The 2011 Patterdale Parish Boundary Walk – 2nd July 2011
Time is meant to be the greatest healer. So it’s obviously taken me 2 months to get over the pain of doing the walk itself and actually get around to writing about it. To be honest I’m not sure the pain from this year has subsided fully even now. Take a read and decide for yourself!
For those of you unfamiliar with the event the boundary walk is an annual fundraiser for the Patterdale CofE Primary School and St Patricks Church in Patterdale. It involves a not so leisurely stroll around the parish boundary, which in this case involves a 30 mile hike with 10,000 feet of ascent. All to be completed in a day. For the more sensible there are also shorter options available with a “second half” 14 miler and the even more appealing 7 mile downhill from Kirkstone Top to Patterdale. This is the 3rd year I’ve been foolish enough to have a go. See here for the 2010 Boundary Walk.
It’s all in the preparation
As with previous years I started out with the best of intentions. Shed a few hundredweight of excess baggage, give up smoking, sprint up Helvellyn 2 or 3 times a week, all in a vain attempt to make the actual event itself a walk in the park. As in previous years these plans all went out of the window and the event itself proved even more painful than normal. This year, despite a couple of big training walks including some of the first half in June, it’s fair to say I’d probably done less proper preparation than ever before. Other than the normal expeditions with Morgan the Lake District Labrador, I had also managed to twist my ankle a month before the event whilst putting a microwave into a skip (a sorry excuse if ever I heard one…). Anyway enough of the excuses – onto the main event…
As always we’re never quite sure who’s going to turn up and actually do the walk. Quite sensibly most people say “sounds like a great idea” and then come up with an array of excuses to avoid taking part. This year though we had a great turnout for The Amigos, and also a new team – Dead Men Walking. To save time and embarrassment I won’t go through detailed bios of all the protagonists but in short the guilty included:
- Mountain Mike – veteran of many boundary walks, the sahara trek, and owner of the best luxury lake district B&B going
- Chris “the prof” – another veteran or the boundary walk and the sahara trek, and proud owner of Scruffy, Morgan’s best mate.
- Dan the Man – a first timer on the boundary walk, who assured me he liked “a good ramble” and put us all to shame on the day
- John M – ex-owner of the Glenridding Hotel, veteran of countless boundary walks and fitter than everyone else (other than Dan)
- Vince J – The Cambridge Detective (although I wouldn’t want him going through my smalls)
- Mad Gav – true Scottish Mountain man, drinker of McEwans, and general good bloke
- Shazza – companion of Mad Gav and the only one capable of keeping him in check (kind of)
- yours truly – enough said
Dead Men Walking
- “St Sunday” Luke – who frankly had been doing far too much training for my liking
- Big John – owner of The Golden Fleece, purveyor of fine corporate gifts
- Nearly as Big Anthony – MD of New Form Energy and the first person to own a watch that even Mike and Vince were jealous of…
The Night Before
Over the course of Friday the crew assembled from various part of the country. Dead Men Walking managed to fold themselves into a car and travel up from Kent. Dan found out that it’s actually possibly to get a train to the Lakes from London in less than 3 days, and Gav and Shazza made their way down from the highlands to come and see some English lochs.
As always the idea that I’d be in bed by 20:00 after some last minute pasta went by the wayside as we all headed out to Fellbites for steak, chips and lager. Mike took the opportunity to sink 3 too many scrumpies in a vain attempt to avoid doing any walking the next day but other than that we all survived more or less in tact. Dead Men Walking managed to disappear off to bed at a reasonable time and I found myself sat outside drinking wine at midnight with Shazza as I watched Mad Gav toking on his Sherlock Holmes pipe and downing yet another McEwans. Plus ca change.
