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.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Tash Fellowes (W50) - 09 September 2017

It was Chris's idea for me to celebrate my 50th birthday with a Joss Naylor Challenge. With it falling on a Saturday it seemed a good opportunity for a day out and a bit of a do afterwards. A bit late in the year (September) perhaps, but more time for training. Once I had committed to the idea I was determined to enjoy every bit of training, otherwise what's the point? But I was nursing a tendinitis niggle in my ankle / foot which meant that my training comprised a long day each weekend and maybe 1 run during the week.  I hoped that this would be enough. As the months went by and I started recceing the bits I didn't already know (leg 1 mainly) I got a bit psyched out by the fast splits. Pals kept reassuring me: it'll be different on the day, no rucksack, the buzz, fresh legs.... But I was still bothered by it. If I can crack leg 1, I thought, I know I can do it. I'm very lucky too that I had a great bunch of pals ready to be my support team and help celebrate afterwards. 

One of the funniest things about fellrunning is the reaction you get from work colleagues. I don't talk about it much at work but when asked what I was doing to celebrate my ‘special’ birthday I got some bemused looks when I explained I'd be going for a run all day.  They got into the idea though when I told them I'd be raising money for the MS Society. My Dad has suffered with this dreadful disease for many years, so it’s a cause very close to my heart.

So all of a sudden after a frenzy of butty making and packing of kit, and an early night, it was 3am and my alarm was going off. It was still raining after a horrible wet Friday. Mandy Goth had warned me that the ground was very wet but having been watching the forecast I was mentally prepared for a soggy challenging day. 

Andy Pooler and I picked Phil Hodgson up from Kirkstone on the way to Pooley Bridge where we met John Thompson. Big cags went on, and we set off in the rain at 5am. We'll run the flats and gentle uphills, fast walk the steeper stuff, said Phil. The weather was miserable but we were in good spirits. With no rucksack I felt strong and although I'd only used them once before, I was using poles to let my arms help my legs, and it felt like it was working.

Light began to filter in around 5.30, and by 6ish our torches were off. The daylight helped to relieve the monotony of the claggy dark. As Mandy had said, the ground was indeed very wet underfoot which made it harder going.  I was sensing that we should be moving faster and this was confirmed by Phil as we left High Raise for Kidsty Pike: I'll meet you at Rampsgill Head, you need to crack on a little bit now. I worked out later that we were 15 minutes down at this point. I put my head down and dug in, jogging up High Street, not bothered by the rain; I had dealt with worse conditions during training. The track between High Street and Thornthwaite Beacon was a stream but John raised my spirits by telling me we'd gained a minute or two getting there. Although I felt I didn’t need it now, I kept eating and drinking at regular intervals, hoping to stock up some fuel before it became harder to eat later on. 

The rocky descent to Kirkstone Pass was greasy and slowed our progress but John had shown me a good line and I headed off down it to meet Chris, my other half, leaving the others to catch up. I arrived only 3 minutes down despite a slight detour in the clag on the way to Pike How so I was happy to have made up much of the time I'd lost earlier. It felt like, without any major setbacks, I was in with a good chance. 

It was a great feeling arriving there to my mates singing happy birthday!  I had a 5 minute stop for sweet tea and rice pudding with peaches, ably catered for by Janet Makin and Sarah Rowan, and greeted by my daughter Emma who had got up especially early for the occasion.
Then it was steady away up Red Screes with my slightly larger leg 2 team: Josie Greenhalgh, Keith Mallinder, John Joe McGonagle, Alex Irwin, Robert Green, Paul Charnock and Paul Calverley. By the time we got the top we had already gained minutes and it was good to be able to relax into the pace and start to enjoy the day. I was certainly well hydrated; wee stops started to become frequent and became a bit of a comedy issue (for me) throughout the day. Luckily I've no hang ups about privacy when I'm on the hill, except to try and save other people's embarrassment.

