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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

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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

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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

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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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’


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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Beauty and the Beast from the East in Cartmel

My eyes were watering from the strong, bitterly cold, easterly wind coming straight off the Baltic, bringing Siberian wind chill temperatures to the Lakeland Trails season opener in Cartmel. I don’t think I’ve ever been as cold at sea level. Everything I’d brought with me I had on before the start. And I was still freezing.

Everyone else was well wrapped up too. Balaclavas and buffs covering exposed faces, making us a motley looking crew of bandits.

One or two hardy souls in shorts. A mass of humanity grouped at the start, like a mob of Antarctic penguins, shuffling around to keep warm, waiting for the off. Flurries of driving snow, then sunshine. Almost spring. What do they say about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb?

At last, there’s movement at the front. Soon we’re moving too, over the timing mat and away. A migration of trail runners. Relief to finally be moving, already the leaders of the 10K are out of sight.

Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves now, chatting to each other, running in two’s and three’s. Some are in cosy warm looking puffer jackets, making me wish I’d thought of wearing mine. I had on tights, a thermal top, last year’s green Helvellyn tee shirt in honour of the Irish and Paddy’s Day. A warm hat, buff round my neck and thermal green gloves. I still wasn’t warm though.

Big puddles as we near the woods and there’s a bottle neck in front. People are stopping to pick their way around to avoid the icy waters. I egg people on to splash straight through, to keep up our momentum. When the trail starts to climb gradually, I’m pleased, my muscles finally warming up. Some are already walking. Maybe they set off a bit quick?

Everyone was encouraging and I joined in too, knowing every step of the route ahead. Glimpses of Morecambe Bay and then we double back. Into the teeth of the wind. The ground is hard and dry. A combination of frozen soil and the recent dry easterly winds. This is the driest it’s ever been in the nine years of the Cartmel Trail.

Across fields and the usual mud bath has been reduced to a few puddles. Last year it was a knee deep quagmire, the reason we call this course “The Beauty and the Beast”. Shelter from the wind along the tarmac single track lane. An easy downhill to the water station.

With the wind behind and sun in our faces, it starts to feel warm. Hard work through a tough, boggy section. Bedraggled ponies watch us run up their hoof-marked field, churned up and rutted like it’s been ploughed. It must have been a long, hard, wet winter for them.

Miniature wild daffodils on the verges bring a welcome dash of yellow, hint of spring. Two girls marshalling at a lane junction, playing music, cheering us on. Dancing to keep warm and making me smile. The spirit of our volunteer marshals is amazing. It must be extremely cold to be standing still in this wind all day long.

Now some 5K runners join us, making a splash through the stream.

Uphill through the woods and many are walking, looking spent. It’s not over yet though. Across tree roots and rocks, we can hear the band and the MC tantalisingly close.

Then agony when we reach the Racecourse and start running away from the finish. The course re-routed at the last minute to avoid damaging the hallowed turf.

An endless, long run for home, spectators cheering, cowbells ringing out their welcome.

I finish with lots of others, many of them new to the Lakeland Trails. Everyone beaming with pride at having finished the course and braving the elements. The steel band is playing away, despite the cold and wind.

We collect our well deserved finisher’s T shirt. Then for me, it’s into lots of warm clothing. A hot coffee, some good food, catching up with other runners I’d not seen since last year.

I can’t wait until the Hawkshead Trail in April. Surely it will be warmer by then?


© Graham Patten

18th March 2018

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New to the Lakeland Trails?

The Lakeland Trails season opener takes place in the pretty village of Cartmel this Saturday. For many, it will be their first trail running event. You may have completed other trail runs, yet may be new to the Lakeland Trails in Cartmel.

This short piece tells you what to expect on the day. How the Lakeland Trails may be a bit different from what you’re used to. What the courses will be like at Cartmel and how best to run them, that sort of thing.

This will be the fifteenth year for the Lakeland Trails – the very first event had just 80 competitors and at Cartmel this year there will be over 1800! We like to keep the size of the events manageable – big enough to feel a part of something inspiring, small enough to feel like one large sporting family.

