Off Course Phalarope

Off Course Phalarope

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mr and Mrs 3rd May 2014

At 3pm on 3rd May 2014 Andrew and I tied the knot in St Peters Church Addingham. It was a beautiful sunny day and one we'll remember forever.

We had a fancy dress wedding day fell race in the morning 'Fells & Bells'. Many of our friends came along and most dressed up:

The lasses ran clockwise and the lads ran anti clockwise, and Andrew and I met at the Beacon half way round...

....before continuing on our separate ways and joining again to run in together at the finish:

The race was followed by beers and a pork pie and cheese wedding cake feast in the church hall.

It was a huge amount of fun and the beer and feast went down a treat!
Our Friends Martyn and Helen provided luxury camper van transport for us and Martyn chaufered my Dad and I to the church. Every detail was attended to and I arrived at the church feeling relaxed and ready for the big moment.

When I arrived at the church door with Dad, Jill our Rector was waiting to greet us and lead us down the aisle. I felt quite humbled and very special as I glided down the aisle to Andrew.

 After exchanging vows and rings we lit our wedding candle:

The wedding service was followed by tea and cake in the church hall. Andrew and I snuck off for a quiet moment and some photographs:

But this was not the end of the day!

The evening do was a quieter affair; a meal and poetry with family and a few friends. Delicious food, great company, and much merriment!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2013 Corney Fell

For the weekend of the 6th and 7th July, Sam (my youngest son) and I headed to the Lake District for the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon.  It was only four weeks since I completed my BG and Sam had been busy with his GCSE finals, so we weren’t expecting to break any records!

We’d entered the Carrock Fell course which was one level up from our previous efforts and would give us a slightly longer and more challenging route.  I had mixed feelings about this as my feet had been very blistered and bruised in the BG and hadn’t had much time to recover!

We arrived late on the Friday evening, pitched our tent in the late arrivals camping field, and settled down for the night.  It was warm and the air was full of midges so we made use of the midge screens built into our snugpack sleeping bags – these had not previously been put to the test and although a little claustrophobic worked a treat, which is great as they were purchased primarily for bivvying where midges and other critters could be a problem!
On Saturday morning we awoke to a glorious sunny day and wasted no time applying the sun cream.  We didn’t know the competition area at all so we had to carry more water than normal in case we couldn’t dip en route.  This added to the weight we had to carry but couldn’t be helped.

Day one saw us climb out of the valley then follow a long and undulating route through the fells.  The navigation was relatively straightforward as the landscape didn’t lend itself to interesting route choices, which was a bit disappointing as it’s the navigational challenge we enjoy most. The ground was generally covered with rough long grass and proved heavy going for me. There was also a lot of contouring which caused some blisters on our feet and forced us to choose long routes in an effort to limit the damage.

We arrived at the overnight camp early in the afternoon.  The location was stunning with views of the coast and western fells.  After a wash in the stream and plenty of rehydration, Sam and I spent most of the afternoon and evening snoozing in the sun, before retreating into the tent when the midges started to appear.  It was a blissful restful way to spend the afternoon! We slept pretty well despite the long afternoon snooze.  I could have slept for half of the next morning too!

Day two brought similar terrain to leg one with lots more grass and contouring.  There was a line of runners to all of the controls which made for a race type scenario and little to be gained from good navigational skills.  However, the scenery was stunning and the weather hot so it still made for a great day on the fells.  I twisted my ankle on the run to the final control and had a temporary moment of horror when I couldn’t bear weight on my foot….thankfully the pain passed quickly and we were soon running again.  It was a brutal descent to the finish over a gorse covered slope which Sam attacked in impressive style.

At the finish the post race dinner was the best ever and the dip in the stream was lovely.  We also enjoyed the post race banter and met a fellow fell runner who has attended Sam’s school in Devon and knows some of his teachers and rugby team mates; a small world it is!

Monday, 29 July 2013

THE BOB GRAHAM ROUND - General Round up, thank you's and a nod to rice pudding

Well it’s taken me a while to get round to writing this last part of my BG report, but better late than never!  Now that I’ve had time to reflect and the reality of a successful round has properly sunk in, I know more than ever that l had a very special experience and one I’ll never forget.
A note to Camille and her Mum who have so far escaped a mention….Camille provided my road support at Honister and brought her Mum along for the ride.  I was so tired and focused by then I cannot recall seeing her there.  What I do remember seeing is all of the crew eating and drinking (and of course I also enjoyed another tub of rice pudding and a hot cup of tea myself).  Thanks Camille; it was never certain I would make it as far as Honister and you did a great job and it was lovely to see you at the Moot Hall at the end.

