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A BIG day out

With just over 2 months till I tackle the Coast to Coast run, I’m starting to get twitchy that I have not done enough. Weekends whittling away and realistically only so many big days out one can do.

There are only 3 sections of the Coast to Coast I’ve got left to recce. Grasmere to the end / Kirby Stephen to Shap and a little bit at the end of the North York Moors. The big one is Grasmere to the end a 37 mile chunk across some hills in the Lakes.

Grasmere to the Coast

I booked in to Thorney How Hostel in Grasmere. Lisa dropped me off Sunday afternoon – bit quiet in winter on a Sunday night so only 2 guests, my £16.50 for a dorm room on my own seemed a bit of a bargain. Great little hostel, really recommend it for any stay in the Lakes.  Had dinner of steak pie & mash which set me up for the following day. I should have got an early night but spent evening faffing and watching F1 on my iphone.

Early Morning

The alarm went at 04.15 – my kit laid out ready to go. The wind was howling, it was dark and there was a reasonable amount of snow outside the hostel. Porridge and tea. 05.00 I was out the door, oddly it was pretty light only needing a head torch to read the map. Soon I was walking / jogging up the Easedale valley. Few footprints and tricky to find the established path under the snow.

This trip was really a game of two halves with the snow covered hills of the Lake District with what was serious mountain terrain, against the minor roads, cycle paths and fields with footpaths of the coast. It was also 37 miles – I selected my Hoka Ones trail shoes, Open Adventures medic Steve Johnson would have had a seizure, as to be honest these shoes were not really the right shoes for the mountains at this time of year. Hence in my bag were Kahtoola microspikes – these are the business, had I not had these I would have not completed the day.

Sunrise

Topping out on Easedale, I traversed the high open ground falling up to my waist in to snow, until I descended down to Rosthwaite. Some steep ground going in to this valley. Care was needed, I think the footpath went over Lining crag with a scramble down – fun on a summers day. Today I was keen to get down safely and took care in the shallow gully beside.

Borrowdale

At the bottom I realised my shoes were very loose, seemed like my feet had shrunk. The problem was my laces had frozen up.. this is a recipe for blisters. I popped in to the YHA at Borrowdale, they kindly lent me a hairdryer, to defrost them – took me a while to figure out how to use it.

Hoka Ones Frozen Laces

The day was an exercise in changing clothes – in the valleys running tights / windproof jacket – on the top, waterproof over trousers, waterproof jacket, hat, gloves and microspikes.

Keen to move on I headed up the old coach road to Honister. I was hoping to hold off putting on more kit till I got to the visitors centre, but it was just too cold.. jacket / over trousers on..

I expected to spend 10mins outside the cafe to sort my kit out, it was just after 9.00am. As I passed the entrance the door opened.. hey may as well go in. And they were serving – may as well take the opportunity of a mug of tea. On reflection I should have got a take out as spent too long faffing.

Looking at the maps I was only 1/2 hr behind my expected time which considering the terrain I was pleased with. But then I looked at what I had left to do, still 2 A3 1:50K maps, it was a long way to the coast.

I headed out, I knew the route up on to the top behind the quarry as I had done it on a sunny day as part of the Lakeland 4 Passes event. It was pretty wild now. Had to get this right, be easy to head down to Buttermere but I needed to be in Ennerdale. Skirting around, the path was indistinct but helpfully the cairns were still visible.

Ennerdale

Ennerdale and the coast came in to view, it was a pleasing sight. What I could see was no snow. I knew that 10 miles further down the coast significant roads were still blocked – If I was faced with plodding through big snow for the rest of the journey I doubt I would make the train.

Ennerdale

As I turned the corner to head down in to Ennerdale, I looked at a pretty grim sight. The slope was convex, the path was no where to be seen and the gully which the path should be beside was an icy hell. They call this place Wild Ennerdale – not sure about that but what I did know was if something goes wrong here no ones going to find me for a long time. I’m definitely not a winter mountaineer either.

At the bottom of the slope

I took a wide line around the slope and got to the gill, I could see what was left of the path, an icy stair case. For the first time I pulled out my walking poles, they sound great but they make holding a map tricky and eating also hard work, 20 mins later I was at the bottom and skirting around to Black sail hostel. I knew from here it was a forestry track to the end of the valley.

On the way down the valley I bumped in to 3 groups doing the Coast to coast. None of them were really equipped to do what I had done. I suggested Black Sail pass and walk over Honister pass. Did make me think that more advice on conditions could be offered to tourists taking on this route at this time of year.

The route then skirts around Ennerdale, I’d not used this route before and was taken aback with how slow it was, rooty rocky ground making the going slow. I stopped to sort out maps and check blood sugars. My meter had stopped working again because of the cold. I made a decision which was far from ideal.. I don’t produce insulin and whilst I was eating regularly if I don’t inject then that food does not turn in to glycogen which the muscles use. But inject too much and I could go unconscious (well feel very dizzy initially  – hence need to know meter reading).

I decided to pop 5 units of background insulin and 2 units of quick acting. 1/2 what I would normally take but will hopefully ensure I don’t run out of steam before the end.

Ennerdale Water

The Coast

Hitting the roads and villages was different and where I was glad of the Hoka ones. The valleys near Uldale were something like I’d never seen before in the lakes almost like Dovedale in the Peaks. Looks like some great mountain biking here. The nasty walk up to Dent really bit my arse, I thought I was out of the hills 200m straight up this grassy ascent worse than any mountain so far.

I’d run out of water so upon arrival in Cleator found a shop (that I’m sure was someones front room). Quickly topped up and started jogging, been going over 11 hours, my legs knew it. I gave Rob a call to see if he thought I’d make it to the finish in time for the train 18.44 – he didn’t seem confident.

After my last recce in the North York Moors where we cut it short, I was determined to finish this one and picked up speed. The coast was in sight.. anyone who has run coastal paths will know they are rarely flat – this one is the same, undulating and not forgiving.

The Coast

The Finish

I arrived in St Bees 18.10 had 1/2 hr to walk the mile to the train station. In my condition it was a big ask. Found a steak pie (honest its all they had) and a brew at the local post office which was still open. And jumped on the train. Busier than usual as the coast road was still blocked and Sellafield workers had started using the train.

Rob kindly picked me up from Cark station, again the walk from the train to the car nearly defeated me as I found myself getting mild hypothermia. Was fine whilst running. Stop and I go down hill quickly.

Pizza, Tea and bed – happy days.

James

Data from my Suunto T6 is on movescount here.  Says I burnt 9000 calories?

Kit

Haglofs Puls tight / adidas running shorts over the top
Haglofs Puls LS Tee / lightweight free event tee
adidas TERREX windstopper Jacket
adidas TERREX Packlite jacket
Ace Races buff / Haglofs hat
Running socks / sealskinz / Hoka Ones / Kahtoona Microspikes

Would I change anything – in terms of kit probably not, maybe some kind of waterproof mitts. Also I was carrying just a bit too much food, bit of recceing about what shops are about en-route worth doing and arguably could have halved what I took and still had spare.

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