The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge route leaves Pooley Bridge to traverse 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles and climbs 17,000 feet (77km, 5182m).
The inaugural run from Pooley Bridge to Wasdale was made by Joss Naylor in 1990, at the age of 54; in very bad weather with heavy rain and a strong SW wind Joss completed the run to Greendale Bridge in 11 hours and 30 minutes.
Chris Brasher offered engraved pewter tankards to the first 20 runners to do so with the proviso that they raised at least £100 for a charity of their own choice. In January 1997, with 17 tankards already awarded, Chris extended his sponsorship. In 2001, with 33 tankards awarded, Joss secured on-going sponsorship for the tankards.
The challenge is offered to fell runners over the age of 50 to complete the run in set times according to their age group. The challenge is intended to be a "supported run" for individuals - each contender is to be accompanied on every leg for safety reasons and unaccompanied attempts will not be recognised. There is more information on the Challenge Details page below.
If you are interested, please have a look at the Challenge Details, download a schedule or contact me using the "Email Ian Charters" form below.
Thursday, 22 September 2016
The JNLC is a traverse of 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles and climbing 17,000 feet from Pooley Bridge (GR NY 470 244) to Greendale Bridge (GR NY 143 056).
Joss Naylor’s inaugural run was in 1990. The challenge was created with Chris Brasher offering engraved pewter tankards to successful contenders with the rules being that the attempts are validated and signed with at least £100 being provided to a charity. After 30 odd tankards were awarded in the first 10 years Joss secured on-going sponsorship for the tankards.
I asked for and got a great team of experienced navigators, pacers and logistical support lined up. I then practiced a few legs, worked out my schedule and logged my attempt with Ian Charters the JNLC Coordinator.
On the day of the attempt I got up at dawn had breakfast and strolled down from Park Foot Campsite along Ullswater with Verna, Nigel, Jane and Steve to meet John on the new Pooley Bridge.
Leg 1 – Pooley Bridge to Kirkstone Pass
We set off in crisp clear conditions, reaching Arthur’s Pike 8 mins under the schedule. This gave confidence as Leg 1 requires quite fast running to meet the schedule. For the first and only time we encountered cloud, on the summit of Loadpot Hill but this was gone as we raced past the derelict Lowther House. Raced, because we encountered and had to run through a rabbled cloud of crane flies that wanted to investigate our clothes, mouths and ears.
We soon reached familiar Hodgeson Mountain Relay route territory where we then detoured to Pike How and were able to miss out St Raven’s Edge getting to Kirkstone Pass.
Leg 2 – Kirkstone Pass to Dunmail Raise
Did you know that Kirkstone Pass is named after a nearby stone that has a silhouette that resembles a church steeple? Anyway the plan was to have a hobbit style second breakfast of porridge aside the 3rd highest pub in England (the others being Tan Hill in Yorkshire and the Cat and Fiddle in the Peak District.) The plan failed as the logistics crew hadn’t allowed for me being 30 minutes up on schedule. So it was off up Red Screes, where we passed Verna, Jane and Kirsty.
Alan led Steve and I on some great HMR lines to Scandale Pass and across to Hart Crag with breath-taking views coming off of Fairfield. Grisedale Tarn was a disturbingly dark black.
|Support Team on Fairfield|
I knew I was doing well as on the climb to Seat Sandal, Steve was behind me. Whereas during team events or mountain marathons Steve is invariably ahead on me seemingly strolling on climbs with hands clasped behind his back whilst I bring up the rear, often on all fours. So running into Dunmail was great and I was now almost an hour ahead of schedule.
Leg 3 – Dunmail to Styhead Pass
After a few spoonfuls of porridge I set off with Ross and Simon up Steel Fell. Andy was a few minutes late so climbed to the summit in 17 minutes to catch us up.
|Leg Three Start|
With an hour in hand all I wanted to do was keep exactly to the schedule so it was running, taking in view across the Langdale Pikes and more running until the rocky climbs up Bowfell, Esk Pike and Great End. Simon led the way brilliantly off of Great End and suggested stopping to bathe in Styhead Tarn. Instead we ran into a crowd of supporters in party atmosphere at Styhead Pass with my hour still in hand.
Leg 4 – Styhead to Greendale Bridge
|Leg Four Start|
There were some steep climbs in short order on this leg and Great Gable didn’t disappoint. The support crew strolled to Wasdale, had a picnic and a pint of cool beer at the pub before heading towards Greendale. Still we more or less met the summit schedule all the way to Scoat Fell. Simon and Andy took a rest here to fuel themselves on more rolls and jelly babies to my occasional dextrose tablet taken on the move. Ross and I nipped across the col to Steeple as crossing a drawbridge to a Tintagel like Castle, thrilling route with great views.