Being the only folk out on the fells was very special, and as we worked our way up Fairfield now and then the clouds parted and we were treated to a glorious view towards Ambleside and Windermere glittering in the pale morning light, a private viewing just for us. Coming off Seat Sandal the sun started to come out and it felt like the whole day was just getting better and better.

The reception at Dunmail was like a party, more singing and my pals chatting happily there made me feel special, and we'd made a few more minutes up on schedule. Again, tea and rice pudding and an egg butty were slurped down in 5 minutes and then we were off again, a shame because I would like to have had a little more time to appreciate the atmosphere and to show my thanks for all the effort that folk had put in to be there with me.

Chris said, you'll start to make more time up now. It didn't feel like it on the way up Steel Fell; the food I'd eaten, although useful for later, felt heavy on my stomach and having stopped and sat down my legs were reluctant to start up again. However the banter of the huge leg 3 support team (Dave Makin, Tony Shanley, Jenny Boocock, Guy and Steph Illingworth, Bridget Glaister, Maria Cook and Rob Green) was awesome and I just got my head down and enjoyed listening to the conversations around me as I plodded up the hill. 

The section from Birks Gill up to High Raise was probably my low point of the day. It's steep, boggy and tussocky and gives little indication of progress, with no views to distract you. I felt weary and heavy and chewed unenthusiastically on the titbits that were constantly offered to me. But the cheery encouraging voices around me combined with an earworm from my son Jack's youth theatre group dragged me up the hill, where it started raining again (luckily not for long). Tony's military style orders to the 'carrier of the cag' resulted in possibly the fastest assisted change of outer layer in the history of fell running, and cheered me up too. And to top it all, John Morrisey appeared out of the mist to join the party.

Another drag up from Stake Pass followed, and then we were on Rossett Pike, greeted by the smiling faces of Carolyn and Keith Daniels, Martin Kirkman and Steve Clancy who had tea and juicy cubes of ham and cherry tomatoes, a fabulous antidote to the sweet stuff I'd been trying to eat.

After a couple of minutes we got back to the business of getting up Bowfell. A steady steep climb over a lot of greasy rock, Getting Bowfell behind you always feels like a milestone.  The ground over Esk Pike and Great End was equally treacherous, particularly the descent to Sty Head. Dave and I attacked it (in a cautious sort of way) leaving the rest of the team to catch up and reminding me of all the fun years I’ve had battering the downhills with him.

Reaching Sty Head was wonderful. Gary Pollard had brought soup and I sat on a rucksack, grimly alternating bites of tuna butty and slurps of minestrone. My daughter Emma had walked all the way up from Wasdale Head just for me and it was great to see her. Mandy and Sarah were there too making me feel better with words of encouragement. 

It was even better to see Chris who would keep me going on leg 4, knowing all the right things to say and do. Oz Kershaw and Andy Ford were along too. By this time my belly felt like a balloon and, knowing that I was about 20 minutes up on my schedule, I announced that I was going to go as slow as felt comfortable on the way up Great Gable. This pleased Andy greatly, having run up from Wasdale Head in order to avoid being late! The best thing was that when we reached the summit we were spot on with the split, so I felt able to relax on the pace a bit. 

Oz had chosen a great route off Gable down a grassy rake in the sea of boulders, a gully and then a scree run. The scree was pretty big so it wasn't easy but it was very efficient and we quickly reached Beck Head. There was no sign of Andy though and I worried that he had fallen. He can look after himself, was the response when I voiced my concerns. Sure enough he soon turned up, breathless from running hard to catch up, and had indeed fallen in the gully and was a bit bruised but seemed OK to carry on. 

