Old Counties Tops Race

1. Martin Beale / Tom Brunt 7:13
2. Mike Robinson / Alan Ward 7:34
3. Morgan Donnelly / John Whitaker 7:38
7. Carl Pryce / Dennis McDonald 8:16

Carl Pryce & Dennis McDonald battled through galeforce winds, driving hail and thick mist to complete this epic race last Saturday. The race is run in teams of two. The circular route takes in the highest peaks in the old counties of Westmorland (Helvellyn), Cumberland (Scafell Pike), and Lancashire (Coniston Old Man). This covers 37 miles and approx 11,000 ft of climbing. That’s if you get the navigation right!

54 teams left The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel in Great Langdale at 8am in the rain. Prior to leaving there had been a heavy shower which had been a warning of what to expect later in the day. This made deciding what to wear a little bit easier. I started with a waterproof jacket thinking I would take it off quite soon. I was right – it was off in about 5 minutes, but when it went on ½ way up Helvellyn it stayed on for the next 6 ½ hours.
Just under 2 hours took us to the top of Helvellyn – the view would have been fantastic had we not been in the clouds. 15 minutes later after dropping 3000ft we were enjoying a cup of tea and sandwiches at Wythburn car park. Luxury…..but only for a short 2 minute stop.

The next section took us up the Wythburn valley and we overtook a number of teams. Then thanks to some good navigating and a bit of local knowledge, Carl led us up a great line to the top of Scafell. The very steep and rocky descent off Scafell was interesting and I had to remind Carl that he had assured me that there was no rock-climbing in this event! After more bog and another climb a good path led into Cockley Beck.
A steep climb took us up and onto a ridge but the winds threatened to lift us off our feet as we neared the Old Man. All that we saw of the marshal at the top was his hat – the rest of him was staying firmly in his tent. Eventually the clouds lifted and it started to brighten up for the last stretch back to Langdale. We finished in 8h 13 and 7th overall.
The best thing about this race has to be the food at the 2 road crossings. Arriving at Cockley Beck 5¾ hours after the start to cups of tea, jam sandwiches, cake & orange juice was almost better than crossing the finish line 2 ¼ hours later!

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