La Sportiva Lake District Mountain Trial 2017

10 September 2017 – La Sportiva Lake District Mountain Trial – Medium Course (Approx. 13 miles / 5000 ft (if you can fly like a crow))

After an innumerable exchange of emails over the previous weeks, we had still completely failed to organise ourselves, but a decision was finally made en route and a motley crew of P&Bers assembled in Borrowdale YHA on Saturday night ready to tackle the Lake District Mountain Trial (Medium Course) the following day. A beautiful lakeland evening tempted us out for a quick trot out to Castle Crags and back before grub, during which we bumped into Andy Hobson, who although injured and had pulled out from the race was staying down the road and was still going to volunteer for the event. Given such a beautiful evening it was hard to imagine how the weather could evolve so dramatically over night, but I’d seen the pess-MWIS-tic forecast for the following day, and was also slightly wishing I could find a way out of racing.

Back at the hostel, Charlie dissected the race instructions, interrogated Google Street View and claimed to have worked out exactly where we were going to be sent (he didn’t turn out to be far wrong). We pored over maps for the evening and each found our excuses for why we weren’t going to perform well. Charlie and Adam had been out injured for most of the year, Matthew had just finished writing his PhD thesis and just wanted to sleep, Dave, I don’t know how Dave’s exploits at last year’s LDMT haven’t made the Navigation Hall of Fame! And me? Well I hadn’t really run up a hill since June when I failed to complete the LAMM. However, given I’d missed the Ben the previous week due to my kitten deciding to jump out of a Velux window and fall off the roof of the house just as I was about to depart for Fort William, my legs were actually feeling much better than I had anticipated!

The View from the Event Center

Morning came and the weather was still taunting us, but by the time we arrived at registration (just as MWIS predicted), the clag closed in and the heavens opened. Milling around we could see runners being set off, collecting their maps and meandering their way up towards Robinson. I was the first of us to be set off, with the other four spaced behind me over the next hour, all I wanted to do was still manage to be the first of P&B at the finish line in a few hours time! With that in mind, I gained my map and set off steadily contouring around Robinson to CP1 with everyone else. After about a mile, I’d already overtaken a handful of people, only to get distracted, and lead them all to completely the wrong sheepfold! Charlie was already hot on my tail after I’d corrected myself and located CP1. Up and over Dale Head was the plan for CP2, before heading down to Honister, crossing the road and then skirting around the side of Grey Knotts for CP3. The weather was really worsening, visibility was poor, and I’d found myself completely on my own, but confident of where I was I managed to battle the winds to get my jacket on, albeit inside out, and continue plodding onwards. CP3 and CP4 on Seathwaite Fell came and went, and I headed on for CP5 on the top of Kirk Fell.

This is where things went quite wrong. I opted to try and traverse round the back of Great Gable on the climbers path to Beck Head, rather than head for Windy Gap which was the other obvious route choice. Within a few hundred metres I’d completely lost this path and found myself dropping down into Wasdale, I didn’t see another path for the next hour (and wouldn’t see another runner until I made it to the finish). I planned to rectify my mistake by contouring over the boulder fields of Great Gable and plod up the east side of Kirk Fell. Upon arriving on what I thought was Kirk Fell I could find no tarn, and no checkpoint. I headed to what I thought was the summit, just to confirm my location, and even had a little sit down for five minutes, just to see if the clag would clear for a second and the checkpoint kite miraculously appear in front of me. It didn’t. I soon began to question myself, was I in fact on Great Gable? Had the kite blown away? I cut my losses, dejectedly took a bearing and slid on my arse down Boat How crags, along Ennerdale and up over Scarth Gap Pass to the finish. I saw Matthew at the finish line, who had set off 45 minutes after me and immediately knew I’d done badly, only to be told…“It’s been cancelled, they called the event off hours ago!”

Turns out the organisers had abandoned the event mid-race due to poor weather. CP4, which was the last manned checkpoint had been used as a turnaround point and everyone had been ferried back to the finish. Matthew had been turned around at this point, Adam & Dave had already wisely retired at the road crossing and made their way back. Unfortunately for a few of us, we had made it through CP4 before the organisers had made this decision. I was still frustrated at myself for losing my whereabouts on Kirk Fell, but this made things slightly better. The only unanswered question was, where was Charlie? About 45 minutes later Charlie came in to the finish, having been the only one of us, and one of only a handful overall to have soldiered around the whole course, find all of the checkpoints and successfully reach the finish only to be told… “It’s been cancelled, they called the event off hours ago!”

The Classic Course had also been abandoned, and much confusion ensued as to what would happen with the results, personally after refuelling myself with chilli and tea I just wanted to go and look at my GPS trace and see where the hell Kirk Fell was! We stuck around as the prize ceremony was given for the Short Course, and Joss Naylor had successfully completed his 50th LDMT! Prize ceremonies for the Classic and Medium were delayed whilst they worked out what to do with the results, so we loaded a lot of saturated gear into cars and made our way home.

Two days later, prizes were posted out and it would appear results for the Medium Course were taken at CP4. Everyone was given the opportunity to reach this point if they wished, so I guess it seems fair. Charlie Mac picked up 1st oldie, Matthew continued his record of picking up prizes for obscure memberships, trumping his award for 1st YHA member last year, to 1st LDMTA member this year, and I was awarded 1st overall for leading at CP4 before getting thoroughly lost. So overall a successful, if somewhat eventful and adventurous weekend. Nothing’s ever simple when P&B and navigation are paired together eh?!

Oh, and I was on Kirk Fell, I visited a false summit, and was less than 100 m away from the tarn and the checkpoint, ho hum.

Full results available here…

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