit was next to the bed. 

I crept downstairs in the darkness. First a strong coffee. A bowl of porridge, then I was away. The sun burst over the horizon as I neared Penrith. Soon I was driving along the quiet road into Braithwaite. Two early morning runners heading towards the fells, one wearing a Lakeland Trails tee shirt, making me smile.

Grisedale Pike from Braithwaite, is my favourite climb in the whole Lake District. I love the way it varies from hands on knees steepness, to easy gradients that are great for running.

The ascent quickly takes you right into the heart of these fells, with 360′ panoramic views. There was still frost in the shady patches.

Low sun made spectacular shadows, silvering the meandering ribbon of Coledale Beck far below.

Coach wanted me to keep up a good pace today. I’m in my final training block for the Joss Naylor Challenge, which I hope to attempt sometime in May. “And don’t keep stopping to take photos!”

A lovely ridge run from Grisedale Pike summit, first to Hopegill Head, then along to Whiteside. The rising sun bringing Gasgale Crags and the steep slopes of Grasmoor into sharp relief.

From Whiteside, it would be new territory.

Descending the rocky ridge, with loose scree, all the way down to Crummock Water far below.

Mist steaming as the first rays of sun caught the inverted air.

It was coach’s idea to drop all this height, then contour round Grasmoor End. Setting up a nice, short steep climb to Rannerdale Knotts. Then climbing all the way up to the whale back summit of Grasmoor itself. There were misgivings about the plan, designed for an extra hour on my feet. 

I don’t know if I have to thank the local Herdwick sheep or fellow Wainwright baggers, or both. There is the most brilliant, grassy trod contouring all the way to Rannerdale.

The views, with the first light shining on the new yellow gorse blossom, fields green with spring growth, and Buttermere with it’s impressive backdrop of fells, were simply jaw dropping beautiful.

A photographer’s Lakeland dream.

The ridge from Rannerdale summit was another new one. Soon I was back on more familiar territory. Making the big climb to Whitless Pike, everywhere I looked, a picture postcard.

Nearing Wandope a wheatear with a bill full of flies. Proof of newly hatched young in her nest under a rock somewhere nearby. The short grass on Grasmoor a delight to run on, the ground hard and dry.

An easy climb to Eel Crag. The trig point in a poor state, looking as though it had fallen over, then propped back up again, leaning slightly. 

Dry rocks on the ridge to the summit of Sail. A a straight line between the new zig zag walker’s path to Scar Crags. Causey Pike marked my 100th Wainwright of the year. Also the first thermal cloud of the morning, bringing texture to the blue of the sky. 

It’s often wet and boggy on the descent to Outerside. Today didn’t disappoint, and by Barrow I was being greeted “good morning” by the first walkers. I had to laugh to myself. They were just starting out, and my adventure was nearly finished. 

Yellow green new leaf was budding out on the oak trees on the track near Braithwaite Lodge, and swallows were everywhere. 

Back at my van, I got changed and looked at my camera. I’d somehow managed to take 189 photos during the run. I’ve absolutely no idea how I’m going to keep that a secret from coach. But that’s the disadvantage of being self coached, I guess. 

I had kept a good pace going though, in between taking photos. I thought about all the hours of training I’ve done through the cold, wet, winter months, and realised. It was for days like this.

13 Wainwright summits today, that’s 102 down, 112 to go.

© Graham Patten


Three Little Beauties

Three Little Beauties – 214 Summits in 214 Days 

Living and working in the Lakes sometimes means finding yourself in areas seldom visited. A meeting at Rheged, near Penrith, provided an excuse for this little jaunt on my way home afterwards. 

Parking up amongst daffodils by the bridge at Dockray, I set off with a map, in sunshine. This run perfectly illustrates the pure joy of Wainwright bagging. Giving a reason to explore new routes, linking up the three rounded outlying hills. I certainly wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Bird song was everywhere. I left the track and started the climb across rough pasture. The first curlew of the year making that lovely warbling call which always makes me feel spring is finally here. I found a trod through the heather, a kestrel hovering overhead. 

Climbing over a dry stone wall, I ran the short climb to the summit cairn of Gowbarrow Fell. The views from this little peak are spectacular, Ullswater framed by the steep surrounding fells, capped with snow.

