Tag Archives: Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge (JNLC), Saturday, September 2, 2017

around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks

Geoff Davis

The JNLC was set up by the veteran fell runner himself in 1990. It is a self organised mountain challenge for veteran runners over 50. So there are no race organisers, no entry fees, no way markers, mile markers or fellow competitors. The time allowed increases with age and runners must be accompanied over the route. At age 60 I had 18 hours. The course crosses the Lake District from Pooley Bridge, on Ullswater, to Joss’ home at Greendale in Wasdale – a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks including High Street, Fairfield, Bow Fell, Great End, Great Gable, Pillar and Steeple.

I chose to repeat the JNLC to mark my 60th birthday (I had completed the challenge 5 years earlier to celebrate my 55th birthday). An Achilles injury prevented the intended June crossing necessitating a postponement until September. A promising forecast heralded the intended day and a starry sky for the 5am start boded well. My support team on the first leg consisted of Paul Hainsworth, Katherine Davis, David Gibson, Mike Hughes and Aaron Gourley. They were there ready and waiting for me on the dark bridge at Pooley. Head torches were discarded before we reached the first top and dawn arrived as we traversed the grassy tops of Loadpot and Wether Hill. A beautiful blue sky was lit by a huge orange sun as it crept above Cross Fell. Small herds of deer scattered as we danced across the tussocks and stones towards High Street. It was great to be alive and to share this experience with attentive friends.

The sun was well up by the time we reached Kirkstone and its brightness was allowing the late summer fells to appear at their best. Mark Davinson and Mike Bennett joined me for the second leg and their friendly chat made time pass quickly over the screes and on towards Fairfield where an abandoned tent was the only blemish on what was developing into a perfect morning. I descended carefully down the rocky, eroded path towards the base of Seat Sandal as I didn’t want to take a fall this early in the day. The temperature rose making it even more important to drink little and often and my old familiar kit was starting to get very sweaty!

At a bright and sunny Dunmail Raise my road support team was waiting, headed by my wife Susan (another JNLC completer and to whom my most sincere gratitude goes), and including Graham Daglish, Heather Hughes and Jenny Wren. I was pleased to be over half an hour ahead of my sub 16 hour schedule here at the end of leg 2. A change of top and a little too much food consumed and it was off up the forbidding steepness of Steel Fell with my new support team of Scott Gibson, Paul Evans, Penny Browell & Rob Eaton. Scott, as navigator, ensured the best line was taken across one of my least favourite sections to High Raise. Clouds started to develop from here and so the heat was no longer a problem. However, the tops stayed clear and not a drop of rain fell all day. The food and drink consumed at Dumail was lying heavily in my stomach and it was sometime before I could manage anything else. This was disappointing as I like to ‘graze’ and so didn’t feel 100%. We continued to make up minutes here and there on the schedule as we traversed the rockier ground after Rossett Pike. The fells were packed today with holiday makers and charity walkers on the last weekend before the end of the school holidays. Nonetheless there were few people on the descent to Sty Head from Great End and we arrived there 42 minutes ahead of schedule.

There were lots of my supporters here and it was nice to see old fell friends and other friends not known for their ‘fellgoing’ including Stan White, Aileen Scott, Alan Scott, Louise Billcliffe and Wendy Hughes. I was confident now that I would come in well under 18 hours but could I manage a sub 15 hour round? Time would tell. A steady climb up Great Gable was eased by my pacers’ conversations (John Duff, Elaine Bisson, Jack Lee plus Rob and Penny continuing for a second leg). A good line off the rocky top of Gable and fantastic views from Kirk Fell made everything a joy (well almost!). The cloud started to disperse and a welcome warmth returned making the usual slog across Pillar less of a trial. Steeple was fantastic with its lofty views and its heralding of the approaching finish. Some compass work off Haycock helped me find the scree shoot – a rocky escalator to the bottom! No time to empty stones from shoes as that sub 15 hour crossing started to beckon. Only the steepness of Seatallan stood in my way and all those rocky miles already traversed were starting to take their toll. I had to stop a couple of times on the ascent but still got to the top within the scheduled time with the help of encouragement from my excellent pacers and nourishment from Kendal Mint Cake. Perhaps it was on? I still hadn’t fallen all day and managed to maintain this on the steep grassy descent of Seatallan. On reaching the final top of Middle Fell John told me “you’ve 27 minutes to get to the bridge if you want to get under 15 hours – easily doable for a man of your calibre!” And so it proved, as 19 minutes later I was shaking Joss Naylor’s hand on Greendale Bridge and enjoying the plaudits of my friends.

