First 100 Mountains in the Bag!

After just 18 days officially in the hills traildog Patch and I reached the first milestone (or summitstone) of 100 ‘bagged’ Mountains.

Yes, before you ask, my knees were killing me but after 20 VERTiCAL KILOMETRES (OK, just 19.98 vertical km) it’s hardly surprising! This is shaping up to be quite the adventure which has led me already to meet some amazing new people, run with far more talented runners than myself, spend a day in the fells with a lakeland legend, learn new skills, hang out with super cool Mountain Rescue folk, play chew toy tug of war with Search Dogs in training and really push myself outside my comfort zone. Whew…..what’ll the next 900 bring? Certainly plenty of flapjack!

I have definitely discovered that this challenge will make the 3PeAksRun seem like an absolute stroll in the park. There are many British mountains that are popular ‘honeypot’ summits but it is eye opening just how many others are so rarely visited.

This presents a variety of daily challenges on pathless terrain testing my navigation skills and even on open access land the odd fence or wall that needs to be negotiated without upsetting any farmers or causing any damage ( getting over a dry stone wall is not to be encouraged or even condoned and requires extremely deft movement and yogi master level flexibility in order to avoid tilting a single stone out of place – don’t tell anyone that this ever happened because obviously it didn’t!) And then, don’t even get me started on PEAT HAGS and the good old moorland BOG – two of my particular favourites. On drier, rockier ground there have been some hair raising scrambles and tentative descents which have tested my nerve and the grip of my trail shoes to their sticky limit.

I was very lucky to spend many of those days during the long summer high pressures scooting around over Lake District ridges. Hot enough to invite refreshing river dips at the end of a sweaty run which was such a treat for someone generally a bit wussy about leaping into chilly UK waters! Exceptional views and the navigational confidence of clear skies and miles of perfect visibility made for a uniquely precious time on those fells, the memories of which I am sure I will be channelling many times through the coming late autumn clag and winter chill.

It’s been wonderful to meet other trail runners in their respective back yards to share some summits and pick up some local trail lore and there was that great Kinder ‘downfall’ when the hours we spent picking our way across the Kinder plateau in search of the highest point, Kinder Scout, resulted in a no less impressive but relatively irrelevant discovery of Crowden Head instead. Ooops!

One of the most memorable days didn’t even involve a mountain summit but a fast crossing of the Lake District from Wasdale Head to Brathay, just outside Ambleside with the very nimble fell running legend, Joss Naylor MBE. Joss was tackling a 30 mile run/walk to raise money for the Brathay Trust and many other runners were along to support him. Though no summits were visited on this outing the cumulative elevation for the day was equivalent to climbing three mountains. Joss’ strength, speed and agility over rough terrain and at 82 years of age was truly inspirational. He looks as young, fit and strong now as he did when he ran his 60 lakeland summits at 60 years of age twenty two years ago to the day. To quote his own words, the day was absolutely “magic”.

After 43 consecutive days back at work I suspect it will be quite a different scene when I get back in the hills next week.

The long days and dry trails will be gone and I expect far more of the runs will be shrouded in low cloud, with plentiful drizzle at best. But the advantage of spending so much time in the hills is the increased opportunity of being out in those fleeting yet superlative moments – cloud inversions , crisp frosty mornings and the first dusting of snow under an azure winter’s sky….very poetic.  So, packing my toasty gore tex trail shoes and fleecy buff….bring on the winter season!

Happy trails..👣🐾


Not every Marilyn is a Munro

Many people have compiled lists of the hills and mountains of the British Isles over the last 130 years, so much so it has become a British hill-walking sport to tick off the various collections, a pastime known as ‘Hill-Bagging’ or ‘Peak Bagging’. In my #RunningtheSummits 1000 Mountain challenge I will need to become a fairly obsessive participant of this activity but there is no definitive 1000 mountains collection so how do I go about compiling such a lengthy list of my own for this challenge?

Screenshot_20180605-190940.jpg
Mike Knipe has a very amusing detailed blog delving further into this bizarre British pastime featured on the UKHillwalking website.
20180607_091304Standing on the ‘pointy bit’. CAUTION : always bear in mind, getting down is much tricker than getting up!

It started, as these things do, with the question over a pint or two “What makes a mountain a mountain?”……some time later and after much debate, disagreement and admittedly a little drunkenness, the question had not been adequately answered so I later turned to that font of all knowledge- the modern, universal library……Google!

20180607_150548Some baffling trigonometry behind measuring a mountains height – points deducted for not showing my workings out!

There seemed to be a consensus of agreement that to constitute ‘mountain’ status in Britain a peak needed to be 2000ft (609.6metres) or higher. Question simply answered you might think…..well, no. This was where the clear black and white line ended. Because there are many humps and bumps along a ridgeline for example that can easily be argued to be part of the main summit as opposed to mountains in their own right. In order to make some sense of this jumble of peaks, ridges, bumpy shoulders (technical term!), crags and outcrops various lists began to be compiled to categorise the peaks into orderly groups of hills that could be qualified, quantified and best of all, ‘bagged’. How we British love lists. I am a dedicated list maker myself so this particular, logistical part of the challenge really got me keenly reaching for the coloured marker pens.

