Saunders Mountain Marathon 2013: a report from Frank Shillitoe

Saunders Mountain Marathon 2013

This years event was in the far south-west Lakes: Dunnerdale to the east, Eskdale to the north, and the start/finish below Black Combe. Four NFRs lined up in the solo Klets class: Andrew Burton, Andrew Higgins, Ben Rowley and myself. With this course you must visit every control but can decide on the order, which makes it interesting tactically. At the start of each day you get your control descriptions and grid references and have to mark them up on the map. At the start of Day 1, I took about 20 mins doing this and deciding on my route choice, before heading up Whitecombe Beck. My plan was to go slow and steady over the two days. The straight-line distances (and heights) for the optimum route between the controls were 33.6km (1260m) for Day 1 and 25.7km (1005m) for Day 2. This was my first solo MM and I wanted to concentrate on good navigation and not getting exhausted in the sweltering heat.

This seemed to be a less visited part of the Lakes, with few footpaths. The majority of the running was on the open fell and there were few line features to follow. However, the sunny and clear weather meant the navigation was fairly straightforward. My only mistake on Day 1 was coming down a wrong stream off Harter Fell, and probably lost about 10-15 mins. Despite the hot weather I managed successfully to stave of cramp with about 6 Nuun tablets and 4 litres of water. Andrew Higgins was first in for NFR on Day 1 in 6:23 in 12th position. Ben Rowley was 17th in 6:45, I was 18th, and Andrew Burton 19th with only two minutes separating us. It was game on for Day 2.

The overnight camp below Corney Fell was fantastic for a number of reasons: 1) The setting with the view out to the sea was stunning; 2) We could sit outside in shorts and T-shirts – not too cold and no midges, 3) There was beer, 4) I had a two man tent and I was the only one in it – plenty of room, comfortable, and plenty of sleep, 5) Oh, and did I mention it, no midges.

Day 2 came around and after my usual faffing, I managed to start just before the start was officially closed. I made a fairly big nav error on the second control, a small summit off Yoadcastle but got back into the swing of things after that. I was running fairly well until the heathery hell on the west side of Black Combe. It took about 45 minutes to travel two kilometers contouring through knee high heather – not recommended. I was starting to flag towards the end of the day, with energy levels dropping. There was a cruel descent through the gorse of White Hall Knott to the finish. Despite a poor performance on Day 2 I was relatively pleased with the overall time of 12:36 (20th position). Andrew Higgins was very unlucky. He incorrectly marked a control on the map. He read a grid reference of 160886 (stream junction) as 160866 which coincidentally also had a stream junction in it.  Andrew Burton was second in for NFR 12:05 (14th position) and Ben Rowley had a very good Day 1 with a time of 11:50 putting him in 12th overall position. The winner was Edward Catmur in 9:13.

So all in all another cracking two days in the hills. Thanks to the organisers and I can’t wait for next year’s event.

Frank Shillitoe

Saunders Mountain Marathon website

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