Great Lakeland 3 Day
by Pip Haworth
Friday evening, in a field on the West side of the Lake District, not far from Ennerdale water, people are gathering to register for the Great Lakeland 3 Day.
What is the GL3D you ask? Well grab a brew, and I’ll tell you.
GL3D began in 1998 and was organised by Joe Faulkner. On the first edition of the event there were only 7 participants, including Joe himself. Inspiration for the event came from Joe’s experience on Mountain Marathons and the Dragons Back race that he had completed in 1992.
GL3D has always been about the route and the challenge, and not so much about the ‘race’ and in 2012 Ourea Events took on the organisation of the event. Now many people use this event as a stepping stone to the Dragons Back and Cape Wrath Ultra, which are also organised by Ourea events.
3 days, in the Lake District, covering a different location each year. At registration you are given a map for the weekend, with many different checkpoints circled on it, ranging from stiles to summits, cafe entrances to bridges. You can choose which course you do each day. The cafe and Herdwick courses are slightly shorter, with the cafe course always factoring in a cake stop. Then there’s the Wainwrights course and the Fellrunner, more challenging and covering more high ground. The extreme course is exactly as it says, with further distances, more challenging navigation and terrain, and then there is the Adventure course, where the world is your oyster, and you can hit whichever checkpoints you like via whatever route.
Your checkpoints are listed on the map for each day, and you need to hit them in order. Once you’ve been to them all, you make your way to the overnight camp which is in a different location to where you started, but the overnight camp is the same for both nights (so you don’t have to pack your tent away). You collect your drop bag, pitch up, and spend the evening, discussing your day with fellow participants, watching the evening talks that are put on, by the fire-it with a drink from the bar, all the while sampling the delights from the food vendors on site.
What’s not to like eh?
So here I am on a Friday evening, lugging around a 60 litre dry bag, having flash backs to Cape Wrath in a field in the threatening rain (my bad weather running curse is still hanging over me). I collect my map and my dibber and spend the evening sat in the van, route plotting and eating cheesecake.
I planned to do the Adventure course, I have a mountain leader assessment in June and this was perfect for brushing up some nav skills, and I also like the idea of doing my own thing, and seeing how many points i can hit during the weekend.
Saturday dawned with low cloud and drizzle, I guess perfect conditions for nav practice, and I stood at the start at 7am to make the most of the day. There was only about 10 of us ready to start, as participants can set off anywhere between 7 and 9 in the morning, and with an evening cut off of 8pm there’s no need for everyone to have an early start. A quick spot check of kit from the volunteers, dibbed in, and I was off. Immediately everyone turned left on the road and I turned right, but if i’ve learnt anything from nav events, it’s stick to your guns.
I headed up the forestry track and into the clag surrounding Blake Fell. I bumped into someone I knew from volunteering on an event and we bagged our first few checkpoints together until Hen Comb where I ran off down the spur and he headed for Mellbreak which I planned to bag later. By the time I’d dibbed a couple more control points, and gone up onto Mellbreak, it was only midday, a little too early to head to camp which was in a field by Buttermere village. So I decided to snag Rannerdale and two control points around Buttermere which I did with an ice cream in hand, what a luxury.
I came into camp at 3pm, having visited 12 checkpoints and covered 25.5 miles. A job well done, I was fairly pleased with myself, especially when I saw that at that point I was 1st on the Adventure course Leaderboard.
I pitched my tent, ate some food and went for a wander to see if I could find Rachael who waved me over from her spot on a hay bale and proceeded to tell me about her day, in which she had managed to lose a brand new Leki pole while scrambling around over Haystacks which she had decided to bag as an extra Wainwright. She had gone back and created a great Strava squiggle in an attempt to find it, with no luck, and a disgruntled (putting it nicely) Jacob was currently up there looking for it.
Later on I bumped into Jim Morris who had slipped coming down the front of Fleetwith and dislocated his finger all while explaining to his sister Jo that this is the time to be careful as most accidents happen at the end of a long day. He went to get it x-rayed and came back in time for the final day.
I spent the rest of the evening sat with Rachael, David and Clare, eating and chatting about our day. David was convinced to continue with the Wainwrights course after doing well on the first day, and I was later knocked off my pedestal when 3 on the Adventure course came in, two with 15 points and one with 14. Still first female though!
I slept better than I do in a house that night and was up again for a 7am start, ready to tackle the 2nd day, this time in the Coledale fells. The cloud was again, very low, and I trudged up the side of Whiteless Pike at snails pace, waiting for my legs to warm up. In no time I’d ticked off Whiteless Pike, Grasmoor, Hopegill Head, Grisedale Pike and Eel Crag, had a lovely conversation with someone who recognised me from volunteering on CW and eaten a lot of snacks. I’d ran into many different groups of people all going to different points on different courses and all getting confused because I was going in a different direction, I enjoyed the idea that people were having to stop and check their nav because of me. Don’t let everyone else distract you! There were loads of competitors on Causey Pike as two different courses were visiting it at the same time. I punched in and doubled back towards Sail and took a left to go down and back up to Ard Crags and get the control point on Knott Rigg.