20180606_194211
My Multi Coloured Map of English Mountains and hills  – happy hours of plotting on the Viewranger App!

Now if a person wanted to climb a large number of the highest mountains in Britain they really need not look much further than Scotland which hosts way more than its fair share of fabulous high and wild places. But my objective with the Running the Summits challenge was to showcase a broader selection of peaks throughout the Isles and to highlight the fact that Yes, we DO have mountains in England.

Screenshot_20180605-204556Some fairly ‘mountainy’ looking peaks in Britain

So the first list that I decided to use for my 1000 mountains compilation is the ‘Hewitt’s’ , an anacronym of sorts…Hills of England, Wales and Ireland over Two Thousand feet. This list was compiled by Alan Dawson and the contenders were originally quite aptly called ‘Sweats’. The additional criteria that secures a peaks place on the Hewitt list is a topographical prominence of 100ft (30’ish metres). In simpler terms that’s basically the amount of height the summit has over the surrounding ground, i.e. the ‘pointy’ bit that makes it stand out! There are over 500 Hewitts spread out across England, Wales and Ireland so my 1000 mountain list was immediately half full.

Screenshot_20180605-204446

I then added ‘Nuttalls’, named after John and Anne Nuttall who compiled the list published in their books ‘The Mountains of England and Wales’ – all of which also qualify for mountain status by height, but these peaks only need 50ft (15m) of ‘pointy bit’ at the top to qualify as a Nuttall. Whilst all Hewitts are also Nuttalls, the full Nuttall list of 444 mountains adds a further 126 summits to my compilation.

20170327_001431Ingleborough – one of the highest peaks in Yorkshire and part of the popular Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge, an all round top day out followed by cake and a pint of tea at the Pen y Ghent Cafe in Horton-in-Ribblesdale – just get round before they close!

During my research I also came across an opinion that as well as peaks over 2000ft, a peak over 1000ft, if it had considerable topographical prominance, i.e. stuck out like a sore thumb, totally dominating its surroundings, it could, loosely, in some circles be considered a mountain. I have since misplaced my reference for this argument but I am sure it was hidden somewhere in the pages of the mountainguide.co.uk which, incidentaly lists 10,000 peaks throughout the British Isles and is a fabulous source of reference and hill-shaped vital statistics, if you like that sort of thing. One list that would include such attention grabbing peaks is the ‘Marilyns’ (the name a pun to the Scottish ‘Munro’s’ – there is no such list as ‘the Mansons’!)  This extremely voluptuous list of 2010 peaks in the British Isles, also compiled by Alan Dawson includes all hills with a prominence of at least 500ft (152m) (i.e. ones with extremely outstanding ‘pointy bits’) regardless of their overall height. I felt some of these peaks deserved a place in my list, after all – my challenge, my rules!

received_10160169254685234Pen y Ghent lost in the clag – a Hewitt, Nuttall AND Marilyn all in one!

All the Marilyns of England, Wales and Ireland above 2000ft are by default also Hewitts, but for the purposes of my list of 1000 I will be including an additional number that stand between 1000ft and 2000ft in England and Wales qualifying as ‘Mini Mountains’. This classification group also gives me the chance to travel a little more widely around England too as all of the 2000ft+ mountains bar two are situated in the National Parks of northern England.

20180607_093550They might not be mountains but Chrome and Parkhouse Hills are as pointy as a witches hat.

I’m not sure exactly how many Marilyns I will include yet as I am still scoping out the illegal ones – those hanging out on private land – which I will probably be avoiding, not least because carrying bolt cutters would heavily encroach upon my ‘fast and light’ policy.

Then of course when we look to the Lake District which hosts by far the majority of English mountains we have that wonderful list, the ‘Wainwrights’, which just brings a romantic sigh from the mouths of hill walkers everywhere – a list of 214 Lakeland peaks, just to confuse matters further, locally known as ‘fells’. These 214 fell tops are a definitive group with no statistical criteria. They were illustrated and written about by Alfred Wainwright in his collection of guides to the lakeland fells for no more than aesthetic reasons and constitute some of the most beloved mountains and hills of the region.

20180606_205528The view from Haystacks – Alfred Wainwright’s favourite fell

Wainwright bagging is also a very popular activity, which would probably have been much to the chagrin of the mild mannered, shy man himself who cared little for any form of rushing around in the hills, list ticking or bagging. I have long admired his simple, uncomplicated lifestyle and love and knowledge of the Lake District fells so it seemed fitting to finally reach the summits of all of these places that I have previously only dipped into, as a part of this challenge.

