Skyrunning UK: 3×3000 Ultra Trail Recce

On Friday 5th September I set sail for Scotland, with my ultimate destination Keswick in the Lake District. The purpose of the trip was to join High Terrain Events for a two day recce of the 3×3000 race route. Having never been in the Lake District before, I figured this might just be a good idea! I don’t want to learn it at 5am in the dark on race morning!

The race is a rework of the classic ‘Lakes 3000s’ route for the Skyrunner National Series, which is also in its first year. The route covers 80Km and a mean 4000m of ascent. It’s mostly marked, but that means nothing in the clag and high mountains. The route starts (5am) and finishes at Crow Park, Keswick, and undulates along the hills to the east of Derwentwater, before it winds it was up the Borrowdale Valley to the first summit – Scafell Pike. The tallest mountain in England at 978m. That’s checkpoint one! The route then heads off towards Wythburn on the southern banks of Thirlmere, via Angle Tarn and High Raise. At approximately half way, the route ascends the Helvellyn range, were we have a checkpoint on the Helvellyn summit and another at the end of the range on Clough Head. A sharp fell descent from Clough Head and a short trail run across to the checkpoint at Latrigg brings us to the last of the 3000s, Skiddaw. The route here is an anti-clockwise summit loop by Dash Falls, then a steep final fast descent from the summit trig point back to Latrigg. The last section is an easy 5Km back to the finish at Crow Park.
Click here to view the Route Map

Marking out the course!

The Recce
The plan was to run from Derwent Water Hostel (a few Km from Crow Park) to Wythburn on day 1, and Wythburn to the finish on day 2. To my surprise this was limited to 15 runners, although we had 18 on day 1, and a dwindling number on day 2 – I think 8 people completed day 2.

On the Friday night I shared a dorm with two other chaps with similar masochistic running tendencies to me, James and Matthew. James, a 25 time Ironman triathlete, and also a fellow Irish man now living in England, and Matthew, a softly spoken southerner. Good start – I don’t think either of these guys will snore!

On Saturday morning the High Terrain gang arrived and the larger than life Simon trailed out half a dozen suitcases with free gear to try. More Salomon shoes and jackets than I’ve ever seen, and a good dozen Leki poles. I thought to myself – I’ll maybe try some poles tomorrow!

Free kit!

Free kit!

We geared up and set off around 10am, and made our way towards Seathwaite and the climb up to Sty Head, followed by the Corridor route to Scafell Pike.

The gang!

The gang!

The group ran well as we all got to know each other. There was runners of all levels, so the running was easy. The group spread out from Seathwaite to Sty Head, where we regrouped before taking the Corridor route to Scafell Pike. I took a bearing from here, as a well known race-winning fell runner took a wrong turn at this point in the clag of another race *cough* Ricky Lightfoot! The bearing was 150. The next regroup was at the summit. The wait was long as the slower runners took a long time to complete the climb, and by this stage most of us were cold.

Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike

Next stop Angle Tarn.

Angle Tarn

Angle Tarn to High Raise

A group of us got the OK to run on as Scott had the route on his Suunto, and he had also recce’d the route a few week prior. So we set off, Scott, Matthew, James, Andy, and a few Scottish guys, David and Bob.

Regrouping

Regrouping

The next section was out to High Raise (762m). We then descended through ‘the (toxic!) bog’ of the Wythburn valley to meet Simon, who should be waiting with open arms and mugs of tea. No never happened. Instead he treated us to a Ford Transit van rally back to the Keswick. Jesus! This may have scared the Scottish guys off, as they didn’t come back on the Sunday!

Bog trotting

Bog trotting

Back to the hostel. Wash, eat, sleep, repeat.

We woke early on Sunday, gathered our gear (and theirs), and assembled at the rally bus for the drive to Wythburn. The initial climb was steep straight out of blocks, but once up there the running was magnificent. The full Helvellyn range was a treat to run on, and I cannot wait to run here on race day!

Helvellyn Heaven

Helvellyn Heaven

Again the group split, all with the mind set that Scott knew where he was going! It was also quite handy that he ran well and had no trouble leading the field. In truth the only runner capable of sticking with Scott was the softly spoken southerner – yer man Matthew. I was bringing up 3rd with James usually falling on sharp rocks closely behind me. We were well paced. Luke was close by too.

The lead pack!!

The lead pack!!

We regrouped at Clough Head were we met our resident rally driver Simon before a nice steep grass descent to a short road section. A quick refuel and off we set for Skiddaw. We lost another few runners at this point. The hardened group was emerging!

The most scenic descent from Clough Head wasn't on offer!

The most scenic descent from Clough Head wasn’t on offer!

The run to Skiddaw was along parkland trails following a river and old railway line. This was a nice run, and a good opportunity to stretch our legs and stride out! 7-8 minute miles ensued until we started the climb to Latrigg. At this point Ian (the boss) said we could run on and meet back at Latrigg, as it was an anti-clockwise loop of Skiddaw. So we ran.

I started last after a pit-stop, so Scott was out of sight. I caught the group and continued, Matthew then came by me and I had to tell him ‘will you not go and catch Scott, you’re too fast to be running at this pace’. He obliged, and within 10 minutes I could see their t shirt colours side by side. I was just keeping them in sight, and then I took a wrong turn at Sales How, the location of the highest Hostel in England. I had nobody to follow you see! Luke caught up and guessed the right direction. We ran together from here to the start of the Skiddaw climb. I stopped for water and he ran on, not to be caught again until I neared the summit. All the while James just within sight.

Great views from Skiddaw

Great views from Skiddaw

Skiddaw. Oh what a nice descent. We set off together, although James and Luke were a bit more reserved on this descent. I on the other hand love a good flat-out run down a mountain. So that’s what I did. I passed Simon and Scott’s wife on the way up as I descended, and soon reached the bottom. That was fun.

Skiddaw selfie

Skiddaw selfie

That was the running over. Now was the time for tea and sunshine was we bathed for a good 30-40 minutes as the group reformed. Oh no. Simon’s driving us back!

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