> 2012 race reports
27-28/10/12 The OMM - from Frank Shillitoe

Have passed the Howgills many times on the M6 but never stopped to visit them, so was excited about the prospect of a two days running in a new area. Preparation included studying the OS map, Google Earth, and re-reading the account of Will’s exploits earlier in the year. When we finally got hold of the race map on Day 1 I was surprised that it was split into two halves with the Howgills on the West and Wild Boar Fell / Baugh Fell on the East; two very contrasting areas and a very big area overall. The Howgills are made up of many steep sided valleys with rounded hills on the top; with Wild Boar Fell / Baugh Fell being smoother and fairly featureless.

The weather forecast was not good and there was snow on the ground when Paul Gaines and I set off from Hexham on Friday night. Sedbergh was proper parky when we arrived, but was glad to get some nourishment from Wilf’s, to top up on a mega bowl of pasta I’d had before leaving home.

We got a good nights kip in Paul’s campervan, and Saturday morning was soon upon us. The weather looked good. Cold but sunny. We had entered the Long Score course, and as soon as we got hold of the map we hunkered down behind a stone wall, and got out are most critical piece of equipment - a piece of string. This string has stood us well on previous score courses and is approximately the length of the Borrowdale fell race. We snaked it around various controls on the map between start and finish to try and find an optimum route and bag as many points as possible. Once we had our route planned we set off. Day 1 involved a lot of steep up and down as well as a fair amount of contouring. Sore on the feet and calves. We moved reasonably swiftly and were hitting all the controls first time. There was one rough patch in the middle where we were without water for a bit longer than was ideal so suffered a bit from dehydration. We got to the finish with ten minutes to spare from the allotted seven hours time limit.

We soon got the tent up and got some pot noodles inside us, the empty pots then being reused for other meals and drinks. Tucked up in our sleeping bags by six o’clock there was little else to do but attempt to get some sleep. I was pretty cold so had all my clothes on including waterproof top and hat and gloves. I woke up at eleven o’clock uncomfortable and cold, and was wishing morning would come around soon. The OMM is unfortunately timed for the weekend when the clocks go back an hour, not something many on that camp site would appreciate. Memories of the uncomfortableness of the previous year came back and I vowed to bring some more clothes next year.

When morning did arrive we had a strong brew of coffee and some porridge and were ready for Day 2. When we got hold of the map there were two big choices;head east and up onto Wild Boar Fell and then south to Baugh Fell or go back into the Howgills to the west. There seemed to be more opportunity to get a higher score by heading east and we didn’t fancy another punishing day of steep ascents in the Howgills. The downside was there was a long run back from the finish due to having to skirt a large out of bounds area in the valley bottom. The clag was down, and this became our undoing as we struggled to find the first control. This was a sheepfold near a stream. The stream should have been obvious and we were planning to use it as an attack point but couldn’t find it. We flapped around in the mist for longer than we should and fortunately did eventually come across it. We were 50 minutes in, and only had 10 points to show for it; not a good start. Fortunately we recovered quickly and pushed on. It was cold and wet but we felt strong. There was another slightly tricky control on Baugh fell; a shallow re-entrant that was difficult to find in the mist with little other features around. With two hours to go we were concerned that we were quite far from the finish back in Sedbergh so started to push hard. The route involved a long horseshoe detour around an out of bounds area. With an hour to go we had to push around the tops of intake field walls along the south-east of the Howgills. Fortunately there was quite a trod but it was hard going up and down. Paul took my bag (like last year) as I was starting to flagging. My stop watch beeped at six hours when we were about a mile uphill from the finish. We pegged it down the fields knowing every minute was costing us penalty points and collapsed at the finish. Warm soup was at hand by I was starting to shiver as we waited for the bus back to the event centre. Paul gave me his down jacket which helped. There were showers at the event centre but they were tepid by the time I got into them. Once I got some dry clothes on and sat in the canteen for ten minutes things improved.

We were pleased to have come eleventh overall. It had been a tough two days and there was quite a large dropout rate. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped to put on another superb event. We’ll definitely be back for another dose next year.

Frank Shillitoe

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