20180606_205705Kirk Fell looking non too inviting…

Many of the Wainwrights fall into other categories – Hewitts or Nuttalls giving them full mountain status for the purposes of my list. Some are also Marilyns, classing them as ‘Mini Mountains’ and a few aren’t on any other list but I have chosen to include them, adding another 62 (dubiously classed) mountains to my list. All the Wainwrights stand above 1000ft bar one, Castle Crag, which I intend to summit to fully complete the Wainwrights ( i’m sure the idea of leaving just one hill on any list un-bagged would surely send an ardent peak bagger into a state of incomprehensible shock) but Castle Crag will not count officially towards my 1000 Mountains.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0853.JPGSmall but beautiful – Neither a mountain nor a mini mountain by the criteria but Arthur’s Seat surveying Edinburgh is a firm favourite running hill.

So that’s alot of peaks already throughout England, Wales, all of Ireland and the Isle of Man. But no journey around the Mountains of the British Isles would be complete without a hefty dose of  Scottish mountain magic. In fact, if I just wanted to reach the sublime total of 1000 Mountain summits, more than enough contenders –  around 2100,  could be found in Scotland alone.

Screenshot_20180605-204117

Scotland has a whole other set of list for fervent hill-baggers. The mightiest of all the mountains here are those that reach the lofty status of ‘Munro’ , named after Sir Hugh Munro who produced the first list of such mountains in 1891. A ‘Munro’ is a peak of 3000ft or more regardless of relative elevation. Despite much debate about the ‘true’ peaks and subsidiary tops and re-surveys over the years with more accurate equipment there are now 282 Munros and 227 subsidiary tops.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1131.JPGAs a break from the mind boggling lists and numbers – a gratuitous pic of Patch on Christmas morning brewing up on the summit of Stob Mhic Mhartuin ……………..now back to the numbers

‘Corbetts’ of which there are a nice round 222, are mountains between 2500 and 3000ft with the added criteria of 500ft (152m) of prominence. Then there are ‘Grahams’, named for Fiona Graham and often referred to as lesser Corbetts, standing between 2000 and 2500ft with the same relative prominence of 500ft, of which there are 224.

20180606_211314Just a glimpse of the poetic Ben Lomond overlooking the waters of Loch Lomond

The final chunk of my 1000 Mountains list will consist of a wonderful selection of the most well known, favourite, legally accessible! and best suited to hill-running mountains from the lists of Munros, Corbetts and Grahams.

20180606_212428A drizzly day cannot detract from the unmistakably dramatic silhouette of Suilven

Even after all that I still have some spaces dedicated to iconic little peaks which are much beloved by local standards but fail to make any list. This was inspired by my recent discovery of a diminuitive but attention grabbing peak called Roseberry Topping on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Known locally as the Yorkshire Matterhorn this little peak caught my eye driving south from Northumberland to the Yorkshire Coast to meet friends for Sunday lunch. From a distance it looked like a huge mountain, totally dominating its surroundings and I had something of a ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ moment as I became totally entranced by this peak and in danger of hypnotically sculpting it out of mashed potato during Sunday dinner to the, no doubt, bemused confusion of my friends. (this reference won’t make any sense at all if you haven’t seen the classic 80’s film which was actually in 1977!)

Screenshot_20180605-200936

As the road took me closer and closer I had to stop to make a detour run to its summit – just because you do! Roseberry Topping, aside from having a great name stands over 1000 feet and I was sure it must be a Marilyn but its prominence must fall short by a few metres because it doesn’t make the list – harsh judgement! I know there are other local ‘Matterhorns’ around the country and I think it is a shame to miss out on them just because they don’t quite meet the box ticking statistics. Such aesthetically pleasing peaks will always be firm favourites among anyone who loves the outdoors even to those who are content to only admire them from the bottom. So – my challenge, my rules – a handful of such peaks will make it onto my list of 1000. I am already aware of a few of these special places but if you happen to have a mini-matterhorn overlooking your back yard please get in touch and let me know!

20180605_201638The ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’

Incredibly, the lists still go on, probably enough to keep the fanatical bagger occupied for several lifetimes over, scaling Simms, Donalds, Deweys, Hardys, HuMPs, TuMPs, Lumps and Bumps (the last two I just made up!) but for me it is time to put my tired feet up and enjoy the views.

Screenshot_20180605-204418.jpgOverlooking the Miner’s Track  from the PYG path on the flanks of Snowdon

disclaimers :

some of my feet to metre measurement conversions might be not entirely accurate to the centimetre but are rounded to a more….well…..rounded number for the purposes of this piece. Some, though, are entirely accurate to the fourth decimal place, just to keep you on your toes.

This is also designed to be a gentle overview when it comes to these classifications in order that most readers should retain consciousness. If you are a list ticking, stats devouring fanatic on the other hand there is literally a figurative mountain of info on the subject on that highly reliable source Wikipedia!

Finally, my use of the term ‘pointy bits’ is probably over selling many mountain tops but ’rounded hump’ did not sound quite so enticing.

My #RunningtheSummits 1000 Mountains in 365 days challenge is not just entirely for my own amusement or merely just some perverse attempt to torture my knees but also has a goal to raise a mountain of cash to support our Mountain Rescue Teams, Search and Rescue Dogs and Fix the Fells, all incredible volunteer manned charities that are the real heroes of the high places. 

Please donate a little if you can  – just click on the big heart below to donate…..thank you 😊👣❤

halow250-image-18.jpg

Super Support from the Queens of Flapjack!

