Friday, August 7, 2009

Kentmere Horseshoe

I had planned to do this walk last year but never did it. The mountain forecast for Friday was sunny, clear and warm. That forecast and a route coupled with easy navigation meant I was happy tackling the route on my own. In fact I decided to try running some of it if I could, this meant a bit of thought about what to take as sunny day or not I needed some layers and food.

My normal running sack would be too small with two litres of water in and my walking one too big and bulky so I settled on my old Salomon sack which is used as a commuting bag these days. I know it doesn't really tighten up enough and it was still a little big but it was worth a go. (My cat is drawing me daggers as he has just been shooed out of an irresistible open bag):

So I had two litres of water, my featherlite jacket and longs, a gilet, my very thin running gloves, a buff, jelly babies, gels, a couple of bars in case I really needed extra food, phone, compass, map (which I tried hard to leave), Garmin, camera etc. The bag was definitely too big, the other too small without ramming it full and making it uncomfortable to wear.

Earlyish start to get to Kentmere, a couple of free spaces next to the Institute but pretty full there by the time I got there. A couple of MTBers headed off somewhere but everyone else around headed off up the Garburn Pass. I wondered how I would get on with it this time as it was another warm day.

Bottom section fine if steeper and looser than I remember it. I ran most of it, stopped briefly to dip my buff in the stream before putting it back on my head which was nice. The gates were closed and stopping to open them made for natural breather points which helped. I had to walk when it steepened up on one of the switchbacks and when the track changed to embedded rocks as it was hard to keep a smooth stride. I was quite happy with that and as I had a long way to go didn't think it was sensible to be pasting myself on the first climb of the day.

The bag was annoying me a bit as I couldn't get it to sit comfortably, swishing around a lot and as it was too big for what I was carrying all the weight was at the bottom. Wasn't a show stopper though.

I have hurtled down this track several times on an MTB at a fair old barely in control clip, a couple of times on that climb I did wonder what the hell I was thinking as it was so loose and rocky but when I looked back down it strangely didn't look as bad ? I ran over the top and a walker held the gate open for me, noooo. He did say "I bet you wanted to stop" and I nodded.

I deviated from my original plan to take the main path and took a much more interesting grassy track up towards Yoke instead. A bit of bog hopping to liven it up then it was back onto the main motorway track towards the summit. It was very warm, I kept running until it got uncomfortable (rather than until I almost died) then changed to a fast walk for the rest of the climb.

At the top I made a point to look around, have some jelly babies or a gel and have a drink. This was the plan for every summit to keep fuelling ticking along. As it was a horseshoe I could see exactly how far I had to go. It was a nice view back to Windermere. Unfortunately the "improved" paths are a bit of an abomination.

I resisted the temptation to go really hard down the other side, I really needed to spare my legs as much as possible. I ended up doing a lot of effectively jumping in the air in an attempt to take it easy but not brake too much with my legs. Not sure how successful it was but it was fun, beats trying to walk down that's for sure.

Next stop Ill Bell summit followed by the steepest and most interesting descent of the day. Lots of loose stuff which would be best slightly wet but lots of big slabs/rocks that were best as dry as they were. I was sensible here as a fall would have been nasty, even the slow jog I was doing was better than trying to do a controlled walk.

Next summits visited on the Kentmere motorway were Froswick and Thornthwaite, with a whopping huge cairn on it. Next stop High Street, the highest point on the route. Onto the bridleway for a bit then off onto a more forgiving grassy track as the bridleway doesn't actually visit High Street summit. This is a side of the Lakes I've never really seen before, the visibility was so good, such a rare thing when I visit the Lakes.

