Sunday 8 July 2012

SLMM 2012 - Day 2: The Return to Wasdale Head

Sunday 8th July 2012  

Distance: 17.2km; Ascent:790m; Mainly dry and overcast; with Mark
See approximate route in new window (checkpoints are shown as waypoints)

I woke at around 6:30ish due to the number of overly keen people already up and about, and was pleased to discover that it was dry outside :)  However the disadvantage of camping with so many other people was the seemingly endless queue for the portaloos in the morning!

As we hadn't finished within 45 minutes of the class leaders yesterday we would be taking part in the mass start between 8am and 8:30am (the fastest few teams in each class set off even earlier!), which meant that we didn't have to rush too much and had time for a brew :)  I wandered down to the start to pick up our list of controls for today's route and returned to the tent to plot them out on the maps at our leisure as today's clock had not yet started ticking!  I was slightly disappointed to discover that we wouldn't be returning over the hills on the south side of Wastwater, although the controls we had been given did look to form a reasonable route.

The Sunday mass-start
The organisers seemed very keen to continuously remind everyone who hadn't yet set off that the start closed in x minutes time, where x started at 15 minutes and gradually reduced as you might expect!  By the time we had finished packing up, x had reduced to 9 minutes and we were walking down the field to the start.

We officially started soon after 8:20am and headed for our first control of the day around a kilometre away to the south-east.  Whilst planning our route in the tent earlier we had decided not to follow the circuitous route of the forest tracks but instead to cut across country alongside the northern edge of the woods before following the river down to the bridge and our check point.  This also appeared to the be the approach of the vast majority of the other teams and to start with it all went well, if a little damp underfoot.

However the River Bleng proved to be about knee deep and most of the fell runners just waded it using the fence as a handrail.  But we decided that we didn't fancy getting our boots wet this early on in the day if we could help it and opted for a boulder hop across.  Mark went first but disaster struck around half way across when a suspicious looking rock turned out to be very slippery and there was a dramatic splash as Mark fell into the river!  However no harm was done and he was soon on the other side, if a little wet!  In the light of this I decided to modify my planned crossing slightly and accepted getting damp feet so that I could place them a bit more securely and successfully made it to the other side without falling in :)

Now all we had to do was follow the true left bank of the river downstream for around 200 metres to the bridge, but the route turned out to be an extremely damp peat bog that was over knee deep in places - lovely!  Check point visited we returned back the same way to the forest edge, which we followed SSE and soon picked up a forest track that made for easier, and drier, walking!

On the forest track near check-point 2
After around a kilometre of the forest track we found our second control of the day at a track junction where we turned left towards the hills.  This track ended after another kilometre leaving us with 150 metres of boggy fire-break to negotiate to reach the forest edge.  Here the ascent began, gentle at first, across damp moorland to reach our next check point by the cairn on Glade How (Birkett).

Ahead lay just under 300 metres of ascent, which would take us to our highest point of the day.  After a quick break on Glade How, we joined the seemingly never-ending stream of walkers heading up into the mist.  At around 10:20am we reached the summit of Seatallan (Nuttall, Marilyn, Wainwright, Birkett), where our fourth check point was located.

Descending Seatallan
A number of teams appeared to have resorted to much compass work to find the right way off Seatallan, however the route onwards seemed obvious to us and so we followed our noses and then the path down the north ridge of Seatallan and soon dropped out of the cloud.  Our next check-point was on the SE slopes of Haycock so we followed the clear path northwards across the pass and skirted a boggy area to the west before forking off right on a traverse to find the correct stream.

Upon reaching the stream the check point was nowhere to be seen.  After consulting our altimeters it became clear that we were a little too high and so followed the steam down for a short distance to find the control.  However a number of other teams just continued traversing the hillside; presumably they had decided that it was the wrong stream!

A short steep descent brought us to check point 6 at a sheepfold in the valley bottom, which was followed by a boggy traverse and short descent to reach a stream confluence where check point 7 was located.  The section between here and check point 10 covered some pretty horrible terrain with loose rocks covered in wet bracken, which hence made for some pretty slow progress.  However our poles were a godsend on this terrain and we overtook several other teams clad in fell shoes.

Wast Water
There were good views down the valley to Wast Water as we traversed the unpleasant hillside above Nether Beck to reach a wall; perhaps it would have been easier to follow the valley floor and then walk up next to the wall?  (and indeed this is what the planner's choice route showed after the event!)  Not to worry, we soon had check point 8 in the bag and descended down to cross Over Beck at a handy footbridge.

Over Beck
From here we had two uncrossable boundaries to deal with that we were officially only allowed to cross at the crossing points marked on the special SLMM map.  Therefore we had two options: either a steep ascent to reach a higher crossing point or a traverse to reach a lower crossing point (both options also involved further traversing to cross the second wall at its only crossing point).  We chose the second option, along with many other teams, and were somewhat disappointed to find that the crossing point didn't actually exist!  We were certain we were in the correct location, but there was no stile that we concluded that there would be at the official crossing point.

We could see a reasonable distance downhill and concluded that it wasn't there.  Uphill however we could spot the higher of the two crossing points marked on the map and opted to head for that one instead.  First wall out of the way, we descended to cross the second wall before traversing to reach a well concealed control at the base of a small crag.

On the home straight back to Wasdale Head
A slippery descent brought us to a faint path alongside a wall, which we followed north-eastwards for around a kilometre to reach our first manned check point of the route, which was also our last one.  Red and white tape now showed us the way to the finish, a little over 500m distant.  We ran the last couple of hundred metres, arriving at the finish by way of a little bridge over Mosedale Beck shortly after 1pm.

Day 2 times
The food tent beckoned and we joined the snaking queue, which went all the way around the inside of the large marquee!  Lunch consisted of some sort of multiple bean stew with pitta bread, followed by flapjack; all very welcome after two days on the hill, especially as I'm not really used to walking against the clock!  By now the results had been displayed on the tent wall and we discovered that overall we had finished 50th out of 101 finishers in our class with a time of 10 hours and 19 minutes, which we thought was pretty good considering our extremely limited amount of running over the two days :)

Our certificate :)
After lunch we wandered around saying our goodbyes to various people before heading back to Stockport, via Liverpool, for a roast dinner / curry with Gordon, Lucy, Mark and Lynsey.  All in all it had been an excellent weekend, especially as I didn't get anywhere near as wet as I might have expected from the forecast!

N.B. 30/10/12 - Post date updated to actual date of walk, i.e. 08/07/12, (from 16/07/12)


  1. Well done Sir!
    Extremely limited amount of running. Quite so.
    Pip pip!

    1. Thanks.

      Yes I've decided that fell running isn't really for me! However I might enter the walking class instead next year as we were only around 30 minutes or so behind the winners.