Fellsman – Karen’s report and Nick’s photos

Karen’s report on the Fellsman is below the line. Including the entirely slanderous assertion that I was delighted to overtake her at Kingsdale (she got her revenge at Dent).

Edit: Nicks photos

Last year I entered this event with great trepidation after my disaster at the NT. This year I was more positive, or just resigned to being older and slower. I had not run a huge amount since the Calderdale Hike but we did have a few days away in the Dales.

What it looks like without the mist

This let me recee the new CP and also to get in two decent length runs. On these it was bright sunshine so warm in the valleys but chilly on the tops thanks to a biting cold wind. The forecast for this weekend was warmer but the forecasters seemed rather unsure how much rain we might get and when it might arrive. Not a bad Fellsman forecast though.

Our wonderful sponsors- the barriers were moved

Four hours climbing was perhaps not ideal preparation but we stuck with our standard Friday routine. Despite this we were at Threshfield soon after 5pm and as Bob was helping all weekend we could park at the school. The flags and banners were soon up and it was not a chore given the warm sunshine. The boards were up in the hall with a list of the spot prize winners and there was enough space for me to lay out all the rope mats and dog toys that I make for Mountain Rescue funds.


After helping to unload the food van I grabbed a quick meal in our van before heading for registration. I was first in the queue and bagged my place on the last bus. It felt strange and rather sad without Kate on registration. Kit check was as thorough as I have come to expect but I was not at all worried- I have suffered enough in bad weather at this event to not even dream of cutting any kit corners!

Possibly the most thorough kit check ever

Young Timothy Driver on his first stint at a whole weekend volunteer did kit check and then handed out our mint cake so I was free to chat with friends and keep an eye on spot prizes and sell mats. Thanks to all who bought- another £60 to Mountain Rescue.

The A team

At 9pm I checked on Bob in the kitchen and went back to the van to do a last minute faff with gear before some cheese, wine and an early bed. Bob came back some time after 10pm but I barely woke. He also disappeared back to the kitchen at 4am to start preparing breakfasts. I dozed until almost 6 when I got dressed and had breakfast. Fellsman rules have always stated ‘full leg cover from dusk’ and as it is such a pain to change at that stage I opted for long tights. I was far to warm for much of the day and need to check on this rule as I do not think they applied it this year.

By 6.30am we had a full bus and were on our way to Ingleton. I don’t travel well and this is not my favourite part of the day- perhaps we should make the Fellsman 100 miles and circular? Despite the queue for trackers, tallies and race numbers there was still plenty of time to find friends, sort out a team and make several trips to the toilet. Julian organised a team of relative oldies and then we were herded out onto the playing field. Cag or no cag? it seemed mild but then the air got damp, what to do? I decided to be brave and took my cag off. We were late starting and had a minutes silence for missing friends. Despite the clag and damp my neighbours Drew and Liz who were CP marshalls on Ingleborough seemed in fine spirits and were full of encouragement. The cag went on- too early to risk wet layers.

I really dislike the stone steps off the summit and despair at how slowly I descend. Mark had showed me an alternative but he was somewhere behind and I did not want to risk an untried route on race day. I chatted to Albert and Toney as we headed to the next CP at Hill Inn. By now it was dry again and rather warm. Cag off- and it stayed off for most of daylight hours. Not needing any food or water at this stage I plodded on and began the ascent of Whernside. One welcome distraction before the steepness kicked in was SportSunday out taking photos as usual.

David takes great photos and always makes me smile. Then it was up and up. Our route takes an out and back to the summit which is interesting as you get to see how far behind faster runners you are and to shout encouragement at each other.