Lactation-Flapjacks

WARNING: this post contains copious amounts of made-up adjectives, excessive exclamation marks and gratuitous flapjack photography!!

I am totally flapperjacked to announce the wonderful squishy hearted folk at Flapjackery are as super amazing as their scrumilicious flapjacks and will be supporting me in my Running the Summits quest.  As many of you know,  flapjack is my go-to fuel of choice so I am very excited to be powered by some the absolutely finest flapjack in the country, nay,  the world! ( I have tested a LOT of flapjack…..(Ellen Cattanach and Val Allport- your homemade flapjacks are still totally brilliant!))

Flapjackery-logo-1

I discovered my new gurus at the inaugural National Running Show at the NEC in January (tickets are now on sale for 2019!) , but heartbreakingly never got to taste their oatilicious wares as no sooner had the show opened than the entire weekend’s stash of gooey, chewy, flapjack goodness had been snaffled by avid runner fans of the mighty oat! But Flapjackery were not to be beaten, travelling a late night round trip from Birmingham to Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor back to their kitchen to stock up with a new batch for runners at the second day of the show where remarkably, once again, just a few oaty crumbs remained by the time I made it through the crowds to their stand!

 

Discovering that runners would happily wade their way through a soggy 10k bog run to get their hands on these proper lush treats, Flapjackery recently had a record weekend fuelling runners and visitors at the 2018 London Marathon Expo.

20180425_163914

Flapjackery founders Carol and Sally, both passionate about flapjack (totally understandable!)  took an idea 6 years ago and really ran with it. In their own words…

sally-and-carol-owners-of-flapjackery

We take the humble oat and raise it to a luxury level by adding top quality ingredients and a dash of madness to create our range of luxury Devon flapjacks in interesting flavours in huge chunky pieces, with a range suitable for vegans and lactose intolerant now available. British oats, locally sourced West Country butter and fairtrade brown sugar are some of the reasons our flapjacks taste so good.

devon-artisan-flapjacks-flapjackery-6

What’s not to love?good, wholesome, nutritious and lovingly made ‘real food’ fuel – perfect for outdoor adventures!

I will be chomping away on a piece of Flapjackery heaven on every mountain summit, I’d love you to join me though I’m not sure if I’ll be willing to share😁

artisan-flapjacks

Now, if you are thinking…

‘Where can I get my hands on these flapjacks of irresistibleness?’

as…obviously, you must be,

check out the Flapjackery website. You can try these uberlush treats for yourself by ordering online or they may be attending a show or exhibition near you soon!

Flapjackery-flavours

But don’t just take my word for it…reviews of Flapjackery flapjacks are full of words like    ‘WOW’  ‘AMAZING’  ‘GORGEOUS’  ‘IRRESISTIBLE’.

devon-artisan-flapjacks-flapjackery-5

Sorry, but I am all out of mouth watering flapjack photos for now but listen out for the next adventure on this Mountain climbing, downhill windmilling arms, running madness challenge as the time gets closer to start…..Running the Summits!

 

P.S. SSShhhhhh…..nobody tell Patch about the flapjack!

 

My #RunningtheSummits Challenge is raising funds for the Mountain Rescue Teams of England and Wales, The Search & Rescue Dog Association England and Fix the Fells. Please support their incredible, selfless work via my fundraising page at VirginMoneyGiving.com

 

Screenshot_20180213-195408

Introducing Running the Summits!

So….one or two people have been asking me

“what’s your next challenge?

wp-image-341106180

Well, I cant deny I had been thinking about a few ideas for a new, challenging adventure. The #3PeAksRun was a run into the unknown in the sense that i had no idea if my body would hold up to such intense multi day running and, indeed, just two days in I was almost convinced that it wouldn’t. But one of the points of this challenge was to push myself to see if I could go beyond what I thought I could do. More than one person suggested that I couldn’t pull it off but we never know what we are capable of unless we give it a go.

20180207_112107

With that in mind I plan to attempt a bigger, tougher trial by mountain starting in 2018 –

Running the Summits –A jog over 1000 Mountains of the British Isles in 365 Days

20180517_192848

It’s quite a leap from 3 mountains to 1000 so this will be a real monster of a challenge and I dont mind admitting I’m trying to construtively channel the fear on this one. Our diminutive mountains may lack a little in stature but they certainly pack the punch of far loftier peaks in terms of challenge. Even in summer conditions our mountains can possess huge difficulties with terrain, weather conditions and navigation. When I summited each of the 3PeAks, the conditions were far from ‘summery’, each one shrouded in mist and cloud and I struggled through poor visibility, high winds, rain and hail – imagine that 1000 times!