What a fantastic day and what an honour to meet Joss Naylor once again. He was his usual gracious and humble self and happy to talk to anyone in our group. We chatted for some time not just about fell running, for which he retains a deeply felt appreciation, but about midges, house martins, swallows and his dog – which had ‘stolen’ a piece of Susan’s pie much to Joss’ consternation!

These fell challenges make for wonderful weekends but only happen after months of hard training over the fells and much meticulous preparation in terms of gathering a support team, preparing food and drink and devising a logistical time table. This can have its stresses but it also has its benefits in terms of long delightful days over the mountains with like-minded friends including those named above and others who were unable to be there on the day. I am very grateful to you all and hope you enjoyed it as much as you all seemed to do.

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, Saturday, May 23, 2015

W55, 16 Hour Time Limit

Susan Davis

Intro & Background

The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge (JNLC) is a self organised mountain challenge for veteran fell runners over 50. The time allowed increases with age (I had 16 hours) and runners must be accompanied over the route and raise at least £100 for charity. The course crosses the Lake District from Pooley Bridge, in the north east, to Joss’s home at Greendale, Wasdale in the south west – a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000′ of ascent over 30 Lakeland peaks including High Street, Fairfield, Bow Fell, Great End, Great Gable, Pillar and Seatallan. Only two women in the V55 category had completed the JNLC prior to my attempt.

For those who don’t know, Joss Naylor is probably England’s best known fell runner. He has lived all his life in the Lake District valley of Wasdale where he worked as a sheep farmer / shepherd until his retirement. Joss is well into his 70s now but still does some amazing runs and held many very impressive fell running records and was victorious in many, many very tough fell races. Chris Brasher (Olympic gold medallist and organiser of the London Marathon) described Joss as “the greatest of them all”, having “sinews stronger than any man made substance and a will harder than a diamond…..the toughest runner in Britain“.

My JNLC Day

Leg 1- ‘Cuckoos, Larks and Deer’ (Pooley Bridge to Kirkstone Pass)

Susan and Support CrewGeoff and I left our friends house in Bothel at 4.30am and collected Juliet Percival (leg 1 pacer) en route to Pooley Bridge. The rest of my team, Paul Hainsworth (navigator) plus pacers Allon Welsh and Mike Hughes had already assembled in the square on our arrival. My clothes, food and drink were distributed and so we made our way on to the bridge, a few photos were taken and Geoff gave us a ten second countdown. We are off at 5.30am on a beautiful morning.

The pace was brisk due to a combination of nerves and excitement as I just could not wait to be on the fells. The morning and the weather were wonderful; bright sun and a cool but gentle breeze with the sound of cuckoos calling. Paul surged ahead as we made our way to the first summit. I was aware that I was probably going a bit too fast and Mike & Allon did a fine job of steadying the pace a little. We ran on with lark song ringing out over the fells, the heavy dew on the grass glistened and sparkled like diamonds and we could see for miles as the tops came and went with relative ease. A lone deer stood to greet me on High Raise and this was followed by Jules exclaiming “check out the view to your left” as we headed towards Kidsty Pike and enjoyed a wonderful panorama.

A further herd of deer scampered off High Street as we approached. It just felt great to be alive and my heart was full of joy. I knew there would be tough times during the day ahead but I was ‘in the moment’ and feeling good. In what seemed like no time at all we were ticking off the last three summits of leg 1 and speeding down to Kirkstone Pass to be greeted by a large group of my support crew with beaming smiles, arriving 27 minutes up on schedule!.

5 minutes to rest and re-fuel.

Leg 2 – ‘Buoyant Banter’ (Kirkstone Pass to Dunmail Raise)

Accompanying me on leg 2 were Kevin Bray (navigator, Morpeth Harriers) with pacers: Mandy Dawson, Nigel Heppell, Mike Bennett and Dave Gibson all being members of Elvet Striders my cross country club.