More friends at the Whernside CP

The run along the ridge before you turn to Kingsdale is a joy, then it is over the stile and rougher terrain to the river. I was  starting to suffer back pain and stopped long enough to sort out my poles in the hope they would keep my posture more upright. It did work, but not instantly. Charles had now passed me and he was delighted to have done so early on in the race. Bill J was also going strong (for the time being). The climb seemed to take forever and I did not feel strong. At the top I had time to shout Hi to Kat before she headed off to Great Coum. The out and back to Gragareth is always interesting as it is another opportunity to see who is just ahead. The ridge top was drier than often but still had some boggy bits- I concentrated on staying in touch with those just ahead of me. By the next CP I had caught some. I was confused when the group in front headed off left. I even followed initially before saying out loud “This is wrong”. I cut back right and down to reach the good if rather wet quad bike track by the wall. Before Flinters Gill I had caught them all and overtaken some.  I did lose some ground to a few on the nasty track down to Dent- I hate being such a wuss but my shoes were not gripping well and now seemed half a size too big too. My shock in Dent was finding that we were all being pulled over for a kit check, including things buried deeply in my sack. At least it was all of us and not a random sample. First time I have ever been kit checked mid race at the Fellsman. Luckily I managed to repack my sack so that it was still comfortable. I grabbed a cheese and onion roll, ate lots of melon and set off to try to catch Bill. He was never far ahead and then got confused at a road junction so I did catch him. At the correct junction Fiona was waiting with the dogbut I had no idea how far Mark might be behind me as I had not seen him since the Hill Inn.

Around here I started to catch up with Paul Tynan, who I knew, and Ken his club mate. We were to see quite a lot of each other for the rest of the day. A whole group of us cut over the back edge of Whernside and found the trod that would lead us to Blea Moor. I always get wet feet somewhere on this section and today was no exception; I suspect like parts of Bowland that it never dries out. This year I stayed on the ridge by the fence a little longer after the CP and reached the track by the railway tunnel air shaft a bit more easily. The turkey is no more! and after a short boggy section I met the road leading to Stonehouse.

The CP staff make such a great effort

I must have overtaken Bill somewhere but Anne was waiting for him and gave me a cheery confidence boost. Timothy was at this CP and loving it so I made tie for a quick chat before joining Paul and Ken for pasta, tea, cake and more.

Upright once more

Nicola who looked familiar (and she should as we ran at P39 together) was also there. I climbed Artengill Beck slowly letting my food digest. The others pulled ahead slightly but by Great Knoutbery summit we were together again. This is the third out and back so yet another chance to see how you are doing. My back had eased now and I was feeling more positive. Spotting Kat, Ben and others boosted me- true , I still had some of the climb to do and they were zooming down and off to Redshaw but they were not that far ahead. The marshalls at this CP was basking in sunshine which must be a pretty rare occurrence.

Stonehouse- all 4 of us but before we teamed up

After the long flat boggy section Paul and Ken took a slightly higher line and I managed to catch them up briefly before they zoomed off to Redshaw. They did not stop long but I knew I needed to take the time to eat here or I would pay for it later. I did eat my banana on the next section though as I knew running hard would not be possible through the boggy section. They were just leaving Snaizholme as I approached and again it was sunny. The next section is more runnable and I worked hard at trying to reduce the gap before Dodd.

I was helped by Ros who had come out to shout encouragement and Matt Neale who met me and encouraged me to jog (he was probably thinking- Come on Run). I have been to the Dodd CP in foul conditions but not today, although Matt said when he first arrived it was raining steadily and vis was poor. With his motivation I pushed on and the four of us reached the CP together. Our team was starting to come together even if we did not know it yet. I led the way across the moor to the wall with confidence when Ken wanted to go off in the wrong direction and then showed them the way through to reach the lane and beaconed path to Fleet Moss.  As usual in longer races I could feel my body shutting down on the food front. I opted for a huge mug of fruit salad figuring that it would be full of energy but would also give me some liquid and slide down easily. Trying to run and eat this with fingers got very messy but I was determined to eat it all even if it meant Paul got ahead.  Anne came past in her van so I guessed Bill could not be far behind. He and Ken were significantly faster on the road section and were out of sight when Nicola and I arrived at the new Deepdale CP. She pulled ahead slightly to Yockenthwaite but not by far. As we stopped to check where we each wanted to leave the track and to put on cags as it was now misty and chilly we could see the men heading further uphill on the track. I had recceed this bit less than a fortnight ago and although it was now misty I was fairly sure my line was fine. Nicola took slightly different lines but we  were now marginally ahead of the men. Somewhere here my watch died. No panic as I had OS on my phone but that was not going to be as convenient as the watch. I need to play with the battery settings more. From this new CP it is a fairly quick and easy run to Hells Gap which is now at the obvious track junction rather than higher up the track. We were shown the way in with bright lights and Simon and Garfunkel playing loudly. Not a place to hang around so after a quick thanks it was off to Cray. Anne was here again waiting for Bill.

