Introduction

The Joss Naylor Lakeland Challenge route leaves Pooley Bridge to traverse 30 summits over a distance of 48 miles and climbs 17,000 feet (77km, 5182m).

The inaugural run from Pooley Bridge to Wasdale was made by Joss Naylor in 1990, at the age of 54; in very bad weather with heavy rain and a strong SW wind Joss completed the run to Greendale Bridge in 11 hours and 30 minutes.

Chris Brasher offered engraved pewter tankards to the first 20 runners to do so with the proviso that they raised at least £100 for a charity of their own choice. In January 1997, with 17 tankards already awarded, Chris extended his sponsorship. In 2001, with 33 tankards awarded, Joss secured on-going sponsorship for the tankards.

The challenge is offered to fell runners over the age of 50 to complete the run in set times according to their age group. The challenge is intended to be a "supported run" for individuals - each contender is to be accompanied on every leg for safety reasons and unaccompanied attempts will not be recognised. There is more information on the Challenge Details page below.

If you are interested, please have a look at the Challenge Details, download a schedule or contact me using the "Email Ian Charters" form below.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Geoff Briggs (M55) – 05 July 2014

 

I had my first attempt at this run back in 2009 when I was a spritely 50 year-old. Unfortunately I wasn’t really that spritely; it was at the start of my ankle problems and the training hadn’t gone well. To cut a long story short, I missed out on the 12 hour limit by about 3 minutes, but Ian Warhurst had found the strength to keep going strongly at the end and finish with about 10 minutes to spare.

Fast forward 4 years and after 2 lots of surgery on my right ankle (including a tibia – talus fusion) and I was back running again, despite what the surgeon had said! On Easter Monday 2013 I had a great day out with Lee Langdon and Howard Whittaker, running around the Dark Peak 4 Counties Tops route in 12 hours. It was this outing that persuaded me I was perhaps ready for another go at the JNLC.

September 21st 2013 was the chosen date, but things didn’t go too well. A combination of mist, rain, wet rocks and a couple of painful falls slowed me down somewhat, and by the time we reached Great Gable it was clear that the 12 hour limit was out of reach, so we took the direct route down to the valley.

Although I’d had my 55th birthday in February 2014, I still fancied my chances of getting under 12 hours, so on April 12th I set off again, knowing that if things didn’t go too well I could always fall back on the 15 hour schedule. As it turned out the weather was much worse than expected, with heavy rain and very strong winds. After struggling to stay upright on Bowfell and Esk Pike we decided it wasn’t safe to continue over Great End and the decision was made to call it a day and come back another time.

July 5th, and finally the weather was good, I was feeling reasonably confident and I’d discounted the thought of a sub-12 hour crossing. Anything under 15 hours would be fine, but the schedule I worked out looked comfortable at 13 hours 30 minutes.

I awoke at 5.15am to the lovely sound of rain on the tent, but I had every confidence in the forecast; the rain would clear and the worst we’d get during the day might be the odd shower. Sure enough, we were stood on the bridge at 7am in fine weather with just the hint of a breeze.

 

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Bruce, Geoff and Ian

 

When we (Stefan Bramwell, Bruce Owen, Dave Ward and me) arrived at the first summit, Arthur’s Pike, Dave pointed out that we were actually ahead of the 12 hour schedule, let alone the 14 hour one. I decided it was time to slow down a bit. The rest of the leg went pretty much to plan and we arrived at Kirkstone 15 minutes early.

Ian Warhurst was waiting with the kettle on, so we had a decent rest. Larry Day arrived to run the next section with us, somewhat surprised at how good the weather was. In fact I changed into a short-sleeved t-shirt here. Bruce was tempted to carry on with leg 2, but with his BG only 7 days away he was persuaded to leave it at that.

So, as the sun shone pleasantly, I headed off up Red Screes with Stefan, Dave & Larry. At the top of the climb from Scandale Pass, as we contoured below Dove Crag, we saw a runner approaching us. Dave thought it looked like Ian Charters, and sure enough, with camera in hand, it was indeed Ian.

Ian joined us for a few minutes, but then went his own way as we headed towards Hart Crag.

The next section, between Hart Crag and Fairfield, is always an emotional time. We paused for a minute at the cairn and plaque in memory of our great friend, Daz Holloway, who tragically died at this spot during the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relay in 2012.

 

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Stefan, Dave, me and Larry

 

Fairfield – so many cairns to choose from, and I’m still not certain which is the highest point. It’s usually dark and misty when I arrive here on a BG support, so it makes a great change to have superb views all around. It’s not long before we’re down at Dunmail with Ian’s van waiting and a new set of pacers. We’re 19 minutes ahead of the schedule, so plenty of time to enjoy a coffee and some food. Larry and Stefan leave us here to do some shopping and head home for the TDF respectively. Not surprisingly Dave has decided to stay with us all the way to the end. He needs a long day out in preparation for August’s UTMB, and he was never going to have a 13 hour training run by himself!

