Introduction

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.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Bryan Staddon (M55) – 31 August 2015

 

This challenge has hung over me for several years since making an unofficial attempt on a sub 12 hour round solo in 2010 and missing the final two summits leading into Wasdale. Since then I have organised two other attempts based on sub 12 hour schedules, one was a non-starter due to a late injury and the other I abandoned at Rossett Pike as the schedule slipped away and the weather deteriorated,

So a few years pass and now at 59 years I had another 3 hours available on the schedule, time for another attempt. The problem I have always had though is the logistics of organising an attempt living in the South in Bristol. There has never been a pool of avid fell runners available in my running club – multi-terrain was the closest most got to true off-road running. Most had never even heard of the challenge, it was very much Joss who? And mention navigation and you may as well forget it! My chances of getting a group ready for a planned date and then getting good weather were pretty slim.

This year there was no detail planning, and I had not sorted anything bar a casual mention to a husband and wife team who were keen mountain marathon competitors – Bill & Claire Graham. They knew the route and they now had a caravan sited near Keswick for the season and were up there as often as possible this year. So the first hurdle of availability was sorted albeit a skeleton crew which also included my wife Hilary as road support, all I needed was to find a good weather window at short notice. We had all decided to head off to the Lakes for the August Bank Holiday and I had casually mentioned about the possibility of fitting in an attempt and had initially considered Sunday 30th August, this eventually moved to Monday 31st . The seed was sown and plans were hurriedly put in place. Bill & Claire had already agreed to do two legs each which we had considered feasible on a 15 hour schedule although I would have to carry more of my own food and drink to assist each other, the luxury of minimal weight was not possible on this attempt. The plan was:

Leg 1 – supported by Claire & return to campsite, then drive herself to Wasdale Head for Leg 3 from Sty Head

Legs 2 & 3 – supported by Bill & return to Greendale Bridge from Sty Head

Leg 4 – supported by Claire to Greendale Bridge

We had also considered for Bill to get to beneath Seatallan and give Claire the option of missing the last two summits if time allowed

Start Pooley Bridge – 7.01am

The weather was good as forecasted and the view towards High Street was clear with low winds an encouraging start. We wanted to start at 07.00 to match the timing chart however a last minute nervous loo break seen me rushing to the start and we departed at 07.01. The caravan site proved a problem to find the way out, eventually the gate to the fells materialised and we felt we were now on our way. The ground was boggy from the heavy rains earlier in the week and we started to slip behind the schedule. I felt stressed my breathing was erratic and I could not seem to settle into a steady pace. I was concerned as I had expected to be ahead on this section. By Kirkstone Pass I had however gained the time back and had now relaxed into the event. I took a full 10mins at the Pass whist the pacers sorted the kit and Hilary fed and watered me.

Bill now took over the pacing and we set off on the 1000ft climb of Red Screes, the path is much improved and it now seemed to go OK. On Fairfield I felt the wind strength increase but it was northerly and felt it was assisting me. We took what we thought was a good line off Seat Sandal aiming for the path through the bracken but ended up descending steep slopes to the path a bit earlier one day I will get this bit right.

At Dunmail I was 4 mins up on the schedule so took an extended break before the haul up Steel Fell. Bill was continuing with me on this leg to Sty Head. The section from Steel Fell to High Raise is my least favourite, I always seemed to go a different way even when recceing and I feel that I am on a poor line at the time and wallowing in bogs but I guess it’s the same all over. The climb to Bowfell was the first point where I felt a real tiredness and found the climb quite hard., despite this though I was 6 mins up at Bowfell and now back on hard stoney tracks felt a lot better and made good time to Sty Head. We took the direct route off Great End following a recce last year, however this time we struggled to find a good line, I fell over and bashed my knee and regretted this route choice. It did however prove to be faster route choice and we arrived at Sty Head now 17mins ahead with a smiling Claire to greet us at the stretcher box with fresh supplies.

Bill would now drop off to the finish and Claire would pace me the final 13 miles and 5000ft, there was 1500ft of it facing us to ascend Great gable. I only took 3mins rest at Sty Head and set off ahead of Claire whist she sorted the kit. The path was good and I made good time on my schedule getting up in 28mins. The rocky sections now started in earnest which were made worse by a developing shower which made the rocks pretty lethal to descend and several tumbles ensued. Despite this we made good time over Kirkfell and Pillar with detours to Scoat Fell and Steeple. The evening was drawing in and we wanted to get as far as possible before the darkness slowed us down. A good descent off Haycock keeping well to the right avoided all the rocks and before Seatallan we met Bill again having ascended from Greendale with head torches which we had forgotten. Claire was pleased so she could miss out the last two summits and descend direct to Greendale. We needed the head torches by the start of the climb up Middlefell, I now wished that I had got out of bed earlier! We found the good descent path from the summit in the darkness and were soon finished albeit not much after Claire who had struggled down the main path in darkness, wishing she had waited for us beneath Middlefell.

The customary photos were taken on Greendale Bridge and although it was now 9.16pm Joss came out to meet us to round off an epic day out finishing in 14hrs 16mins. It was great to discuss the route with the master, his enthusiasm has not diminished, what an inspiration he is, I will treasure those few moments spent in his company!