Alan met us at the summit of Haycock and then led us to Seatallon. This allowed Andy and me to catch Ross and Simon, not least because they had the water. This is where I missed Kevin Harding and Rick Ansell as I daydream of them pushing me up this penultimate hill.
However, the daydream turned into calculating that I had time to walk the rest of the way and still be successful, so there was an air of celebration. Celebration became real 14 hours and 22 minutes from the start as we arrived at the finish to all our supporters waving and cheering. The boys held back to let me run in alone, but I wanted none of that. It was important to me to run in together not least because for me the support is not only needed but part of the fun.
The final run in off Middle Fell, nearly there!
|Final Run In|
Joss was also waiting for us, so a quick shake of the hands, a photo on the Bridge and a sit down in the stream was the order of the day. Well that was a nice long day out in the hills!
SUPPORT TEAM – Thank you
My chosen charity is SSAFA (The Armed Forces Charity)
Friday, 9 September 2016
I recall thinking in 2015 as I was made redundant that I would be able to do a bit more running in the fells. I live in the flat lands of Beverley in East Yorkshire so running in the Lakes always takes a lot of time travel and effort. Whilst perusing the Gofar web site I saw the JNC. I knew nothing about it and didn’t really take any notice of the distance and schedules before I was declaring my intention of running it to anyone who would listen.
Being a man and once committed I thought that I had better read the “instruction book” and what a shock I got. This was much bigger than anything I had done before and little did I know that the biggest challenge was to jack-up the supporters for each leg. I don’t belong to a club so I had to rely on my son Tom, daughter Sarah along with Tom’s friends who were recruited (bribed) from all over the country. The support did include some Lakeland professionals Nick Barber, Rhys Findlay-Robinson and his sister Rachael.
The preparation was much harder than the actual event. I started serious recces in January and February sometimes in awful conditions including snow drifts and wicked wind/rain. The camper van is cold in February. I recced each leg at least three times. Jackie had to travel many miles in support because of the roads closed as a consequence of December’s storms.
|Pooley Bridge - Ready to go|
On the day Lady Luck was with me from the start with an ace team in place and the weather better than forecast although due to get worse as the day went on. Pooley Bridge at 5.00am and away with helpers Ed and Rachael. Everyone in bed on the campsite as we looked up to Arthurs Pike in the distance. The best thing was that despite the timings being tight on leg 1 I hit the split times all the way across to High Street enjoying the beautiful views all the way.
The road team were surprised as I hit Kirkstone Pass ahead of time. Great flurry of activity and 5 mins later with new helpers Andy and Sarah, I ascended Red Screes. Felt good and relied totally on Sarah for navigation on this leg across to Dunmail Raise. This leg has a good number of route options and Sarah’s choice was sublime.
On arrival at Dunmail Raise I was 22 minutes up, waiting for me were Rhys and Steve Worthington to guide me on the most difficult leg. I had not done more than two legs at a time before, so I was into new territory. The support of an experienced team was absolutely essential for me, giving me the required confidence. Rhys was of course top-flight on the Navigation and Steve gently coached me to eat and drink whilst wrestling with my walking poles that I kept tossing back to him as running opportunities arose or the terrain was too steep for them. Nausea and stomach trouble was creeping in due to gels and other sugary food exacerbated by the exertion. Great climb up Bowfell buttress on the terraces which were dry making all the difference. Bowfell summit as ever was in cloud as was Esk Pike and Great End. I had recced the descent of Great End a number of different ways but Rhys trumped them all and identified a great way off. The potential for trouble was brewing though because I was now 40 mins ahead of time and I had to rely on the leg 4 team being at Styhead. Fortunately Tom and Pete arrived 30 secs before us although Nick B did miss the handover. Nick was due to run with Adam Perry on his monumental 24 hr challenge along with Rhys later in the day.
|On Seatallan with Haycock in the mist beyond (Photo: Tom Edwards)|
Great Gable in the cloud does not allow for an easy descent and I was taking more and more care as the day wore on. The weather was beginning to brew up in the north and we expected some serious downpours before Seatallen but again Lady Luck kept the rain off until I hit Middle Fell.
|Greendale Bridge - Job Done!|
Route completed in 13.39 a very satisfactory performance. I make no apologies for repeating the old cliché that without the team (including the road crew) Ricard, Jane and Jackie none of this would have happened. I was humbled by the support of people on the team I had never met before.
|Celebrating with Joss (Photo: IWCharters)|
Despite having just completed his 80th birthday challenge only a few minutes after my arrival Joss met me for a chat for which I will be eternally grateful.
