Take a walk on the wild side with John Hunston – on the fells

Larry, John’s Bedlington Terrier

The fell running community is a friendly, warm bunch who will chat before and after races and look after each other on the fell too, says John Hunston the walking mountain leader. 

Badger Bar Blast

I was once in a race, the Badger Bar Blast at Rydal, when a runner just ahead of me lost a contact lens. Everyone close by stopped to help her look for it, unsuccessfully as it turned out, but also checking she’d be okay without it. Similarly, the other day I slipped over, and the next two runners checked I was okay before continuing. 

This was on the S.O.B. race, which stands for Stile End – Outside – Barrow. It’s a short one, less than 5 miles, but full of character surrounded by the Coledale fells just west of Keswick. The route is straightforward, taking the fells in the order suggested by the name, and much of the terrain is amenable to a fast pace, with the final descent particularly exhilarating. There was, however, a cruel wind which numbed the face; the ground was frosty too, which made the bogs a little less damp but gave the shoes less grip on the grass. The Coledale Inn was a welcome sight at the end and helped to warm cold appendages! This race is the second of the Kong Winter Series of five – I’ll be trying to get out for the rest, so watch this space.

Larry the Bedlington Terrier

Larry, my Bedlington Terrier, has had a clip so sometimes needs his coat if it’s particularly cold, but generally he’s okay without as these pictures show. I’d been running the Glenderaterra route – from Keswick, follow the Old Brundholme Road, closed to traffic, to the east end of Latrigg, then drop down and back up to Derwent Fold and the Blencathra Centre. Turn left and continue along the fairly level track below Blease Fell, then, after crossing the main valley at a bridge, turn left again to return to Keswick along the Skiddaw House track. This is high on the side of Lonscale Fell and gives beautiful views back to Great Calva and south to Helvellyn and the Thirlmere valley. It makes for a good low level walk too, of course, if the weather is nasty higher up, and gets the sun much of the day as it faces south.

Blease Fell

On this occasion, I’d done it the opposite way round, clockwise, and decided to go higher on Blease Fell, following sheep trods that petered out then reappeared. I stopped to take a photograph and Larry went for some “zoomies”, which I managed to capture on a photo burst. 

Close to hitting 1,000 miles

As I write this, I’m getting close to 1,000 miles running for the year, mostly over the hills, so I just need to stay injury free to complete this. At the end of September I decided to go for it and have managed about five miles a day, on average, since then. It has made me less bothered by miserable weather than I was before, as beggars can’t always be choosers, although I do watch the forecast and time my runs to avoid the worst. 

Keswick mountain rescue

On the mountain rescue front, Keswick has had a fairly easy time of it recently, but like buses two came along at once last Thursday. The first was a female walker initially described as crag fast on the summit of Blencathra, who just needed to be walked down. Then while that team was descending, another call came in for a couple of young females on Great Dodd, one bordering on hypothermic. Another team set off and met them walking down to the far end of the Old Coach Road under Clough Head, as advised by the team in order to help keep them warm. That makes 107 rescues for the year up to 20th December, slightly up on last year. At this time of year it’s important to remember that there is limited light, and the ground is fairly slippery.

Resolutions for 2019

So here’s to a great 2019 on the hills and off them. My New Year’s resolution is to take part in more races, so hopefully you will be hearing a bit about them in coming months. They’ll be club races, not commercially organised ones, as they’re cheaper and have less razzamatazz. They also rely on participants being able to navigate for themselves, which personally I appreciate, but may not be everyone’s cup of Darjeeling. Whatever your personal challenges, stay safe and have fun!

John Hunston –  the walking mountain leader

John is a member of the Keswick Mountain Rescue – you can donate to this amazing, lifesaving charity online via this link: http://keswickmrt.org.uk/donate/

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