The weather forecast though scuppered both the Open Golf at St Andrews and a likely safe passage across the Glencoe Ridges and suitable technical running in Scotland for Saturday 18th July looked really slim without risk of a high wind, a drenching and lightning. Not the conditions for a good recee. A plan B was required, so after a 3 way call, Anthony, Alan Renville and I settled for the Lakeland version of the Skyline Race after a few others had dropped out. The Lakes Sky Race route looked good value and was about the same distance from Edinburgh as the Coe, was a similar distance and ascent (50km, 4300m ascent), and looked to miss the worst of the weather coming from the West.
Full details of the race and larger route map are at http://www.lakesskyultra.uk/. The gist of it is to tick off the main ridge scrambles in the Lakes either up or
down in a clockwise circuit from Ambleside. We decided to start at the North end of the route to save driving at CP6 in Paterdale and to run the route as per the plan. To save time though we would miss the loop round Blea Water after CP7 and the descent and re-ascent to Ambleside after CP9. It would shorten the route to about 40km and reduce it by 1000m of ascent.
After a 0600 departure from home and bacon butties and a brew in Patterdale, we left at 0923 from CP6 to CP8 involving near continuous running on tracks and green trails. It has stopped raining and was quite fine really if a bit breezy. A steep descent to Kirkstone Pass in about 2hrs 20mins and time for a beer and another brew. After a chat with a guy doing a Joss Naylor challenge we ran and walked up the ‘stairs’ to Red Scree (CP9) then cut the dogleg to Ambleside and headed for the clag on Dove crag and on to Fairfiled dropping into clear air to Grisedale Tarn (CP1). On great Lakeland dual carriageways we climbed back into the mist and increasing drizzle up to Helvellyn bagging our first ‘Munro’. Loads of people milled around in the mist at the top of Striding Edge so we managed to get a few piccies done from folk.
Our route took us down Swirral Edge in the wet scrambling past many escaping the rain then up the weirdly named Catstycam. At the top the wind and rain really kicked in making a wild descent by the very steep NW ridge which seems rarely travelled. At the bottom a boggy traverse back round the hill convinced us to cut the corner on CP3 and head back up onto the ridge leading to Striding Edge and a slippery scramble back to the top of Helvellyn. Now it was quite miserable, wet and windy still but not too cold but we put everything we had on a had most of our remaining food and headed round the rim to Nethermost Pike searching for the East ridge down to Queens Crag. This ridge is probably ignored by most people as its counterparts are more popular but is was more like a Scottish hill descent on steep grass, rock steps and a scary wet gully, scree and old mine workings etc. By the bottom we were glad to be alive for sure. Feeling that on the race day this bit would have to flagged and maybe roped in one place and that we can’t have taken the right race line, although we seemed to have followed the route marked on the map.
The race route then crosses Grisedale Beck to climb St Sundays Crag by the Pinnacle Ridge, a grade 3 scramble to CP5. This 500m ascent looked grim and it was not the conditions for climbing when tired at the end of our day so we ran down the valley back to Patterdale and headed home. My watch turned off for a bit but Anthony Hemmings’ Garmin recorded 39km, 3374m ascent and 6hrs of running time.
Overall, the route is a good one with great hill running and some fun scrambling. As a race, it would be quite runnable and gets the scrambling done by half way through the route. It serves its intention of mixing running with scrambling with a couple of interesting ‘off piste’ descents. Places for the Lakes Sky Race are available for September if anyone is interested. Now we need to find another time for recce-ing Glencoe.