Somehow we managed to make out way to Glencoyne Bay for kickoff – all that is except Mike and Vince who took the tactically sensible option of staying in bed so they could enjoy a full english breakfast. For the rest of us it was a case of a few quick hellos and kit comparisons and then off we went. For the record as always I carried the most weight (in rucksack as well as body), Dan and John M were the most lightly packed (with what looked like a hanky and an apple between them) and Mad Gav was as usually still packing his rucksack with tinnies and a flask as we set off…
The sun was shining and the weather was set fair. We set off at a cracking pace and as usual I found out within about 500 yards that I was going to struggle. As we headed up Greenside we quickly split into 2 groups, with Dan and John M leading the way, followed by the majority of the boys, with myself and Shazza bringing up the rear, accompanied by Mad Gav who had decided to use the day as an exercise in close and slow observation of Lake District Lochs and Bens.
The Group Splits
Inevitably on the climb up to Greenside I was overtaken by the usual gang of fellow walkers and took the opportunity to stop, say hello, and more importantly catch my breath. By the time we got onto Stybarrow Dodd it was clear Gav and Shazza were going to be doing the sensible thing and take it easy. I then made tactical error number 1 and decided to do a diddy man run (as recommended by Mad Gav – I should have known better) to try and catch up the rest of the group as they ascended Raise. Obviously by the time I got up there they were all rested and ganting to crack on and I was utterly knackered. Dan and John M decided to push on and we agreed to meet them at the top of Helvellyn (as you do).
Heading to Helvellyn
After allowing me an undue amount of time to recuperate the rest of us set off in pursuit. By now the sun was starting to shine convincingly and even though it was still only about 07:00 it was getting a little hot. We ploughed on up Whiteside, up onto Low Man and staggered (well in my case anyway) onto the top of Helvellyn around 08:30.
Dan and John M had already finished their break and wanted to push on and so we watched them disappear off (never to be seen again until the evening as it turned out!). At this stage the rest of us felt in reasonable shape, despite the rising heat. We set off again and ticked off Nethermost Pike and Dollywaggon with hardly a pause. We then got to the usual juncture of “Seat Sandal – do we or don’t we”. Having skipped it the year before, and knowing St Sunday Luke would not want to miss anything I agreed to give it a go. Tactical Error number 2. Anthony foolishly decided to accompany us on the comedy descent down Dollywagon while Big John, Chris and Scruffy took the sensible option.
By the time we got to the bottom Anthony too had seen sense. Sadly Luke hadn’t and so he and I set off up to complete without doubt the most ridiculous up and down of the whole walk (ridiculous simply because walking around it involves a leisurely stroll by the side of Grisedale Tarn and takes 10 minutes. Going up and down it involves an hour of hard slog).
As Luke and I descended Seat Sandal we could see the rest of the boys sipping tea and generally enjoying themselves. I found the descent particularly painful and by the bottom was starting to get rather odd twinges in my inner thighs (too much information??). Around this time I also got my first phone call from Mike and Vince. I assumed they were still enjoying a fry up and had rung up to gloat so I wore at them a lot and put the phone down (or whatever the mobile equivalent is). In fact they were setting off up Dove Crag to try and meet us. More fool them..,.
Anyway the good news was we’d done Seat Sandal. The bad news of course was we then had to crawl up Fairfield. Never much fun but on an increasingly hot day even more of an ordeal than usual. By the time we joined the boys again at the top my inner thighs were starting to perform involuntary jiggles all by themselves. Most disconcerting. Time to press on.
The Long Drag
The stretch from Fairfield to Red Screes is always a real drag. None of it very difficult but just an awfully long way. Hart Crag, Dove Crag and then onto Red Screes itself. Highlights of this phase including Scruffy being taken for an impromptu bath by Chris having “done a Morgan” and rolled in something particularly unpleasant, and taking a short cut off Dove Crag and going A over T.
Red Screes doesn’t look too daunting until you actually start doing it. The longest drag of the day with little going for it other than the fact you know that you’re soon be sipping WI Tea at Kirkstone. By this time, thanks mainly to my tardiness, we were running behind schedule to put it mildly. Chris and Scruffy were due to join a new team at Kirkstone top and we were also meant to be meeting Mike and Vince. All within the next 30 minutes. I bravely waved them on in true Captain Oates style and so they headed off for the tea van at a rapid rate of knots.