Here we all stopped for food and also to put some extra clothes on. Having stopped it felt chilly so I added another long sleeve and my over trousers. I was soon baking! We trotted off towards Buckden Pike together and only made one very small error when we left the wall for a short time. We started discussing route options and it was good to know we could combine my knowledge, Paul’s watch and also Nicola’s ideas.

No Joe F this year but cheery marshalls anyway

It was still light on the Pike but as we ran along the flag stone path and crossed to the war memorial we stuck near to the wall- there are better lines a little further out but only if you can see well. The big decision is how to descend the next section- we opted for the diagonal which is what I have always done. However we took a slightly higher line and it was better and brought us out at the mine tips without the need for the muddy track. We were still running without torches and I went over on an ankle badly enough to yelp. I hoped if I kept going it would be OK. and was pleased to have the poles for some extra support. Soon after this we arrived at the Starbotton CP where they were amazed we had not yet turned torches on. We did shortly afterwards!

On, on to Park Rash- some running , some walking but all forward progress. I tried to eat here and managed a little before feeling I might heave. I didn’t want to waste what I had managed to get in and so stopped eating. I could have done with more. I hate being the weak link in a team and so set a good pace as we started up Great Whernside before we all slowed on the steep pull to the stile. We ran some of the next section with Paul leading but there were too many trip hazards to keep a consistent pace. We found the little blue CP tent wedged amongst the rocks and knew that we had done the last significant climb. We all agreed that the fence was going to be our friend even if we didn’t actually stay right next to it. There were the expected boggy bits but it wasn’t too bad and again the poles were a great aid here. My strava trace shows we made a pretty good fist of this and it didn’t take too long to arrive at Capplestone Gate. We got clipped, whooped and pushed on. I knew this bit and Paul had recced it so we made good time to the beacons and flags that would lead us across the field paths heading south and then the tracks towards Yarnbury.  We were all starting to suffer and take it in turns to slow down or speed up. Chatting and being a group helped to keep us going. I suggested that at the tarmac those who could run should push on. Although it is either flat or downhill I know in the past I have struggled to keep running the whole way. Nicola and I think Ken felt we should finish as a team but I really didn’t want people to wait or to feel I had to try harder than my body wanted to. As it turned out three of us were in the same boat and took turns deciding to run or stop.

Paul though managed to pull away and was back 3 mins before us. He therefore took the V60 trophy. Perhaps I should have tried harder to stay with him.. it wasn’t far, was all on tarmac and was almost all downhill.

I was chuffed to finish in 16hrs 18 mins which although not a PB was one of my better times. Bob had left the kitchen to come out and meet me which was lovely. We took ‘team’ photos before staggering off to eat and drink.

I couldn’t face collecting gear and a full shower so wandered off to the van for a strip wash and to fall into bed. Bob had a few more hours to do in the kitchen though! He spent more hours on his feet than I did with only a short bike ride on Saturday morning as a change of scenery.

I was in the van by 2am and asleep soon afterwards. Bob arrived back about 5am ish and I snoozed until about 7.30 when I got up. I was able to welcome in some later runners, briefly see Charles and Claire, have breakfast, congratulate Kat and Maria who had both had amazing runs and then have even more to eat.

Phil and Claire appeared along with Julian and Stephanie. Lots of chat and stories to swap before I headed out to take down flags and banners. It was just starting to rain but not heavily.

Part of the Oldies winning team

The prize giving seemed slightly shorter and less vibrant than sometimes but we had a good chat about the previous day and future plans.

I sold a few more mats and people started to drift away. Bob was back in the kitchen and I went in to help. A mega washing up session ensued… cups, plates, cutlery and worst of all those metal trays that had baked the sausages and bacon. By1pm I was wilting and we announced it was time for us to head home. There was some rain on the journey and I reflected on how lucky we had been with the weather. Next year is the 60th Fellsman and it will be my 10th so I guess I will have to enter.