We’re now joined by Lee Langdon, Howard Whittaker, Hanno Torn and Sienna – Hanno’s collie. If ever you need some jovial company on a long day out, you could do worse than invite Lee and Hanno along; they’d make a great double-act! Almost at the top of Steel Fell and Howard looks over his shoulder “You’re making great time up here, Geoff”. I point out that he’s at the front setting the pace; all I’m doing is sticking with him. He’s right, though, as we take another 2 minutes off the schedule. It’s good to make the most of the run over towards Calf Crag, which we don’t need to visit today, as this second half of the route is going to involve plenty of walking. The climb up Birks Gill to High Raise is probably my least favourite of the route. It seems to be a long, slow, grassy plod. But there’s no comparison to the April attempt; this was where we all donned every item of clothing we had to try and keep out the weather. However, High Raise is a hill of contrasts as we now have the delightful run down to the top of Stakes Pass. We pass another group on our way down here – they are doing a recce for a future JNLC attempt. Good luck guys!

Water bottles were topped up from the spring below Bow Fell and then we had the long, steady climb to the rocky summit. Dry rocks and a gentle breeze this time – perfection! I didn’t pick the best grassy line down to Ore Gap, but I wasn’t too concerned; we were soon up and over Esk Pike and on our way to Great End. The descent down the Band to Styhead always seems to be a bit of an adventure (I almost went head first down a gulley on my September attempt), but today’s went ok.

 

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Descent from Great End

Ian Warhurst and Neil Walker had come up to Styhead for the final leg, and they’d brought food and water with them. 5 years ago when Darren Dunn came to meet us here he’d had to shelter under the stretcher box, the weather was that bad. Not today, though, it was perfect. We were 26 minutes up so I sat down and enjoyed the situation – excellent weather and a great bunch of mates together in the hills. What could be better?

The original 12 hour schedule that me and Ian had been sent all those years ago suggested 20 minutes for the climb of Great Gable from Styhead. I think not! 34 minutes was comfortable enough for us today. As usual, the summit was pretty busy, so Ian quickly led us off down the scree slope descent. Looking behind me, half way down, it soon became apparent that most comfortable member of our group was Sienna with her 4 paws. Kirk Fell was next, with another rough descent. This gully seems to have been really badly eroded recently, presumably as a result of the recent snowy winters. On reaching Black Sail Pass, Dave went to retrieve the stash he’d left for the recently rerouted Ennerdale race and I spent a couple of minutes removing all the scree from my shoes. Should’ve worn the debris socks after all! On a 12 hour schedule you really need to run quite a large amount of the Pillar ascent, but I was happy taking it steady. There are a few useful ‘racing lines’ to remember around here and with all the experience around me there was no problem picking them up.

Once we’d left Pillar, Scoat Fell and Steeple come and go pretty quickly, especially as I could leave my rucksack behind for the out and back to Steeple.

We have a pleasant run round towards Haycock now, and for the first time today the steep descent feels a little uncomfortable on the tired legs. Not surprising really, but we’re half an hour up on schedule. Who cares? Lee points out that if we crack on a bit there’d be a good chance of getting under 13 hours. I decide I’d rather just enjoy myself.

 

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Steeple summit

The run across Pots of Ashness is delightful; lovely soft grass in contrast to the jarring rocks we’ve had for the past few hours. All of a sudden I remember that High Raise is actually my second least favourite climb on the route. Seatallan always used to fill me with dread. The thought of this ‘in-your-face’ ascent when you’re battling against a tight schedule and the legs are tired was always a bit of a worry. But today I could take an hour over it if I wanted, and still have time to spare! Eventually the trig. point comes into view and the ground levels off. There’s only one more climb to go, the friendly Middle Fell.

We reach the summit and I change into my Pennine vest. This means a lot to me. Daz wore his Pennine vest for the last bit of his BG, and one of his sayings was “Proud to be Pennine”. And so we should be, it’s a great club with fantastic camaraderie.

Hanno takes a few photos and then it’s time to head off to Greendale to see Joss.

As we approach the bridge we can see Joss with Dave and Margaret Jones waiting for us. It’s probably fair to say that I had a pretty broad smile on my face as I ran up to the bridge. It had been a long time coming, but I’d finally made it.

 

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Middle Fell - the final top

 

 

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Arriving at Greendale (Hanno, me, Neil, Lee, Dave, Howard & Ian)

We had a long chat with Joss, but eventually we had to leave as we were being eaten alive by the midges!

It’s just a short walk to the parking area, and I’d had the forethought to leave plenty of beer in Ian’s van. This went down very well. Then it was back to Keswick for fish and chips at the Old Keswickian and finally the campsite in Pooley Bridge for a well-earned sleep.

 

 

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Lee, Joss, Sienna, me, Dave J., Margaret, Howard, Dave W.

A small postscript to the story comes in October, when there is the presentation dinner for new members of the ‘club’. Existing members are also invited, so quite a large crowd of over-50s gathers at the Bridge Hotel in Santon Bridge for an evening of good food, fine ale and pleasant chat. New Pennine member, Steve Watts, is the only the person there younger than me. Not surprisingly he is asked to produce his birth certificate to prove he is actually over 50!

Joss presents us all with an inscribed pewter tankard. As I shake his hand, Joss congratulates me on eventually achieving my goal and asks me if I intend to return for another, even more leisurely, crossing when I’m 60. All being well, I’ll certainly give it a go.

Geoff Briggs

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