The Cumbrian Traverse, Monday, October 29, 2012

35m / 12,000' / 21 peaks

David Gibson

The Cumbrian Traverse is an ultra distance challenge ranging over some 35 miles and 12,000 feet of ascent, hitting 21 peaks starting in Broughton Mills and finishing at Keswick.

Travelling across with Tom and his family we were met by heavy rain and chilly conditions as we parked up in Keswick for a changeover of cars. As we travelled to Coniston to the Youth Hostel we were staying at, Tom and I were already considering alternative running routes for the following day. Comforted by sausage and mash, burgers and the Ginger Beard Ginger Ale (oh yes) we agreed that we would review the situation early morning.

Atmospheric or what ... ? After a 5.30 breakfast – and thanks to Joan for transporting us – we arrived at Broughton Mill Village Hall for a 6.45 start. The weather conditions had cleared and it stayed that way for the remainder of the day. Tom had done all the homework on routes and bearings (note to self: do a navigation course!) and we set off for our first peak: Great Stickle. Great views on the top and only 20 to go. We pushed on but running conditions were not great underfoot and I had a few ‘Bambi on Ice’ moments.

Fuelling is key on such events in preserving energy. The secret? Well, I don’t want to be guilty of indirect marketing, but Ginsters’ Beef Slices could well be the secret ingredient for future long distance running champions. I am not sure whether Mo Farah subscribes to this view – but he is missing a trick. Unfortunately, I also missed that trick and a combo of jelly babies and sausage roll just didn’t do it for me. I am sure we have all experienced that moment when you look at the next door neighbours plate and think ‘wish I had ordered that’ and seeing Tom demolishing his Ginster was one such moment.

Pie-loading on Cold Pike. By 16-17 miles I was flagging and holding Tom back but we pushed on. Some cloud covering the tops but on the whole some great views. Some scrambling down greasy rocks slowed us (me) down and the sight of a seven year old in wellies flying past me did not do much for my confidence.

And then we hit Great Gable or rather it hit me. A long hard slog to the top seemed to last longer than a trip to the dentists. However that was peak 15 so nearly there. Honister Pass was reached with still some daylight peaking through and then another long slog to Dale Head Tarn and High Spy. Maiden Moor was bagged in the dark and with head-torches on we managed to get running and moved along to Cat Bells. Carefully down and onto the tarmac, we agreed that fish and chips were well in order and they were dispatched with speed in the car.

It took us a very pedestrian 13 hours and I am sure Tom would rattle at least a few hours or so off that. For me it was tough and a reminder of how fell fit you must be in tackling such terrain. On saying that it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I would recommend the route to those seeking something a little different to organised events. The real joy was just pitching up and meeting the challenges as they came.

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