Pick up your number and timing chip

When you arrive, you’ll be directed by car parking stewards and will see the Cartmel Racecourse main tower building and stands. This is where you’ll find Registration, within the huge marquee. You’ll need to look at the start list boards inside to find your name, then pop along to the Registration team. Tell them your number, and you’ll be given a race number, safety pins, a reusable timing chip and a velcro strap for attaching it to your ankle.

All the events during the day have different coloured numbers, so if you’re running in the 10K, your number will be blue. 5K numbers are pink, 18K challenge numbers are yellow and 18K race numbers are white.

Time to grab a coffee or a late breakfast

Once you’ve got your number and timing chip, you can chill out. Lakeland Trails are much more than a trail run. They are a complete family day out, with something for everyone throughout the day. Live music, MC commentary, children’s bouncy castle and face painting. Now is a good time to chat with friends old and new, maybe get a caffeine fix or a late breakfast. There are plenty of good food and coffee vendors, vegetarian options too, a trail running kit shop, even trail running shoes that you can ‘test run’.

Lots to do in the event village

Meet & Greet

Come and say hello to me and other experienced Lakeland Trailers at the blue ‘Meet & Greet’ gazebo. There will be a couple of flying banners to guide you, with Lakeland Trails hoodies, T shirts and headwear to tempt you once you’ve finished. 

Keep your eye on your watch though – all the events will start on time. If you’re planning on warming up, a slow 15-20 minute jog half an hour before your start time will loosen up your muscles. If you need to leave any spare kit, bring a small bag or backpack. You can then leave it at the baggage store within the marquee, within sight of the start line.

What to wear?

Knowing what to wear for your first trail run is very much dependent on your own experience, and the weather. My advice would be to wear something comfortable, clothing and shoes you’re used to. For the 5K you could wear any running shoes, although the more grip, the better. On the 10K and 18K, you’re better off with trail running shoes. Bring along a cagoule, tights, gloves, a hat and small pack to put them in too. The Lake District is a mountainous region, famed for it’s temperamental weather. Even snow can fall here at any time of year!

Which course?

There are maps and profiles of all the courses on notice boards in the marquee. What they don’t tell you is what the underfoot conditions will be like. How best to run them. All the courses are very well signed, with flags, race route arrows and lots and lots of friendly marshals. It’s helpful to wear your number on the front, so they know which course to direct you along.

Our friendly marshals will look after you and make sure you’re safe and stay on course

10K Cartmel Trail Run – Blue numbers

The first event, the 10K, sets off at 11am. This is the one that I’m going to run this year. The first kilometre is flat, fast and furious, on a good solid trail, so don’t get carried away. Find your own rhythm. You’re better off starting off slowly and speeding up. It’s good for your morale. Passing people is always better than being overtaken! After 1K, you reach some huge pine trees. Now deep puddles will appear in the track. Enjoy splashing right through them. You’re going to get wet and muddy on this course, it’s all part of the fun.

After a couple of hundred metres in the woods, the trail starts to wind gradually uphill. This is where your patience at the start will pay off. The faster starters will have legs quickly turning to jelly. The climb goes onto a single track tarmac lane with great views to Morecambe Bay as it levels out. 

Pat yourself on the back as you’ve done most of the climbing on the course. A level section on hard trail*, then into the first section of mud with hedges either side. Try and keep your momentum and plough through the mire. Some will be trying to avoid the wetter sections, picking their way around. Pass them and splash them! Soon you’re out onto rolling green grassy trails**, past a small caravan park and some pretty Lakeland cottages.

Straight down the middle

A slight downhill and you’ll see what looks like a man eating marsh up ahead. It’s a favoured spot too for one of the event photographers. Whatever you do, don’t try and go around this one. It’s an old sunken track. The water may be brown and knee deep, yet underneath is hard gravel. Plough through the middle as though you were ten years old with a big smile on your face. It’s what life’s about! The edges of this track are where the trouble lies. This is where the deep, sticky mud lies in waiting. 

Stay clear of the edges of the trail

Once through the mire, it’s good running along a short section of tarmac lane*** to the water station. From here, some soggy, boggy trails which are just hard work. Relentless going. Once you hit a slight incline, the worst is behind you. Wordsworth daffodils will be watching you from the banks of the trail. Through a farmyard****, then across a small stream, another favourite photography spot. Make a splash. You’ll have a photo memento you can treasure in the future! 

