Sunday, 29 June 2014

Lake District: 5 in 5 challenge for MS Society

Team Social Hiking peak #5 - Base Brown
Team Social Hiking 5 in 5
On 21st June, team 'Social Hiking' took part in both the 10 in 10 challenge – hiking 10 peaks in the Lake District in 10 hours, and the 5 in 5 (5 peaks in 5 hours) in aid of MS Society. I was in the 5 in 5 Challenge. A shorter, but by no means easier, undertaking.
Friday morning, I picked up Social Hiking's creator Phil Sorrell (@daylightgambler) enroute to the Lake District. It was the first time I had met Phil but thanks to constant contact by email and Google+ over the past year, it didn't feel like it.

I just hoped that the rest of the weekend went as smoothly as the drive up, and I needn't have been concerned. Once set up camp in Rosthwaite, fellow Social Hikers began to trickle in. A trip to the Scafell Hotel that evening helped us all get to know each other, as did a late evening back at camp.

Next morning, everyone was up early, some hadn't actually been to bed thanks to some epic snoring, and the 10in10ers made their way to the start for 6:30am. Us 5in5ers had a civilised later start. Once we had signed in, we were on our way by 8am.

Team Social Hiking - 5in5 Division consisted of me (@paulgbuck), Andy (@mixedupmessedup), Kate (@DiveSciDiva), Pete (@naturistatheist) and Rose (@rucksackrose).

After the initial challenge of getting out of Rosthwaite, we were soon over the River Derwent and at the foot of Tongue Gill, and taking a first stop a few minutes after the path began to threaten it was sloping upwards. This could be a long day, I thought to myself.


Time to lose a layer before the climb up Tongue Gill
Time to lose a layer
Tongue Gill gave me the opportunity to gauge the fitness and capability of the 5in5ers. I was pleasantly reassured; this was my first meet with fellow Social Hikers and I was expecting some mutant race of uber hikers, not a friendly bunch of like minded people with varying degrees of fitness but equal determination to complete the challenge. I knew, at that early stage, I was going to enjoy the day with my team mates.

Fitness levels inevitably meant we started to spread out as the ground steepened. We halted at a gate just before the ascent into Rigghead Quarry to regroup, but Rose was labouring. She called out that she was turning round, the effects of a sleepless night at camp had taken its toll already. We weren't close enough to try and persuade her to carry on, I doubt it would have been the right thing to try and do anyway, and we watched, disappointed as she began to retrace her steps to Rosthwaite. Whilst sad to see her go, a part of me was pleased  that Rose had made the correct decision to retire before we got into territory where someone else would have to escort her off, ending their challenge.

Andy taking it slow and steady through the quarry in Tongue Gill
Andy taking it slow and easy through the quarry in Tongue Gill

The path through the quarry may have been loose and energy sapping in the heat, but at least it was easy to follow. Andy was now feeling it more than the rest, and we made conscious efforts to take plenty of rest breaks on the ascent. We all topped out together, into a welcome breeze, where Dale Head Tarn came into sight, as did the next big push.

Dale Head Tarn and the route up Dale Head
Dale Head Tarn and the route up Dale Head
As we went "off-road" to the tarn, we spotted some of the 10in10ers making their way down from High Spy. Tim (@ukjeeper), Matt (@hillplodder) and Cath (@wellycath) had parted from the rest of the team, who had surged ahead. Tim was carrying an injury, Matt was finding the starting pace too quick but beginning to get into his stride, and Cath was thinking she had bitten off more than she could chew.

Bumped into some Team Social Hiking 10in10'ers!
Bumped into some Team Social Hiking 10 in 10'ers 
Kate and Tim chillin' out before Dale Head summit
Kate and Tim chillin' before Dale Head summit
Final push up Dale Head
Final push up Dale Head
By the time we had ascended to our first peak, Dale Head, Cath had decided to defect and join us 5in5ers, enticed by our simple plan to stick together, enjoy the day, and get round as a team, whatever the time it took.

Team Social Hiking peak #1 - Dale Head
Team Social Hiking 5 in 5 - peak #1: Dale Head
From our first peak, we descended to the Honister Slate Mine, where Phil and Tim's wife, Chris met us with some encouragement and delicious pork, blackpudding with chilli pies. Tim and Matt were still there, Tim's injury had put an end to his challenge. Matt was to carry on alone, with the intention to catch up with Rik and Adrian, and once he knew Cath was going to stay with the 5in5ers, he set off.