Thursday, 25 August 2016
It was certainly a memorable day, with the Lakeland weather at its very best – perfect for following in the footsteps of the renowned Joss Naylor.
With great trepidation, I stood on Pooley Bridge at 3am on the morning of Saturday May 14th 2016. Within an hour and a half of a frosty early morning start through a sleeping campsite, the sun came up to reveal mountains bathed in sunshine, which remained with me throughout the day.
To have Steve Cliff leading the way over the High Street and up to Thornthwaite Beacon in the peace and tranquillity, was the best possible way to settle my nerves and focus on the challenge ahead! Dropping down to Kirkstone 20 mins ahead of schedule, legs feeling good and porridge waiting in Wynn’s campervan – could it get any better?
I was handed over into the capable hands of Duncan Elliott and Richard Davies who took over the supporting role for leg 2. After the steep ascent of Red Screes, the long pull to Fairfield and taking in Seat Sandal, we made the descent to Dunmail, comfortably on schedule. This leg passed quickly, helped by jelly babies and friendly banter between the support team.
Quick refreshment stop, change of socks and Leigh Warburton and Andy Crook were my Sherpas for leg 3! Climbing up Steel Fell was a testing start, and an indication of the rougher terrain which was to follow. Excellent navigation guided me over High Raise and Rossett Pike. The tougher climb up Bowfell went according to schedule, and Andy’s cheese butties ensured I had the fuel to reach Great End, before dropping down to Sty Head within my allocated time.
Here the size of my team swelled to seven. The formidable gang of Bill Williamson, Martin Walsh, Chris Reade, Nick Hewitt & Jen Hutton and Ian Roberts took me up Great Gable on the first ascent of the fourth leg. Stunning scenery along the way, particularly around Steeple, towards Ennerdale and the coast, put a spring in my step as I neared home. Just as we began the climb up Seatallan, we were met by Yiannis Tridimas , who joined us for the last two climbs. The atmosphere was jovial with Bill’s stunning photography and Martin never far from my side ensuring I was not going to have any mishaps in the closing stages!
|by Bill Williamson|
With breathtaking views of Wasdale in our sight, the descent to Greendale from Middle Fell signalled the end of my challenge, a respectable 17 hours 12 mins, comfortably within my schedule.
|Descending Haycock (by Bill Williamson)|
A welcome party on the bridge led by Joss cheered me to the finish. I was privileged to have an amazing team, not just support runners, but also the road support including Wynn Cliff, Andy Farmer and my family Mary, Lyndsey & Mick.
|With Joss on Greendale Bridge (photo: Mick Hayes)|
48 miles, 16,000 feet of climbing, 30 mountain tops – DONE!
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Wednesday, 9 December 2015
My life has been quite busy over the last year with work commitments and family illness so when you spot a window of opportunity you have to seize it. It was Thursday night when I spotted this one and so quickly formulated a plan, the Joss Naylor Challenge. But it was only a half plan because I didn’t know if I was fit enough to do a really long run. After Scoffer and Chris Hope agreed to help I just needed a couple more runners. Thankfully fell running legends, Gavin Bland and Morgan Donnelly called me on Friday morning to offer their support so it was game on.
I was completely unorganised and getting the right nutrition before and during the run is crucial. Unfortunately throughout the day on Friday I was ill and never off the toilet so my energy reserves were not going to be where they should have been and I seriously thought of cancelling the whole thing, but as I had pacers organised I decided to go ahead.
I stayed in my van at Pooley Bridge on Friday night and set my alarm for 5.30. I awoke to a beautiful clear morning looking down on Ullswater and set about getting prepared for the day. Morgz rang me at about 6.15 to let me know he had slept in and might be late so I packed a bag of essential supplies for him to carry. As it was Morgz turned up at 6.40 so everything was fine and we set off as planned at 7am from Pooley Bridge. I was really conscious of not going too fast on this leg, I’d done it a couple of times in training and keeping to the schedule seemed quite hard. I was prepared to lose some time off the schedule and try to make it up later on, as it was we arrived at Kirkstone bang on 9.30 and sure enough there was Gavin waiting.
My stomach still felt a bit delicate from the day before so the only food I’d had on leg 1 was a nibble on some Mountain Fuel pancakes and some energy drink and as we climbed Red Screes I could feel cramp like twinges in both calves and knew I needed to get some more food down my neck. I had a banana and immediately felt the benefit. Leg 2 is pretty similar to the 3rd leg of the Ian Hodgson Relay and running down the tussocky grass off the back of Red Screes I mused at the difference in my speed today compared to the break neck speed you descend in the relay. But still we were moving pretty well and there was a long way to go.