Camille in pink ready and waiting, scanning the horizon for signs of life!
Whilst I’m on the subject of rice pudding……a nod to Ambrosia:
Ambrosia at Dunmail Raise

At Wasdale

At Honister Pass
And a little later at the Moot Hall
Stef the tramp, wrapped in a blanket eating a different kind of Ambrosia….the best chips I’ve ever tasted!!  Camille’s Mum is also enjoying hers in the background J

 There is a story attached to that blanket which raised a smile or two at the time.  I had sat down on the Moot Hall steps and was feeling a little chilly when a friendly festival goer who had been chatting with us by the green door came over and handed me the blanket he’d been wearing.  It was highly scented with beer but was lovely and warm and I don’t mind the smell of beer so I was very pleased with it!  I noticed a few passers by looking at me in a concerned way but hadn’t really taken much notice until someone in my crew mentioned jovially that I looked like a ‘bag lady’; this amused me greatly!  Not long after, a middle aged man passed by, paused, then started rooting in his pockets looking for something…..then he spotted the fell shoes sticking out of the bottom of my blanket and empty celebratory champagne bottle by my feet, did a double take…then rapidly walked away.  This was greeted with peals of laughter…Stef the tramp missed out on some pennies for a cup of tea!!!!!

It seems an awful long time ago since I took the decision to train for and attempt the Bob Graham Round.  Through my experiences I’ve met a great number of wonderful people and gained a whole new family of friends.  I’ve explored the Lakeland Fells and got to know some lovely parts of the Yorkshire Dales.  I’ve learned how to run on the fells and negotiate rocky and steep ground.  I’ve also begun to understand how to fuel my muscles and keep myself hydrated.  There is still so much to learn and so many places to explore.  I hope my BG becomes only a small part of a long and happy relationship with the fells and all those who share my enjoyment of them.

There have been a few notable experiences in the run up to my BG that stand out in my memory, two of these being key to my BG chances:

The Scafell ascent.  Our friend Paul Atkinson met Andrew and I at Wasdale with a rope for me to attempt the climb up Broad Stand to see whether it was an option for my round as the quickest route up Scafell.  We had a look at the section above the rope climb from above, at which point I realised this was too exposed for my nerves so the rope went unused.  Next we looked at the drop to the Lords Rake approach and started the descent, but Andrew didn’t fancy it and refused to join us so I lost my nerve for that, and had to climb back up with knees wobbling.  Paul said I shot up there ‘like a rat up a drain pipe’! This left the Foxes Tarn route, however, this involves a scree covered descent to the approach to the tarn which I’d tried previously and found very difficult.  Paul didn’t seem phased at all by mine and Andrews cowardice and lack of climbing/scrambling nerves; he took it all in his stride and gave me a crash course on tackling scree.  By following Paul down the scree I found it wasn’t as bad as it had previously seemed.  This totally de-bugged the scree for me not just in this location but generally, and was a key turning point in my training.

The Blencathra descent.  In the early days I knew that the descent off Blencathra was a problem for me because it’s a huge descent and feels very exposed following either of a choice of two ridges from the summit (Doddick Fell or Halls Fell).  I’d heard of a new route that had been devised by a fellow fell runner Yiannis which follows a deep gully rather than a ridge and had been nicknamed as the parachute (because it’s very steep and seems as though you need a parachute to tackle it!).  Andrew and I met with some new friends to check out leg one and the parachute route and had a great day out.  When it came to the descent it was a knee shaking experience and took far too long to complete.  We arrived at the foot and I announced that I needed to go back up and try another route.  This was met by astonishment by our friends and a number of refusals to join me (not surprisingly!).  Auld Ken came to my aid and agreed to take me up and back down the Halls Fell route.  When we came to the rock climb at the top I baulked and Ken had to school me up a grassy traverse to the side as my knees were again quaking.  There was no way I was going back down that route; down is always worse than up for me!  Even the parachute hadn’t felt that bad!  We descended the Doddick route which is a longer option and was even slower for me.  This was a big problem and made me doubt whether a BG could be possible at all.  Some time after we’d met Paul (above) and sorted out the Scafell ascent, we arranged to meet Yiannis to have another attempt at the parachute with the expert.  Yiannis had fine tuned the route and took us and some friends on another reccie of leg one.  For the Blencathra descent Andrew took our friends down the Doddick Fell ridge route leaving Yiannis and I to tackle the parachute together.  I stuck to Yiannis’ heels like glue and shot down in no time at all.  We were sat by the car with our shoes and socks off sunning ourselves when the others appeared! So that was the end of my Blencathra troubles and a BG was looking increasingly possible! 