And so for leg 2, or day 2 as it was for me because, as part of my mental coping strategy, I was treating each leg as a new day! The sun was still bright and I don’t usually react very well to the heat so thankfully, the breeze was still cool. I knew that Kevin would steady the pace on this leg having discussed with him on earlier recces that the challenge only really begins after Dunmail, and going too fast on the early legs can scupper your chances of success.

As I headed up Red Screes Dave passed on good luck wishes from his children Sam and Freya both of whom run with Durham Harriers. Dave had kindly given my brother Stan a lift over to be part of the day which had only been arranged a couple of days before. He was there to greet me part way up Red Screes and a brief stop for a hug and a kiss sent me on my way upwards and onwards.

The pacers kept a more or less constant stream of banter going and topics covered included rescue battery hens, Nigel’s idea of a pamper day for his wife Lesley (an open water swimming course at Rydal Water), plans for hot showers and tea shops later on, the various fell challenges already done and those still on people’s wish lists. Kevin regularly checked I was OK and my band of pacers tended to all my needs efficiently and patiently.

The views were amazing on all sides but the temperature was rising and a change of clothes was needed ‘on the move’ whilst heading to Hart Crag. My Dru yoga teacher was running a yoga retreat at Grasmere that day so, whilst I was on the fells, the yoga group were working on relevant posture and positive affirmations to help me on my challenge!

SunscreenThere are only four summits on this leg and three were ticked off without incident. Suddenly, as I started ascending Seat Sandal, cramp took hold of my right hamstring. I hit the deck clutching my leg and cursing as I am rarely troubled with cramp. Kevin came to the rescue and, as I lay on my back, he stretched my leg and the cramp was soon gone. I adopted a gentler pace for the rest of this ascent with drink in hand and munching some salted nuts.

As I started the run down to Dunmail I was a little tentative as I did not want the cramp to return. On reaching the bottom unscathed, I was again greeted by my amazing and happy support team who were joined by Monica Shone and Mike Langrish as the JNLC ‘meet and greet’ representatives. I arrived 34 minutes ahead of schedule. I had 10 minutes to refuel and provoked a frantic scurry for extra sunscreen. The cramp had been a timely reminder that the sun was intense but deceptive, as it was eased by a cool breeze. Although I didn’t feel particularly hot I knew I would still have been using and losing a lot of fluid. I was pleased to be in the shade at this stop -provided by Mike Hughes holding an umbrella!

Leg 3 – ‘The Leg of Gentlemen’ (Dunmail Raise to Sty Head)

Joining me on leg 3 were John Telfer (navigator) and pacers Scott Gibson, Paul Appleby (Northumberland Fell Runners), Paul Evans (Elvet Striders) and Kevin Bray who had decided to continue to the very end!

I had not enjoyed the times that I had recced this section as it involves a stiff climb up Steel Fell and a long march to the next two summits. No time for negative thoughts though as this was ‘a new day’ and I was still feeling strong. A steady pace was set and my brother again appeared part way up the fell, but there was no time for hugs and kisses this time as I needed to keep the momentum going to the top of Steel Fell.

My team told me I had done fine on the climb and so we pushed on. John went ahead to find the best lines while Paul A, with my food and drink, was always close to hand. Paul Evans, enjoying a break from his day job as a GP, kept an ever watchful and caring eye on me. It was great listening to the guys on this leg getting to know Paul E – again reflecting on past runs and future goals. Paul A had met my Lakeland friend Raymond Wren at Dunmail and was amazed to learn that Raymond and his OMM partner will compete in their 25th successive OMM later this year. Great stuff as Raymond is 69 and his partner, Chris Lattes is 75! Inspirational chat indeed made the time pass quicker than expected to High Raise. I enjoyed talking to Scott who will soon attempt the BGR. Indirectly this led to Scott realising that Geoff (my husband) and I have nick names for many of our friends. He wondered what his would be. Well I have christened you “the gentle giant” Scott!

We went into Springwatch mode when Paul A mentioned he had spotted a meadow pipit’s nest with five eggs close by here the week before whilst running the Old County Tops race. Today we settled for finding a toad and I stopped to say hello. I thought about a kiss, to see if he would turn into a prince, but thought ‘who needs a prince when I already have five knights of the fells with me’.