On the climb to Fairfield Gavin produced a white finger roll with a mixture of Philadelphia cheese and jam, “This is one of Joss’s favourite sarnies”, said Gav, “Only he has his with a bit of tomato to moisten it up a bit, it’s not too dry is it?”
“No its fine thanks”, I replied. I still had half the sandwich stuffed in my cheek climbing Seat Sandel!
My wife Kerry met me on the top and we jogged down to Dunmail together. I felt in pretty high spirits and as Dunmail came into view I saw that it was looking very busy with cars and people, surely they haven’t all turned out to see me I thought. No they hadn’t, there seemed to be a series of events all crossing at this point and it all seemed pretty chaotic. I didn’t hang around; I had two spoonful of rice pudding and cracked on up Steel fell with a banana in one hand and another one of Gav’s speciality sandwiches in the other. Scoffer took over the support at this point and Dave Nuttall who happened to be at Dunmail and was going out for a run joined us too.
Things went a little bit pear shaped after Steel Fell, I felt hungry, empty and sick all at the same time and we got the line slightly wrong climbing up onto High Raise. I was tripping up in bogs and felt dizzy, disorientated and weak. I needed something to give me a boost but it materialised that we didn’t have too much food and all of the Mountain Fuel flapjack, pancakes and energy sachets for drinks had been left at Dunmail. Scoffer had some jelly beans but said that he didn’t really want to give me them as they were expensive and he wanted them for himself. Dave produced a gel and although it tasted disgusting it perked me up enough to keep me going and we were soon standing on Rossett Pike. From here to Styhead is all a bit of a blur and I was definitely just surviving on my reserves. Scoffer had reluctantly submitted to giving me some jelly beans, but apart from that we were pretty much out of food. We just hoped that Chris had brought plenty to Sty Head. I needn’t have worried as soon as I got there he handed me a drink of Lucozade that tasted like nectar and a ham sandwich. We did a quick calculation on time and progress and it was announced that I probably wouldn’t be breaking any records today but we should be ok for the 12 hour schedule. At that point I would be just pleased to complete the round so I was happy that we were still on schedule. About 10 minutes later there was another announcement,
“No I’ve got that wrong, we’ve got another hour, bloody hell you CAN still break the record, come on let’s get going.”
From this point Chris Hope, a veteran of many adventure races and long distance challenges and knowing the importance of nutrition, kept plying me with regular nibbles of chocolaty, oaty bars and fluids and I started to feel much stronger.
Each hill we summited we shaved time off the schedule and from Bowfell to Pillar we were 43 minutes faster. Scoffer starting shouting encouragement at me more often and part of me started to believe that I could do it. Scoffer waited on Scoat fell whilst Chris and I dipped in and out of Steeple and in the swirling mist I could hear Scoffer shouting,
“Get your finger out Corny, don’t you want this record?”.
It seemed a long way down and out to Haycock, the mist had completely descended now and the skies had darkened. From Haycock it was compasses out and a bearing down to the Pots of Ashness where we picked up the reverse route of the Wasdale Fell race line to Seatallan. The climb up Seatallan seemed to go on for ages. I calculated that if I could be at the summit in 10 minutes, descend to Greendale Tarn in 10 minutes and then climb Middlefell in 10 minutes I should be ok for the record, but in the mist it would be very easy to go wrong and that would be it. Perfect navigation from Chris and Scoffer took us to the tarn then it was just a case of digging in for one final climb of the day. I had never been up Middlefell before and it seemed bigger than I expected but even so we were on the summit at 5.19pm, a quick quad killer to finish the day on the descent to Greendale is just what was required after 47 miles and 17,000m feet and we arrived at Greendale Bridge at 5.35pm feeling very pleased. I then did something that I have never done before and probably never will again; I put my arm around Scoffer!
So in total I did 10.35 for the challenge, the record was 10.47. In an amazing coincidence as Chris was waiting at Sty Head for me, a guy came over to ask what he was doing.
“Just waiting for Corny, he’s having a crack at breaking the record for the Joss Naylor Challenge”, said Chris.
The guy was Leigh Warburton, the record holder…
A big thanks to my support runners, Morgan Donnelly, Gavin Bland, Andrew Scoffer Schofield, Dave Nuttall, Chris Hope and of course my lovely wife Kerry.
