Friday, 22 May 2009

John Fleetwood’s 24 Marilyn Attempt

Marilyns are ‘relatively high’ hills – they are hills with a drop of at least 500 feet all round, irrespective of their height, although they must be, by definition, at least 500 feet high. A route over 24 in the Lakes has been complete once, by Chris Upson, within 24 hours from leaving the road to reaching the 24th summit. John was attempting to repeat the challenge, within the same rules but on a different route. To ensure a “family day out” Pauline is providing road support while I run with John over the middle secJohn arriviing at Patterdaletion after meeting him at Patterdale. Changeable weather meant John was undecided about starting until Friday night would not commit to attempting the whole think until after setting off so we were at home waiting on the 14:00 phone to say whether it was “on” or not. The call came and we set off – the weather had been poor and given John and his first pacer, Garry Murray, a fairly difficult morning. By Patterdale things didn’t seem too bad and in a last minute change John decided he wanted company over St Sunday Crag and Helvellyn. Fell shoes on and off we go carrying my sandwiches to eat on the first climb. Forecast suggested the weather could close in and John didn’t want to be high in bad weather on his own.

The wind which should have been behind us was being funnelled down the valley towards us and at times we struggled to make any headway. Not only was it cold and we were losing time the wind was just sucking the strength out of us. Once on top the wind was less fierce, still cold but not carrying the rain we feared. Over Seat Sandal and then the slog to Helvellyn now with the wind behind us. The clouds were still high and we began to wonder about getting over Helvellyn before the rain and we did. Down the other side to The Swirls were Pauline was waiting with a cup of tea for John. This leg took almost three and half hours and included just under five and half thousand feet of climbing. The next road crossing is more difficult to find so I had lift with Pauline while John ran on over High Rigg on his own.

Evening sun in St John’s in the Vale Evening sun in St John’s in the Vale

Evening sun in St John’s in the Vale

The next section from the other side of High Rigg goes through Keswick to Portinscale where Bill Williamson and the rain met us. We picked up torches, extra clothing, food and more water and set off for Swinside (not the Inn) where Bill would met us and lead us off the summit. Never having been on Swinside before I didn’t know what to expect but the map didn’t offer the merest hint of a path, a trod or anything in the direction we were going and Bill had been out looking at or looking for a route the day before. The climb wasn’t bad and the descent was awful, down through an old established wood and when Bill then said “It gets really poor now” he wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t last long and then we have the '”joys” of some tarmac miles to the foot of Lord’s Seat, our next one. The rain is on for good now and John is struggling to eat on the move to stop for a bite before the climb. Much of this ground isn’t great either and, to begin with, it is a steep, slow, muddy slog up through the trees. Out on the open fell the gradient has eased and it is almost enjoyable. A long comfortable run down forestry tracks takes to the road where Bill and Pauline are waiting. I unload John’s gear here and Pauline and I wave them off into the dark as we prepare to meet them at Newlands Hause, the next road crossing.

The battering from the weather earlier in the day is taking its toll on John and they loose a lot of time on this section. John is still struggling to eat and although he doesn’t say anything, he must be concerned because you can only go so far “on empty” and it is rarely far enough. By Honister Pass they have been able to maintain the schedule’s pace but there isn’t enough time left to reach the 24th summit within 24 hours. The possibility of 24 hours from first to last summit remains so we wave a final farewell and set off for home in sunshine at about 06:30.

John finally conceded on Great Gable with only Kirk Fell and Pillar remaining.

Morning light on Helvellyn Morning light on Helvellyn

Helvellyn ridge and the Dodds in the fresh morning light

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