Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Fellsman 2012

2012 was the 50th anniversary of the event and the 500 places had sold out and there was a waiting list. I had opted to spend the night before the event at the finish in Threshfield and be bussed to the start the following morning. I arrived about 10pm, registered and got my kit checked. I had been watching the weather all week and was pleased that Saturday was forecast to be dry, at least overhead, but considering the amount of rain that had fallen over the preceding days I was not expecting to keep my feet dry. There would be a strong north to north easterly wind though and I had therefore decided to carry an extra fleece and my Buffalo mitts just in case things cooled down during the later stages of the event.

After a reasonably comfortable night on the school sports hall floor I had my breakfast and waited for the buses. It was at this point that I bumped into Roy Jackman and we chatted about our goals for the day. Arriving at the start in Ingleton the wind was blowing hard and having sought shelter behind a wall for a while we got back onto the bus until it was time to start.

At 9 o clock we set off for Ingleborough the first summit of the day. I had decided to pace myself and was aiming for an average of 4 mph which should see me round the 61 miles and 11,000 ft of ascent in about 15 hours. As we arrived at the summit the full force of the wind was felt and it was a relief to drop down towards the Hill Inn and cross the valley to Whernside. The run along the Whernside ridge was straight into the wind and this really set the tone for the rest of the day as the course heads in an Easterly direction for most of the way. Dropping down into Kingsdale the temperature climbed, but the wind and cold were back as the next ridge was crested and traversed to the summits of Gragareth and Great Coum. The next roadside check point is in Dent and I was feeling pretty low as I left it and started the long gradual climb up onto Blea Moor. Even the sausage roll from the checkpoint couldn’t lift my spirits. It was along this stretch that I got talking to a guy who said he had been told the event had three distinct sections, the hilly bit, which we had just done, the boggy bit, which were just starting and the dark bit, which was still to come. For anyone reading this that is considering having a go at the event, a word of warning, it would be wrong to consider these sections as being entirely separate, in fact they are cumulative i.e. it starts hilly, then gets hilly and boggy, and continues hilly and boggy all the way to the end which unless you’re going to get round in under 12 hours will be in the dark! Anyway I plodded on and Blea Moor came and went and I made my way to Stonehouse at the other end of the Dent valley. Here entrants were treated to pasta, tomato sauce and cheese and I took the opportunity to fuel up in preparation for the second half of the course. From Stonehouse the route climbs (I told you) back up the fellside, passing under Arten Gill viaduct on its way to Great Knoutberry.  Having visited the checkpoint by the trig point its back down and across to the next roadside checkpoint at Redshaw and from there on towards the Cam High Road and Dodd Fell. 

On reaching the summit of Dodd Fell we were treated to a 360o panorama of the Yorkshire Dales and it was a real pleasure to be there, although I was starting to feel really cold and it was good to get down and into the tent at the Fleet Moss check point. It was here that I donned my spare fleece, my long tights and balaclava and swapped my gloves for mitts. Suitably attired I set out with Tony, the guy I had been running with since the Redshaw check point, onto Fleet Moss the part of the course that everybody talks about and which has such a reputation. We opted for the southern route which avoids the worst of the bogs and joined forces with another couple who to be fair did most of the navigation and delivered us to the check point on Middle Tongue just as the light started to fade. The plan was then to take a bearing to a wall and use this as a hand rail to the next check point at Hells Gap. This nearly went to plan but we went a bit high and need to correct ourselves. Dropping down to Cray it was evident that the couple we had teamed up with were struggling with the cold and they decided to drop out. In fact on entering the tent one of them was shivering uncontrollably and was quickly wrapped in foil blankets and extra coats. As it was now dark we needed to wait to be grouped with other entrants to form a group of at least 4 which took about 20 minutes. Our next objective was Buckden Pike and we found the checkpoint staff huddled in a tent sheltering from the wind. From here we made our way to Top Mere and on to the last roadside point at Park Rash. After a quick drink we set off on the last climb of the route up Great Whernside. On arriving at the summit ridge we were walking straight into the wind which by now was now very strong and very cold and the ground underfoot was just starting to freeze. Not wanting to hang around any longer than necessary we had our tally cards punched and headed down towards the final two check points. These came and went without incident and we finally arrived at the edge of Grassington and managed to jog back to finish at Threshfield where we arrived a 3.38 am on Sunday morning, 18 hrs and 38 minutes after leaving Ingleton. It was here that we learnt the event had been stopped at about 1.40 am and that teams still out on the course were being stopped at the roadside check points, there tallies removed and then returned to the finish by bus. Apparently too many entrants were suffering with the cold. We must have made it through the last roadside check point before the event was stopped and it a great feeling to know that I had completed the course.

It’s a great day out and the route takes you on a high level tour of some of the best country the Yorkshire Dales has to offer. Having done it once I’ll definitely enter again to see if I can improve on my time in hopefully less challenging conditions.


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