Summiting Kirkfell brought a lovely surprise in the shape of my niece Katie arriving at the same time having run up from Wasdale Head. By this time the tops were all clear and bathed in sunshine, and I tried to soak up the magnificent views and watch where I was putting my feet at the same time. We descended Joss’s Gully carefully and then were rewarded with another gang of pals waiting at Black Sail Pass, including Dave Reynolds, Sophie Cunningham, Jaynie Dickinson, Janet & Sean Makin and my son Jack. It was good to be surrounded with chattering happy friends as I got more tired. My legs weren't feeling too bad, but I was starting to feel in need of fuel. Proper food wasn't going down that well but luckily we had bottles of coke and gels on hand as well as fruit pots to help keep me going up PIllar. Oz and I nipped the out and back to the top of Steeple and we soon made the top of Haycock. Another scree run off the top made short work of the descent, and would have been a lot of fun if my legs had been a bit fresher and my feet a bit less painful. But it was still a little fun, and an efficient way of getting to the bottom before the challenge of the grindingly boggy Pots of Ashness and the ever steepening climb up Seatallan, a challenge this late in the day, especially as my calf was starting to cramp up.

The descent off Seatallan was painful because it’s steep, and climbing up Middle Fell was a mixture of the relief of being nearly finished and the delight of what was turning into a glorious balmy sunny evening. I struggled to keep up on the last descent but it didn’t matter – there was plenty of time. Jack had been suffering with cramp too so kept me company at the back. Soon enough we were jogging down through the bracken on the last stretch and approaching Greendale. Chris shouted, you run in with Jack and Katie. I thought, I am running, and I can't 'run' any faster than this! I was definitely getting messages from my feet that me and my toenails would be parting company in the not too distant future. 

And then we were running across to the bridge. I felt light as a feather and strong with the elation of the finish. There were my pals cheering me in, and Joss Naylor waiting to welcome me. I couldn’t stop grinning, what a day! I couldn’t think of a better way to have celebrated my birthday. We stood around chatting and I tried to drink a beer that Chris’s brother Tim handed to me with a smiling ‘Happy Birthday and well done!’ I had a refreshing paddle in the river. Then after a while we headed off over the Hardknott Pass on the way back to Bishop’s Scale, the Ratti hut in Langdale, and were treated to a beautiful sunset over Lingmoor.

It was humbling and gratifying at the same time to think about how many people had made such an effort to help me achieve this goal (I’d finished in 13 hours 10), looking after me as we plodded the miles and ticked off the tops. And I managed to raise over £1300 for the MS Society. Now it’s Chris’s turn and my turn to support!

With Joss (photo: Chris Lloyd)

Greendale Bridge (photo: Jaynie Dickinson)

Monday, 16 April 2018

Geoff Davis (M60) - 02 September 2017

I chose to repeat the JNLC to mark my 60th 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. Head torches were discarded before we reached Arthur’s Pike 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. 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 my support team was waiting, headed by my wife Susan (another JNLC completer), and I was pleased to be over half an hour ahead of my sub 16 hour schedule. A change of top and a little too much food consumed and it was off up the forbidding steepness of Steel Fell. A new support team 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’. 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 Gable was eased by my pacers’ conversations while a good line off the top 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 found 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. 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 I was told “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.
With Joss on Greendale Bridge

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Brian Horn (M60) - 12 August 2017

(photo: Brian Horn)

Living less than 5 miles from Pooley Bridge might give a local to this challenge a bit of an advantage and it has to be said that I’m no stranger to the old Roman road running from Askham over Loadpot and High Street with the kind of moorland terrain that can be challenging in less than good visibility. I also have the advantage of running in many of the Lakeland fell races that criss cross the route all the way to Greendale Bridge and given that I successfully completed the BGR 22 years ago you could be forgiven for thinking that I might be able to run this blindfold or cruise round it. Well that wasn’t how thought I about it. In fact I didn’t really seriously think about having a go until early this year when I foolishly committed myself to support my daughters 32 year old friend on his BG attempt in May.

Having just returned from lots of skiing trips I found myself trying to cram in long distance stamina runs to build some endurance and also refresh my memory of the 3rd BGR leg. Once I got going I found that I was rediscovering my pleasure in just running long distances rather than racing over some beautiful terrain and because of the overlap of routes I began to imagine that maybe I should continue to work on this rediscovered pleasure and began to consider the ‘Joss’. (The BGR support I gave was in foul weather and 6 hours of hell and nearly put me off!)