On we strode to Rossett Pike. On arrival I checked that I still had time on my side and stopped briefly to eat. I had struggled going up Bowfell a couple of times when reccying so wanted to get a bit more food and drink on board. This allowed us all to enjoy the scenery and the slabs on Bowfell were shinning in the brilliant sunlight. I felt very humble as we started the ascent of Bowfell. From the start of the day I had been surrounded by so much love and affection I realised just how lucky I am to have such wonderful family and friends.

Losing the CompeedGood humoured banter saw me up to the summit whilst enjoying some brief shade from the sun which for me was a pleasant change. I was, however, now being troubled by some discomfort from my right heel. So, after checking the time, I decided it was shoes off on the summit to remove the compeed which was no longer doing its job. A dollop of Vaseline was supplied by my personal medic Paul E and I was hand fed assorted nuts by Paul A as I replaced my shoes and we were soon on our way. Polite walkers vacated the summit of Esk Pike on my arrival but I hit a low ebb as I ascended Great End. My legs slowed and a massive wave of nausea washed over me. I knew that this was my body saying it needed more fuel so a brief pause, a drink and a couple of extra strong mints saw me to the top.

Scott is a good rock climber and he just loves rocks beneath his feet, which he just glides over, and here we were on rocky ground. The plan was to follow the ‘master’, embrace the rocks and make them my friends. With the ‘gentle giant’ just a step or two ahead, and the rest of the team close to hand, the plan worked a treat. However, I scored highly on the bad language scale on the difficult descent from Great End which involved a couple of ‘five points of contact’ moves! Nonetheless we all got down in one piece and finished with a gentle trot to Styhead.

I had a slightly smaller support team here but they were no less enthusiastic. With five minutes scheduled to refuel I was advised that I still had time in hand but I hurriedly ate and drank what I could manage and changed my socks. I said farewell to Paul A at this point but John T and Scott decided to carry on for one further top.

Leg 4 – ‘The Final Push’ (Styhead to Greendale Bridge)

For the final leg I was joined by my husband Geoff Davis who had been seeing to my every need at all the road crossings. He would now act as navigator and would be assisted by pacers Peter Reed, Peter Moralee and Steph Scott (all NFR). Kevin Bray and Paul Evans, having enjoyed themselves way too much, decided to continue on for the final push to Greendale.

I adopted a new coping strategy for this leg; just taking one summit at a time and keeping a steady pace. My legs felt heavy now but I was determined to keep on Geoff’s heels and I just about managed this with the top of Gable arriving sooner than I expected. Geoff started the descent a bit too quick for me as, on reflection at this stage, he was probably more nervous than me and knew just how much completing the challenge in less than 16 hours would mean to me. Although I had said that even a few seconds in-side the cut off time would be enough, Geoff knows me better than that, and was aware that, at the top of Gable, there is still a fair bit to do before Greendale Bridge.

The weather was still fabulous with views to die for as we pushed ever onwards. Peter Reed and Peter Moralee were enjoying good weather for once, the latter having done numerous challenges in the lakes over the years and is more used with being soaked to the skin and cold!

The nausea returned while ascending Kirk Fell but Steph assured me that I was going faster than I thought and so I plodded on. It was easier to take in the wonderful Lakeland scenery at the pace I was going and, once again, I settled into just listening to the pacers’ banter. With their encouraging words it felt great to be on the fells on this special day. I asked for a time check at the top of Pillar and, still well ahead of schedule, I decided a short stop would do me some good. I knew I should eat and a satsuma, peeled by Paul, went down a treat. Feeling refreshed by the short stop the next two tops, Scoat Fell and Steeple, went over quite easily.Paul on satsuma peeling duties

It was a grind up Haycock with Geoff forging ahead to drive me on and I got it into my head that I was losing too much time. My spirits took a dive and I muttered to Steph that it was like being on holiday in the Highlands with Geoff being 100 yards in front! I was also conscious of the climb that still awaited me on Seatallan. Peter M offered me an apple crumble and custard gel assuring me that it would taste good. I could not be persuaded however, but did agree to drink coke which I hate. Peter R’s Kendal Mint Cake was quite enjoyable but I could almost feel my teeth being rotted away by the sugar so decided not to have anymore.

Geoff located the scree descent off Haycock and I asked for a bit of space around me on this steep slope. However, with relative ease I was down in no time at all accompanied by laughter, the rush of moving scree and the odd clatter of rocks as others descended behind me. Apparently, Steph and Kevin were creating some new dance moves ready for ‘Strictly’ this autumn – so BBC, they are waiting for your call! We all emptied stones from our shoes, with further merriment, before pushing on.