With this new adventure I hope to raise further funds for the phenomenal work of our Mountain Rescue Teams and Search and Rescue Dog Association England as well as the double award winning volunteer manned charity, Fix the Fells. Though Mountain Rescue Team members would never refer to themselves as heroes the work they do must certainly be described as heroic not to mention the huge amount of commitment and sacrifice they make and the unwavering support from their families, friends and colleagues in order for them to carry out this work, and all for no financial reward. These highly skilled volunteers involved in Search and Rescue are called to a myriad of situations – lost, injured or disoriented walkers, climbers or runners, school groups, missing children, vulnerable people suffering from mental illness and depression, avalanche victims, flood or weather related rescue or downed aircraft to name but a few and the teams are receiving more callouts every year!

wp-image-1189208688

What can YOU do to help?
Support my mountainous challenge by donating to these charities at

virgin-money-giving-logo

Vicariously share the journey with me 

click follow button below

Follow on Facebook  Twitter and Instagram

If you are more social media savvy than me (not difficult) please retweet and share as much as you can

If you would like to climb a mountain with me please

Get In Touch

SEND FLAPJACK!!

Screenshot_20180930-102439

I look forward to seeing you on the trail ( virtual or actual👍)
Tina and TrailDog Patch 😁 👣🐾

 

‘3PeAks’ Patch, the Pudding Puppy’s Grand Cake Tour

So, a few of you might have noticed, little Patch likes cake…….alot!!! (nothing to do with me, honest…can’t stand the stuff personally! I am certainly never one to equate my Strava calorie count literally into the difference between a slice of shortbread and a double helping of sticky toffee pudding…..nope, not me!)

20170904_163931

Impossible to choose…Rainbow Cake? Coconut & Lime? Courgette & Avocado…really?

Patch began his tour in Wales with a traditional offering of a fine slice of Bara Brith…pretty good run fuel really and delicious with lashings of butter (or so i’ve heard) …and the local Welsh Cakes from Betws y Coed are worth a detour any day of the week!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0099.JPG

Upping the stakes on the next cake break Patch went for this delectable slice of coffee and walnut….his argument being fair once again…nuts are healthy run fuel, there’s fruit on the side and coffee has great ‘perky up’ qualities for any endurance event..fair point well made there, Patch!

20170819_112437

Already in England it was soon time for more cake trials and alongside Esthwaite Water in the Lake District a slice of Lemon soaked Drizzle Cake came highly recommended! Aside from the fact we were outside getting a good dose of fresh air with our dining Patch was effusive about the health benefits of Lemons……something about its many nourishing elements like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A,vitamin E, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and protein………ALRIGHT Patch, just eat the cake already!!!

20170824_201546

Al fresco caking…watch those ducks Patch, they heard about the lemony health benefits!

Still in ‘Lakeland Cakeland’ we were doubling up on the cake days with this little slice…..a soft, chewy Cherry and Coconut Slice….proper lush! ‘Nuff said!

20170822_124754

Sadly for Patch there were times when I just had no time or appetite for cake (impossible to believe, I know) despite the tempting choices for ever on offer!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0136.JPG

Sorry Patch, we just popped in for a water top up!….wait a minute, Honeycomb Golden Nougat Cheesecake……!

Soon we had made it to Scotland with so many traditional delicious, sweet delicacies… shortbread, tablet, cranachan, clootie dumpling, dundee cake, tipsy laird, irn bru and deep fried mars bars!! Patches choice at the start of the West Highland Way was this gooey, zesty Orange, Ginger Whisky Cake…however, I was completely addicted to the homemade wheaten bread… definitely a taste sensation, and I had to keep returning for more. I would have probably taken some away for later if it wasn’t likely to become a bag of crumbs in my pack, not to mention I had just collected another supply parcel from the post office and my pack weight had bulged by another 1.7kg already! Maybe we needed to start cutting down on the cake?

20170831_115949

Incredible, homemade wheaten bread at the Tea Cosy Cafe, Milngavie…i need the recipe!

With every cake tour extravaganza there has to be an element of judging favourites. This little number at the St Mocha Coffee Shop in Balmaha was a clear winner for Patch and I….. Cinder Toffee & Scottish Tablet Cake…. need i say more?

20170901_103559

The King of Cakes…

Of course this journey was not all about cake. Flapjack was my main fuel of choice and along with a very generous donation of the little oaty treats from the generous guys over at Graze.com many people brought me some homemade varieties to top up the stores on route. Clear stand outs were a wonderfully sticky traybake variation pack with nuts from @SARDAEnglands Val and Brian and a perfect classic recipe plain flapjack from Ellen Cattanach…..thank you soooo much.

 

Sadly our days of burning 6000 calories are now at an end so the cake consumption has to be reined in, but they will all long be remembered…

20170824_195813

A rare moment when Patch is NOT eating cake!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the cake pics even if you didn’t get to tuck into the goodies themselves.  #3PeAksRun is supporting outdoor volunteer charities. If you can spare the PRICE OF A SLICE please donate to Mountain Rescue Teams HERE

 

Patch, step away from the giant mushroom…..that is NOT a cake!!

20170828_211954

Hopeless….

20170804_162542

 

🐾

Reflections…

Returning home, after a good scrub, some clean clothes, a giant dinner of comfort food and finally putting my feet up I can only now begin to digest the experience of the last 19 days and 18 hours!

