> 2010 race reports
10/07/10 Wasdale - from John Duff

Whilst the rest of England was enjoying a heatwave, it was a different story in West Cumbria on Saturday.  Low cloud, high winds, and rain greeted the runners at the Wasdale Fell Race.  Despite the conditions, a large field had assembled which led to the start being delayed by 20 minutes while everyone registered. 

The grim weather meant that most of the field set off attired in thermals and waterproofs.  On the first climb up Illgill Head, we were soon into the cloud but fortunately there were enough folk about that it was a case of ‘follow the leader’ through the bracken.  After a run along the top of The Screes to the first checkpoint at Whin Rigg, there was a slippy steep descent back down to the valley.

The run across the valley to Greendale was surprisingly warm and most of the field started to shed their layers.  These were soon put back on as we climbed to Seatallan (checkpoint 2) and left the shelter of the valley.  Crossing Greendale Beck was a bit iffy, as the past 24 hours of rain had caused it to rise significantly.  Here I was passed by Will Horsley who had been delayed by an exciting but unintended descent down a ravine off Whin Rigg.

There was a bit of a trod up Seatallan which meant that the top was easily located.  But there the easy navigation ended abruptly.  The intended destination was the col between Scoat Fell and Red Pike – but runners ended up all over the place in the thick mist and zero visibility.  Gary Jones ran past me at one point, having spent an engaging 20 minutes circling Seatallan.  I eventually reached ‘the col’, only to discover I had veered towards Red Pike.  I set off down the path to the col and was met by a lady from Dark Peak (Nicky Spinks I think) coming the other way.  After a brief conflab, we decided I was heading in the right direction.  Fortunately I was, and she knew the traverse under Black Crag.  So we arrived at Pillar (checkpoint 3) without further ado.

Descending Pillar, I caught up with Rachel Vincent (Tynedale) and Stewart Barrie (HBT) and we kept each other company on the traverse under Kirk Fell and the climb up Great Gable (checkpoint 4).  Unbeknown to us, we were perilously close to missing the official cut-off at Gable.  But in the event the organisers had sensibly relaxed the cut-offs; if they hadn’t about half the field would have been timed out.

Coming off Gable, we picked up a good scree descent and Stewart Barrie shot off into the distance followed by Richard Clarke (Esk Valley).  On the climb from Styhead to Esk Hause (checkpoint 5), the cloud briefly cleared to allow views of Great End and Sprinkling Tarn.  But as we headed on to Scafell Pike the wind, rain and clag returned with a vengeance, leading to a miserable and treacherous plod over the rocks to England’s roof-top (checkpoint 6). 

Here I started to flag.  But Rachel Vincent pointed out that the group ahead contained Wendy Dodds, were bound to know the best descent line, and so it was ‘worth the pain’ to keep up with them.  She was right.  They took a perfect line off Scafell Pike down to Lingmell Col before contouring round to the steep descent down Lingmell Nose.  It was with considerable relief that we came out of the cloud and saw the finish 1,500 feet below us.  All that remained was a final greasy stile crossing at the last checkpoint, and a run in to the finish at Brackenclose. 

I crossed the line in 6 hours 3 mins.  Rachel Vincent was not far behind, and to my surprise Stewart Barrie also came in just after: he had gone for a wander on Lingmell.  He wasn’t alone: there was numerous tales of folks getting lost in the mist, missing checkpoints, overtaking the same runners again and again etc.

Scott Gibson was first home for NFR in 21st place in 5 hours 15 minutes.  He was followed in by Aengus McCullough, Gary Jones, and Will Horsley.  Paul Hainsworth brought NFR home after taking the scenic route off Scafell Pike.  But in the conditions, it was an achievement simply to finish the race.  At 21 miles with 9,000 ft of climbing, the Wasdale is arguably the toughest race in the calendar.  When virtually the whole race is run over slippery rocky ground in thick mist, it becomes doubly difficult.  There were dozens of drop-outs (including Graham Bingham from NFR).  Ben Abdelnoor (Ambleside) fared the best, winning the race in 4 hours 30 minutes.  Jane Reedy (Ambleside) was first lady.

Now that the rigours of the race have passed, it’s possible to look back and say “I was there”.  And after a couple of glasses of refreshing ale, I’m sure I’ll be reliving every minute of the race with delight (possibly).  Many thanks to the organisers CFRA, all the marshals who stood on the hill in awful conditions, and the ladies at the finish who supplied tea and sandwiches which have never tasted so good.

John Duff

results (CFRA website)

> top