By Shane Ohly
Earlier this year, Joe Faulkner reminisced about the early GL3D™’s (article here) and explained that I was taking over the event. For the May 2012 event, I had not wanted to change much in terms of the event format but did want to modernise how the event operated, with the introduction of pre-printed maps and electronic timing. I also wanted to build on that relaxed and informal atmosphere that the GL3D™ is famous for, so I introduced free cakes and provided hot water and beer at the overnight camps. I didn’t need the post event survey to tell me this had been a success, but it was gratifying to know that 92% of the competitors thought these had been great additions to the event. It wasn’t 100% only because a few competitors thought the cakes were too big!!!
2012 Event Statistics - Information gathered by anonymous survey after the event.
• The event was rated as ‘Perfect’ by 19%, ‘Excellent’ by 74% and ‘Good’ by the remaining 7% (we are working on that 7%!)
• 97% of competitors said they would recommend the event to their friends
The event was based at Middle Fell Farm in Langdale with the iconic Dungeon Ghyll pub just a stone’s throw away. Most of the competitors arrived and registered on the Friday night and enjoyed a pint in the pub. Cumbrian local, Charlie Sproson, was the event planner and did a fine job liaising with the local farmers and creating the route.
|Above: Competitors ascending Pike O Blisco at the start of day one. Photo: Simon Caldwell|
Langdale > Pike of Blisco > Brown Pike > Caw > Black Combe > Whitfell > Dalegarth Hall Farm
Both Charlie and I were up bright and early on Saturday morning for the first day of the event. Charlie had the Pike of Blisco control to place and, as the first starters were heading out at 0700, I needed to get the hot water heated up for breakfast… we both up at 0500. It wasn’t a hardship though, because it was a fantastic spring morning with clear blue skies and bright sunshine, which promised an exceptional day on the fells for the competitors.
The route south from Pike of Blisco over Brown Pike and Caw provided a generous helping of classic Lake District ridge running, which everyone enjoyed. Classic routes like this are a signature of the event. The long out and back to Black Combe had fewer fans because the going is tougher, on indistinct paths. However, when asked, everyone admitted that the incredible, panoramic coastal views from the summit of Black Combe were well worth it. Very few of the competitors had been to Black Combe before and designing the course so that it visits more unusual Lakeland summits is another key component of the event.
Heading back west over Whitfell to reach Eskdale is much faster running than the map may have you believe, with a good network of quad bike tracks and unmarked footpaths between the minor summits.
|Above: Braddan Johnson descending from Black Combe during day one. Photo: Simon Caldwell|
At the end of the first day, Colin Russell and Kev Harper from Scotland finished first in an impressive 06:23 with the majority of the field finishing in 8 to 10 hours. However, the staggered start meant that most people finished close together towards the end of the afternoon. A few teams opted to miss the dogleg out to Black Combe but hey, this the GL3D™ not the OMM, so we are relaxed about adhoc route amendments!
Dalegarth Hall Farm > Wasdale Road > Styhead Pass > High Raise > Steel Fell > St Sunday Crag > Patterdale > Troutbeck Park Farm
The route from Eskdale to Wasdale, passing Burnmoor Tarn, offers fantastic track running. Although it was still clear in the valleys at this point, there were some dark and ominous clouds lingering between Great Gable and Scafell, which was just where the competitors were heading!
|Above: The forecast bad weather eventual envolopes the mountains near Great End. Photo: Simon Caldwell|
However, the real drama was being played out in the valley where I had stopped at a garage outside Ambleside to fill up the fuel containers for the petrol generator and thought that I may as well top up the van at the same time… The sense of horror, as the van began to splutter badly a mile down the road was awful. The realisation that I had just put half a tank of unleaded into a diesel van was sickening. On a bank holiday weekend, I knew that I could have jeopardised the viability of the entire event. I was sharing the van with Charlie and, as we were only a mile from the overnight campsite in Troutbeck, we decided to push on so at least we could make the day two campsite happen. The competitors needed to access their overnight bags that we were transporting. The van made a final splutter and cough, came to a stop in our camping field and refused to start again.
|Above: Descending from St Sunday Crag towards Ullswater. Photo: Simon Caldwell|
Meanwhile, as the majority of the competitors were between Styhead Pass and High Rise, the weather that had threatened finally broke with some hale and light snow on the highest ground. Fortunately, the poor weather only lasted a few hours and was limited to the higher tops. However, it had been too much for a few competitors who opted to catch a bus down to Ambleside from Dunmail Raise and then walk up to the overnight campsite. A few more had had enough by Patterdale and shared a taxi direct the Troutbeck campsite.