A winding path invites you to run along the rolling grassy ridge, towards the next Wainwright, Little Mell Fell. It then reaches a dense conifer plantation. I startled a roe deer stag. It pranced across the wet bogland back towards the safety of the trees. I stopped and waited for the best bit. An effortless single bound over the barbed wire fence. Then it was gone. 

The path was very boggy around the wood. I enjoy the game of trying to pick out the dry spots as I was running. Every now and again misjudging, my foot getting sucked into the mire.

Crossing the road by the weather station, powered by a solar panel, I was soon bent over, pushing on my thighs. Up the steep, short climb and after a few minutes effort the trig point appeared. 

Again, for such a small hill, the views all around were fantastic. A fast grassy descent heading towards the final Wainwright, Great Mell Fell. Getting stuck amongst gorse thickets on the final drop down to the road, making a big detour to get round them. 

An old friend I haven’t seen for years was walking up the hill with his daughter and mum, so I stopped to have a chat. The last time I’d seen Owain was in Chamonix, where he was living and working as an Alpine guide. Now he was back in the Lakes, having recently moved to nearby Greystoke.

With an audience, I had no option but to keep a good pace going up the rest of the steep climb. As the gradient eases, the trail takes you through stunted pine trees, pushed over by the westerly winds.

I was now on peat. Wet and black underfoot. The summit marked with a small pile of stones. Ribbons of snow decorated the jagged ridges of Blencathra in the distance.

Choosing the most direct route steeply down and over big tussocks, wild like Knoydart in Scotland. I reached an old mucky track, frogspawn in every puddle.

A short section of tarmac, then an ancient, lichen covered footpath sign marking the way. Across a very wet bog, alive with birds. Meadow pipits, skylarks and reed buntings flying out from under my feet.

Soon I was running around the base of Gowbarrow Fell, joining up with the bridleway where I started an hour and a half ago. I slowed to a gentle jog, taking in all the signs of spring. Bright green new leaf bud, pale yellow primroses and the pungent smell of wild garlic.

I looked back for a few moments at the three little beauties, then rounded a corner.  

3 Wainwright summits today, that’s 89 down, 125 to go.

© Graham Patten

Sign up to my blog to have a chance to win FREE trail running goodies. There are some great gifts on offer, such as trail running product, entries to the Lakeland Trails events and lots of other items too. On the 15th of each month, everyone on my subscribers list will go into a prize draw and the winner announced on the Lakeland Trails Facebook page, as well as by email.

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Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen – 214 summits in 214 days

All my best adventures start in darkness. When this one started at 4.30am this morning, it was pitch black. After a strong coffee and porridge for breakfast, I was out of the door, driving towards Shap in the gathering light along deserted roads. I always smile at the ‘Welcome to Shap’ road sign. It reminds me of when I first moved to Kendal. My friend Chewy asked me “do you know why they call it Shap?” I had no idea, and he answered after a suitable pause “because they couldn’t decide between Shit and Crap”.

There was a Roe Deer on the road just before Pooley Bridge. It was in no hurry. I had to almost stop the van. I reached for my camera and as I did so, it squeezed through a beech hedge into someone’s garden.

I parked up by St Peter’s Church, near Howtown. In less than nine minutes I was at the huge summit cairn of the baby peak of Hallin Fell. It was clear, although hazy, with very little wind. The reason for my early start was last night’s weather maps. A front was due to move in from the west around midday. So I wanted to make the most of the dry morning on my day off work.

Steel Knotts was my next summit. A toddler peak this time, startling the first skylark of the year. I took a lovely, inviting ridge line down towards Howtown, one I’d not run before. Then the steep vertical climb of Bonscale Pike, taking a detour past a huge badger sett, hoping to see one. Arthur’s Pike was only a few minutes away, overlooking Ullswater, and for the next hour or so, I’d be on the Joss Naylor Challenge route.

The ground was dry as a bone, and I enjoyed running on the firm peat. A splendid male hen harrier was quartering the ground ahead, unaware of me as I was into wind. It’s silver grey wings tipped with black, then suddenly, with a tilt, it was up and away. A magic moment for me, a first, as I’ve never seen a male hen harrier in the Lakes before. 

It was fast, easy running up Loadpot Hill then Wether Fell. I found it easier to hold my poles rather than use them. The ridge was disappearing into mist. I stopped to get out my map, then followed the dry stone wall, crunching through old snowdrifts, towards the summit of High Raise. The nearby summits of Kidsty Pike and Rampsgill Head were also in light cloud. Brief glimpses of the view towards Riggendale Crags, the home of the Lake District’s only golden eagle.

