Sat 16th May saw me competing with fellow Ilkley Harrier Brian Melia in the Old County Tops Fell Race. At 34 miles and 3400m of climbing it’s a seriously long Lakeland Fell race and definately blurs the boundary between a fell race and a day out in the mountains. The race starts at the New Dungeon Gill in Langdale and then goes to Helvellyn (top of Westmorland), Scafell Pike (Cumberland), Coniston Old Man (Lancashire) and then back to NDG.
The Weather was very changeable but generally rubbish to start and improving as the day progressed. The weather, terrain and distance meant there was a lot more opportunity for gear testing than the 3 peaks last month (more below). The general advice is to take it steady to Cockley Beck (20 something miles and 2 peaks done) and then if you can push on from there. We followed this plan as the over optimism of those around us began to show. We were midfield (out of 70ish) at Grisedale Tarn, 18th at Angle Tarn but 9th at the finish in a time of 8 hours 41 minutes. 8th was within our grasp except for my navigational error on Coniston Old Man where a lack of concentration and a bit of lovely sun lead to me leading us down to Goat’s hause and than back up.
A great race run with very little hype or ceremony wher Arthur the organiser shakes your hand and hands you, your hard earned shirt at the finish. If you are good enough to win a category you get a tea mug as well!
Due to the terrain and weather forecast I elected to carry more kit than neccessary to fufill the FRA rules. In went hat and gloves. My ME Mistral Windshirt was replaced by my Marmot Driclime Windshirt for extra warmth. Reluctantly I replaced my superb Marmot Mica jacket with my equally superb but heavier ME Prolite jacket. I wasn’t worried about the ability of the Mica to keep the rain out but as I thought I would be running in my waterproof most of the day then I wanted the extra breathability of Gore Tex Proshell. The same for my legs, out went my pertex and in came my ME Paclite Pants. All this went into a Deuter Speed Lite 10 pack and PBS bumbag. I carry both to make my food, buff and gloves easily accessible without removing my pack when running. I am trying to sort out a chest pouch that you can reto fit to any pack for this, I think Raidlight might do one, but I don’t have one yet. I love my new Silva Jet 5 compass for naviagtion duties as the bezel is so easy to use even with cold wet hands. Socks as ever were Smartwool Adrenaline Lights and baselayer Helly Hansen Lifa Stripe Crew. Footwear was Sportiva Crosslites (thanks Lyon Equipment) which have a studded sole like a Mudclaw 330 but are stiffer, more like a Roclite 315 which I find great for all conditions from hard trail to wet moorland.
One last thing that I wouldn’t be without is my bag of coffee beans and jelly babies. I was in a bit of a hole coming off Coniston Old Man so I had a big handful of choc covered coffee beans followed 10 minutes later by a big handful of jelly babies. Another 5 minutes and we were back in business.