Swift Running Company Guides Ian and James hatched a plan to run the Joss Naylor Challenge route on there next day off, less than a week later the day had rolled round and the weather window was prime.
The Joss Naylor Challenge is aimed at people over 50 years old, but it is such an attractive route that the Swift Running Company Guides couldn’t wait another couple of decades.
Information on the Joss Naylor Challenge can be found here at: http://www.gofar.org.uk/jossnaylorlc.html
Here is what happened as they took on the iconic 48 mile route across the Lake District.
James sent me a text:
“Joss Naylor Challenge on Monday?”
… and that was it, I was in! A good long day out in the mountains is never turned down. The Joss Naylor Challenge is a 48 Mile/77km 17,000ft/5,500m Elevation gain route that starts in Pooley Bridge in the North Eastern part of the Lake District and is broken down into 4 distinct legs.
From Pooley Bridge you head South along the old Roman road towards High Street and Thornthwaite Beacon before heading West across to Caudale Moor and down to Kirkstone Pass.
The steep ascent out of Kirkstone Pass sees you take the summit of Red Screes before continuing West passing Dove crag, Hart Crag, Fairfield and Seat Sandal before descending to Dunmail Raise.
A heavy slog up to Steel Fell and then a direct line over to High Raise before continuing West passing Rossett Pike and up to Bowfell. Turning North and heading to Styhead Tarn over Esk Pike and the interesting descent down the front of Great End.
The final leg starts with Great Gable and then continues West over Kirk Fell, Pillar and Steeple. Then onto Haycock Seatallan and Middlefell before descending to Greendale Bridge.
As easy as that! 48 Miles/77 Km and 17,000ft/5,500m of elevation gain. Enough to keep anyone out of mischief for a few hours.
The day didn’t disappoint. Starting at 5:15 am we ran under a still and starlit sky for a couple of hours before the light crept in the East. We enjoyed one of the best sunrises over Kidsty Pike, the golden light cannot be captured or described. It was an intense moment and one that is burnt heavily into my mind. It was a cool, crisp Autumn day where the world looks perfect in all its burnt golden colours.
Sunrise with Kidsty Pike in the background
Sun creeping in the East
Perfect running conditions
The day was warming up as we moved across towards Caudale Moor and our first road crossing at Kirstone Pass where we had stashed some more food. A quick break and we set off up Red Screes, the steep 300m ascent was working my legs hard. It was harder than it should have been. I was carrying some residual tiredness in the legs from weight training and the days task seemed mammoth. We trotted across to Fairfield and then descended and climbed up Seat Sandal. The legs were still feeling heavy but 77 kilometres is a long way to run so it was plenty of time for them to come back to life. I joked with James that I would get stronger as the day progressed. As it was this how the day played out. It was slow progress to take High Raise and work our way across to Rossett.
We worked our way West through some amazing terrain in the Central Fells, ascending Bowfell and Esk Pike it felt like we had broke the back of the day. Though the most mountainous section was to come, we had put a great distance between us and Pooley Bridge. Which was now a distant memory.
Moving towards the West
Crossing the saddle between Thornthwaite beacon and Caudale Moor
Brocken Spectre, befitting such an incredible day
With Fairfield done we went West
We marched onto the summit of Great End and took in the grandeur of the Western Fells, before we caught sight of the Northern aspect and our descent route down to Styhead Tarn. The rime ice that had formed the evening before had not melted through the day and had turned the steep route lethal. We slowly picked our way through the complex terrain and Styhead Tarn ever so slowly getting closer and closer.
Fell walkers were retreating down from the lofty summits returning to their warm holiday cottages and hot baths. We knew this because one family told us this was their exact plan, they jokingly said they were going to head up Great Gable before asking where we had come from and where we were heading. We set off for sunset on the summit of Great Gable.
We were treated to a magnificent sunset which set the sky alight with a heavy pink alpine style glow as we headed into the night for the final slog to our finish line. Descending Great Gable we could see the outlines of the great hulks ahead which we had to navigate. We switched gears as we took on the short steep incline onto Kirk Fell. The temperature was starting to drop significantly as we moved across towards Pillar, in the dark we were met by a few false summits but eventually we topped out. Steeple with its rope bridge style crossing was the next objective in my mind as we picked our West through the night.
Scoat Fell and all that lay to the West was all new terrain as we have never really had much cause to travel that way before. The final section of the route links up Haycock, Seatallan and Middlefell. Moving towards Haycock we encountered some of the best runnable ground across the whole route with smooth short grass, pure bliss after the last unknown amount hours on broken ground. The descent off Haycock was a fabulous scree section. Only to be followed by the concave slope leading up to Seatallan, which was brilliant as the ground infront of us just continued to get steeper and steeper with every step! As we left Seatallan summit we watched the moon rise on the horizon, a huge moon with a reddish hue. That in itself was a beautiful site, but when you factored how lucky we had been with the conditions all day it seemed to fit in perfectly
The reality of the day was slowly starting to sink in as we picked our way up the terraced formation of Middlefell and started a rapid descent towards Greendale Bridge.
The last 100 meters was full of jubilation and laughter, what an amazing self supported, autumn adventure in the mountains.
Until next time