I decided I wouldn’t commit to the ‘Joss’ until I’d done a few long races and felt that I might be able to get somewhere near getting round. At the end of May after the Jura Fell Race I committed. There then followed several weeks of long runs and long recoveries. No more interval training or tempo runs. Build the stamina, recce the route, compare my times, look for the best lines. Most of this was done on my own as another advantage is that I’m retired can get out on the hill when most folks are at work. My wife Jane supported me by picking me up from remote valley heads after she had finished for the day in Carlisle where she works for the charity Safety Net (UK) as a therapist for victims of domestic, sexual violence and child abuse. Getting the timing right for meeting up was interesting and surprisingly worked out well.

Six weeks before the chosen date I took part in a 22 mile race in North Wales over Snowdon and the Glyders and almost from the start found that I was having difficulty breathing. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. A friend suggested exercise induced asthma. The Doc thought differently and referred me to the Cardiology Dept. An article I found on the FRA Forum suggested Atrial Fibrillation (I’m no doctor) so I decided no caffeine or alcohol and as my appointment would be nearly 2 weeks after my attempt I had a dilemma! I continued training but making sure I started slowly and monitored my heart rate. I seemed okay. Borrowdale Fell Race loomed. I had entered intending to make it my last long run out before the big day. I tried to run it and not race, which is difficult when you see someone pass you that might be in your age category. Anyway I got round fine although 20 minutes slower than last year (but somehow managed to pick up 1st vet 60 - I think most of the opposition were somewhere else that day)

For the week leading up to the 12th August Jane took charge. I rested, stretched and ate - all veggie and healthy - till I nearly burst, then before I knew it, it was dawn and I was standing on the bridge with Craig, Steve and Scamp and we were off.

(photo: Steve Angus)

The value of knowing where you are going means you can travel confidently and we moved swiftly through the sleepy village and campsite and onto the open fell. The summits ticked by nicely making steady progress as the dawn sky darkened and clouds smothered the tops. Raven Howe, a little blip on the ridge gives sweeping views down to Ramps Gill valley and then High Raise disappearing into the mist revealed two bolting red deer. More tops came and went. Jogging steadily trying to remain relaxed and energy efficient. Steve claimed the Hodgson Brothers Relay line from High Street and in the mists Simon joined us as we climbed Threshthwaite Crag towards Stoney Cove Pike and we pushed on into the wind and rain and neatly down to Kirkstone Pass for hot tea and rice pudding.

I had told my supporters that I wanted them to enjoy the day out and would only go ahead if the weather was good so I was getting some stick for the unsettled stuff we seemed to be stuck with. Sorry guys!

(photo: Kath Aubrey)

But the babble of chat and banter, the concentration on travel and lightness of effort seemed to ease the conditions and it wasn’t long before I was saying goodbye to Kath and David who took me to Dunmail Raise where we surprised the next team who were huddled in cars sheltering from the elements.

(photo: Jane Horn)

I thought long and hard about what to eat on this adventure. I took some gels for an emergency but relied mostly on home made mini pancakes from a Mountain Fuel recipe and some bite size flapjacks and caramel bites from M&S. I kept off the sweet stuff for as long as possible. I also had a couple of homemade tuna, mayo and sweetcorn wraps which took me ages to get round to eating but really enjoyed them when I did. I wanted something ‘sloppy’ to eat at the road crossing and normally after a long run I eat a tin of rice pudding as it contains good carbs and protein mix and it’s cheap and easy - so that’s what I had at the road crossings and Sty Head plus hot black tea.
Now it was the turn of Richard and Justin. I took Richard on a recce of this leg in pea soup conditions and Justin had never done it before.

As we gained Steel Fell the cloud lifted and we had a view, but the rain and wind continued.

High Raise, (the second one), was now hidden in cloud on a featureless plateau. And it was raining again. Getting too cold now and so extra layers were added but no gloves because I’ve never mastered the art of putting them on with wet hands!

