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
I’d planned today’s Wainwright bagging adventure at the end of last week. Second guessing weather maps that showed band after band of fronts passing over the north of England, hoping to hit a possible ridge of high pressure.
I knew it was going to be a lucky one when I stepped outside first thing this morning, feeling the cold air, seeing stars high in the dark sky. It wasn’t 6am yet, and I was on my way to the west coast, peering through fog, the air clearing quickly, then suddenly misting over once again.
Sunrise on the approach to Wasdale, a majestic vista exaggerated by pink and orange early morning light. I kept stopping to take photo after photo.
I parked up near Joss Naylor’s house at Greendale bridge, then set off in the gathering light, past huge round bales of brown bracken, which I guess will be used as animal bedding. On up the trail threading through bracken tinged with gold, taking it easy, enjoying the views opening up. The sun breaks the horizon, reflecting off the underside of dark cloud. Running in paradise.
Views down towards Wast Water from the summit of Middle Fell, and memories come flooding back from the last time I was here, during my Joss Naylor Challenge run in May 2016. On that day I literally threw everything I had into the descent I’d just run up. Happy days.
It’s pretty wet underfoot and a well worn trod takes me through leg sapping bog to the Pots of Ashness, steepening through boulders to the summit plateau, a cairn marking the top of Haycock. Lifting cloud revealing the lonely spire of Steeple with the rounded bulk of Scoat Fell as a backdrop. Ennerdale Water in the far distance glinting silver, as I ran on towards Caw Fell.
A steep downhill and I almost twist my ankle on an unseen rock hidden amongst tussock, then picking my way over mossy boulder scree. I find a faint trod, contouring round the lower slopes of Haycock, joining with the main trail to Seatallan. Again, memories from last year’s ‘Joss’ when I worked hard up this climb, knowing once I reached the top, I would only have one more summit to go. This morning, I was taking things much more leisurely, enjoying my solitude, the views, holding myself back.
With another personal challenge looming I’ve been training hard for the last few months. Now I’m in active rest mode, hoping for another weather window next week, to coincide with a full moon on October 5th. With the Dirty Double Lakeland Trails event shortly afterwards, I don’t have the luxury of time on my side. If anything, I’m fitter than last year, although I’ll need to be, as the 55@55 has only ever been completed by three people before. One of them, my own late godfather, George Brass in 1997. It’s a full Bob Graham Round, with an additional 13 peaks, one for every year of life. Throw in around 75 miles of very wet Lake District terrain climbing and descending nearly 30,000 feet, with more than half the day now in darkness. It will take everything I’ve got to get around in under 24 hours.
Once again, I’ll be running solo with support at the road crossings from my ‘dream team’ Claire and Ash. I’ve been improving my orienteering skills throughout the year in preparation. I’m now comfortable with night navigation, confident map reading on the run.
The descent off Seatallan to the distant small lumps of Buckbarrow, an invitation to run fast. A gentle gradient on soft, grassy trails, winding around knolls and small hills. Today though, I’m having none of it, holding back as much as I can, jogging along in second gear. I reach the top, then down one of my favourite routes, plunging straight off the steep rocky spur, heading straight for Joss’s farmhouse next to Greendale bridge.
The sun has come out and it’s warm by my van. After changing, I call into Joss’s house to say hello. Mary Naylor invites me in, although Joss is out somewhere on the fell. ‘He’s never in’ Mary tells me. The living room is full of photographs, paintings and awards, testament to the living legend of Joss. I leave the house feeling inspired.
Another 5 Wainwright summits today leaving only 10 to go.
I’ve saved these last ten summits as they’re all on Leg 4 of my 55@55 round, so I can count them down as an extra incentive when the going, no doubt, will be getting tough. On Yewbarrow, I’ll have nine to go. Red Crags, eight to go and so on until Grey Knotts, my final Wainwright. That will complete all 214 summits within a year, the fourth successive year that I’ve run them. Of course, after that final summit on Grey Knotts, I’ll still have to three more hours of running to get back to Moot Hall in Keswick via Dale Head, Hindscarth and Robinson.
It’s going to be hard work, yet I can’t wait!
© Graham Patten
Wednesday 26th September 2017
Notes – Wainwrights
There are 214 Wainwright summits in the Lake District, as featured by writer Alfred Wainwright, in his popular Lakeland Guides. In 2014, I ran all 214 Wainwright summits, for the first time, within a calendar year. I enjoyed these running journeys so much, I ran them all again the following year. In 2016, I completed the lot again within 214 days. This will be my fourth consecutive year running all the Wainwright summits and I’m already looking forward to the fifth!
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