Finish with a smile

The hardest section is at the end, the last one and a half kilometres or so. There’s a climb in the woods, and it’s soft underfoot. The trail winds through the trees and you’ll probably hear the PA and band, tantalisingly close. Yet the end seems to elude you. Suddenly you burst out of the trees and you have a final couple of hundred metres of glory. With luck, your name will be announced as you cross the line.

Moving along at a walk, you’ll be ushered into a section of the marquee to have your timing chip taken from you. Then awarded your well-earned finisher’s T shirt that you can wear with pride.

Now you can change out of your muddy, sweaty gear. Treat yourself to some goodies. Chat with your new friends and enjoy the atmosphere.

Tuck into something nice after your run

5K Cartmel Sport Trail – Pink numbers

The second event, the 5K, sets off at 11.15am. There are a lot of youngsters taking part in this event and they haven’t learnt the art of pace judgement yet. They will set a suicidal pace. Keep up with them at your peril!. You follow exactly the same route as the 10K course as far as the level section of hard trail*, after around 3km. From here, you take a ‘short cut’ along a forest road, gently downhill to the farmyard described above****. You have the stream to cross and the hard section back through the woods, so save some energy for yourself.

Kid’s Fun Trails

Bringing the family along? Children under the age of 12 can take part in the Fun Trails. Short, exciting trails for the Under 10’s and Under 12’s. Any age can take part, even mums and dads can run with the children too. They will set off when everyone is back from the 10K and 5K events, the younger children setting off first. Gerry the Giraffe joins them and keeps them on course. Everyone gets a medal for taking part. The buzz and excitement of the kids is worth experiencing first hand.

18km Cartmel Trail Challenge – Yellow numbers

The third senior event, the 18K Challenge, sets off at 1pm. It follows exactly the same route as the 18K Race an hour later. The Challenge is the relaxed version of the 18K event. The one for taking part and enjoying the views and friendly banter along the trail.

Both 18K courses follow the 10K route as far as the rolling green grassy trails**, so you can read as far as this in the 10K route to know what’s in store for you. Then a stunning 8K extra loop first takes you along good, fast grassy trails with views in all directions. Lakeland snow capped peaks ahead of you in the distance, the shining levels of Morecambe Bay over to your left.

Strike a pose when you see one of our photographers

After crossing a single track lane, there’s a short climb through mature oak woodland, then comes the gorgeous Bigland Tarn. You skirt round this and along a track to the first water station at around the 9K mark. More tarns to circumnavigate, along a lovely, muddy single track cutting through heather. It’s difficult to overtake here, much better to wait, take it easy and a few hundred metres later the trail opens up and there’s lots of room to pass. 

A section of rolling single track tarmac lane, then into rough felled woodland, the trails cut up from heavy machinery. This section of the course tends to be the toughest. It’s wet, muddy and there’s a devilish incline. One of those that’s not steep enough for everyone to walk, yet very tough to run. 

You’ll be soon through this and onto another short section of tarmac lane***, picking up the 10K route from here, all the way back to the finish.

The fastest in the 18K Race, which set off at 2pm with white numbers, are GB International athletes who will be home within 70 minutes. This leads to an exciting finish as everyone arrives back from both 18K courses at similar times.

By 3.30pm, singer/songwriter Pete Lashley, who would have already run in the 18K Challenge, takes to the stage. Pete plays for an hour, many of the songs he’s written himself, as well as requested cover songs.

Then it’s the Prize Giving for all those who have earned them, followed straight afterwards by the Spot Prize draw. Anyone can win one of the spot prizes, although you will need to fill out a spot prize form and put your name and number on it, then just post it in the podium.

By 5pm everything is over for another day. If you’re staying in the Lake District, you’ll meet lots of Lakeland Trailers in the pubs and restaurants, proudly wearing their finisher’s T shirt.

Welcome to the Lakeland Trails family.

See you on Saturday!

If you’ve got any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.


© Graham Patten           

12th March 2018

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Late for Lunch – 214 in 214

Knowing I was going to be getting up and away in the pre dawn darkness brought back childhood memories of Christmas. I got an early night, full of excitement about what the day would bring. 