Andy was seriously contemplating pulling out here. It took some persuasion to get him to carry on. With the knowledge gained from my recce the week before, I reassured him that the next ascent was the last big effort. In truth, there was still plenty still to be done once up to Grey Knotts, but those challenges weren't as daunting as the climb from the mine. He owed it to himself to at least have a crack at the next ascent and if it proved too much, could always return to the mine. I figured the view from Grey Knotts would be all the encouragement he would need to finish.

All refreshed, we started up the steep path. Unlike Tongue Gill, this climb was in cooler conditions, and whereas I had found it tough the week before, it was easier this time around. We took plenty of breaks, and kept together.

The steep ascent to Grey Knotts
The steep ascent to Grey Knotts
Team breather half way up Grey Knotts
Team breather half way up Grey Knotts
not far now!
not far now to Grey Knotts
When we reached the top at Grey Knotts, the rest of the challenge could be seen.  This did appear to convince Andy that he could carry on.

Green Gable and Great Gable from Grey Knotts
Green Gable and Great Gable from Grey Knotts
As directed by the Marshall at the checkpoint on Grey Knotts, we headed to Brandreth. It didn't sit too comfortable with me as my recce of the route took me along to another rocky outcrop over a fence, where the highest point of this peak could be bagged. Not one to question what they wanted us to do, we carried on, like the rest of the challengers.

At Brandreth, we checked in, had another team photo and then set off for the highest point of our challenge; Green Gable.

Team Social Hiking peak #3 - Brandreth
Team Social Hiking 5 in 5 - peak #3: Brandreth
Down to our left we could see the path down, along Sour Milk Gill, a great morale booster. We continued up Green Gable, rapt that I could see it in all its glory after the clag the last time. 

Looking down to Borrowdale
Looking down to Borrowdale
Before we reached the top, we gathered for a break on the grassy slopes, and Andy broke out the jelly babies for some energy to aid us in the final push to the summit.

Ascending Green Gable
Ascending Green Gable
The view from Green Gable was spectacular, and the north face of Great Gable looked formidable.

Great Gable
Great Gable
The view from Green Gable
The view from Green Gable
Team Social Hiking peak #4 - Green Gable
Team Social Hiking 5 in 5 - peak #4: Green Gable
Now it was all down hill (sort of!). The path down from Green Gable, in the direction we had to take, is worn, crumbling and care has to be taken. Once again, we spread out, moving at our own respective pace, but we all had each other in sight so it mattered little, and we were to reconvene at the last peak; Base Brown.

Base Brown
Base Brown
We had reached Base Brown in six hours, honestly, we were satisfied with that. Descending Sour Milk Gill was all that stood between us and the end now. 

Team Social Hiking peak #5 - Base Brown
Team Social Hiking 5 in 5 - peak #5: Base Brown
Homeward Bound
Homeward bound
Kate and I hooked on to the back of another team of challengers on the descent, and our speed increased. I looked back and saw that Andy, Pete and Cath were a fair way behind so slowed our pace, stopping by the river, just before the final steep descent to Seathwaite Farm.

Looking towards Borrowdale
Looking towards Borrowdale
Reunited, we began the tricky descent. The week before I moaned about the choice of path, and I was not surprised to see Marshall's at the section where the path becomes a scramble. They advised as to the best way down, I was just thankful that it was dry this time around.

As we neared the bottom, we could make out Phil, Tim and Chris at the end. Spurred on by this, Kate raced ahead, then came me, Cath, Pete, and then Andy. It had taken us seven and a half hours, but I was well chuffed we finished as a team.

Looking back at the final descent
Looking back at the final descent
It was a real boost to be applauded in at the end by some familiar faces, and to be given a lift back, by Tim, to Rosthwaite, instead of a 45 minute traipse along the road, was the icing on the cake! 

We signed out back at the start, picked up our Berghaus 10 in 10 tee shirts, and hit the showers back at the campsite. Then it was off to the pub to celebrate with the 10in10ers, who were now finishing, and kit ourselves out in a fetching "Social Hiking Green" polo shirt!

Photo: Cath (@wellycath) 
It was a cracking weekend, for a great cause, and a helluva a lot of us are throwing our hat in for another bash at it next year!

If you would like to donate still, please go to www.justgiving.com/walking4charity

And the Route: