Compass Sport - 2013 Event Report

1st Jul 2013

First published in Compass Sport July 2013
By Shane Ohly

The GL3D™ is a small but adventurous three-day mountain marathon with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Always based in the Lake District the 2013 event sold out with one hundred competitors. In this fantastic 6 minute film about the 2013 event, Rich Heap from Slackjaw Productions (the awarding winning team behind the recent Dragon’s Back Race™ film) really captures the flavour of the 2013 Great Lakeland 3Day™. Will you be joining us in 2014?

It is early May, two days before the 2013 Great Lakeland 3Day™ and I am standing on the summit of Great Dodd. The weather is fantastic: perfect running conditions with clear skies, a cool breeze and warm sunshine. Placing controls is rarely a chore but today is one of those memorable ‘days in the office’ that makes being a race organiser really worth it.

Historically, the GL3D™ has usually enjoyed fantastic weather despite being on the Bank Holiday weekend at the beginning of May (the British Champs weekend). This year, despite the promising start to Friday morning, by the time the first competitors arrived at our remote Event Centre at Dowthwaite Head Farm, the wind was picking up, the clouds were darkening and a weekend of low cloud and drizzle looked set. Weather like this always results in a tougher test for the competitors… and the organisers!

The long traverse below Scot Crag and into Glenridding on the first day of the GL3D™.
Photo: Stuart Smith - Adventures in Mind

New for 2013 was the introduction of two new, shorter, courses. The original GL3D™ had just one course and this was renamed the Elite. An A and B course were then introduced following the well-established system used by most mountain marathons. This was clearly a popular move with double the competitors from 2012. Still, with just 100 taking part the GL3D™ retains that small and friendly atmosphere that has made it so popular over the years.

Competitors simply enter the event rather than having to select a course in advance. This flexibility proved popular, as competitors were able to change their course each morning depending on how the previous day had gone. Another key element of the GL3D™ is that competitors camping equipment is transported to each of the overnight campsites so competitors can enjoy a day in the hills with light bags.

Day One
B Course = 32km / 1900m
A Course = 41km / 2400m
E Course = 48km / 2900m
Note - These are the planner’s optimum course distances and climb.

Day one saw all three courses heading south over Birkhouse Moor and then up Helvellyn via Striding Edge. To be honest, as a race organiser, it is always a little nerve wracking when you plan a course that deliberately takes in potentially dangerous features like Striding Edge. However, sensible risk assessing and having both experienced competitors and a planning team does mean that the GL3D™ can take on the best of the Lake District terrain.

Sunny conditions and fantastic views to Grasmere from the Lion and the Lamb on Helm Crag.
Photo: Stuart Smith - Adventures in Mind

After Helvellyn all the courses headed down to Grisedale Hause, the B course then broke west, heading over Helm Crag before dropping off Greenup Edge into Stonethwaite and onto the first overnight camp at Seathwaite. Meanwhile, the A course had continued over Great Rigg from Grisedale Hause before dropping to Rydal Water and rejoining the B course at Helm Crag. The Elite course had an even longer loop to the south, reaching as far as Red Screes before passing through Ambleside, over Loughrigg and then rejoining to other two courses at Helm Crag.

The top three places at the end of the first day were:

  E Course A Course   B Course
1st Stewart Bellamy / 07:23 Steve Lang / 06:50 Kevin Minter & Mark Clayton / 06:17
2nd David Spence / 07:51 Nigel Coe / 08:47 Heather Ohly & Ellie Pocock / 06:19
3rd Timothy Kei Martin / 08:01 Conor Cromie / 09:21 David Frame / 06:37

As all the competitors settled into the their tents for the evening or continued to enjoy the complimentary hospitality in the beer tent (another unique feature of the GL3D™) the reality of being the race organiser was biting. One of our least experienced competitors was long overdue and as dusk turned to night it was time to solicit an expert second opinion with a call to Keswick Mountain Rescue team. After a long conversation it was decided that although inexperienced by our standards, the overdue competitor was still ‘experienced’, that they where suitably clothed and equipped, that we had no reason to think that they were anything other than lost and that they could be reasonably expected to survive a night on the fells if needed. We decided to revisit our decisions at 2300… fortunately, just before this time, the satellite phone bleep into life with a call from our overdue competitor. They had just arrived at the phone box in Stonewthaite after getting badly lost crossing Greenup Edge. There was relief all round.

Day Two
B Course = 33km / 2500m
A Course = 42km / 3000m
E Course = 47km / 3700m
Note - These are the planner’s optimum course distances and climb.