Late for Lunch 1

There was ice on the windscreen, bright stars up above. The forecast looked reasonable, maybe it was going to be better than expected? On the drive to Grasmere, I could see the outline of the hills, white against the dark sky. I parked up in the lay-by opposite the sports ground, and set off in the early light. It was exactly 6.30am, so I was bang on schedule. An ambitious day was planned, and I hoped to be back in time for lunch with Claire, before some work related meetings in the afternoon.

Late for Lunch 2

I’d only been going a few minutes when the clear morning sky suddenly hazed over. At first I thought it was mist, yet as I ran through the quiet streets of Grasmere, snowflakes were falling. A roe deer stag, with superb antlers covered in velvet, looked up through the light snow flurry. I was most of the way up the first climb to Helm Crag, the “Lion and the Lamb”, the sunrise an orange glow on the far side of Grasmere Water. Higher up, hard patches of snow, the rocky scramble to the summit crag made more difficult with a veneer of ice.

Late for Lunch 3

I suddenly remembered once getting stuck coming off this crag. It was one of those embarrassing moments and I had an audience of three Swedish women, not, I hasten to add, svelte Scandinavian beauties, although maybe they once were. I’d climbed up the rock and must have taken a slightly different route down. I just couldn’t reach a ledge with my foot, and was clinging on by my fingertips, draped over the smooth rock with my audience offering words of encouragement. It felt like it took an age to get down, and the three of them “clapped”. The shame of it.

Late for Lunch 4

Another snow shower, making the easy ridge run a lot more exciting, snowflakes covering up both grass and ice, making my footing a lottery. It was easier to avoid the path altogether, as this was where most of the icy sections lay hidden, first to Gibson Knott, then Calf Crag. The cloud was lifting and the day’s first shaft of sunlight lit up the stream in the valley.

Late for Lunch 5

Deeper snow on the traverse round to Tarn Crag, two Red Deer, standing stock still, watching my progress. I couldn’t resist a quick jog down to the cairn and the splendid view overlooking Easedale Tarn, made even more special as the sun was now trying to come out. 

Late for Lunch 6

On up the climb to Sergeant Man, through ever deeper snow, even some knee deep snow drifts. As I climbed, the clouds built up, until everywhere was white. The ground, the sky, even the air. Visibility had suddenly reduced to a few metres, and now there were sections of rock hard snow underfoot, interspersed with calf deep soft snow. I couldn’t find Sergeant Man.

Late for Lunch 6

I looked everywhere, ran up every lump that loomed out of the whiteness. Eventually I gave up, got my map and compass out and took a bearing to High Raise, which I knew had a distinctive trig point on the summit. From here, I set the compass back to Sergeant Man, finding it just a few metres beyond my old footprints. 

Late for Lunch 7

From Thunacar Knott, another bearing through the clag, to Pike of Stickle, which had disappeared too. I wondered about my compass bearing, nothing on the ground made any sense with the map, then suddenly the black wall reared up out of the gloom.

Late for Lunch 7

I needed micro spikes for the final rocky ascent on snow and ice. The Langdale Pikes are clustered in a tight group, a Wainwright bagger’s dream. Through snow sculptures and deep snow drifts to Loft Crag, Harrison Stickle then Pavey Ark, every footfall a possible broken ankle.

Late for Lunch 9

Dropping down to Bright Beck, the dense cloud broke up and gave misty views of Stickle Tarn. Now I could actually see the landscape ahead, it was warmer too, so I took my cagoule off, and stuck it in my pack along with the map and compass. It’s all easy and familiar from here.

Late for Lunch 10

And then before I knew it, I was lost. Thick white cloud had enveloped me again. I hadn’t bothered to take a bearing, and just ran in the direction of Blea Rigg, knowing exactly where it was. Yet a very brief glimpse in a gap in the cloud revealed the distant rocky weir of Stickle Tarn. I’d somehow veered way off route, heading towards Langdale! Out with the map and compass again, trusting the bearing, not my instinct.