On starting the ascent of Seatallan I had not gone far when I realised all was not well. I have suffered from heat stroke a number of times in the past and it results in me passing out, so I knew what could be on the cards. I told the others I did not feel well and needed to stop. Apparently, according to Kevin, even my freckles went white at this point! I leant on my walking poles to compose myself. I thought of my Mum and Dad, in whose memory I was dedicating this challenge. I chatted to them both, in my head, as I often do in times of need and was inspired by my Dad’s words – which he used to say to encourage me when I was little: “slow but sure gets there in the end”.

This was all the encouragement I needed to carry on to the finish so, with my pacers close by and a drink in hand I set off again. It was great to reach the top of Seatallan with just one fell to go. Although the climb up Middle Fell is gentle I could only go up very slowly. Near the summit I was greeted by Mike Hughes and his daughter Sally which greatly lifted my spirits. I had a further surprise when my brother Stan appeared who I had expected to be back in Durham and not on the top of Middle Fell! This final summit provided one of the best views of the day with the Wastwater Screes reflected in the giant mirror of lake itself.

Although, with my sore feet, I could only manage a slow trot off Middle Fell I knew I had plenty of time so spirits were high. I could see and hear my supporters at the bottom waiting to greet me and I was met by cheers, applause and happy smiling faces as I managed the final run onto Greendale Bridge. Joss was also there to meet me, having left a sixtieth birthday party in order to offer me his congratulations, so it was a perfect end to a perfect day finishing in 15 hours 32 minutes. Joss sneaks a pass-out from a 60th birthday party to congratulate Susan

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to my support team on the day which, in addition to those already mentioned, included Valerie Atkinson, Linda Bray, Wendy Appleby, Heather Hughes and her brother Andy. The day was a great success as a result of a group of people I am blessed and honoured to have as friends working together as team. Their skills and knowledge of the fells were shared throughout the day in an atmosphere of mutual respect and admiration.

A special thanks to my loving husband Geoff who encouraged me to have the confidence to undertake the challenge.

Nigel Heppell adds …

4th May 2015; A long day training in preparation for Susan’s attempt at the Joss Naylor Challenge.

From Dunmail Raise Susan, Raymond and me set off up Steel Fell and headed over the bogs of Brownrigg Moss before following the line of a gill just north of Ash Crags that Susan correctly identified as heading on the right bearing for the summit of High Raise out of sight over the brow. As usual I began to lag behind on the steep ascent and strayed off to one side of the course taken by Susan and Raymond.

About 300m from the summit I caught sight of a small reflective object lying on the ground. It was a camera.

A quick glance at the screen revealed a lot of moisture inside so I slipped out the battery thinking that might help to prevent any further damage to the electronics and stuck it in my pocket until we got down off the hill. Once in the car I also removed the memory card and left that to dry on the journey home. The camera was obviously too wet to operate so I put that in a box with some flaked rice to draw out the moisture, but the memory card looked OK so I tried that in my own camera to see if it would work and if so, were there any clues about the owner.

400+ images! The latest were of some walkers at the High Raise summit but the earliest were of one of the characters posing at Land’s End – in a distinctively coloured fund-raising charity T-shirt.

It became obvious that this was a record of one man’s journey on foot along LEJoG – and he had become a member to the ‘End to Ender’s’ Club from which I traced the charity to a Hospice in Swindon. Prospect Hospice gained an impressive £24,000 donation through this man’s efforts, and after a couple of telephone calls they got me in contact with one Al Sylvester who couldn’t believe that his camera had been found.

Surprisingly, I’m told that the camera had been on the hillside since mid-October 2014 – I thought it might have been one or two days – but although the LEJoG photos had been downloaded previously, the latest photo’s recorded Al’s actual last day at work before his retirement from the RAF as a coordinater of the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams so these were precious memories.

Having ‘googled’ his name to find contact details I now know more about this man than I probably should, but I thought I’d share some of this mountain-climbing, frost bitten polar explorer with you because you never know who you are going to meet on the hills, either in person or vicariously.

check out –

a bit about LEJoG and Exercise Southern Reach

Al did say to me that doing the LEJoG solo was the toughest thing he had ever done, simply because he was on his own.