20170907_135409

People have suggested I must be feeling ecstatic, euphoric, celebratory and proud but to be honest I am currently feeling a strange sense of calm – an inner peace almost with the relief that I reached my goal and completed the challenge, tinged with a little melancholy that despite the comfort of a warm, dry, cosy bed right now I am no longer on the trail, no longer immersed in the simple act of just keeping moving forward. And despite the foibles of what the weather has been throwing at me I already miss being at its mercy and breathing those deep lungfuls of fresh air.

20170904_164331

Big weather ahead!

Don’t get me wrong I am very much enjoying this reflective mood, the whole journey has been such a whirlwind of activity that it is lovely now to just stop and relive each day in my mind.

20170824_192717

Serene moments up in the clouds!

It does seem like a very long time ago when I was bounding up Snowdon feeling very energetic and strong, I remember wishing that I would feel in such good shape every day but just two long days later I was so exhausted and creaking, my feet red, rubbed and blistered, the worry that I might not be up to this challenge sneaked into the corner of my mind. In the evenings I could barely walk and waking up was even worse but slowly, gradually, my body seemed to get with the programme and each day I began to feel stronger. I still hobbled about like an old woman in the morning but I knew that so long as I didn’t make any sudden movements and made sure  to warm up slowly, soon the engine would be humming and I could complete another day on the trail. I also attributed this recovery to the practice of a good, long stretching sesh at the end of each day and the speedy intake of some protein, generally in the form of a shake and/or protein bar kindly supplied to me by the guys at Clif Bar and MountainFuel.co.uk , thanks guys – life savers! I think I have eaten more protein in the last two weeks than I normally would in about 6 months! I’m also quite impressed with my newly defined quads!

20170907_151233.jpg

Hmmmmm…chocolate or strawberry, chocolate or strawberry….?

Day by day was quite a rollercoaster and I never really knew when I set off how the day would pan out, sometimes easier, sometimes tough. At times my backpack would feel comfy and light and at other times I would be swearing profusely at the very same pack and kicking it unceremoniously into the undergrowth. Some days I chatted with lots of different people , occasional days I actually saw no one at all.

Bivvys, Bothies and Bunkhouses!

Towards the final days my legs started to rebel with shin splints, unusual spreading aches, sore tendons and tender heels which created a whole new challenge for my mind – to handle the frustration and fear of being thwarted at such a late stage. I was also a bit suspicious that somehow these physical manifestations may have been directly linked psychologically to the fact that I was so near the end, my mind and body now conspiring against me….ggrrrr!

20170904_162912

Times of trail running pristine perfection!

Even on the final morning I was unsure if I would complete the challenge or have to be satisfied with a ‘2andAhalfPeAksRun’ ( which just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?!) given the daunting weather conditions on Ben Nevis but I decided to set off and see how far I could get. In the end the fact that I was super over prepared ( gps, back up gps, two maps, compass, recent Mountain skills training course fresh in my mind (thanks Carol Emmons) and even the correct bearings to find the way off the summit in total whiteout!) gave me the confidence to keep plodding on through the brutally buffeting wind and lashing rain slicing like shards of glass against my cheeks, divining each cairn shrouded in the swirling cloud to reach the very top which was a genuinely exhaltant, if cold and wet, moment.

20170905_114637.jpg

Jubilant spirits heading into Glencoe!

The highest mountain in Britain reached all the way on foot from the highest mountain in Wales with a little evening jog over the highest English mountain on route….the ‘3PeAksRun’ in the bag! All that remained was to get down off this majestic wintery rock without breaking my ankle and we could call it a wrap! (I did slip over three times on the wet rocks of the descent, my trail shoes by now split, worn almost smooth and held together with some gaffa tape…not advisable!)

BB469A3E87D61DE7213AB9D39C2EE7ED

Bleak summits!

A wee soggy traildog, Patch, and I made it to the warmth and welcome of Glen Nevis Youth Hostel wet, tired, hungry and dirty but very very content….the perfect end to any adventure!

20170907_134742

One soppy Patch Puppy ( he’d definitely be shivering if he had a central nervous system!)

One of the best parts of this adventure has been the incredible people I have met or been in touch with along the way. I have been so touched by the kindness and support of those who have come out to meet me, run along with me, brought flapjack or cake or posted endless encouragement via the social media pages. Your support, encouragement and advice has brightened dull days and motivated me throughout. I met many lovely people along the way too who despite being in the midst of their own adventures took my challenge to heart.

Although this was technically an ‘ unsupported’ challenge in that I was without a support crew to take care of logistics and be on hand along the way I have actually received massive amounts of support by all those who have followed and shared this adventure and I bow to you all with a huge THANK YOU and boundless gratitude.

20170828_212243.jpg

Patch having a bit of Search Dog bonding time with the lovely Tess!

Massive Thank Yous toos! to everyone who has donated so far to the Mountain Rescue Teams, Search and Rescue Dog Association England and FixtheFells whom the #3PeAksRun is supporting. I am now over two thirds of the way to my fundraising target and will continue to try to reach it ( My fourth mountain, if you will!). Please help if you can by donating a little here at my VirginMoneyGivingPage

EVERY PENNY DONATED GOES DIRECTLY TO THESE WORTHY CAUSES!

wp-image-372496199

Patch and I are now enjoying some serious shut eye…..see you later 👣🐾

 

 

Countdown Is On!