Running down out of cloud, up back up the short climb to The Knott. Across tussock grass, looking for a way across an old snow filled gulley, not liking the look of it one bit. I found a narrow section to cross without snow. Looking up at the dark cave of eroded snow drift above, a man trap. 

A herd of red deer, maybe twenty strong, watched me run towards them. They let me get quite close before they were off, heads held high.

I contoured around the steep rocky slopes of Rest Dodd on one of their trods, littered with deer shit. Leaving my poles and running pack by the stile, I ran up the easy slope to The Nab. Across dried up peat hags, back collecting my gear again before the short, steep climb to Rest Dodd.

My legs were tiring, although I was still going well. My spirits lifting by the views from Brock Crags towards Brotherswater.

I could see the cloud was moving in from the west, and with just three summits left, hoped I would have enough time. Canada geese echoed across the still waters of Angle Tarn. 

On the summit of Angletarn Pikes, my first humans, three Wainwright baggers from Leeds. “Go on then, how many?” one of them asked me. I loved the look on his face when I replied “Fourteen so far this morning”.

Hard going up Place Fell, with more walkers at the summit cairn. Down the steep grassy slopes to Boredale Hause. I follow a deer trod, contouring to the ridge line of Beda Fell. My final, and sixteenth summit of the morning. From here, I run down the lovely single track path, winding along the rocky ridge, all the way to Howegrain Beck. I couldn’t resist the cold water of the river. Wading in up to my knees, standing in the flow for a few minutes by the bridge. Soothing my tired legs, a natural spa.

Walking up the final tarmac lane to my van, my studs squelching and oozing water. I changed into dry clothes, and as soon as I fired up the engine, it started to rain. I drove off, heading to the farm cafe at Tebay Services, for good coffee and local food, not fancying a Shap lunch.

As I was eating, I gazed through the big windows of the cafe at the misty moorland outside. As I did so, a merlin flew past, almost touching the ground. Another first for me in the Lakes.

16 Wainwright summits today, that’s 86 down, 128 to go.

© Graham Patten

Sign up to my blog to have a chance to win FREE trail running goodies. There are some great gifts on offer, such as trail running product, entries to the Lakeland Trails events and lots of other items too. On the 15th of each month, everyone on my subscribers list will go into a prize draw and the winner announced on the Lakeland Trails Facebook page, as well as by email.

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Scale and Polish

Scale and Polish – 214 summits in 214 days

I had my first appointment today with my dentist and long time running friend, Brian Clough, in Windermere. I always choose his earliest 8.30am slot, so there’s no waiting if he’s running late. I get whisked in first as soon as he’s ready. I’ve been seeing too much of Brian in the last couple of years, professionally at least. It was some relief to hear I would only need a scale and polish.

My day had started much earlier, before 5am. I’m always an early riser, waking up like clockwork around the same ungodly hour each morning. It really is the best time of the day. I love having the house all to myself before the family wakes. I can get through a lot of work in my office without any interruptions.

A second appointment of the morning was with the Wainwrights around Coniston Old Man. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. As I’ve got such an understanding employer, me, I can be super flexible with my working hours.

The drive from Windermere, through Ambleside and along the road to Coniston was spectacular. I had to pinch myself that soon I’d be up high in the snowy hills on a ‘normal’ working day. I parked at the Walna Scar Car park, jogging the bridleway to the quarry road. Now the steep climb up the little worn trod that winds to the summit.

I’ve been up this route many, many times. Coniston Old Man is one of my favourite launch sites for flying my paraglider, especially on those long summer evenings. Today the trod soon disappeared under snow, and my rhythm was shot to pieces by superb views. I just had to capture them with my camera.

This snow was perfect. Frozen hard so I didn’t sink. The surface giving just enough for my studs to grip. A light north easterly breeze made the air cold. I made good progress. The Old Man trig point was half buried in a windblown cornice. The summit ridge another world of snow and ice, under a blue, blue sky. In the distance, the Isle of Man hung above the sea.

The shapely domed cairn on Brim Fell is only a few minutes from the Old Man. My route from here was going to take me down the steep snow slope to the col, then up the climb of Dow Crag.