There is so much more I could say, but enough is enough!  Now is the time to call my rambling on to a close and say thank you.  Please feel free to share your memories and highlights in the comments if you have any special moments to add to my memory bank here on my blog.

 My thanks go to all of my support team; those that joined me on the fell and those that came out to support me and the runners at the road stops en route.  Your company made my round special and your assistance was vital to my success.  Thank you all so very much.  Also I’d like to thank everyone who joined me on my two failed attempts two years ago and also everyone who has joined Andrew and I out on the fell on the many reccies and long training days out we enjoyed.  There are too many of you to mention by name.  Last but by no means least my thanks go to Andrew for being there and sharing the sorrows and joys of the whole BG experience from start to end.

Monday, 17 June 2013


Leg 5

 Support crew: Ian Roberts navigator, Andrew Kitts, Martyn Price

Leg five starts at Honister Pass and climbs Dale Head, followed by Hindscarth and Robinson, and then descends into the Newlands Valley with a road or off road option for the return to Keswick.  I took the road option.  Its about 11 miles, 2500 feet ascent.

It had been very hot on leg 4 and although Brian had stashed 5 bottles of water for us to pick up en route, the team (except me as I’d been well looked after) were thirsty on arrival at Honister.  I’d provided a 2 litre bottle of water for Martyn to use to fill up his camelback; I heard later he picked it up and drank it!  Following another lovely face and neck wash from Livi, a pot of rice pudding and mug of tea I was ready to set off again. 

As Martyn and Ian led us out of the Honister Slate Mine car park, Andrew took my hand; and they say romance is dead!

The climb up Dale Head was much more comfortable than the descent from Grey Knotts had been.  There was a chap who’d set up camp near the summit of Dale Head; it would have been a glorious night for him in a fabulous spot.  The views were packed with Lakeland peaks and it was still hot.  My long sleeved top didn’t stay on for long!  My team were all commenting on the breathtaking views; none of them had seen leg five in such perfect conditions.

It wasn’t long before I’d climbed and descended Hindscarth and reached Robinson, my 42nd and final peak.  By this time I was really uncomfortable and refusing most offers of food and some of water.  However, I kept on and was completely focused on staying upright and moving.
As I reached the bottom of Robinson I saw a really peculiar sight; it appeared to be a white double decker bus.  It created some amusement amongst my friends when I asked what it was!  It turned out to be a trio of sheep innocently making their way up the valley!

I was too stiff and achy to tolerate carrying a head torch so I ran the whole of the road section by following Andrew and Ian, with Martyn at my side.  I couldn’t see the road surface but I didn’t really need to.  It felt like it went on forever and was far more hilly than I remembered!  I had to take a momentary pause when the blister on my left little toe expanded and ripped the nail out at the bed.  Just for a second I thought I couldn’t carry on, but I pulled myself together, put the pain away and carried on.

The final run through the streets of Keswick was magical.  It was dark but warm and there was a party atmosphere in the town.  I ran up through the market place to cheers and clapping; a welcome fit for a celebrity. 
The final sprint

Phew…there at last and I’m still smiling!
Triumphant on the Moot Hall steps


Honister Pass                      20:29
Dalehead                             21:07
Hindscarth                          21:27
Robinson                             21:54
Keswick Moot Hall             23:35

Sunday, 16 June 2013


Leg 4
Support crew: Martyn Price navigator, Geoff Clarke, Dave Swift, Brian Stallwood

Leg four starts at Wasdale Head and climbs Yewbarrow, Red Pike, Steeple, Pillar, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Brandreth, Grey Knotts and descends to Honister Pass.  It’s about 11 miles, 6000 feet ascent.