Our two American competitors, Loyal MacMillian and Joe Dudas (one of whom had travel from America to take part, while the other had travelled from Germany!) decided to make their own route for the entire day and arrived at Troutbeck having had a great day out but having not visited a single checkpoint!
The majority of the competitors did visit all the checkpoints though, and Colin and Kev finished first again in 07:02 to maintain their overall lead.
|Above: The atmospheric overnight campsite after the second day at Troutbeck Park farm with Troutbeck Tongue in the background (behind the tree on the left). Photo: Stewart Bellamy|
Troutbeck Park Farm > Caudale Moor > Red Screes > Fairfield > Tarn (East of Stickle Tarn) > Langdale
All the competitors agreed that day three had the best running and it’s not hard to understand why, with classic Lakeland summits and the beautiful journey alongside Easedale Beck to head back over into Langdale. However, we had a final test for the competitors by placing the last control on a minor tarn just east of Stickle Tarn, which was out of character with the navigational difficultly for the rest of the event, but it was a good test of their concentration at the end of three days in the hills. A few competitors scratched their heads briefly, having gone straight to Stickle Tarn – just as Charlie and I had hoped – but everyone found the final checkpoint quickly enough.
|Above: Scandale Pass and the Fairfield range. Photo: Simon Caldwell|
The final test for the organisation team was getting our stricken van back to Langdale. With some trepidation I turned the key after all the competitors had departed and the van splurged back to life. Phew!
The final day of the GL3D is always a little shorter than the first two and all but the slowest few had arrived back in Langdale as the poor weather that had been forecast all weekend finally arrived. As the rain hammered down on the event tent we were able to tuck into a fantastic meal prepared for us by the Old Dungeon Ghyll.
Colin and Kev extended their overall lead by finishing the third day in 4:20 and completed the entire course in 17:47.
There was one final stress for me as organiser though. Two competitors had decided to walk straight back from Troutbeck to Langdale via Ambleside. The route was about 5 miles shorter than the actual mountain route with a fraction of the height gain. However, the two had still not arrived as the course closure time passed, which had been designed to accommodate someone walking the mountain route. We started working through our ‘Missing Person Protocol’, which quickly indicated that we should contact Mountain Rescue but we decided to wait 10 minutes, as a bus was due from Ambleside…. The bus arrived but no competitors. Once again I had that sinking feeling. I couldn’t understand how they could be so significantly overdue when following a simple, low-level route. Just as we were about to press the panic button, one of our marshals returned from having driven down Langdale to report that he had found them walking along the road. They had decided to have a long lunch stop in Ambleside!
Many thanks to Stuart Bellamy, Paul Arts and Martyn Fairlamb who did a fantastic job as volunteer marshals. Charlie Sproson did a grand job as the planner and his partner Nicola Merrett was an unexpected but very welcome addition to our team. Events like the GL3D™ simply wouldn’t happen without great people like this.
The 2013 GL3D™
The big change for 2013 is the introduction of two new courses and the option to enter as either a pair or solo competitor. Previously, all competitors were solo and shared one course, which averaged about 26 miles each day with considerable height gain. It was roughly equivalent to an Elite mountain marathon course in terms of difficulty. We will now be offering two additional courses that are similar to an A and B course at a mountain marathon.
This means that competitors can choose from either an Elite, A or B course. The really exciting component of the GL3D™ is that competitors simply enter the event, and then choose whichever course they prefer on the day. This could either be Elite for all three days, Elite, B then A or any ‘mix-and-match’ combination. All competitors will still share the same overnight camp.