Ten minutes later and we saw a crack in the clouds and shafts of sunlight on distant fell sides, soon turning to swirling mist in the gullies and valleys and giving us fabulous views to Bowfell and the route ahead.

(photo: Richard Maven)

More comfortable now and more confident, forward motion and eating and drinking became routine. Memories of ascending the steep rake of Bowfell played on my mind as we approached, but it was dreamlike as we scrambled over the boulders and wet grass meeting Sue then Dave who made the trip out to give cheery support and encouragement. A stumble on the descent nearly put paid to the day leaving a few cuts and bruises but now I was looking forward to getting the right line off Great End and feeling the satisfaction of time well spent recceing the route.

(photo: Jane Horn)

Jane was waiting at Sty Head with rice pudding and tea. She’d had a long drive from Dunmail Raise to Wasdale Head through heavy traffic and then dashed up the path in a panic in case she missed me. She needn't have worried. We were ahead of schedule but not by that much.

This isn’t a race and it’s a long time to be out in the fells. So kit was something to consider as the weather forecast, although improving, was to be fairly unsettled and rain was likely particularly in the morning. Getting thoroughly wet early on made a change of tops necessary at Kirkstone Pass. When it rained again I wore my waterproof to Dunmail Raise and my waterproof - isn’t! so I was wet through again. It wasn’t raining much at Dunmail and I didn’t take the opportunity to change which turned out to be a mistake. It rained again and I got very cold on High Raise!

(photo: Jane Horn)

With support from Nina and Mark we now began the final stage and the climb of another psychological hurdle - Great Gable but soon enough we topped out and were descending carefully and climbing hard again and right on for the descent gulley from Kirk Fell. A quick stop at Black Sail Pass to get rid of a stone that I’d picked up over 4 hours earlier and head down for the long stretch up Pillar.

I knew the whole route pretty well so was happy to be ahead of the supporters. I like to find my own lines but sometimes following someone else gives a clue where a slightly different approach helps, for example where they falter or fall in a bog! And luxurious to have someone carry all your kit, food and drink and to keep you supplied on the go.

(photo: Mark Irvine)

Pillar and still smiling at the top with five more to go. The forward motion continued accompanied by the routine of eating and drinking, chat and banter.

No matter how many times I’ve been up here I’m blown away by the richness and depth of colour, the drama and magnificence of the Lakeland Fells, the power of the universe to create this environment, a place to enjoy. The running was a pleasure and I felt stronger than I could have hoped for. Scoat Fell, Steeple and Haycock - all to ourselves.

Even though the weather on my day was a bit grim at times and the bogs were full, they’re all an intrinsic part of the mountain environment and add to the atmosphere and enjoyment.

Greendale Bridge (photo: Mark Irvine)

Getting closer now. Seatallen was hard, (I needed a gel) Middle Fell amazing, the trod to Greendale Bridge an absolute pleasure, and to be greeted by Joss Naylor, my wife and friends an honour and a privilege.

It’s a long time since I completed the Bob Graham Round and memories of it are limited. The weather was grim then too. I’m pretty sure though that I enjoyed this day out better than the Bob partly because it’s a shorter challenge and you don’t have to stay out all night (unless you’re called Billy Bland).

I’m delighted to have completed the traverse in 13 hours and 13 minutes and I’m grateful to Joss for setting the whole thing off in 1990. I think it would be disrespectful to view the experience as spending a day just ‘doing the Joss Naylor’. There’s a whole lot more to this than the one day. What I’ve taken from this is the pleasure and satisfaction of many days out on the hill on recce runs in all weather conditions, on my own or running with friends. Exploring new corners of the fells, meeting other walkers and runners and telling them what I was doing and why. I even bumped into old friends that I’d met or skied with in the Alps from years ago. Even at home hours have been spent planning and reviewing and organising. And afterwards, meeting up with my supporters again and having the chance to relive and laugh.

