Report from Sarah Fuller: of the Tour de Helvellyn
It would have been rude to finish the year without another little adventure so off I went to have another trot round the Lake District, this time for the 38 mile tour de helvellyn. Fast becoming a classic at a time of year when there is little in the way or long fell races or ultras to choose from, the tour starts and finishes in Askham on the edge of the Lake District and has a 12 hour time limit.
After Friday night in my friends camper van in Askham listening to the rain and wind, Kate (Boobyer) and I started about 7:30 bleary eyed and slightly nervous of what horrors the weather would throw at us. Jogging up onto Askham moor into the teeth of the wind it was soon apparent it would be a challenging day but the rain held off mostly until mid afternoon, save one torrential downpour climbing out of patterdale.
The route is a lollipop shape with an 11 mile leg over to Patterdale via howtown, martingdale and boredale hause. You then do the 16 mile lollipop round helvellyn via sticks pass, Thirlmere and grisedale tarn and then retrace your steps. The first section was tough at times into the wind particularly crossing boredale hause where competitors were getting blown off their feet, but passed pretty quickly. Much of Patterdale valley was flooded so there was some entertaining and rather cold wading to be done to reach the road at Glenridding to start the long slog up sticks. I had a real low point here for about an hour and struggled to find any energy on the climb at all but perked up after we dropped into thirlmere and mercifully out of the wind. It felt like a long drag slowly climbing and undulating through the woods along Thirlmere but we were soon tackling the big haul back up and over the ridge at least this time with a tailwind!. Eventually we emerged back at the patterdale checkpoint, a quick cuppa and we pushed on quickly up to boredale hause the weather deteriorating rapidly. Lots of standing water everywhere made the going hard work to maintain a run but before long we were starting the long steady haul up from howtown fighting a losing battle with the fading light.
With the dark came a big drop in temperature and it was hard to see anything with the headtorch beam shining through the sheet of torrential rain! typical that the last 2 miles were the hardest navigation wise with a maze of trods accross a flat featureless moorland and I was seriously grateful to have company as was getting pretty chilly and tired. Thankfully we emerged in the right place and after falling flat on my back on the final muddy decent we hit the road and the last few hundred meters tried to push hard to ensure the sub 10 and we dibbed with 9 hours 57 minutes on the clock – mission accomplished!
I finished in 112th position – 169 started and 147 finished. The race was won by Ed Catmur in a record breaking 5:48. Chuffed with that considering I hadn’t really built up to this race properly and have rather overindulged in the mince pies the last couple of weeks! Merry Christmas everyone!
Full results here.