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Northern Traverse 2016

February 9, 2018





This new event by Open Adventure came onto my radar around May 2015 and sparked some good interest on social media. It had been a walk id fancied doing for quite a while over the normal 7-9 days. 


 So when the entries came out I decided to enter in October before the price increase. The first webinar was in November and was more of a basic run over the route with possible locations for checkpoints and a few questions from the people online.




My training plan was to start the year with the Hardmoors 55 and 160 to test myself out along with some recce’s


The 55 went well, no fast time but no drama’s however the 160 was a different story, my wheels fell off between 50 and 70 miles due to bad stomach pains, sore throat and feeling ill so I pulled the plug to stop me getting any worse.


The month prior to the 160 attempt I decided to spend a few days on a recce of the lakes section of the NT from St Bees to Shap. This would be a slow pace with my large pack and camping gear. So I was dropped off at the start by the lovely wife Jane and pitched my tent at the campsite while Jane drove home.


The Recce


The morning started at around 7am, it was chucking it down, but in a brief spell of no rain I packed the tent up and set of now in the rain. It was a slow trudge in the rain and mud through the bogs to Ennerdale where the route became familiar to Black Sail hut. By now it was around 4pm and still chucking it down and cold so I decided to press onto Borrowdale via Honister slate mine. On passing the YHA I thought it would be a good place to camp as it was now 7pm and not much light left. So I enquired inside about a pitch. With the breaking strain of a KitKat on hearing I could have a dorm room for a few pounds more I went for that option along with a nice shower and warm food. So day 1 recce about 29 miles done.


The next day it was chucking it down again so a slow trudge up Stonethwaite valley up to Greenup edge. By now the clag was in (Clag being that good old RAF term for Cloud Low Aircraft Grounded, every day’s a school day) and visibility was down to about 100m I came across a Japanese older couple who then asked me if this was the path to Grasmere as they did not seem to be able to read their map. I confirmed it was and pressed on only to be shouted back a few minutes later when they asked was it far to the top. No wonder the mountain rescue is kept busy. So after reassuring them it was not far now, 400m to Greenup Edge I carried on.


Greenup edge was a bog but I cut wide and high and missed most of it. It was a bit boggier around the base and Birks gill and Mere beck but most was avoided. A nice steady walk down to Grasmere then back up via Great Tongue to Grisedale tarn and the easy walk down to Patterdale all still in the rain. Again, here I decided on the YHA option again. 16 miles done.

The next day was another 16 miles to Shap with the last part after Haweswater a part people said could be hard to follow across the fields.

So as usual I set off in the rain on the nice pull up to Boredale Hause and then on to Angle Tarn. It’s here it started to first sleet and become very windy blowing in fast from the side, so an extra layer put on and the mits and hat and I plodded on. The sleet became snow and the visibility dropped right down to 50m at times. At Kidsty pike the snow stopped and the visibility cleared some and the whole fells were white with snow. The trudge down to Haweswater was slow due to the snow and sleet on the ground and as I got lower the rain started again. The path along the reservoir was well know from the Lakeland 50 and 100 races. Once at Burnbanks the field section was quite easy to follow as more signs started appearing just the wet boggy fields to cross. Got to love that sticky mud in fields. The rain had now stopped for the final few miles to Shap with more fields and a few road sections. Finally made it to the New Ings Lodge in Shap run by a friend Scott Newburn who I met on my first Ultra, he would later provide a mini service point on the actual race. Excellent place to stop with great food and a Bar. But for me the Roaring fire, shower and warm bed were great. Big thanks Scott.


The next day was my return home via bus and train recce complete.


The Kit


The normal dilemma over kit were compounded by the fact we needed two drop bags one to go to CP 1 & 3 and the other to 2 & 4. So I needed two sets of spare everything in case.


But for my actual racing kit I decided not on my normal Salomon slab 12, but a Salomon 20L daysack I normally use for biking or short walks. This was to enable myself to carry a bit more kit if needed and extra food and water. I decided on 1.5L camelback for the extra capacity over my normal 2 x 500ml flasks. I also chose to carry my poles from the start as day 1 would be 46 miles with 4 big climbs along the way.

 For food and water I would use Mountain fuel drinks and my home made flapjack and crackers throughout and buy extra food when needed on route. These would be replenished out of my drop bags.


For shoes I started off in Scott Kinabalu Supertrec’s as I thought it was going to be boggy in places and slippery as per my recce (in fact it was almost bone dry) and put my New Balance Leadville’s in my drop bag 2. For sock I used injinji ones and had no real blisters on my toes.




The Race


We arrived at St bees on Sunday afternoon and set up the camper van and chilled out with an early night as kit check and registration was at 8am.


On the morning the weather was looking hot so I opted for the X Bionics shorts and top with plenty of body glide on the bits that might rub. At registration we got our bibs and hoody. Still don’t know why they are given out before and not after the race upon completion. The trackers were fastened to our pack but no actual kit checks carried out, big boy’s rules. I tagged my drop and finish bags up and placed them in the respective vans outside.  At 9:15am we had our final race brief that lasted all of 15 mins to go over a few pertinent points again, something about A19 crossing! A final check of my kit in the van tighten up my laces and then headed off to the start line. A nice group photo was taken with everyone and the 5 mins to go we all just chilled and milled around the start.


At 10am the starters horn went and we were off, a short 200m jog before the first hill and the majority of people started to walk. No point going off to fast as it’s a long way to go.


I decided to take it nice and easy trying to keep my heart rate below 130 for the first hour to get warmed up nicely which was quite easy as the field began to spread out.


A nice steady pace with a mix of walking up hills and inclines and jogging along some flats and downhills was the order of the day. As I’d recced this leg no maps or naving were required. 


The ground was bone dry and even the bogs from my recce were not there so I was now wondering if I had made the wrong starting shoe choice, probably yes. But no drama’s as everything was going good. The first climb was up Dent Hill 352m and I felt really good going up here no problems there. Then a nice path and road section to Ennerdale Bridge. By now it was very hot and I began to feel it so a stop at the café for a Lucozade sport was a bonus and a top up of water. From previous races and recce’s I know the path up by Ennerdale water can be slow and wet but this time it was dry again but kept it steady and walked a lot of it. The forest path to Black Sail YHA hut is well boring and a slog of around 4 miles and a hot 4 miles they were. Most people were glad the hut was open so we could refill up with water from the kitchen there before heading back up the next climb up loft beck and across to Honister slate mine. I definitely felt slow going up here but picked up down to the slate mines. I decided not to go to the café there think it might have helped out if I had, but I pressed on down to Borrowdale and onto Rosthwaite. The next hill came up fast and was the long pull up to Greenup edge. I think by now the heat was hitting me as I felt drained like someone had flicked the off switch on my legs, seemed to be going really slow even though I was drinking and eating and just done around 33 miles. So I struggled up to Greenup edge and again found the bogs had all but vanished. I dropped over the top and headed down to the next boggy section which as you might guess was again not boggy.