You cannot imagine the bliss I felt as Livi offered up a lovely cold wet face mitt and bathed my now very salty face and neck whilst I sat in the deckchair in the shade of the trees in the Wasdale National Trust car park!  This was followed by Andrew with a generous lathering in sun cream.  I felt like a new woman!  I spooned down my rice pudding, drank a lovely hot mug of sweet tea and was on my way again.

The climb up Yewbarrow is a long haul and I remember being very pleased to see the cairn at the summit.  The descent off Yewbarrow and the following climb up to Red Pike is also a slog; the descent is a traverse around the back of the mountain and isn’t very runnable.  However, this section passed relatively quickly and with a new support team with fresh banter and Martyn leading the way it didn’t seem as bad as I’d expected.

The little out and back to Steeple was a special moment for me.  I used to have a severe fear of heights and had great difficulty descending because I was afraid of falling.  My knees would shake making me feel unstable and increasing the risk of me realising my fear! The first time I saw Steeple on an early BG recce it filled me with horror.  However, following a hearing about a friend of a friend who cured her fear with hypnotherapy I decided to give it a try….this from a girl who had no belief in anything of the kind!  After a single half hour session of Hypnotherapy my fear was cured.  This session was focussed on the concept and psychology of climbing tall steep ladders (which I have to do for my work) and on my fear of high peaks, specifically Steeple.  So, as I climbed Steeple, I remembered my fear, the therapy, and had a brief moment of victory as I touched her summit and turned to look at the view!  It was a moment I enjoyed very much!

Leg 4 is my favourite part of the round.  The peaks are beautifully defined, steep and rocky, and there is a huge amount of pleasure to be gained from visiting them.  This day was particularly notable on account of the heat, clear views and great company.  Martyn led the way and, like Geoff Andrew and Yiannis before him, was finding all of the best lines.  Brian had brought his Collie Harry along (aka Haz or Hazzer) which added to the entertainment for me.

 It’s not meant to be pretty but its fun ha ha!  Traversing from Steeple to Pillar.

Geoff who continued with me from leg 3, Dave (Dave who’d already been up most of the night to run with me on leg 2), Brian and Martyn continued to keep me fed and watered; although I was beginning to rebel a little….boiled potatoes were definitely not to be tolerated any more and the feeling of sickness was not to be leave me!  Martyn produced some Kendal mint cake which proved very tasty and palatable.

I was becoming increasingly stiff and the blisters on my feet were becoming more difficult to ignore.  I’d slowed down and was losing time, but not enough to be a problem.  My spirits were still high although I was becoming more careful as I felt vulnerable to falling in my sore and stiff state and was tripping a little.  It was with much relief that I finished the descent from Grey Knotts down to Honister Pass to a hearty cheer from my support team and friends who’d come out to see me in.

Martyn & Brian at Wasdale
Ian, Ken, Andrew and Geoff looking a bit serious……I think I was refusing to eat boiled potatoes on leg 5….it went something like ‘I’m not eating any boiled potatoes’!!!!


Wasdale Head                    14:57
Yewbarrow                          15:48
Red Pike                               16:42
Steeple                                 17:03
Pillar                                     17:37
Kirk Fell                               18:36
Great Gable                       19:21
Green Gable                      19:39
Brandreth                           19:55
Grey Knotts                        20:05
Honister Pass                 20:23

Saturday, 15 June 2013


Leg 3
Support crew: Geoff Clarke navigator, Gerry Dewhurst, Nigel Crompton, Pat Peers

Leg three starts at Dunmail Raise, climbing Steel Fell, Calf Crag, Sargeant Man, High Raise, Thunacar Knott, Harrison Stickle, Pike O’ Stickle, Rossett Pike, Bowfell, Esk Pike, Great End, Ill Crag, Broad Crag, Scafell Pike, Sca Fell, then descending into Wasdale Head.  It’s about 16 miles, 6,000 feet ascent.

The temperature continued to rise as we made our way from peak to peak across my least favourite part of the BG route which is the section from Dunmail Raise to Rossett Pike. 

Pat, Gerry, Nigel and Geoff took full control of my eating and drinking requirements and made sure I had the right combination of food, energy gels and fluids.  This was no easy task as I was finding any kind of food really unpalatable and was having to mince solid food with water in my mouth in order to be able to swallow it at all.  Even gels weren’t going down so easily by this stage.  We must have got through a huge amount of water.  There was never a moment when I needed to ask for anything; my every need was catered for.  Geoff was navigating and took us from peak to peak finding all of the best lines for us.

