Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Fell Run from Hartsop

19th September 2011

A Nice Run with a Stiff Start

I had been summoned by Andy Walmsley the Clayton Le Moors Harriers Z team captain to run a leg of the Ian Hodgson Fell Relay in the Lakes. My leg is from Hartsop to Patterdale and though I have done it before I thought a reccy of the route might be an idea.

Being a man of generosity who shares most things including pain with Keith I gave him a ring and asked if he fancied a jog in the Lakes. "Yes," I knew what the answer would be as I picked up the phone. The thought that it was forecast to be wet and cloudy which had been the norm anyway for days didn't matter as it makes for better running.

Being true Athletes we stopped at Dave and Pete"s butty van for our usual bacon teacake and brew. It is a welcome sight in the first lay by on the A590 Kendal Road off the M6. We are convinced that the lads bacon teacakes contain an energy giving ingredient as they have powered us up all the fells on our numerous walks without a trace of heartburn. The crack from the lads is worth the stop anyway.

Food Heaven

Appetites sated we drove over Kirkstone Pass in dramatic weather conditions. The road up from Troutbeck slipped in and out of cloud while on the fell sides white ribbons of cascading becks full from heavy rain split the green and grey slopes as they roared into the pass. Once over the summit as is usual in the Lakes the other side of the pass was dry and a bit brighter. Then again as is usual in the Lakes we knew it would rain sometime soon.

Kirkstone Pass into Patterdale

We parked the car at Hartsop NY408 131 and got into our running gear. It seemed a little bizarre as we were getting into shorts and vests a group of people from the next car were putting on heavy weather gear, macho or mad they were possibly thinking as they watched us.

Hartsop and the start of the run

The route starts on the track by the sheep fold with the brooding Gray Crag dominating the foreground. The track at first doesn't seem that steep and lulled us into setting off quicker than we intended. I was glad I had my camera and was contemplating this blog so stopped to take a photo of Pasture Beck. I don't think Keith objected too much as he pointed out the shot as grateful for the stop as I was.

Looking up Pasture Beck

However the short halt allowed us to get our breathing back in sync after our much too fast start and we felt pretty good when we set off again. That is until we got to Calfgate Gill NY 421130 which cuts into the near vertical fell side that rose on our left. There is always the though of "do we have to" when faced with a climb like this but the answer is always yes.

Keith on the climb

It is a really steep climb and soon became hands on thighs as we rose above the valley. Once into a climb like this the calf muscles really let you know they are not very happy and funnily enough your brain agrees with them at first but once your in a rhythm it becomes strangely enjoyable. Keith in particular loves these steep climbs as you gain height very quickly. I have to agree with him as some fells like Seat Allan go on forever without ever seeming to have a summit.

The top of the climb flattens into a boggy field that today became a muddy wade as opposed to a run but it wasn't too long before we reached the main path just below Buck Crag NY 421138. Here the route becomes excellent running terrain a really good path allowed us to stretch out and in no time we were descending to Angle Tarn NY 417 144.

Angle Tarn
I have never in my five visits been here when it has not been dull or raining and today wasn't going to change that sequence. It was dull but the rain held off but the same thing could not be said of Martindale away on our right.

Wet Martindale
The rain looked pretty torrential down in the valley. Mind it did look better than when Keith and I were on Place Fell in February and could see snow storms over Martindale.

Our path climbed a bit as it left Angle Tarn but we were in full flow and ran it all. We were now looking down into Patterdale on our left and behind us the cloud cleared giving views back to Brotherswater. Sometimes these type of days are better than a lovely sunny chocolate box views you get in summer as there is an air of drama in the atmosphere.

Keith with Brotherswater in the distance
Now we were going down hill to Boredale Hause a bit rocky and awkward to keep a regular pace but we enjoyed the ballet of dancing between the rocks and gullies to get good footing.

At Boredale Hause NY 407156 we were surprised to see the group of people we had seen getting ready to walk at the car. They had made pretty good time to get here. They must have come along the valley bottom from Hartsop and climbed the fairly steep ascent from just beyond Dubhow.

From here it is a really fast descent down the flank of the fell on a very steep and narrow path.

Path down to Side Farm

To me this is the essence of fell running as I love that feeling of just being on the edge as I run as fast as I can.
Flying Fell Runner.    Photo:Keith Butterworth

It can have repercussions as Keith was bombing down Helvellyn last year going flat out in the running section of a Triathlon and fell and broke his arm. Today however wasn't a race so we enjoyed a less nerve racking run down to the path junction at NY 400161 where we then picked up the main path to Side Farm NY 398162. A flat run across the valley floor brought us to Patterdale School NY 394160.

That basically was the race route done as it finishes just behind the church across the road in the sports field. Common sense would have now told us to retrace our route to Side Farm then take the lower path along the valley to Hartsop. This is the shortest way back to the car and the chicken sandwiches Barbara, Keith's wife and lovingly prepared for him but with one extra for me. Thanks Barbara it was good.

Common sense if you follow my blogs is not a thing that Keith and I seem to have a lot of. Yet again it failed to reach the parts of brain that instruct the body to use it. One of us said " How about going up Deepdale, then we could pick our way up to Gale Crag and drop down to the car park at Brotherswater on the other side of the fell." The other must have agreed as soon we were running along the main road avoiding getting drenched by passing cars going through puddles. Its strange how when these ideas come up neither of us can remember who first thought of it.

The path to Deepdale

We reached the track to Deepdale at NY398148 glad to feel gravel instead of tarmac under our feet. The upper reaches of Deepdale were shrouded in heavy cloud and certainly did not look inviting in running gear but of course that was not our intention. We figured out that if we ran to a point the walled fields gave way to open fell then crossed the river we could make our way up to Gale Crag. We found the point at NY 391133. The beauty of fell shoes is that unlike boots you don't need to take them off to wade rivers. Keith admirably shows this in the next photo.

The Wader

We crossed the river and ploughed through some boggy ground then picked up the dry stone wall which meandered its way up the fell to meet the stone dry stone wall that marks the ridge that climbs up to Hartsop above How. At the junction a ladder stile splits the wall we followed from the river. Before we got to it Keith reckoned we were too low and he was right we were well below Gale Crag. Another uphill beckoned and it started to rain but it was worth a quick jump over the stile to get the wet view back to Patterdale.

Looking back to Patterdale

Just under Gale Crag NY392124 another ladder stile crosses the ridge wall and once over this we looked  down into Hartsop.

Looking into Patterdale from Gale Crag
At least it was downhill all the way to the main road but what a downhill. It's a very narrow path that drops gradually as it contours the fell side. Muddy in parts and a bit slippery in the rain but runnable and we enjoyed the pace until at NY399133 it reaches the top of a wood. Here it drops like Blackpool's big one. It would be hard on the thighs on its own but we had already done a big descent on the opposite side of the valley. Even then we would have grinned and put up with it but the rain made the path slippery to say the least so screaming thighs were relegated in the brain to second place as avoiding breaking our necks took first.

We gladly reached the Brotherswater Car Park NY402133 which even on a rainy day was quite full. From here it was a gentle jog back to Hartsop and the car. We changed into dry clothes under the hatchback of the car then sat eating Barbara's chicken butties with the windscreen wipers going so we could see the fells. Mad or what..........I'll take the former.

Technical Bit

1 comment:

  1. I have recently done this walk and impressed by the detail you put in your blog. Always good to find others who share my enthusiasm for the area.