Only 1 day to go til the start of my (in the words of BBC Radio Lancashire)  ‘totally bonkers’ 3PeAksRun!! 

So with hours to go to my monster Challenge with a capital ‘C’, how am i feeling? Ready? Prepared?
20170814_154842
Weather forecast for August in Britain…..check👍
I am not an athlete, really,  just your average, everyday, person( OK,with a slightly unconventional lifestyle, its true) and a below average runner its fair to say, though i know some of you are saying ‘yeah yeah, sure you are’ but honestly, its true!
Ultra Running and challenges such as this though are about endurance and if theres one thing i do well its endurance. i.e the sheer stubborn – mindedness to just keep going! When it hurts, when its miserable, when you’re too hot, too cold, hungry, tired or can’t really breath I can just keep moving. Fool…you might say…and you’d probably be right!
20170814_222607
Kit, good to go…..how am I supposed to run with that lot!! Can you spot my mobile physio…. tennis ball Dave?
Physical readiness?  I have a sore hip, little niggle in my right achilles ( thats a totally new one) , very tight left calf ( not sure what it’s problem is) and sitting in the back of my mind the omnipresent fear of shinsplints, particularly those born of the dreaded ‘stress fracture’ possibility (hereforeafter referred as ‘that which must not be named’) Coupled with the fact that i struggle to climb up four steps if I need the loo in the middle of the night onboard the boat i have to wonder if i am really cutout for this!….oh, and half a toenail came off a couple of days ago which is now really sore!!
blogbag
Accommodation sorted…..check 👍 
Fortunately, i believe ( or just naively convince myself) that these last minute irritations are mostly just a figment of my over active imagination trying to convince me to just crawl into the duvet with a selection of chocolate bars and watch Netflix for the next three weeks…..how unadventurous my brain can be at times! Come on head, get with the program!
Talking of super tasty sweet treats check out the amazing selection of energy goodies the generous people over at Clif Bars have sent me….i’ll be way too energized to be crawling under any duvets after that lot!!
20170814_151352
Energy in abundance….I notice ‘3Peaks’ Patch is snaffling my crunchy peanut butter favourites! 
Then, there are the crazy flapjack loving folk at Graze .com who have very generously provided me with enough flapjack to get me all the way from Wales to Ben Nevis! Brilliant!!
20170814_141845
Hmmm….once again, Patch is guarding my favourites – honeycomb flapjacks….there’s going to be trouble! 

 

So, in less than 24 hours I’ll be off to Wales to face my first summit, the mighty Snowdon…..Follow on Facebook at 3PeAksRun – The Long Way Up to track my progress
and see what Patch gets up to!👍👣🐾
Remember, you can support the amazing charities I am running for
by donating a little if you can.
Thank you 👣🐾

 

so…… just need a nice soak in the bath and an early night……*#$!@ it’s already after 11pm! #hownottoprepareformonsterchallenge

Introducing 3PeAks Patch

After my incredible weekend amongst the inspiring folk at the Search and Rescue Dog Association England I felt a fair scoop of ‘enviousness’ of the owners and handlers of such fabulous dogs and the incredible bonds between them. But as much as i love our furry friends my lifestyle – splitting my time between life on a boat and living in a ‘nano campervan’ is totally non-conducive to responsible dog ownership!

20170803_152726

Then I discovered Patch . My new ‘trail runners best friend’ – an extremely low maintenance pet substitute mascot with aspirations to become a Search and Rescue Dog trainee….hmmm, good luck with that, Patch!

patchgrass

3PeAks Patch….potential Search Dog trainee?….hmmmm

This miniscule traildog is not without his charms, he has already proven quite a hit around the boat and is about to get into all kinds of mischief,  i can tell.

20170804_162542

Overdoing it on the post run treats!

Little Patch will be joining me on my 3PeAksRun Challenge,  and weighing in at 36 grams (less than a small flapjack) I have agreed to find him a comfy spot on my backpack as his tiny legs will struggle to keep up…even with me! (and even if he could actually move them!?)

You can use the follow buttons below to keep up with Patch’s (and my) adventures and see what trouble he gets himself into. He may look clean and smart now but just wait til he gets to the top of Snowdon!

20170803_235535

My new traildog buddy…3PeAks Patch

Spades and Brooms on mountain summits!

Always an advocate of trying new experiences, summiting a Lakeland Fell hauling a spade and broom along was certainly a first for me on my recent day with a team of Fix the Fells volunteers..all in a days work for these guys!ftf colour cmyk

Just an hour before our prearranged meeting time, I peeked out of my soggy tent to see nothing of the nearby fells but swirling grey cloud and sheets of rain. Keener to stay snuggled up in my toasty warm sleeping bag than try to extricate myself from my tiny one-man tent onto the sodden grass beyond I wondered what the cutoff level of discomfort might be for the Fix the Fells team to decide to hang up their gaiters and retreat to the warm and and cosy interior of the village pub or cafe for copious amounts of hot tea and homemade cake uttering promises of returning to the fells just as soon as the sun was shining again , everyone was volunteering for this after all! But it turns out, these are no fairweather fell goers, rather, a hardy bunch of outdoorsy folk whose attitude to our fickle British weather is that if the National Park Rangers went out in all conditions then so would they!