Despite the heat and an uncomfortable urge to be sick (which I ignored) I really enjoyed this leg.  The time passed quickly as I listened to the banter and enjoyed watching Gerry’s Staffordshire Bull Terriers Lilly and Pearl playing on the fell.  On some of the peaks we lost time but on others we were gaining more time so that I was increasingly gaining time on my schedule. 

The section from Rossett Pike to Wasdale is much more interesting and rocky, and I loved rock hopping in the sunshine with such great company.  I began to tire on the big climb to Sca Fell and descended slowly into Wasdale which meant I lost some time, but I still managed to arrive a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Ascending Steel Fell

It’s a breeze; this BG support!  Nigel chilling out at Wasdale!


Dunmail Raise                     08:26
Steel Fell                              08:52
Calf Crag                              09:15
Sargeant Man                     09:52
High Raise                           10:02
Thunacar Knott                  10:16
Harrison Stickle                  10:24
Pike O’ Stickle                     10:39
Rossett Pike                        11:26
Bowfell                                11:58
Esk Pike                               12:20
Great End                            12:45
Ill Crag                                 12:59
Broad Crag                          13:10
Scafell Pike                          13:24
Sca Fell                                 14:08
Wasdale Head                     14:51

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Leg 2
Support crew: Andrew McCracken navigator, Dave Swift, Yiannis Tridimas

Leg two starts at Threlkeld and heads south up Clough Head, followed by Great Dodd, Watsons Dodd, Stybarrow Dodd, Whiteside, Raise, Lower Man, Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywagon Pike, Fairfield, Seat Sandal then down to Dunmail Raise.

On the way up the road I had a pep talk from Andrew; he told me how much I was behind schedule by and that he was going to work towards making the time up.  His plan would include a strict eating regime; was I okay with this?......Yep; bring it on please!

 We took the gentle route up Clough Head along the western shoulder.  The climb didn’t seem half as bad as I was expecting but we did lose another 4 minutes so I was still running slow.  The traverse and climb to Great Dodd was completed to the scheduled time, so no more time lost but none gained….but Andrew’s feeding regime was beginning to work.  For the rest of the route we steadily gained time at each peak, and as we went I gained strength and enthusiasm. 

 Dave kept me entertained with tales of a life gone past and his running adventures in Scotland.  I’d been looking forward to hearing about Andrew’s fun at the Lanzarote Ironman but somehow he escaped saying much about this; was this modesty or did I forget to ask?!  Yiannis was tucked in behind us and I suspect was busy plotting his next adventure, it was enough to know that he was there sharing in what was a beautiful morning in one of my favourite parts of the fells.

The temperature went from rather warm to uncomfortably hot in the bowl between Dollywaggon Pike, Fairfield and Seat Sandal, where we were skirting around Grisedale Tarn….it must be nearing mid day me thinks:  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  ’Roughly what time of day is it now?’

 Dave: ’7:30 a.m’

Me ’OMG is that all?  It’s going to be hot later!’

Andrew: ’It’ll be hot in Wasdale but breezy on the tops; you’ll be okay’

After this, Andrew ran through what was needed at Dunmail Raise and for leg three so that he could hand over to the road crew and the leg three team.  He was checking what rations I had available and worked out what food and water I would need for the next stage.

We continued to progress well, and on the way up Fairfield we crossed paths with a couple of lads from Durham who were attempting a paired round with no hill support.  They were walking and looked to be struggling.  We caught up with one of them at the foot of Seat Sandal as we arrived at Dunmail Raise.

 At Dunmail, Livi and Ian were ready for me and I was handed a hot cup of tea.  My food choice was another tub of rice pudding which was produced by a young lad, who I later learned was Livi’s son.  As you can see in the photograph, I was in high spirits and was enjoying myself.  I was 8 minutes ahead of my schedule so I'd gained 18 minutes.
Threlkeld                             04:12
Clough Head                       05:08
Great Dodd                         05:38
Watsons Dodd                    05:45
Stybarrow Dodd                 05:53
Raise                                     06:10
Whiteside                            06:17
Helvellyn Lower Man        06:32
Helvellyn                              06:37
Nethermost Pike                06:47
Dollywaggon Pike              06:59
Fairfield                          07:38
Seat Sandal                         08:01
Dunmail Raise                     08:17