Langdale Horseshoe 2018
Alex Frost gives a personal account of running a wet and wild Langdale Horseshoe Fell Race on 13th October:
Dungeon Ghyll in Cumbria was the venue for the final race in this year’s fell GP with the classic Langdale Horseshoe. Myself and Mark Walker and Stephanie Harrison made the journey up to the Lake District despite a weather forecast that offered little encouragement for a race that can be testing in any conditions.
At the pre-race briefing it was announced to a big cheer that the entry list of 520 runners had already been whittled down to 255 as many stayed away due to the awful conditions. Despite this the race was kept to the full course and distance with some revisions on the check point cut off times to ensure the safety of all involved. As the race began the runners were treated to a spectacular view high on the valley side as the torrents of water cascaded down White Crag and close up on the right hand side of the rocky climb up to Stickle Tarn as the stream raged with flood water often spilling over on to the pathway providing some fantastic shots for the photographer.
At the Tarn an enforced detour was taken from CP1 due to the danger of attempting a stream crossing sending the runners instead clockwise round the shore to pick up the route again and make the steep rocky climb to Pavey Ark and CP2. The long run to Esk Hause and CP3 was bleak and shrouded in the famous “clag” as the train of hardy runners made their way across this fairly straightforward undulating section of the course. A sharp left turn out from CP3 set us on our way towards Bowfell and CP4 but within a few minutes doubt about the course being taken ensued as the runners in front came to an abrupt halt. An assertive voice bellowed out from behind us announcing “That’s it! Keep going we will pick up the path…. the others have gone to high!” and sure enough after another ten minutes of some quite tricky traversing along the steep sides of Esk Pike we were back on track and through Ore Gap heading towards Bowfell. Conditions at this point where near impossible with driving rain stinging the face and high gusty winds strong enough at times to knock you over, once through Bowfell navigation became essential as the runners in front were not visible.
At this point I was joined by Mark and it was decided the best thing to do was stick together, not much later whilst taking a navigation check after losing the path Steph and another group of runners joined us. The group decided to head south east and managed to pick up the path heading over to Crinkle Crags and CP5. Now convinced we would be timed out at CP6 and with Steph suffering with cramp we made our way at an easier pace over to the steep climb to Pike of Blisco missing out the famous “bad step” by way of a more northerly route. The climb up to the pike although tough was as we all knew the last real test on this course and so it proved as the summit was something out of this world with a desperate crawl over slippy rocks to the CP positioned right on the summit in wind so high and rain so hard that can only be described as a Hurricane like. Once all had “Dibbed” their electronic tags and numbers had been logged we were directed south of the summit and began the decent towards the run in. At this point we were now down to a Harriers trio as the others had all fragmented in a charge for the finish.
As we descended in to lower levels it became apparent we had again strayed as the path had disappeared and the now good visibility yielded no other runners in sight behind or in front, after a quick huddle behind some rocks to check the map it was determined that we had dropped too far south and a sharp turn north should bring us back up on to our route running west to east. Sure enough relief was given after around 10 minutes as we sighted the familiar torrents of water on the opposite side of the valley raging down White Crag and subsequently the welcome sight of the field with its neat lines of cars at race HQ far down in the valley floor. We picked up the well-trodden path and descended to cheers from the hardy marshal’s at CP7 knowing we had completed this race by the skin of our teeth! In fact we had done it with just 10 minutes to spare and were the last but 3 of only 180 runners to complete the race. Steph Harrison 4.33.34, Alex Frost 4.34.24 and Mark Walker 4.35.03. The race yielded the maximum 50 points for Steph and myself in our respective age groups and 49 points for Mark. I was also pleased to be the only runner to complete all 11 rounds of the 2018 series.