Take whatever inspiration you need from this tale.

Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge, Sunday, June 17, 2012

Geoff Davis

A Few Words About Joss & His ‘Challenge’

Most of you will know this already, so apologies. For those who don’t know, Joss Naylor is probably England’s best known fell runner. He has lived all his life in the Lake District valley of Wasdale where he worked as a sheep farmer / shepherd until his retirement. Joss is well into his 70s now but still does some amazing runs for someone of any age (e.g. 70 Lakeland peaks at age 70 in under 21 hours!). In his prime, Joss held many very impressive fell running records:

  • Winner of the Ennerdale fell race in nine consecutive years;
  • Holder of the record number of Lakeland peaks climbed in under 24 hours;
  • Winner of the Lake District Mountain Trial in four consecutive years;
  • Completed the Pennine Way in 3 days 4 hours;
  • Completed all the ‘Wainwright’ tops in 7 days (aged 50); and
  • Many, many more amazing feats!

Chris Brasher described Joss as “The greatest of them all (with)… sinews stronger than any man made substance and his will is harder than a diamond… the toughest runner in Britain”.

So what of Joss’ Challenge? Joss set this up in 1990 after running the route in 11hrs 30mins under atrocious conditions. It is a self organised challenge for veteran runners over 50. The time allowed increases with age and runners must be accompanied over the route and raise over £100 for charity. The linear ‘course’ runs from Pooley Bridge, at the ‘north east end’ of Ullswater, to Joss’ home at Greendale in Wasdale — a distance of around 48 miles involving 17,000’ of ascent across 30 Lakeland peaks.

What a view
photo courtesy and © John Telfer
My JNLC Experience

It was Christmas last year when I decided that I would attempt the ‘Joss’, as soon as I turned 55, when I would become ‘entitled’ to an extra three hours for the challenge. A sub-12 hour ‘Joss’ had never really been on the cards for me – but 15 hours — well that might just be about doable. However, I received a ‘wake-up call’ on a late winter outing across ‘leg 3’ of the Joss, with two merciless NFR task masters Paul Hainsworth and Dexter, when my fitness was shown to be woeful. The only solution, as it often is in life, was hard work i.e. I needed to put in more long hard days, over unforgiving mountain terrain, preferably in bad weather. So that’s what I did — mixed in with supporting Paul on his successful sub-12 ‘Joss’ and training with Steph Scott for her ultimately successful BG.

The support team look after Geoff
photo courtesy and © John Telfer

Come the big day I still wasn’t fully convinced that I was sufficiently fit. An attempt to run three of the four legs three weeks previous had ended in me having to cut the day short (mind you the temperature was 25°c !) and I thought I was still a couple of long runs short of a picnic. The knees were also starting tell me that I should be descending at a more sedate pace than they’d been happy with five years ago. The weather wasn’t playing ball either, resulting in postponement from Saturday to Sunday and the loss of some key pacers and navigators.

Driving with Susan from Jenny’s abode in Bothel round to Pooley at 6am it was still raining and the cloud was down to about 1000’. However, it was dry in Pooley when I set off at 7am with three very able pacers (Kevin Bray, David Atkinson & Phil Green). After having a punishing couple of months Kevin had to ‘drop off the pace’ as we made up six minutes getting to the first hill. The cloud licked the tops of the fells, and the westerly wind was stronger than I expected, as we pushed on to pick up the plethora of grassy tops on the first half of the first leg. Dave interrogated Phil to find the secret to his surge in fitness since last autumn (buy a turbo trainer!) – although I interrupted frequently requesting various items of food and drink (that salmon and potato baby food was a mistake!). I felt fine on this leg, making up minutes here and there and hitting all the tops ‘spot on’ — any ‘lack of fitness’ wasn’t apparent thus far.

I felt quite buoyant when we stopped at the first road crossing, nearly half an hour ahead of schedule, and Susan had ensured everything I needed was at hand. The five minutes rest was quickly over and off I went up a misty Red Screes followed by Steph Scott, Bernard Kivlehan and Dave on his second leg. How wet the conditions were underfoot was hilariously illustrated on the descent from Red Screes when Steph and Bernard managed to ‘measure their length’ simultaneously; one head first, the other Salomons first! Helped by such entertainment I continued to make up time through the showers and across the rockier terrain of Hart Crag and Fairfield. Still the perceived lack of fitness hadn’t materialised and by the time I reached the next road crossing at Dunmail I was 42 minutes ahead of schedule. I felt able to allow myself a smile!