And why did I do it in the first place - for my own pleasure initially, but then raising funds for Safety Net (UK) became another part of the fun! And I’m pleased to say that, so far, I’ve raised £750. So thanks to all the donors.

(photo: Mark Irvine)

Thanks to Joss for turning out, to my support runners who did a tremendous job of looking after me and without whose help I would never have made Greendale Bridge, everyone who has made a donation - no matter how small and to my wife Jane who has been outstanding in her support for my venture.

Brian Horn
Borrowdale Fell Runners

15th August 2017

Leg 1 - Craig Smith, Steve Angus, Simon Veitch and Scamp
Leg 2 - Kathleen Aubrey and David White
Leg 3 - Richard Mavin and Justin Bibby
Leg 4 - Nina Walkingshaw and Mark Irving
And throughout - Jane my wife

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Marcus Gates (M50) - 09 August 2017

Pooley Bridge (photo: Karen Gated)

As Karen, my wife, pulled our little camper van into Pooley Bridge for a 6am start on Wednesday, 9th August, a cool northerly breeze was moving the clouds low over the fells along Ullswater. Phil was pacing me and we started the runnable climb up Barton Fell on route to Kirkstone Pass. The northerly was helping us on our way but there were no views to be had, just the back of Phil’s pack.

The schedule for tops to Kirkstone is tight and we could not relent. Time lost now could come back to hurt later. The challenge is to get the balance of not going too fast to soon, while not losing too much time to the punishing schedule. Leg 1 is mostly runnable, and really designed to soften you up a bit for the higher fells to come! It was doing its job.
We dropped off to the car park at Kirkstone about 10 minutes
behind schedule. Clair, Jess and Kath were all set to get me to Dunmail and hopefully back on schedule. We made good time up Red Screes, and while Phil is a man of few words, the girls were very chatty. By the top of Fairfield we were back on time. We now had a good view of the western fells and the road ahead. I took the scree line off Fairfield, but in hindsight it was not a good call. It was washed out and difficult going. 
Steel Fell (photo: Tom Philips)
Off Seat Sandal we met Karen, Tom, Greg and Jess our mad Collie Dog. Tom was my pacer to Greendale Bridge. A big ask given the pace we would need to move at, and he would be carrying essentials for both of us. In the past years, the increase in Bob Graham traffic has developed a good trod up Steel Fell which has made this climb a little easier. Once over the top it's a boggy trot all the way to High Raise.
Greg was waiting at Sty Head with re-supplies, and after a brief stop we all headed up Gable. The last leg of the challenge was under way. Karen and Jess were at Black Sail with a flask of tea. Nectar! 
Towards Scoat Fell (photo: Tom Philips)

Pillar and Steeple were ticked of within a minute or two of schedule,  and as we climbed to the trig point on Seatallan we had the most wonderful view out to the Isle of Man and the Lakeland Massive. 
Seatallan (photo: Tom Philips)

What’s more we had an hour to get to Greendale. A good feeling. As we crested Middle Fell, the last summit of the challenge, I thought of Mum. It takes, guts and determination to complete this challenge, and while this sort of event was not her thing, she showed all these qualities in her fight against this terrible disease.
Middle Fell (photo: Tom Philips)

Off Middle Fell we could see Karen and Joss waiting at the Bridge. It’s a great run off Middle Fell. Tom and I reached the bridge, stopping the clock with an elapsed time of 11hrs 38mins. I had made it!

Greendale Bridge (photo: Greg Tagney)

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

George Critchley (M60) - 29 July 2017

My Joss Naylor Challenge started last November when Carole asked what I wanted to do for my 60th birthday and I had no idea. After looking on the calendar and seeing that the 29th July was on a Saturday I just came out with it and said I fancy doing the Joss.

I had this vision on the Friday night driving up to Pooley Bridge for the 4am departure that I would see the sunrise in the east as we were going to reach Arthur's Pike at about 4:50. Haha some chance.