When we got to Kirkstone top the sun was really fierce. I was in serious need of that tea break but in no mood for the descent down. Just time for a few scenic shots of the boys in true “mountain man” mode then off we went. As always the descent to Kirkstone seemed to take an age, not helped half way down when I smelt the alluring aroma of “eau de Malboro Light” and saw some flip-flop wearing git sitting on the fellside puffing away as I sweated down past him. Some people are so inconsiderate.
When we reached Kirkstone we were warmly greeted as always by the wonderful helpers with tea and jam sandwiches. By the time we arrived Chris had met up with his new team who were all raring to go. John M and Dan had been and were long gone. Of Mike and Vince there was no sign. Gav and Shazza had taken a short cut to spend the afternoon in the pub. Basically chaos reigned.
Finally managed to get hold of Mike and Vince and realised they were following us down the hill. They had attempted to sprint up Dove Crag to meet us – realised it was too damn hot and Vince had then remembered how much he’d hated Red Screes in 2010.
Chris decided to set off with his new group. Luke, John and Anthony gamely set off as well, and I decided to wait for Mike and Vince (anything for a breather) By the time they arrived I was in two minds about whether to continue as my thighs were still doing odd things and it wasn’t getting any cooler. Mike and Vince wanted a break and so I decided to make tactical error number 3 and set off after the boys on my own. Vince and Mike agreed to follow on shortly afterwards and pick up my pieces as necessary.
There are good reasons why the guidance rules for the walk state that you should always walk in teams of 3. As I got to the top of John Bell’s Banner I began to realise why having someone around was a good idea. Luke and the boys had disappeared off in front of me and I couldn’t see Vince and Mike behind – and indeed had no idea whether they were following me or have just decided to hit the pub.
Cue without doubt the most painful cramp I’ve ever experienced. My jellied inner thighs finally decided enough was enough and I felt like some nutter had stabbed a long sharp blade into them and then started jiggling it about. First one went then the other. I did what any rational person would do under the circumstances – keeled over and starting swearing violently and loudly.
Mountain Mike – My Hero
Luckily for me Mike and Vince had followed and were about half a click behind. Unsurprisingly they heard my screaming profanities and to be fair to Mike he was rather concerned and set off at a sprint to come to my aid. It wasn’t till he arrived that he heard me shouting “stop running cos you look like a right ****”. Vince obviously had realised that the fact I was still swearing meant I must of been fine and so ambled up at a more leisurely pace.
Despite (or perhaps because) of Mike’s offers of a full body massage I decided to self administer some ibruprofen gel and we set off. There then followed possibly the most painful few hours of my life as every 10 minutes of so first one and then the other of my inner thighs would go through the “insert knife, twist, feel the pain” routine.
The Second Half
Mike and Vince I’m sure got fairly bored of my squeals but generously agreed to accompany me. We saw Luke and Boys ahead at Stony Cove Pike, at which point Big John very sensibly decided to head down (still a good slog back to Patterdale).
Chris and his team waited for us at the top of Thornthwaite Beacon but my histrionics meant that even after a 30 minute tea break we still hadn’t arrived so he pushed on. By the time we got there we could see them ahead on High Street and so we set off and tracked them from half a mile or so for the rest of the walk.
Even the tranquility of Angle Tarn seemed to have lost its usual charm through my pain induced haze and so I was glad when we reached the top of Boredale Hause. At this point we bumped into St Sunday Luke on his way off Place Fell. He’d gone half way up but decided to leave it as an incentive to come back and do the whole thing again in 2012. I must say he still looked remarkably fresh given that by now it was about 19:00 and we’d been on the go for 14 hours!!
And so we ambled (or in my case staggered) down to the finish at the school, to be reunited with Anthony and Chris and his team. And then home for BBQ and beer. Highlight of the evening – meeting up with Mad Gav again and using his head as a patio heater all evening. Bliss.
Same again next year. But of course. Now I must get my training plan sorted out this time….
See more photos of the walk on the Helvellyn Flickr
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To find out more about the walk and register for the 2012 event see the Patterdale Parish Boundary Walk website
.And if you’ve got this far you deserve some light relief. How about this Youtube video about Ullswater…