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, 24 December 2014

With a Will Harder Than Diamonds

Christopher Brasher on the trail of The Greatest of Them All

If you are invited to assist The Greatest of Them all it behoves you to make certain that you are at the right spot at the right time. Since the right spot was 2,500 feet up near the summit of Stoney Cove Pike and the right time was very early in the morning, Ken and I decided to 'bivvy' on the summit.

All might have been well if we had not lingered in the pub until chucking-out time, which is why the first rain of the night struck us as we hauled our rucksacks in the dark up the mountain. By the time we found a level patch for our two miniscule tents, it was 1.00 am and the rain was bouncing off our anoraks like a McEnroe smash.

It was not a comfortable night. Ken could sit up in his tent but I was stuffed into a coffin-like envelope surrounded by wet clothes and wet boots.

But then the sound of the lark startled the dull night and the sun gave us life and by the time Bill O'Conner, photographer, author and mountaineer, reached us just after 6.00 am we were ready to go looking for The Greatest of Them All.

Those readers who have been with this column for 20 years or so will know that I speak about Joss Naylor, MBE, who has been The Greatest of Them All since that day in 1975 when he ran over 72 Lake District mountains inside 24 hours.

Now, at the age of 54, Joss had a new idea: to cross from one side of the Lake District to the other in under 12 hours; from Pooley Bridge at the east end of Ullswater to Greendale, the farmhouse at the west end of Wasdale to which he and his wife Mary will retire.

The distance is a trifle under 50 miles and, since it involves traversing all the highest summits en route, Joss and his running mate son-in-law, Colin Dulson, would have to climb 16,000 feet (more than the height of Mont Blanc) and, what is even harder on the legs, descend the same height.

At about 7.30 am, two hours after his dawn start, we spotted two stick-like figures emerging out of the mist, pausing only to drink a minute cup of Bovril before heading down to the Kirskstone Pass.

Colin, aged 27, powerfully built and at the height of his strength, was with him and we marvelled at the contrast, There is nothing to Joss except bone and gristle. He stands 5ft. 11ins tall and yet weighs only 9 stone; there does not seem to be any muscle included and yet he can climb faster, descend more recklessly, for far longer than any man of his time. Which is why we missed him at Dunmail Raise, the last of only two road crossings on the entire route.

So we drove as fast as safety dictated into Borrowdale and up to Honister Pass. Then we traversed Grey Knotts and Brandreth until we came to Moses Trod, the path across the face of Great Gable which, supposedly, was used by a smuggler called Moses to carry illicit whisky into the heart of the Lakes.

And then we stood in the wind and rain waiting for him to hurtle off Great Gable. An hour later, cold and wet, we looked behind us and saw two yellow-jacketed, bare-legged figures climbing fast up Kirkfell and we knew that we had failed them.

We had what he and Colin needed - hot milk and energy drink and Mars Bars and chocolate - but there was no way we could catch them now. So we trudged back, disconsolately, through the rain and had our tea. We thought of him fighting the elements on that last hard section. Of course, being Joss, he made it. It took him 11 and a half hours and then he stood in the cold beck and scrubbed himself down.

"Everything was against us today - the punishing wind and the rain and the sudden drop in temperature", he said. "It was cruel coming off Bowfell - the slabs were treacherous and you knew when you were going to go flat on your back. It was the cold that was eating up our energy. Given a good day it will be very enjoyable".

That enjoyment is limited to the over-fifties. The first dozen who can run the Joss Naylor Crossing in under 12 hours and raise at least £100 for Joss' favourite charity, The Multiple Sclerosis Society, will be presented with an engraved tankard. And the first dozen over-sixties (I hope to be one of them) who cross in under 18 hours, also get a tankard.

I bet that none of us will be fit enough next day to work the early shift for seven and a half hours and then come home to walk the hills to see that his year's crop of lambs are keeping well. Joss can do it, but then Joss has sinews stronger than any man-made substance and his will is harder than a diamond.

Published in The Observer, Sunday 24th June 1990