Late for Lunch 11

I got very tired on the long drag to Silver Howe. This is usually a favourite ridge run, although the wet snow and zero visibility made it very hard work, and it was a relief to finally reach the summit.

Late for Lunch 12

Coming out of the cloud on the descent felt like coming back down to earth. It was a relief to see colours again after the incessant whiteness. I sent a message home, saying I’d be a bit late for lunch. 

13 Wainwright summits today, that’s 60 down, 154 to go.

© Graham Patten

Thursday 3rd March 2016

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High on Helvellyn – 214 in 214

It took an age to get to Grasmere. I kept on having to stop and get out to take photos of the sunrise, the sky lit up red, not a breath of wind on the lakes.

High on Helvellyn 1

My pack was reassuringly heavy as I jogged up the verge by the deserted road to Dunmail Raise. today I’d remembered my micro spikes. I took a vertical line up Seat Sandal, marvelling at the changing view, the sun casting shadows on the surrounding snow capped peaks. It was going to be an amazing morning and I was going to make the most of it.

High on Helvellyn 2

Hard snow patches surrounded the rocky summit cairn. I headed north east, knowing this was where any lingering snow would be. Micro spikes are a great invention, although they probably encourage people like me to take more unnecessary risk. I was looking for a steep snow slope to have some fun, and came up trumps. A ribbon of white dropped down towards frozen Grisedale Tarn. My technique is simply to lean forward and take big strides and go as fast as possible, making a lot of whooping noise. Absolutely exhilarating, especially at this early hour with no one else around.

High on Helvellyn 3

Climbing the steep, frozen, grassy slope of Dollywagon Pike, I made it more difficult for myself by stopping to take photos every few minutes. The views were stunning. At the top, a huge spectacular cornice meandered it’s way to Helvellyn in the distance.

High on Helvellyn 4

I ran along the ridge, over Nethermost Pike and soon I was standing at the summit cairn, marvelling at the criss crosses of ice on Red Tarn way down below. I was going well and my ankle was holding up, so decided to extend my planned run and make the most of the good weather and being up so high.

High on Helvellyn 5

Dark cloud was building up in the east, and the wind seemed to be getting a bit stronger, or maybe it was just more exposed here. The next three summits were a roller coaster of joy. Hard snow with patchy ice in the shade on the way down, then frozen grassy ground in the sunshine on the way up. I’d taken the spikes off after Seat Sandal, and enjoyed the skittering and sliding in my studs on some of the snowy sections.

High on Helvellyn 6

In quick succession, I ticked off White Side, Raise, then Stybarrow Dodd. The ski tow on Raise was working, although I could only see two people using the slope, then again, it’s still quite early in the morning, especially as the skiers need to hike in to use this particular ski resort.

High on Helvellyn 7

Wainwright must have had some time to kill when he included the next summit, Hart Side. It’s some way off the main Helvellyn ridge, although an easy run on a well defined trod around the steep upper reaches of Deep Dale. 

High on Helvellyn 8

Further on, contouring round Green Side, a pair of Ravens were waiting for me on a rocky outcrop, as though willing me to take their photo. They gave me a deep croak as a pre flight warning and took off, tumbling in the air like show offs, even coming back for another fly past.

High on Helvellyn 9

This is most likely their territory. They probably have eggs in a nest on one of the nearby crags, and I remember they’re one of our earliest nesting birds. Their eggs hatch just in time to feed their young the protein rich afterbirth from new born lambs.

High on Helvellyn 10

Sheffield Pike is one of my favourite hills. The views towards Ullswater and back to Helvellyn are sensational, although it’s the ridge line I love the most. The narrow path winds down steeply  through the heather inviting you to hop around tight cambers and skip over rocks, a balancing act between watching where you’re putting your feet and getting in a quick glance at the views. 

High on Helvellyn 11

Finally Glenridding Dodd really is a doddle when you’ve made this descent, being a short climb through heather to the summit cairn, perched on the edge of the ridge overlooking the lake. 

Max the van was waiting in the main car park of Glenridding village, where I’d left it two days ago. I changed into my freezing cold, spare clothes and drove back to Kendal for a well deserved lunch.

10 Wainwright summits today, that’s 47 down, 167 to go.

© Graham Patten

February 2016

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Get Stuck In