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All we had to do now was get back to the campsite in Thornthwaite and a beer!

Thanks to my pacers – Bill and Claire and my wife Hilary for the road support and looking after all our needs so well, a team (albeit small team) effort

Bryan Stadden

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Jim Kelly (M65) – 01 August 2015

 

Originally planned as a joint attempt but with Colin (Ardron) unfortunately side-lined with an ankle problem all the attention, and pressure, was now on me, or at least that was how it seemed at 6pm on Friday night in Pooley Bridge. Most of our supporters had stayed on board for the solo attempt but there had been some late changes to the running order and I could not be sure exactly who would be where. The nerves and adrenalin precluded clear thinking, however, and I was anxious to be off.

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Led out by Phil Cheek, five of us set off on a clear but blowy evening for the long gradual pull up to the High Street range. Beyond the first summit the views soon opened up, the mountains set in profile against the setting sun and darkening cloud formations. I had always known that this would be the best of the four sections, and so it proved, although I needed to resist the temptation to use up too much energy on the long grassy runnable slopes. The forecast was for a worsening weather picture with rain and winds on the way but it was not until the descent to Kirkstone that any rain disturbed our contentment. Despite strict marshalling by Phil we were almost half an hour up on schedule.

A quick changeover, and the donning of full waterproof cover was the prelude to the ascent of Red Screes. Guided by Julie Gardner and Johnny, a Jack Russell with more miles in his legs than any veteran runner, and supported by Hazel Winder, we made good progress to the first summit on this leg. The water pouring down the stepped path, however, was a clear indicator of what lay ahead and from this point on we were up against it. For the remainder of the section we were lashed by driving rain, strong gusts of wind seeking out weaknesses in our cover and enveloped by the pitch darkness, worsened (if that seemed possible) by swirling mists. Our route to Hart Crag and Fairfield proved to be a regular struggle to stay on course, and it was difficult to stay warm. Hazel was reminded of some of the worst mountain rescue incidents she'd encountered though thankfully she didn't tell me of them until the following day. Despite everything, Julie kept us going in the right direction but descending Seat Sandal brought the new problem of mud. The studs on my tried and trusted fell shoes became embedded with mud and I slipped numerous times. Our relief getting down to Dunmail Raise was shared by those waiting; we were behind schedule but more than ready for breakfast.

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With two wildly contrasting legs behind me, and conscious of the long and rocky sections to come, I could reasonably have felt a little down-hearted at this stage, but surprisingly I was fairly confident that we would not lose any further time. A brief glimpse of the fabled blue moon near the top of Steel Fell was a boost to tired spirits and one of the delights of the whole round proved to be the magnificent sunrise that brightened the dull and tiring trudge up to High Raise. The gradual dawning of the new day, however, and an easing of the rain helped as we maintained our course. It was a matter of staying focused and continuing to eat and drink. John

Kavanagh's stories of adventures in the wacky world of kayaking were also a helpful distraction from occasional moments of self-doubt. Pinpoint navigation from Julie and Dave Tucker got us safely to Styhead with some minutes clawed back, and wasting little time we looked Great Gable in the face and started off on this long final leg.

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Still climbing fairly well, I was more concerned about the rocky descents to come. Carefully guided down Gable and Kirk Fell by Chris Cripps, we made slow but steady progress, helped by the more settled weather serving to dry the rocks. The oft-repeated advice to ‘just put one foot in front of another’ was followed faithfully as each hill was slowly ticked off. By the time we reached Haycock, it was clear that short of major incident I would be successful in getting round. Perhaps that caused me to lose some focus for from that point on, I really felt tired and had to fight the desire to just lie down in the sunshine but, by now joined by a fair crowd of supporters, I would have been lucky to get away with it! Seatallan was a cruel climb, a seemingly endless ascent that saw me at my weakest. Never has a top been more joyfully greeted.

Happy scenes on Middle Fell as the cameras clicked incessantly but standing still seemed to invite sleep so it was better to keep moving. The steep descent into Greendale through the high ferns seemed to go on forever but we kept up a steady jog until finally, after 22 hours 55 minutes of Lakeland traverse, I was on the bridge where I was greeted by Joss Naylor and all my supporters, warm in their congratulations and happy at my success. Despite my tiredness, it seemed almost a disappointment that it was all over, a challenge that had taken up so much of my time and energy over many weeks had finally been achieved.

During my preparations, I had noted that this weekend would be exactly 27 years since my successful Bob Graham Round, probably an unusual anniversary for celebrations. The occasion is traditionally commemorated in marriage with gifts of sculpture, rather apt perhaps as I thought about the huge rocks I’d encountered during the second half of the Joss Naylor Round.

I later learned that my successful attempt had earned me the accolade of oldest Macclesfield Harrier to have completed the Round. I was unsure about this honour as nobody welcomes reminders of their passing years, but a suggestion that I could be the first from any club to have got round during the time of a blue moon felt rather more agreeable. A record that should be safe for at least the next three years?

I could not have completed the Joss Naylor Challenge without the support of all those Macclesfield Harriers, past and present who gave so freely of their time and experience. The club is renowned for its fine record of achievement when it comes to long distance fell-running, and being able to call on that expertise was a key factor in my success. I am very grateful to you all.

 

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