Sun 3 Oct 2021, Patterdale, Cumbria
Or, Falls, Waterfalls and Rainfall……. After an enforced break in 2020 due to COVID, the HBMR resumed this year and Preston Harriers had an entry. There were doubts over raising a full team due to unavailability of several of our regular fell runners and was finally made complete by Mark Lee and new Harrier Rhiannon Kamink coming in at very short notice. At a late stage, there was also doubt about the race route, with the possibility of it being shortened due to forecast bad weather. Just hours before race start time, the organisers decided on the original (best) route with additional kit requirements.
HBMR is a true fell relay, with tough climbs, incredibly steep descents, rough technical ground, very changeable weather conditions and navigational issues. It covers 25miles with over 9000 feet ascent, divided into four unequal sections run in pairs. It starts and ends in Patterdale-Cumbria after circumnavigating the Kirkstone Pass area. 71 teams had entered this year.
The day dawned and the weather was awful, fine, awful, claggy, clear, very heavy showers, very high winds on the tops and, at times, poor visibility-a real mix. We met in Preston and travelled up in two full cars with Ben Naylor making his own way up.
Leg 1- 6.7K/4m 400m/1400’
On this leg we had club stalwarts John Rainford and John Griffiths who set off at pace along the road and through Side Farm to try and get a good position before the path narrowed as they climbed into the mist in a single file ascent around Place Fell. On the tops there was a strong headwind, which cleared the mist away and visibility improved dramatically, enough to see a herd of deer, perhaps 12-14 strong crossing our path from right to left at speed-a great sight. On the incredibly steep, wet descent to Hayeswater Gill, the best mode of transport was on your backside and hope there were no hidden rocks. The two John’s held their place on the descent and covered ground quickly on the long track run into the changeover at Hartsop sheep pens. Time 49:10 and 30th Place
Leg 2- 11k/7m 890m/2900’
Dave Parkington and Mark Lee. Dave had done this leg some years ago and knew what was in store. It was to prove a testing day for Mark, not as fit as he would like due to recent injury and unaccustomed to this type of race/terrain. They headed back up the track heading for High Street via The Knott and into some tough weather conditions. Mark suffered several falls (banging his arm one time but no break fortunately), reducing them to walking pace at times. Mark was shivering and looked in a bad way as he reached changeover point at Kirkstone Pass. With dry clothes and some food at the event centre he came to eventually. Mark was willing to take on any leg, was there on time and did his best, making organisation an easier task for the team captain. Top club man. Time 1:56:12 and 68th place.
Leg 3- 7.5k/4.6m 570m/1900’
Roy Parkinson and Rhiannon Kamink set off in the mini-mass start to ascend into the clag up the almost vertical Red Screes. The team captain withheld certain bits of information from Roy about his partner Rhiannon, namely that she was a former Welsh junior international fell runner! She was very strong on the climb up Red Screes. Roy, hoping dearly for the clag to stay down then his navigational prowess could shine, was thwarted as the mist cleared from the fell tops. He still managed to bag some best lines. The descent from Dove Crag was very tricky at times due to conditions, but the pair arrived at changeover in one piece sporting big smiles-a great combination of youth and experience. Time 1:25:02 63rd place.
Leg 4- 11k/7m 900m/3000’
Alistair Palmer and Ben Naylor set off in the mini-mass start back up the Dovedale valley and into some very wet conditions. Ben fresh from an excellent 17th place at the Rivington Pike fell race was made to work hard by Ali up to Hart Crag and the pair made good time on the traverse to Fairfield finding a good line north of the ridge. Descending Cofa Pike on the slippy technical section between Fairfield and St Sunday Crag, a large rock shifted under Alistairs foot causing him to twist his knee- resulting in swelling to the joint. Hopefully, he recovers for the FRA relays later in October. Ben had a lucky escape on the final descent into Patterdale, when he slipped after becoming crag bound when taking a direct, but dangerous line off Thornhow End. Luckily he descended safely in the end. Time 1:30:49 and 38th place.
Many thanks to Mick Mac for his unselfish logistic and team support, helping to make a potentially difficult day run smoothly. The team were 60th overall, not our best finish, but something to beat next year-and we will. John Griffiths, Team Captain