Geoff tackles a rocky climb
photo courtesy and © John Telfer

Susan’s organisational skills were once more to the fore as I was able to eat, drink and change my sweatiest clothes all within 10 minutes – recorded by Graham Daglish the official photographer. Beginning to enjoy myself I exclaimed “here we go” when the rest time was up and Paul Hainsworth, Dexter (David Armstrong) and Tom Reeves swung into action. Paul led us up what Dexter later described as “one of the toughest climbs in the Lake District” (Steel Fell). Even here I made up a couple of minutes but knew the next section was one of the toughest on the ‘challenge’. It seemed to go on forever and for the first time I began to ‘feel the pace’. Having convinced myself that I must have lost a boat load of time getting to High Raise, Dexter gave me the news that I’d made up five minutes. I was amazed! This pattern continued for the next couple of hours: I felt as if I was struggling, my mood started to ‘dip’ but I continued to make up time: six minutes on Rossett Pike, six minutes on Bowfell and nine minutes onto Esk Pike. I was so surprised that I checked with Tom to confirm that Dexter was telling me the truth! He was — I arrived at the last crossing point (Sty Head) 1 hour 14 minutes ahead of schedule!

Another quick turn around and I was off again this time with a new NFR crew of John Telfer, Peter Reed & Chris Little. At last the weather started to improve; the wind had decreased somewhat and by the time we got to the top of Great Gable all the remaining tops were clear of cloud and the sun was even threatening to come out. My ‘low mood’ had picked up since Bowfell and improved even further as I made up nine minutes getting to Kirk Fell. There was now really very little possibility that I wouldn’t beat the 15 hour target and I started to enjoy myself. Warned, on my instruction, that I was unlikely to respond to any ‘chat’ on this leg, my pacers were surprised to find me almost ‘personable’ – readily engaging in conversation and even joking! The climbs came and went without me having to pause at all. The amusing antics of Chris and John kept me going as they dashed back and forth like rings on a curtain pole taking photos and filming my ‘epic journey’.

I found the scree slope off Haycock, made a successful descent while the final steep climb onto Seatallen (about which I’d had nightmares) fell to a determined ‘heads down’ no nonsense assault. It was almost in the bag – just the relatively easy crossing of Middlefell to do and then it was a quick run off the fells to Greendale. Both of these were accomplished with minimal fuss and at just after 8pm, nearly two hours inside the 15, I ran onto Greendale Bridge to be embraced by Susan and greeted by a smiling Jenny. Joss soon arrived and seemed genuinely pleased that I’d made it in a ‘quick’ time. The six of us chatted for a while about the day, recent weather, Joss’ life as a sheep farmer in Wasdale and his forthcoming Olympic torch bearing. We’d probably still be there if, as Joss said, we hadn’t “brought the laal midges” with us!

Geoff chats to Joss
photo courtesy and © John Telfer

Well that’s it — all done, and life carries on. Challenges such as the ‘Joss’ cannot be achieved without your own hard work. However, their real appeal comes from the need to involve a like-minded ‘Team’. An NFR ‘sage’ recently pronounced that “friendships are forged through shared experiences” and I’d like to thank all my friends who shared this experience including the pacers named above (particularly Paul who navigated leg 3 ‘carrying’ a twisted ankle for best part of it), those at road crossings such as Graham, Jenny Wren, Linda Bray & Jan Little who saw to my every need, the pacers ready to help on the 16th but couldn’t make the 17th when I changed days at the eleventh hour, Joss himself and of course to Susan who’s help on the day was second to none and who has been so supportive in hundreds of ways since I decided to ‘have a go at the Joss’. I would also like to say a special word of thanks to Kevin & Linda Bray who, apart from Susan, are the only people to have helped on all of my ‘big three’ Lakeland challenges: the Bob Graham Round (1999), 50 peaks at 50 (2007) & the JNLC (2012). In addition, Kevin has always been ready to assist in the fell challenges of my friends, some of whom he may not have met till the actual ‘day’!

And finally… my challenge raised an amount of money for a worthy cause — Parkinson’s UK — a charity that works to find a cure for the disease that blighted the final years of my Aunt’s life who died last year.