At Dunmail Raise
Thursday, 26 November 2015
When your brother is Steve Birkinshaw, the record holder for the Wainrights Round (six and a half days), you can’t really expect your family to be that impressed by an attempt at the Joss Naylor Challenge taking a mere 14 hours. However they rallied to the cause brilliantly and I did the whole thing with just family help. Road support was provided my Mum, my sister Hilary and her partner Shaun, and hill support by husband Dan and Steve. I was raising money for the Sampson Centre, an MS Therapy centre Hilary attends and gets huge benefit from.
I left Pooley Bridge at 6:00 accompanied by Dan who was somewhat weighed down by a heavy rucsac. We made a steady start and by the time we reached Arthurs Peak I’d managed to get over my nerves and start to appreciate the serenity of the early morning hills. This is an area of the Lakes that we know very well as we live only about three miles east of Loadpot Hill and it was a real pleasure being there at a time of day we don’t normally see it. Maybe I was enjoying it too much as I was falling quite a long way behind my schedule (which had already been slowed down from the standard one on this section as it seemed so fast) or maybe I can blame the very strong southerly headwind and soggy underfoot conditions. As we ran towards Thornthwaite Beacon the clouds descended both literally and metaphorically as doubts about my chances of success were creeping in. Then somewhat unexpectedly, by Stony Cove Pike I was back on schedule. And despite a minor hiccup locating Pike How requiring us to get our the map we continued to gain time and arrived at Kirkstone five minutes up on schedule to an enthusiastic welcome from Mum, Hilary and Shaun.
It felt somewhat selfish to leave them after only five minutes, but it had to be done. The climb up Red Screes seemed easier than expected and it was probably the only time I’ve been up there without seeing anyone. As we approached Hart Crag, huge dark clouds appeared over Fairfield and heavy rain drops started falling. We rapidly put on cagoules but it was a false alarm and within minutes the rain had stopped. By Dunmail I was still within my schedule but definitely getting tired and not looking forward to the climb up Steel Fell at all.
Steve joined us at Dunmail, but had warned us that he was definitely not at his best, having felt very tired and a bit feverish all week, and that he might need to miss some of the tops. The original plan had been that he would be able to carry almost everything from now on, leaving Dan able to continue for as long as he wanted without being too weighed down, but now Dan was going to have a much harder time of it. We set off up the steep hill and thanks to lengthy discussion about injuries (probably a staple subject of most over 50 year olds) it passed more easily than expected. At the top it really did start raining. I assumed it was one of the forecast showers but in fact I didn’t take my cagoule off for another four hours. Having read reports by other contenders, I knew that the next section to High Raise was one of the least popular. I’d never really understood why but today, with the marshy bits wetter than I’d ever known, I agreed.
I really don’t like rocky descents, so wasn’t particularly looking forward to the section from Bowfell to Steeple, and the fact that the rocks were now wet wasn’t going to help. Rather than go down the steep north side of Great End (where all our earlier attempts to find a reasonable route had ended with me getting scared or cross or both) I went almost all the way back to Esk Hause, and then took the path to Sty Head. It was nice to have a chance to run freely again for a bit.
We had arranged for Shaun to walk up to Sty Head from Wasdale to bring us extra water, food and spare shoes. Unfortunately the plan had been concocted at 11 o’clock the previous evening and not really thought through so when he wasn’t there (because we were about 20 minutes up on schedule) we didn’t know what to do, or what he would do. We were a bit short of water, but we were more concerned about the fact that he might wait for ages getting increasingly worried about what had gone wrong. We decided that Steve should wait for him and fortunately he arrived about 5 minutes after Dan and I set off up Great Gable.
Surprisingly we managed to find a nicer route off Gable than any of us had ever managed before, somehow missing most of the sections of big boulders. Maybe the mist actually helped because we couldn’t see the normal line of cairns. The descent of Kirk Fell was less successful. I’d already decided not to go down the red gully but stay on the spur as it felt safer. It wasn’t. Somehow I tripped and found myself falling forward down a small crag. Amazingly the only damage was a very bruised knee but I definitely scared Steve and a passing walker.
By the time I reached the top of Pillar it began to feel as though the end was getting close and as I was now 20 minutes up on my schedule the only major risk to completion was falling over again. This thought made me even less confident on the rocks than I had been before and it was a huge relief to reach Haycock and grass. Finally as we descended from Seatallan we got properly out of the clouds for the first time for hours to find it was a lovely sunny evening.
I really enjoyed the final descent from Middle Fell, but nevertheless was very happy to be able to cross the finish line supplied by Joss and sit down.
Many thanks to my family for their support, especially Dan who came virtually the whole way despite the heavy rucksack but who, at 53, is a bit too young for a time of 13:25 to be fast enough. Maybe next year….