The second day dawned with more poor weather. There was a very distinct cloud base at around 300m and above this thick cloud, wind and drizzle swirled around the Cumbrian mountain tops. Poor visibility and testing conditions were assured.

Ben and Mike Warrick experincing perfect Bank Holiday weekend weather.
Photo: Stuart Smith - Adventures in Mind

Once again all the courses shared an initial checkpoint on Green Gable. The B course then visited Robinson’s Cairn near Pillar before dropping into Buttermere, heading up the beautiful Sail Beck valley to Brandlehow Woods on the shores of Derwent Water and then climbing up to our remote overnight camp along the road to Watendlath. Rather than dropping into Buttermere, the A course continued along the exposed ridge between High Crag and Red Pike before heading over the rarely visited Mellbreak. From here, the route took competitors around the northern edge of Crummock Water before heading over Coledale Hause and rejoining the B course at Brandlehow Woods. This grand tour of the Lake District took the Elite competitors even further with a courses that visited Haycock after Green Gable, rejoined the A course at Mellbreak before climbing up to Whitside and then along the spectacular ridge to Grisedale Pike and rejoining the other two courses in Brandlehow Woods.

The very challenging conditions and long courses on day two meant that only eleven people completed the Elite and only two completed the A. There was a much better finishing rate for the B with the majority of people completing the course albeit with some very long days for some.

The top three places at the end of the second day were:

  E Course A Course B Course
1st Timothy Kei Martin / 09:05 Steve Lang / 09:21 David Frame / 08:09
2nd Stewart Bellamy / 09:15 John Worth / 11:22  Heather Ohly & Ellie Pocock / 08:20
3rd David Spence / 09:38 No other finishers Jan-Friedrich Wolf / 09:12

Day Three
B Course = 22km / 1500m
A Course = 24km / 1500m
E Course = 30km / 2000m
Note - These are the planner’s optimum course distances and climb.

The poor visibility and generally inclement weather on the first two days of the event meant that many competitors had some long days on the fells and the success rate on each course was less than we would have liked. For these reasons, we decided to revert to our shorter ‘Bad Weather’ courses on the final day to ensure that everyone got away at a reasonable time despite the now improving weather and outlook for the day.

The route for the B course saw everyone heading past Watendlath, Blea Tarn and Harrop Tarn before once again climbing onto the Helvellyn range and heading north to Great Dodd before dropping into the Event Centre at Dowthwaite Head Farm. Both the A and Elite course headed in the opposite direction from the overnight camp, taking in Walla Crag and Latrigg. The A course then headed back via Great Dodd whilst the Elite course still took in Blencathra… they were certainly getting value for money!

The bank holiday sun finally made an appearance on the Monday afternoon and as our event kit started to dry out the competitors were able to lounge around in the sun and enjoy their post event meal, drinks and cakes.

The top three places at the end of the third day were:

   E Course A Course B Course
1st Stewart Bellamy / 04:51 Steve Lang / 03:32 David Frame / 03:58
2nd Timothy Kei Martin / 05:21 John Worth / 05:26 Mark Rawlinson / 04:07
3rd Gregory Crowley / 05:37 Paul Arts & Paul Johnson / 05:30 Mike & Ben Warrick / 04:16

The overall results were:

  E Course A Course B Course
1st Stewart Bellamy / 21:30 Steve Lang / 19:43 David Frame / 18:45
2nd  Timothy Kei Martin / 22:31 No other finishers Heather Ohly & Ellie Pocock / 18:59
3rd David Spence / 23:16 No other finishers Kevin Minter & Mark Clayton / 20:29


Race Director, Shane Ohly, presents limited edition prints from Heather Dawe to Stewart Bellamy and Catherine Holloway, the fastest male and female on the 2013 GL3D™ Elite course.


The GL3D™ has always attracted long distance walkers but other than the most able, they have generally struggled with the long distances and significant height gain each year. Because of this, for the 2014 event we are introducing a C course (already coined the Café Class by the planning team), which will be specifically aimed at walkers and will only have one checkpoint per day to allow competitors maximum route choice between the overnight camps… and time to visit the very best Lake District cafés!

The 2014 event will be on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of May and we have something very special brewing up! Rather than complex navigation, the GL3D™ emphasis is on long mountain journeys, spectacular scenery and enjoying an amazing mountain experience. Competitors should expect mountain trails and footpaths, along ridges and through valleys, rather than contouring and bogs.

I fully understand that many orienteer’s will already know exactly what they are doing on the British Champs weekend, but for the adventurous, I can promise a very memorable weekend in the Lakes.