I set off bang on time with 3 Holcombe Harrier club mates. Matt Driver navigating along with Tim Boland and John Appleby doing the food and water duties.

Pooley Bridge

It was when we were on our way up to the first trig that Tim and John told me how they had been stopped on the M6 for 30 minutes. The police had shut the motorway to catch someone driving the wrong way down the carriageway. They must have put Lewis Hamilton to shame after the police removed the cordon to get to the bridge on time.

We reached Arthurs Pike 4 minutes up on schedule but there was not going to be a sunrise to see today. We had set off in light drizzle but you could see ahead that it was going to deteriorate very rapidly. We reached Loadpot hill still ahead of schedule then the weather started to turn nasty. We kept knocking off the tops and when we got to Kidsty Pike we were 10 minutes up. I had a quick glance over Haweswater then turned around to see High Street to my left shrouded in clag and thought this is going to be an interesting day.

High Street was the first of the big hills ticked off.  We set off to Thornthwaite Beacon and I took it very gingerly. It was on that path I had my fall in May and ended up at the hospital having 7 stitches in my Knee. We got to the beacon and the rain and visibility was getting very bad now. Matt took us to the grass trod to the side of the main pathway for our descent.  On the way down Tim and John decided that rather than do separate falls they would do a synchronised one painfully planting their derrières solidly on to the rocks.

I missed the chance to recce this end section of leg 1 due to my fall in May and lack of time. I had forgot about the steepness of the climb up through the rocks to Stoney Cove Pike. My long legs certainly came in handy clambering up the rocks. We stayed on the main path from there down to the Kirkstone Inn and across to the car park as the visibility was now down to about 15 metres.  Here amongst the support JNC greeter Rainer Burchett said hello and commented on the poor conditions.

Kirkstone Pass

My Wife Carole was waiting there with hot drinks and bacon butties for everyone and they were needed as the weather was still pretty nasty. I decided it was wise to change my shorts and get my waterproof bottoms on and they stayed on for the rest of the day.

For leg 2 Steve White from Holcombe navigated along with 4 friends from Rochdale Harriers, Mark Walker, Jenny Brown, John Armstrong and Gareth Hunt who took on the food and water duties. As we were heading up to Red Screes Mark asked how many miles and climb I had done this year. When I told him it was 900 miles and 135,000 ft. he said you've no problem today as long as you can stay upright. I felt I was breathing a bit heavily on the climb then when I got to the trig I found out why.  I had made up 6 minutes on the schedule. As we left the trig the weather got even worse. I am not sure if my mind was playing tricks on me but I don't remember being out of the clouds till we were  running down to Dunmail Raise about  2 hours later. We had done an out and back recce of this leg 3 weeks prior to the day in our shorts and tee shirts. No chance of that today. We found a trod on the recce that we had planned on using from Red Screes to cut the corner but with visibility being so poor we stayed on the path and followed the wall line. We made our way up towards Hart Crag then on to Fairfield. The rain was now almost horizontal and I kept thinking that it must start to improve soon as it surely couldn't get any worse.

When we got to the top of Seat Sandal and I touched the trig point the support started singing happy birthday to me. I had promised myself I wasn't going to cry today but it was close. The run in through the bracken path was hilarious. I think everyone of us slipped on our backsides at least once and me at least twice. It was that wet I could have used skis to get down. We got in to the check point 20 minutes up so I was still making time despite the atrocious weather.

When I climbed over the steps and saw how many people had turned out to greet me it gave me a massive lift.

Approaching Dunmail Raise

Carole was there again with more hot drinks for everyone. I decided to have rice pudding and a big tub of sliced peaches this time as they slide down easily. I changed my jacket and shirt and tried to dry off as much as I could and get warm for the big boy mountains waiting ahead of me.

Peter McNulty from Radcliffe AC took over the navigation duties for the last two legs  and Matt Dunn my club mate from Holcombe took over the food and water side of it.

I waved goodbye to the marvellous and very wet wet wet Leg 2 support and climbed over the ladders to head off up Steel Fell.

