Saturday 7 July 2012

SLMM 2012 - Day 1: Wasdale Head to the Midway Camp

Saturday 7th July 2012

Distance: 18km; Ascent:1130m; Sunny; with Mark
See approximate route in new window (checkpoints are shown as waypoints)

The luck of the draw had resulted in us having a relatively early start time of 8:58am this morning for our first ever mountain marathon.  We had entered the Wansfell class, which was pretty much the easiest class on which you were allowed to run if we wished.  After breakfast we struck camp and registered ourselves on the event, at which point Mark was given an SI card to attach to his wrist that would record our visits to each of the check points.

Setting off from Wasdale Head on Saturday morning
It was bright and sunny as we set off from the event centre at Wasdale Head at 8:30am for the "20 minute walk" to the start up in Mosesale as part of a steady stream of entrants, most of whom looked to be fell runners.  After 15 minutes or so, we got our first sighting of the start and it still looked to be quite some distance away!  Therefore we quickened our pace and made it to the start with 2 minutes to spare.

At our allotted time we passed through the start gate and picked up our list of check points for the day; this was also when we found out where we would be camping for the first time.  The clock was now ticking and so we could either opt to go directly to our first check point or spend a few minutes annotating our SLMM Harvey Map of the area with our check points for the day.  We opted for the later as it would save time later, and this appeared to be the approach of most of the teams who were busily scribbling on their maps in the sunshine.

Heading for the first check-point

Yewbarrow towering above Mosedale
The first check point wasn't too far away: a re-entrant on the way up Black Sail Pass and we were there around 30 minutes after starting.  There were good views from here back to the start in Mosedale.  We picked up the main path up to Black Sail Pass, but soon forked off right on a much fainter path that looked to take a more direct line up to our next control.  After much ascent we finally reached the summit of Looking Stead (Nuttall, Birkett) and found our 2nd control on it's north side. 
On Looking Stead heading for the 2nd check-point

The check-point on Looking Stead
The views from up here were excellent with good views across to many of the surrounding groups of hills, including those on the north side of Ennerdale.

High Stile and High Crag above Ennerdale
We headed west up the main ridge with the intention of contouring round to Wind Gap at some point.  However the ground looked quite rocky and we eventually decided that it would probably be quicker to go up and over Pillar.  We soon reached the trig point on the summit of Pillar (Nuttall, Marilyn, Wainwright, Birkett), where we had a quick break whilst admiring the views.

Summit of Pillar
The SW slopes of Pillar were mainly easy and grassy and we decided that as we were in a running class, we might as well do a spot of running!  The strange thing was that we seemed to be some of the only people running, and it seemed a little odd to be jogging past teams kitted out in fell running shoes!  However the running was short lived as the ground soon steepened and we were scrambling down the rocks to reach check point 3 in Wind Gap.

From here the only way was up and we ascended up the steep slopes to soon reach the summit cairn of Black Crag (Nuttall, Birkett).  After descending slightly to a pass we picked up a traversing path towards Red Pike, which we followed for a few hundred metres before cutting across country to the stream bend high on Scoat Fell, which formed our 4th check point.

We jogged down the gentle, but wet, slopes to reach Scoat Tarn where the crossing of the outflow seemed to be causing problems for some who were trying to keep their feet dry!  However we had no problems, as we used our poles for assistance, and soon reached our 5th checkpoint on the south side of the tarn.  From here it was a reasonable distance to our next one, with an intervening valley in the way!

After descending down into the head of the Nether Beck valley, we picked a traversing line up through the small crags to reach the boggy area of the Pots of Ashness below the north side of Seatallan.

Mark pointing to check-point 6 in the Pots of Ashness
Our 6th control was described as by a tarn, which as you can see above was not entirely obvious!  However the steady stream of people heading to a particular point in the boggy hollow strongly suggested that that was where the control point was!  And therefore we headed for it!

After crossing the pass to the west we began to descend towards the valley of the River Bleng.  Soon we found a few rocks to sit on and enjoy a 10 minute lunch stop, much to the amusement of passing competitors!  The descent proved to be quite steep through rocky and ferny ground; I was very glad of my poles!

The check point was not obvious from the descent as it was slightly hidden by a small hummock down by Tounge Gill - very devious!  Although we didn't really have any trouble locating it and were soon traversing the hillside to reach check point 8 by the waterfall on Red Beck.  From here we picked up a faint sheep path that traversed the hillside to reach the cairn on Hause, from where we could pick out the overnight camp in the distance.

Cairn on Hause prior to the boggy tussocks
The ground from here on was unpleasant consisting almost entirely of boggy tussocks!  This made for relatively slow going!  However eventually we reached our final control of the day, just on the edge of the forest at a track junction.  Now all we had to do was finish and there was a good track - even better!  We ran the last few hundred metres to the finish point and after checking in we were given the following printout of our times:

Day 1 times

It was now only 2:30pm and it was a little strange to be finished for the day so early!  But it was sunny :)  We set up camp in the increasingly busy field and set about having a relaxing afternoon :)  Given our relatively early start this morning, most of the people we knew were yet to arrive.  Gradually however they began to appear until by late afternoon we had quite a sizeable group consisting of Mark, me, Gordon, Lucy, Ian, Janet, Rich, Ben, Robin, Shayda and Jon.

The sunny mid-way camp
We picked up our beer, milk and soft drink order and sat around having dinner in the sun.  However the weather finally changed at around 7:30pm - it started raining!  And so we all retreated to our tent for an hour or two.  Eventually it stopped and we were back outside socialising.  I took a wander down to the results boards displayed at the finish to see how well we did today: we finished in a time of 05:29:14, which meant that we were 46th out of 109 finishers, which we were pretty pleased with!

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 07/07/12, (from 13/07/12)


  1. What a splendid day!
    I'm waiting with breath all baited for Day 2 now!

    1. Thanks. It was indeed a lovely day :)

      Day 2 will follow at some point in the next couple of days...