From here I could decide to go back to camp or carry on to Robinson, Hindscarth and Dale head. I actually felt pretty good which surprised me, I was eating well and drinking plenty, so decided to push on. On the path up to Hindscarth I bumped into one pole Rachael coming down. She’d gone back onto Haystacks this morning to search for the offending pole with no luck ,so gone around to Honister for some lunch before bagging three summits and heading back to camp. We had a quick chat and a laugh before going our separate directions and I summited Hindscarth and dibbed in before picking up another runner who had a lost compass and broken phone and was struggling with nav towards Dale head. I let him follow me down to Honister (another checkpoint) which he was very grateful for, and continued back into the clag for my final climb of the day onto Fleetwith Pike. A climb which dragged and dragged, broken up with a conversation with another lady on the Adventure course. I finally reached the summit, smashed a mars bar, a cube of Voom and a handful of Haribo (which kept me buzzing for hours until I later crashed out on a beanbag next to Rachael) and ran back down via Dubs Hut back to the Lake shore and along the shore path back into camp. 12 points again, 25 miles and a whopping 9,183 ft of elevation.
I stood in the river for 20 minutes after getting back (which I was grateful for the next morning) and then went in search of some cheesy chips which I’d been thinking about all day. I ran into David and Clare, the latter of the two had a big cut across her nose and dried blood splatted across the front of her running pack. She’d slipped coming down Eel Crag and face planted a rock and had been taken to Keswick to get the flap of skin glued, but only seemed bothered about the fact that the event team had made her get the bus back to Buttermere, and was planning on finishing the event.
I was still first female and fourth overall on the Adventure board and spent the rest of the evening trying not to fall asleep on a beanbag and chatting to Rachael about our route choices for the morning. We went off for an early night and had a hug goodbye, as the next day she would probably be back and heading for home before I was.
After another cracking nights sleep I packed up and was ready to go at 7am. Today the cut off for arriving back at the event centre by Ennerdale was 3pm so there were a lot more competitors waiting to leave that morning. With a weather warning of thunder later that day the event team advised us to abandon course on higher ground upon hearing/seeing any thunder or lightening, hopefully we’d miss that one. I yet again ran along the lake shore down to Gatesgarth and up towards my first checkpoint at Warnscale Bothy. The clag was again low and I again gained some followers who realised I might be going the right way to the bothy and not up into the gulley ahead. From there I headed straight up to grab the checkpoints on Brandreth and Green Gable, two points which weren’t on any other course for that day (this is worth noting). I arrived at the top of Brandreth in thick clag and visited each cairn in turn to find my orange marker… It wasn’t there. Thinking I must not have looked properly, I went round them all again, nothing. I got out my phone and checked on OS maps. This one was definitely supposed to be the summit, and there’s definitely no control point. After about 15 minutes of searching I decided to call the race control non emergency number on my map.
“Hello Phillipa, what’s the problem?”
“So I’m at the top of Brandreth and I’ve looked everywhere and the control point is definitely not here.”
A pause… Some hurried background conversation
“So the hill team have removed that checkpoint already, where are you headed next?”
“Green Gable”
“Yeah, that one’s gone too,”
“Right………………………, will I still get the points?”
“Oh yes, so long as you visit the locations”
After the call I had ten minutes of being very cheesed off, I stormed angrily to the top of Green Gable and down windy gap. By the time i’d got to Black Sail YHA I’d got over it.
I will add that when I got back to the event centre and received my print out, I pointed out that I was missing two and they immediately realised it was me who had rang. The event director apologised and said that he though it was only me who it had happened to and explained that they thought no one would go up there so they decided to take them out. A mistake that, thanks to me, probably won’t happen again.
From the Youth Hostel i made my way back along the long forestry road on the shores of Ennerdale bagging four more points and back up 2k of road to the Events centre. Where i received my final (corrected) print out, grabbed by dry bag and sat in the field eating my finishers meal and waiting for my lift.
7 points and 18.5 miles for the day. Which brought me to 31 points for the weekend and 4th overall on the Adventure course and 1st Female. There are no prizes or winners on this event, but I left feeling very pleased with the outcome.
Well done to everyone who was there on the weekend, Rachael, David (very well done on 2nd place on the Wainwrights course) Clare, Jim (hope you’re both recovering well) and Jo Morris, who might as well be a club member by now! Sorry If I’ve missed anyone.
A great weekend had by everyone and some fantastic running. I would highly recommend this event to anyone who want’s to try their hand at multi day running, or just a cracking weekend (did I mention that you can bring your dog?).
A side note, if anyone finds a Leki pole on Haystacks please return to Rachael May Knight, I’m sure her and Jacob would be thrilled to see it again.