I found it tough going up there and took plenty of water in. It turned out to be a repeat of the climb up Red Screes as I made up 7 minutes on my schedule. We left Steel Fell and started the tough wet trudge over to High Raise then on to Rossett Pike. We could see David Ward a great friend who had made his way up from Wasdale to the top of Rossett Pike to meet us. He was going to be with me the rest of the way to Wasdale.

Approaching Rossett Pike (photo: P McNulty)

The rain had thankfully stopped by now and the strong wind was quickly drying the rocks on the tough mountains that were coming in to play for the next few hours. We ticked off Bowfell and Esk Pike then the fun really started trying to get down off Great End. I just stood at the top looking down the gulley and thinking to myself again that this will be interesting. I had complete faith in Peter finding the right line down so just followed him like a puppy dog. It was a very hard descent in the wet conditions and I lost all the 10 minutes I had previously made up on the leg but we all got down safely and still 20 minutes up on schedule.

As I ran up to the stretcher box at Styhead I could see a big crowd waiting to cheer me in and another rendition of happy birthday rang out from them. Steve White had driven over  with his wife Carol to join the advance party that was already at Wasdale.

Sty Head (photo: M Fuller)

Matt Dunn dropped off at this junction and ran back down to Langdale to meet his family to start their holidays

I knew I needed to get some proper food in me for the final leg so I had some  noodles,  rice pudding and other bits washed down with a cup of strong  tea. The weather was improving by the minute but I decided I was keeping my waterproof gear on as the last thing I wanted was to start feeling the cold.

Bez Jones took over from Matt for the final section ahead. We set off up towards Great Gable and passed my mate John Kirkham and his wife Brenda on the way up. They had set off ahead of us at Styhead to give us support on the hill. It was a tough climb up to the top but I again took 8 minutes of my scheduled pace. Peter then found us the right line down off Gable. We then climbed up to Kirkfell. It was about this point I felt a twinge of cramp. Bez came in to his own then by giving me salt tablets to sort myself out. They definitely did something for me as it kept the cramp at bay. The descent off Kirkfell was just like Great End I put my complete faith in Peter to find the right line which he duly delivered.

We started the long climb up towards Pillar and you could see the clag hiding the top. I believe with it being hidden it worked in my favour as I just kept moving and didn't know how far I had to go. This was the one I needed in the bag as I knew I had cracked it as long as I could keep upright to the finish. It was about this time when my stomach started grumbling to me. I have never been good at refuelling during long events. I used gels and caramel peanut bars on the legs and was lucky to get so far without any trouble. We finally got to the summit of Pillar and a smile broke out. Just 5 more hills to go. We made our way to Scoat Fell still in the clag.  David cracked me up when he turned round to me as I was dragging myself up the path and said what are you doing on your 61st birthday. Is it the Paddy Buckley and my polite reply was no I am taking up golf and cribbage after today.

As we left Scoat fell and headed out to Steeple Peter stayed behind to see if he could get the picture of us at the top. Amazingly the clag cleared on cue and he got a great picture.

Steeple (photo: P McNulty)

I found the run down to Haycock really tough as my stomach was in turmoil and it was to stay that way till the end. I looked at my watch and knew I could walk the rest of the way but getting under 17 hours was the target.

I stayed at the rear with Bez taking it easy on the way to Seatallon and let David and Peter shoot off in front.  I did the Seatallon climb in May while I was fresh and it was tough enough then. I think Peter sussed out I was really struggling  so he sent Bez out in front and he dropped behind me to give me support. When we got to the top Sheila McNulty and Alan Sumner had walked up to greet us to give me moral support. Just Middlefell left now. As I approached the summit  Michelle Fuller was there to steer me in as well.

The run down to the bridge from the fell with quite a posse in tow was a magical experience and running over the bridge to actually meet Joss and shake the shepherd's hand was an amazing experience. I completed the challenge in 16 hours 56 minutes.

Greendale Bridge (photo: S McNulty)