Repairing and maintaining our ancient network of mountain paths is an all-weather task. A combination of millions of pairs of walking boots, the weather and gradient means erosion is a constant problem. Our path work reduces erosion scars and also helps protect the ecology and archaeological heritage of our beautiful landscape.

Fix the Fells are celebrating 10 years of volunteering, a decade of dedication. In fact, their level of commitment and dedication humbled me more than once during that day.

6447734983_aa404cc2c6_z

 

 

Introductions made, I took custody of my ‘on loan’ trusty spade and broom, unsure of what exactly what exactly I was supposed to do with them, and along with the team headed up the path towards a brooding Place Fell. Our mission for the day was glamorously referred to as a ‘drain run’. Spade and brush in hand I was a little confused but all was soon expertly explained. The drains along the paths help the water continue on a natural course rather than using the path itself as a quick route downhill, damaging the path and causing further erosion or even washing away the path completely in heavy rain. Volunteers completed 493 ‘drain run’ days last year carrying out minor maintenance and repairs and clearing debris.

We soon arrived at the first drain and it became immediately apparent to me that this was more technical than I had initially imagined. It certainly didn’t seem in any way obvious to my untrained eye if, where and what might need doing to maintain a happy drain. But as the day went on and the number of drain encounters chalked up I gradually began to understand how to identify the problems and how to remedy them, doing a very fine job of clearing out a very clogged, muddy and smelly drain by the end of the day ( if i do say so myself!)

20170515_192824

Other maintenance tasks on our day in the hills involved picking up litter and cleaning pitching. (the large stones and rock slabs that make up sections of path and/or steps) Keeping this clear of loose rocks, stones and debris makes it much safer and easier to walk on and therefore more inviting than the surrounding ground which helps to reduce and prevent erosion. This was something my obsessive inclination for cleaning could really get enthusiatic about and my designated pitching was certainly very vigorously brushed to a standard at which you might be able to eat your rehydrate, boil in the bag dinner off it.

Volunteering with Fix the Fells is not all about getting wet and muddy though. Hard work but lots of fun it is a wonderful and productive way to spend a day in the hills with a group of diverse yet like minded people seeing parts of the Lake District you may never have been before and giving something back to the outdoor environment we all love and enjoy. The pace and work was always steady, there was always time scheduled in to stop for a brew and picnic lunch and as i worked and spoke with a different group member throughout the day I also realised it is a wonderful opportunity to make and catch up with fellow volunteer friends as well as meet new people. The volunteer group on any particular day can include regular volunteers who have been involved for several years to new recruits still working through their training program or complete first timers like myself staring at a drain with a somewhat confused look on their face. The pool of volunteers indeed spans all ages and backgrounds with a wealth of experience in a variety of outdoors pursuits from keen walkers to outdoor instructors, National Trust Wardens, National Park Rangers and Mountain Rescue Team members.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Fix the Fells has an opportunity to go along for some ‘taster days’ , similar to the day I spent, to meet other volunteers and discover what the work involves. After this, comprehensive training is provided in the practical skills of path maintenance, first aid and navigation as well as training in the whats, whys and hows of carrying out the various work required. A minimum annual commitment of 12 days volunteering is required but many volunteers far exceed this, some out on the fells more than once a week in all seasons. Car parking permits and a travel allowance within the national park is also provided to minimise costs to the volunteer and all training is included. It is also a fantastic opportunity to learn many new skills working with National Trust Wardens and National Park Rangers.

One of the most valuable and perhaps often overlooked aspects of the teams work that day to me was simply their presence on the fells. Many walkers commented and asked what they were doing and thanked them for their efforts. I felt this was invaluable for raising awareness and encouraging responsible behaviour outdoors – I think someone is far less likely to discard that sweet wrapper or cut that corner in the path when they witness volunteers giving their time to pick up litter and work on the paths in all weathers and with enthusiasm and positivity, and have an opportunity to learn why the work they do is important and necessary. Fix the Fells volunteers are definitely great ambassadors for the outdoors and inspire and encourage us all to be more appreciative and protective of our precious and beautiful, great outdoors!

20170605_155326

The fantastic team I had the privilage to spend the day with. And the sun finally came out just in time to enjoy a well earned cuppa! A huge thank you to volunteers David, Wendy, Steven, Chris, Mim, Ann, Andy and Claire for welcoming me so well. You guys rock!

If you want to find out more or are interested in becoming a volunteer for Fix the Fells you can find more about what’s involved HERE or contact them at info@fixthefells.co.uk

Happy Trails!

How else can you help?  Sponsor my 3PeAksRun here and support their work!