Bounding strides were the way forward. Enough to make deep prints, braking my speed.

I was soon at the col, making the climb through snow and rock. Hard snow had filled gaps around the summit rocks, making it easier than usual to reach the top.

I contoured round Brim Fell, grateful that someone else had broken the trail yesterday, compacting the snow and helping with my own progress. Spindrift had filled in some of the foot steps in places, so they suddenly disappeared for a few metres, starting again on the other side.

I was confident crossing some steep snow slopes that plummeted down over crags, although I didn’t look down until I was safely across. Near the col, lovely sculptures in the snow, made by the wind, a mini Alpine world. A jet black raven flew overhead, so close I could see the glint in it’s eye.

A short climb to the cairn on Grey Friar, with dramatic views of Scafell.

Downhill through softer snow and another short climb to Great Carrs, passing the memorial to the crashed aircraft from the second world war.

Hurdles of drifting snow up to Swirl How, then a joyful descent on compacted hard snow, padded down by walkers, with views of Levens Water glistening below. 

Wetherlam was the morning’s final summit, and the toughest climb of all. The midday sun now softening the snow, my feet going down to shin level on every step.

This made the descent great fun, and it was with some sadness that I left the snow line behind. Reaching partly frozen bog near the tarn, I ran along easy familiar trails back to my van.

I drove to Ambleside for a late lunch at the Apple Pie Bakery, bumping into my friend Aled Butler and his little boy Charlie. He told me he’s been enjoying the Wainwright posts, a good enough reason as any for a name check. I was home in good time to pick my own son Ash up from school.

7 Wainwright summits today, that’s 70 down, 144 to go.

© Graham Patten

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Three before Tea

Three Before Tea – 214 summits in 214 days

A family day. Swimming at Holgates near Silverdale in the morning, Claire watching from the pool side, full of cold. We’d had our fancy coffee and lunch together. Now we were back home. It was still early. The consensus was to get the wood burner fired up, then watch the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory video again this afternoon. We’d all watched it together only yesterday. 

Spring sunlight and shadows highlighting the snowy mountain tops. I decided to skip the video re-run and nip out for a couple of hours or so. Enjoy this remarkable weather. I changed into my running gear, put my bike in the back of the van, and drove towards Ambleside.

One of the great things about living in the Lakes is that everything is on your doorstep. Afternoons on a sunny weekend are a great time to head out into the honey pots. Most of the tourists are down off the hills, enjoying a well earned cream tea or a pint or two. 

I parked up in a little lay by on the back road to Red Bank, just beyond Loughrigg Tarn, jumped on my bike, and free wheeled down to Elterwater. Up the pot holed back road towards the Drunken Duck pub, leaving my bike behind a big stone wall, next to the start of the footpath up Black Fell.

The trail first winds through lovely old oak trees, up into dark plantation conifers. Then clubs a rough, rocky path, more like a stream bed, through open bracken, juniper and larch trees. It’s one of the smallest of the Wainwrights. My son Ash climbed it when he was just four years old. Yet the views as you reach the summit are tremendous. 

On a day like today, I was lost for words. Taking photo after photo. Every direction was a perfect spring Lakeland scene, with snow capped summits, blue sky, fluffy cumulus clouds and pristine light. 

Within half an hour I was back at my bike, stepping on the pedals, climbing to the Drunken Duck pub. I counted seven personal registration plates amongst all the flash cars parked haphazardly on the verge outside.

Memories flooded back. I first cycled this back road just after I’d moved to Kendal, when foot and mouth disease closed down all the footpaths. I’d recently joined Ambleside AC, and as we couldn’t run on the hills, we all simply got on our bikes instead. Great rides exploring these little known lanes that wind their way all over the Lake District. 

Today, I wanted to ride past Tarn Hows. I knew the views from there would be stunning. I left my bike near the disabled car park and jogged round to a favourite rocky ridge to take some photos.

From Coniston village, I cycled along the main road back towards Ambleside, leaving my bike behind a wall at the far end of Yew Tree Tarn. Another scenic woodland start to the climb of another “toddler” peak, Holme Fell, already ticked off by my son Ash. It took less than fifteen minutes to run to the summit, including all the stops for photos. 

The reward for such a small amount of effort? 

Views to rival anything in the Alps, with a backdrop of the Coniston and Langdale fells.

