Tom and Maxime, the first two runners set off from the moot hall at 18:00 in decent weather, with overcast skies, but no low cloud. I drove Andy up to the top of the road at Lattrigg, and andy joined them. Around this time the support car due to do all the other pickups broke down. Not good, although we had enough cars and people to have a backup. They had a good run over Skiddaw etc, and got to the main road for 10:20 without head torches.
After a brief greeting we set off in gathering darkness. I was with Adam, a young guy from work who was inexperienced, but suprisingly capable. We got up Clough Head via a direct and steep route, whilst watching lots of other groups moving around the mountain up from Threkeld, keeping our head torches in reserve. We maintained a steady walk to Calfhow Pike when the mist started to really drop in, which got worse on the way up Great Dodd. There were other large groups out, so we had the benefit of some lights and voices ahead in the mist. Oddly enough a large group makes a ‘bubble’ of light, rather like street lights in fog are better to see with than car headlights.
The large group passed us and got away from the summit before we did, and so from this point we were on our own, in what was by now very thick mist, that was so bad in places the head torch just made the air glow. We managed to hit Watson’s Dobb pretty well, once I started to get into my stride with the micro navigation. Unfortunatly in the dark and mist, it’s very hard to find a path, so we spent a lot of effort going across the grass.
Most of the other summits were easier, although many others required a diversion from the path, which is hard work in the poor visibility, especially as the mist turned to rain, and the wind started to get up. Finding each summit was easy, as you just need to keep going up. Finding the way of each summit has harder, in poor vis as often there was no distinct path in the summit area, and you had to just head off in what you hoped was the right direction, and if you were lucky hit a path. All the extra naviation took time. Although I carried a GPS to record the track, I choose to not use waypoints to navigate and test my manual navigation skills.
We made Helvellyn in reasonably good spirits, but by this time I started to realise we were slipping in time, and Adam was fading. Walking along the edge of the ridge to hit Nethermost pike was a pain. At that point I decided that we’d probably not bother with the last two peaks, as we were behind time, and Adam was not looking like he had another two peaks in him. I thought I had nailed Dollywaggon Pike, but actually managed to find the lower secondary summit, as I just climbed to the top of what I could see, rather than diverting out to end of the spur. Vis was still bad, although there was enough cold blue light to be able to tell the difference between rock and sky, and soon we turned off the head torches.
As we dropped back to the path we hit the unlikely looking metal gatepost. Confusingly the path is level or climbs around there, which made me worry about navigation, even if the direction of travel and shape of the hill was right for where I thought we were. I was glad to see the top of the zig zags. Adam was really struggling by this time, and slowing down. Although it was now fully light, vis was still bad, and the rain turned from light rain to heavy rain. As a fast group passed us down the zig zags, we got our first glimpse of Grisedale Tarn. At this point I sent a text to the support car saying where we were and that we were not doing Fairfield.
We made our way along the very boggy path just above the Tarn to pickup the start of the Dunmail Beck path. Coming down the path was slow, due to tired legs and Adam was really looking miserable. To make matters worse we got caught in a few showers that were heavy enough to totally soak us.
We arrived at the car at 06:00, rather than the planned 04:40. Andy and the other runner had noted the weather and our poor speed, and decided to cancel the rest of the round for now.
Examining the GPS track on the computer, it looked like I had hit all the summits I thought I had bar Dolly Waggon, where I had follishly bagged the slightly lower secondary summit. Annoying, but forgivable due to the poor visibility and darkness.