SLMM 2010

Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon 2010  - A view from the back by Kathy Tytler

“Adders at Large”, was on the notice, followed by a description of the action to be taken if one was encountered.  Just one more thing to worry about in addition to mountain navigation, the weather, sheep tics (which could cause Lyme Disease), and whether my kit for the weekend would fit into my new compact, super-light rucksack.

The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon is a two day event in which all of us mere mortals compete in teams of two. (There is an elite class for individual competitors).  I use the term “compete” in a very loose way when applied to any team I am part of – I consider my performance a great success if I find all the checkpoints and finish within the time limit.  For the past few years Judy and I have made a great team – we both seem to enjoy the same attitude to the event.

Day 1

The reason we took twice as long as we should have to complete day one was that we travelled twice as far, over shooting the first three checkpoints by some distance.  Was it the clear sunny conditions that made us careless, the difficulty of finding checkpoints in a landscape without big features, or were we just not paying enough attention?

Checkpoint 1 – Stream Bend – we found ourselves a long way from where we should be – eventually identifying a definite landmark from which we could take a bearing and make our way, it seemed, almost back to the start.

Checkpoint 2 – N end of Marsh – compass bearing taken with care, features on the map noted and we both resolved to identify each feature as we passed it.  We then came to a marsh, explored it and didn’t find a checkpoint control, then another and another.  After a very dry few weeks we were unsure as to what was marsh.  Then applying the same technique as used in Checkpoint 1, we worked our way back from a definite landmark.

After dibbing at the checkpoint control we met up with another team, who were just about to give up, such was their frustration at trying to locate the N end of Marsh, but we convinced them that the next checkpoint would be much easier to find.  We had a much longer distance to cover, some of it on an obvious path on the ground, which made us more confident.

Checkpoint 3 – Footbridge – we came to a small stream and I remember saying, “It must be further on – this stream is too small to need a footbridge.”  We went further and had gone too far – so previous techniques were employed.  The stream was very bendy, but after exploring its serpentine route for a while we found the footbridge and the checkpoint.  We found out later that another team, who were heading in the right direction at the stream, had failed to find the checkpoint control, so maybe our technique had its advantages.

Checkpoint 4 – Tarn N Side – using Willy Winder Hill as a landmark we almost went straight past this one, the tarn being dried up to a brownish bog.  We had been warned that the weeks of bad weather could have an effect on some landscape features.

Checkpoint 5 – Sheepfold – this could be seen clearly across the valley – no problems here!

Checkpoint 6 – Stream Bend – this stream bend was reached easily by following the correct stream from a handy footbridge at the confluence of two streams.

Checkpoint 7 – Cairn W Most – we’re getting ourselves together here by following landmarks to lead us to the two cairns on Artlecrag Pike

Checkpoint 8 – Path/Fence Junction – now this should be obvious, there was the fence that we had followed down the hill crossing a very obvious wide path at exactly the correct grid reference, but where was the control?  We were met again by Caroline and Harriet, who we first met at Checkpoint 2 and the four of us spent a fruitless half hour scouring the area for the control.  We then took photos to prove that we had been in the correct place.  This was later accepted by the race organisers.

The route to the overnight camp at Long Sleddale was by way of a very obvious path, but we still managed to take the scenic route, interpreting the finish control as being on the wall on the far side of the river, not on the red van parked in the campsite. 

Now it was food – noodles and cuppa soup; ablutions – portaloos; and rest – lying in our little tent before waking up to a slightly damper Sunday morning.

Day 2

There is a combination of wind and rain that only occurs in mountain and moorland areas which, after hours of persistence will penetrate the most waterproof of clothing, ensuring that the wearer is soaked through to the skin.  These were the conditions after the hot and hard climb out of the valley on the second day.  We had already been taken through the river to get to the start, and our route was back through the campsite, so it was through the river again giving us wet feet before we started.  Despite the bad weather the checkpoints were where we thought they would be and our navigation was OK.

Checkpoint 1 – Stream Bend Southern Most – just follow the crowds from the start.

Checkpoint 2 – Crag Foot – Judy and I took the low route approaching from the valley, which got us out of the wind and rain for a while, and gave us the shelter of a sheepfold to eat a chocolate bar.  Not a popular choice, we saw no others on this route, but a comfortable route.

Checkpoint 3 – Path/Fence junction – after a long trek through wind and rain this one was there, in the place where expected.

Checkpoint 4 – Cairn - there are very few occasions when I have wished that I weighed a few stone heavier, but approaching the checkpoint on the cairn at the top of a hill called Seat Robert (515m) was one of those occasions.  The already strong wind gusted and swept me off my feet depositing me on my knees on the rocks.  But, oh joy! We’d bagged another checkpoint.

My sore knees slowed our progress a little – and I found some spectacular bruises the next day – but I was not too badly hurt.  We made steady progress finding the next checkpoints; Track/Wall Junction; Stepping Stones and Wall/Track Junction with no trouble.  A little hesitation on crossing the river – both Judy and I deciding that wading was a better way to cross than using the slippery stepping stones. The path took us past Wet Sleddale reservoir (and that Adder warning!) then the taped route to the finish in the marquee.  The wind and rain had not finished with us yet.  Whilst eating our finishers’ meal the rain was torrential and the wind was threatening to take away the large heavy duty marquee with volunteer helpers hanging onto the ropes outside.  I understand that down south you were still suffering the extreme heat, with no drop of water for the gardens!

I consider this year’s event a success, as we found all the checkpoints and finished within the time limit.  Each year Judy and I plan to return to the Lakes for more training.  Last year we did, coinciding with the floods affecting Keswick and Portinscale where we were staying – and the floods wrote off my car.  If we trained on this terrain we may get better... but until then we’ll continue our enjoyable non-competitive participation in this event.


Technical Info – useful if you want to do this event

The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon (SLMM) takes place somewhere in the Lake District on the first weekend in July.  We do not find out where we will start until 2-3 weeks before the event.  We find out where we are going by plotting the map from a list of checkpoints which are given to us at the start of each day.

Navigation skills are required and there is a compulsory kit list for each individual and team.  You are required to be self-sufficient for the two days on the fells and one night camping.  Lightweight kit is an important factor in being able to travel round at a good pace.

My kit:

·       Compass and Map – where would we be without our navigation equipment?  No GPS allowed – this is an event to test your navigation skills.

·       Tent – I have a Saunders Jetpacker, the smallest available.  This does place a limit on the size of the two team members.

·       Sleeping bag – as lightweight as possible – you may feel a bit cold at night, but its not for long.

·       Food and cooking equipment – our hot food menu at overnight camp is limited to those things that you pour hot water onto, but we did have hot chocolate for bedtime.  Pocket food is good for the day so you can eat on the move – and you also need an emergency food supply.

·       Water – there will be a supply at the overnight camp, it may be from a stream.  You need to be self-sufficient in the day, there is no-one handing out water bottles at checkpoints!

·       Full wet weather gear (I have a PB sports fell suit), long trousers and a warm layer is compulsory.  You may get soaked through on day 1.  Clean knickers for day 2 – is that a luxury?

·       Sundries – toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, contact lenses, wet wipes, plastic bags for feet at overnight camp...

·       Rucksack – my new OMM 25 litre rucksack was brilliant, particularly well fitting for a short female.  The concertinaed rucksack back stiffener is also a sleeping mat which gives enough comfort for a nights camping – honest!