Now it was late afternoon and if anything, the light was getting even better, the views totally inspiring. Full of energy from the amazing scenery I was soon making the final climb on the road to my van. I put the bike in the back, jogging up the road, before turning right. Up the steep path that follows the most direct line to the summit of Loughrigg. 

Half way up I stopped to look behind me. Everything was picture postcard perfect. I reached for my camera in my jacket pocket. It wasn’t there! I must have left it behind in my haste to get going. I thought about going back down to the van to get it, then decided the clouds were over developing, and the views at the top wouldn’t be up to much anyway.

At the summit, the views were the most fabulous I’d ever seen. Ever. The clouds had subsided in the cooling air. Light was filtering through to all the peaks, picking out the contours. Lakes and tarns shining silver. 

They say the best photographs are the ones you never take, and this was one of those. A magical end to an afternoon that wasn’t planned. I jogged back down and drove home to Kendal for tea, stopping to pick some daffodils for Claire which were growing wild by the side of the road. 

3 Wainwright summits today, that’s 63 down, 151 to go.

© Graham Patten

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Nail the Coffin Trail

The Coffin Trail

It’s tough. Nearly vertical. A mile long killer punch, a body blow when you least need it. 

Many will be brought to a faltering, grimacing walk. Bent over double, pushing on thighs, fear in their eyes. Only a few will be running. 

So how do they do it? How can you join them and nail the Coffin Trail too?

Here I’ll share some of my own personal secrets. Along with the intimate knowledge gained from many jaunts up this iconic climb over more than a decade. If you’re totally new to the Lakeland Trails, you may also want to read my blog about what lies in store for you at the events – ‘New to the Lakeland Trails’

History

First though, I want to tell you a bit about the history of the “Coffin Trail”. Many people think we named it ourselves, when in fact, it IS a Coffin Trail, and there are many all over the Lake District. Back in the Middle Ages, when someone died they would have taken the body in a coffin to be buried in the nearest church cemetery. For those living in and around the west shore of Lake Windermere, this was in the village of Hawkshead. 

Claife Heights may not be the highest of hills, but it is very steep. So you have to try and imagine what it would have been like climbing that hill, sharing the weight of a heavy coffin with three or more others. Or a pack horse may have been used to pull the coffin along. It’s for this reason the Coffin Trail is cobbled with rough stone, graded and zig zags up through the woods. Any steeper and it would be an impossible task.

In both the 10km and 17km events, the Coffin Trail hits you when you have been running effortlessly along the lake shore. Although a welcome relief after some gruelling terrain beforehand. It is very easy to run too fast here and this is what does the damage when it comes to the climb. 

Our 10km competitors have had to negotiate leg sapping, wet, muddy fields, then the trail drops down to the lake, pancake flat for the next 2km. 17km runners have already climbed Claife Heights once already!

Pace yourself

Pacing is an art. It takes a lot of practice to run within yourself and not to get carried away. This is especially so with others around you. The pace suddenly speeds up. The views across the lake are picture postcard perfect. It seems easy, so you join in. 

You know there’s the Coffin Trail still to come. Yet you tell yourself, it can’t be that bad. Can it?

Remember too, that the ones right at the front in the 17K race do an awful lot of training. Some of them will be running around 100 miles per week. People like Tom Adams and Chris Holdsworth, first and second respectively at Cartmel this year, are in peak fitness. They run for Great Britain in the World Mountain Running Championships. Annie Conway, who won at Cartmel, is a World Champion. They all know how to pace themselves.

The Coffin Trail can be run from bottom to top in less than 8 minutes by keeping up a steady rhythm – I myself have run this many, many times. However, it’s a completely different story if I’ve been running too quickly beforehand. This sort of time seems impossibly fast.

It very much depends on getting the pacing right beforehand. 

We try and help by having props along the Coffin Trail to make you smile. Look out for the 1/4 way, 1/2 way, 3/4 way and summit coffin signs too.

If you get it wrong and your legs are full of lactic acid, then you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour on the downhill either. There’s at least 3km of gorgeous descent with views to die for, down rocky, boulder strewn trails. Easy and fast when your legs are fresh. Painful and slow when they aren’t.

At the bottom of the hill, there’s another kilometre or so of rolling fields and pretty Lakeland cottages before the glory of the finish in Hawkshead.

You’re going to nail it this year. 

Aren’t you?

Graham Patten

2nd April 2018

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