Back onto the main track again towards Mardale Ill Bell and Nan Bield Pass. My feet were hurting a bit here, stepped on a few sharp rocks which had me convinced my shoes are on the way out then I told myself to HTFU! I remembered to look behind from whence I had came, the tops on the western side:

The eastern side was much rounder and grassier. It was easy running over towards Mardale Ill Bell, the views to Haweswater really opening up and I stopped quite a few times to look at them. As I said above I've never really seen this side of the Lakes. This pair kept moving into shot and just looked at me when I shooed them:

From there down to Nan Bield Pass on some huge rocks they have stuck in for a path, bet they are fun when its wet. This was my "get out" option, I could take the bridleway down from here if I was to tired to contemplate any more up. As I'd gone round that far I might as well carry on and it would still take a good while to get to the car anyway.

The drop to Nan Bield is quite deceptive, a lot of height is lost which meant a good climb up to Harter Fell, runnable even by me at first but soon steep and twisty so more fast walking. The walking had been going well, the gym work is starting to pay off because my knees felt very stable on step ups, in the past they can wobble when tired.

My bag was annoying me, it had lost ome bulk due to drinking some water and the shoulder straps kept loosening off. I realised the waist band and the end of the shoulder strap were coming into contact as I had to tighten everything up so much. The waist band was managing to loosen the shoulder strap off.

After a good fuel break on Harter Fell it was off towards Kentmere Pike on some nice grassy path, no motorway over here it would seem. I really enjoyed the run, though I could tell my legs were starting to hurt as I tried to avoid hard track as much as possible.

Over Kentmere Pike, a very large jelly baby break as I bribe my legs into making the long descent back to the car. The route was planned to head towards the track at Stile End rather than the more direct route, thought it would spare tired legs a bit. I'm not sure if that is true and I found myself heading towards the more obvious track towards Withered How. I yomped over some tussocks to correct this and got back on track.

Final stretch of descent to the Stile End track was interesting, a bit of scrambling down before arriving at the track. I had a seat at a nice flat rock and shook my legs out a bit. The original plan was to head down Stile End and pick up the road back to Kentmere which would be fine walking but I didn't fancy running on tarmac much so was eyeing up the grassy footpath off to my left. A map check showed it would get me down so I thought I would take that one.

I'd run out of water on Kentmere Pike and I was in need of a good feed as my mental faculties were going slightly. I took my Garmin off briefly then put it on the wrong way, display upside down (and didn't notice for a while). There was a sign on the gate that said "Grazing Livestock" which I misread as "Blazing Livers", it was faded but even so. Time to get to Wilf's!

The grassy track started well but then got quite contoury and boggy so a few slips to challenge the ankles. I saw a deer bounding up the hill and stopped to watch it thinking aww. Then I thought it was a bit of random place to see a deer. Into the next field with lots of cows and calves and I notice the colour of some of the calves....not a deer then, d'oh. One of the big cows started trotting behind me, which was worrying. I wasn't near any calves. I was almost out of the field when I came across a large group of cows and calves lying around the track between me and the gate.

As one of the big 'uns started moving as if to get up I thought better of running between them all and gave them a wide berth, in a bog, they didn't move. I got to the gate to see a woman walking up with a dog, so I gave her a warning about the cows and calves. Dog was on a lead but a little excitable. The track steepened up for the last bit which hurt. Through Kentmere onto another steep footpath down to the road.

I walked back to the car from there before heading to Wilf's for a good feed.

I was out in total for about 4:20, my Garmin had about 2:59 as moving time but I know it stopped recording on some of the climby bits so something over 3 hours and 13.45 miles according to Bike Hike. So much for short runs and I need another running sack, about 12 litres in capacity.


  1. i love this route, despite a few steep ups there's plenty of good running. have you looked at the omm last drop?

  2. I've MTBed (ok then, pushed) over a few of those hills. Just the thought of running up them is making my legs hurt.

  3. It was a good first loop to try. I really enjoyed it. I have had a quick look at the Last Drop, what I need to do is go and try some.

    Redbike: Running up is actually not too bad, downhill hurts more.

  4. Sounds like a lovely run, this is a route I've yet to run but want to. Another vote here for the OMM last last drop, the perfect sack for long day runs.

  5. I recommend the run, I was surprised at how much runnable stuff there was, even for me.