Although it required some physical effort on my part, I'm sure that my efforts would have come to nothing without you guys around me, leading the way forward, passing up food & drink, sharing cheerie banter and often mocking "the victim".
I would normally be reluctant to mention particular individuals, in case I should cause offence to any that I don't mention; but certain incidents are just seared into my mind:-
Leg 1. In the company of 3 Bowland F.R. members (Stevie Cliff, Quentin and Neil Shepherd) all well seasoned in supporting ultra attempts, plus long standing SROC member Chris Roberts (no relation) now in his first season of fell running with Black Combe Runners (he has a family connection) and on his first stint at support. Chris just melded into the team, keeping me fed and watered as we flowed along as a unit, Steve out front leading us faultlessly along the ridge, Quentin just behind me checking compass bearings and providing regular updates as to the distance and ascent to the next top plus the occasional "Ease back Ian, regulate your breathing." And we still appeared to be making up 2 or 3 minutes on most of the splits, against the 22.5 hour schedule. Neil launched into his 5 hour repartee of Warrington truck driver's humour which had us all giggling and anaesthetised us to our efforts.
Once above the drizzle of Pooley Bridge and over Loadpot Hill we enjoyed a star-lit sky with views east down to the bright lights of Tata Steel's plant, just a mile or so from Steve's abode at Shap.
Wynn Cliff and my son Gareth were ready for us at Kirkstone. I changed from Salomon Fellraisers (they had left a bit to be desired on the descent into Threshthwaite Cove Mouth) to more aggressive Inov-8 X-Claws. I consumed a bowl of porridge + syrup + bananas, a bowl of macaroni pud and a cup of sweet tea; by which time Nick Hewitt was in headmaster mode; departing before my full rest period had expired. Excellent! My legs seize up all too easily if I lounge around; and we had made up another few minutes.
Leg 2. Nick had me easing back and regulating my breathing on the ascent of Red Screes but we still clipped 4 minutes off that split. Once across the hause of Scandale Pass, Nick's wife Jenn Hutton adopted "mother hen" mode; "bullying" me into eating and drinking more than I imagined that I ever could ..... and I'm usually the fat lad that eats all the pies! Crispin Halsall kept delving into his rucsack to produce whatever was requested, usually accompanied by some pithy comment. Having partaken of the evening meal, Chris had made his excuses and sneaked out of his family's holiday accommodation in Pooley Bridge; on his wedding anniversary weekend! I think that I might owe Val a bunch of flowers?
At the base of Hart Crag we came across a young couple who were no doubt hoping to see a good dawn. They were both well wrapped-up but attempting to share an inadequate sleeping bag; they did not look comfortable; had they been caught in the showers of the previous evening, or was it that they had been sat on cold rocks for the hours of darkness? Maybe it was just our presence, intruding into their reverie? I greeted them with "How do?" as we eased past. Chris, as tail-end Charlie, muttered some apology about 'forgiving idiot fell runners attempting to traverse the Lake District in one effort'.
At the summit of Hart Crag, Jenn was totally enthused by the beauty of the dawn. The saw tooth profile of the Northern Pennines was silhouetted against a very narrow strip of crimson sky.
Descending off Fairfield, our next objective Seat Sandal looked like a giant Christmas pudding, with golden-yellow custard flowing down its flanks as the sun rose over the high ground behind us.
Off Seat Sandal and well down towards Dunmail Raise, a darkly clad figure was ascending towards us - the unmistakable gait of the legend that is Yiannis Tridimas. A few cheerie greetings and we all descend to the road. I changed from 3/4 tights into shorts and changed into a fresh Helly Hansen shirt. More porridge, macaroni pud and sweet tea then once again Nick is in time-keeper mode and saving me a further few minutes.
Leg 3. I'm first over the style and summoning my new support crew to join me:- Ian Cookson is carrying my Leg 3 food, as he will be dropping into Wasdale Head from Styhead. Bill Williamson (CFR but longtime honorary Bowland FR) is carrying my Leg 4 food (just in case we miss the support at Styhead), as he will be going through to Greendale, as will Paul Nield who is carrying my spare clothes. Jim Turner is carrying 3 bottles of water which will have to be re-distributed when he turns back at Rossett Pike - he can't stray too far from his car as his wife Hannah is due to deliver their first child in the next couple of days.
