> Will & Gaz’s Cheviot 2000’ers round - Will Horsley

Will & Gaz’s Cheviot 2000’ers round, Saturday 13th August 2011

I had been thinking about this round for some time and when I checked my diary a few weeks ago I decided that doing it on Saturday 13th August would be a good option and form part 1 of a Northumberland weekend for me. Unfortunately part 2 of said weekend, the Forest Burn fell race, was cancelled a couple of days before but by then it was too late as I had made firm arrangements with my partner in crime, Gary Jones. The round consists of all six of the ‘proper’ 2000+ foot summits in the Cheviots (coincidentally, they are also the only ‘Hewitts’ in the area) and is an established challenge route on the LDWA Northumberland branch website. It is also very similar to the Cheviots 2000 race route with which Gary and I (and Scott Gibson) have some unfinished business from 2009. After studying the route extensively on my PC mapping software I decided that a clockwise round starting with Hedgehope would be best. This would remove all the tough stuff by half way, leaving only Windy Gyle and the Cheviot, predominantly via the paving slabs of the Pennine Way, for the second half when bodies are tired. It also meant we could finish with a very runnable and long descent from the Cheviot summit. I consulted Gary on this to which the reply was indifferent as he just wanted to run and was leaving all navigation to me. That would normally be a very silly option (leaving navigation to me) except, as this was not a fell race, I was able to divest all my navigation to my GPS device. So sure was I of this device that we did not even carry a paper map back-up. I picked Gary up at 8:30am and we sped northwards under grey clouds to the Harthope valley. We arrived at about 9:20am and after a swift kit change we were ready to go for 9:30am. We had both opted to travel very light for this partly because we had in our minds to complete the round in under four hours. I wish I had never mentioned this potential mark to Gary as he had become completely focused on this time. The route I had drawn up was about 22.5 miles with 5650 feet of ascent. We left the Harthope burn in sunshine but by the time we had got to the top of Hedgehope it was dark and misty. We descended swiftly to Comb Fell but were slowed down by the worst bogs of the day. We took some comfort from them not being as bad as we had thought they would be. The next section was a long tough one from Comb Fell to Cushat Law and the one which had given me the most trouble on route choice. In the end I feel we got it right as we reached Cushat Law in under an hour and again found the going easier than we had expected. Time was still on our side and we were brimming with confidence. Bloodybush Edge from Cushat Law was a bit of a drag but the bogs not too bad. Coming off was good fun and Gary was getting excited descending swiftly through soft cushioned grass. The drag from Uswayford to Windy Gyle saw things go a bit wrong for me. First my hamstrings began to tighten (not enough fell running recently and too much sitting on my arse and cycling) and I was heading towards an energy crash. Gary did a great job coaxing me to the summit of Windy Gyle and we had exactly 70 minutes over the easiest terrain to finish the round in under four hours. I perked up and we ticked off the first few K at a good pace but my energy crash hit hard when we started to ascend the Cheviot properly. Gary bravely hung on and tried to motivate me up Cairn Hill but eventually I conceded defeat. I gave Gary my watch, as he was travelling so light he didn’t have one, and with my blessing and some route tips sent him off to beat the 4 hour limit. I would be able to extract my times from my GPS later. For me, I was able to drag myself to the summit, which I later found was only 4 minutes behind Gary, but I could only manage a stumble down the Cheviot itself and it took me 30 minutes to get off the mountain. I took comfort from seeing Gary’s foot prints go off in the right direction. The prints were spaced far apart and lightly indented so I guessed he must have been going at a fast pace, unlike my shuffle-splodge technique. I finished in 4h22m42s, happy to have finished in what I still think is a decent time. I was gutted when Gary told me he was just over four hours in 4h02m42s and was cursing myself for not having let him go sooner. We both had had a brilliant day out and we also know that sub-four hours is within our reach. The weather was kind and we did not experience any rain, just a couple of drizzly spells, although recent rainfall had made for hard going in some places especially Comb Fell. We saw hardly anyone else until we reached the Cheviot. We will be back for another go!

Footnote: Gary descended from Cheviot Summit to the Hawsen Burn bridge (the one at which the Cheviot Summit race starts and the one which we used as our start/finish point) in under 19 minutes, which is probably a similar pace to the front runners at the Cheviot Summit race except that this was after 20 very hard miles. When I was stumbling down the Cheviot I came across some shell-shocked hikers who probably couldn’t believe what they had recently seen. Gary had also done Chevy Chase, Wasdale, Kentmere and Borrowdale in the preceding weeks as well as his usual blend of hard core training and partying. If I hadn’t slowed him down from the bottom of Windy Gyle, when our paces began to diverge, I reckon he would have done something like 3h45m, but then if I hadn’t been there to navigate and rein-in his enthusiasm at the start he probably would have gone wrong on the top of Hedgehope! Cheers Gaz!

Will & Gary's times (pdf) | email Will for map of route taken

Will Horsley

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