Once again I realise that I'm in safe hands, as we chat together on the ascent of Steel Fell. Cookie and I ran together on weekday lunchtimes, 30 years ago. Paul is a really steady, calming influence; so much more mature than when he took the role of one of "The Three Children" (as Steve Sweeney christened them) on the BFR sortie to the Spelga Skyline in 2005. Bill is someone that I've shared L5 support duties with on countless BGR's. Not to mention being on his BGR, his Paddy Buckley Round and his Ramsay Round. Jim is the "youngster" of the group but with a sub 20 hour BG to his credit, not to mention a recent Ramsay with no less a character than Borrowdale's Mark Roberts tagging along.
Cookie tells me that I'm climbing ok, nothing to worry about. Paul advises that I ease off a bit. Once again we bettered the schedule by 4 minutes. Over High Raise and down to the top of Stake Pass where we collected Richard Davies who claimed to have been "beasted" up from Langdale by Chris Reade. Their banter kept us entertained to Rossett Pike where we bade 'au revoir' to Jim and Chris and Richard whinged about their new bottle carrying responsibilities. Bowfell seemed slow but the watch told us otherwise.
My big worry on this route has always been the descent off Great End. It always feels as if I'm about to repeat my antics of 27th November 2012, in Rowan Tree Gully, Fairsnape. Alas, on this occasion it almost happened. Only 20 feet or so down from the summit, my left foot wedged between two rocks. My meagre momentum plus a big chunk of gravity had me falling forward but I managed to avoid a full face plant, merely grazing my knees. Blood flowed, but I guessed it would look pretty heroic once I was down amongst the Borrowdale spectators at Styhead. I continued cautiously without losing too much time against the scheduled split.
Pauline suggested that I use one of her walking poles ( sectional rather than telescopic ) for the descent off Gable. It certainly helped.
|Descending Great Gable|
At Kirkfell summit, Paul informed me that I was 58 minutes up against the schedule.
|Descending Kirk Fell|
By Blacksail Pass, a strong westerly wind had sprung up and even with the assistance of the walking pole I started to loose time on every split.
At Looking Stead we espied a gnome like figure sat on a rock. Yiannis had come out from Greendale to meet us, carrying soup and bread - he ensured that I sipped it until it was all consumed.
On the col below Scoat Fell I added extra clothing, my efforts causing some mirth, as did my re-arrangement of my Buff into a snood accompanied by my League of Gentlemen impression .... "This is a local shop for local people. Nothing here for the likes of you."
Having regained the main ridge after "bagging" Steeple, heavy incessant rain commenced, driven horizontally by the strong wind.
My descent off Haycock was painfully slow and by the ascent of Seat Allan I was becoming annoyed with myself. Not only were my knees hurting but I was suffering some form of spasm in my back muscles, leaning to port like "Jolly Jack Tar" in mid-Atlantic. I no longer felt capable of sustaining Nick's mantra of "Don't worry about speed; just maintain constant forward motion." The attempt was faltering.
In these vile conditions, were my support contemplating euthanasia? Then they could quickly descend to shelter and retrieve my body on a more benign day?
With several "breathers" I made the summit of Seat Allan, using both of Pauline's walking poles. I'd rate Mrs Charters as a Florence Nightingale amongst hill-goers.
The Seat Sandal descent felt better than that off Haycock and I maintained a consistent climb up Middlefell; but oh that last descent! I have on several occasions managed 16 minutes. I now took 65 minutes of stumbling, shuffling and slithering.
Leigh Warburton appeared about one third of the way down, bringing good wishes from Wendy Dodds and Mike Johnson whom he had been racing with at Borrowdale. At the top of the path through the bracken Steve and Cookie appeared, to wish me well.
Whilst descending on the narrow path through the bracken several people offered assistance - Cookie, Graham & Saira if I remember correctly. I apologise if my refusal of assistance was somewhat off-hand. In my confused and befuddled state, it appeared as if everyone was stood on that bit of the path that I wanted to stand on. I think that I managed to bite my tongue; using expressions such as, "You folk go on and I will follow". Apologies if I was anymore impolite than that.
Once the path levelled out and broadened, I was thankful for Leigh coming alongside and allowing me to brace my hand on his shoulder in order to straighten my spine whilst gaining the bridge to shake hands with Joss.
The overall elapsed time was 23 hours and 39 minutes.
With Grateful Thanks,