TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2013

Where Eagles Dare

Eagle Front in Birkness Combe, Buttermere is one of the most well-known and sought after VS routes in the Lake District.

On the 1hr15min approach to Eagle Crag. The clean sunlit corner of the top pitch is high on the buttress directly above the orange sack.

On the approach to Eagle Crag. The sunlit final pitch is above the orange sack.

We started the 1h 15min walk in early and Richard and I arrived at the base of the route in good time.  Not quite early enough though; there were already two parties ahead of us. However we were relaxed and in no rush - it is a route to savour in such favourable conditions.

Chris approaching the first belay

Chris arriving at the first belay

With three 4c and two 4b pitches it is pleasantly sustained with continued interest over a meandering line. Other worthy routes were climbed over the weekend but I suspect that it will be this three star outing that will be remembered best.

Richard on pitch 6

Richard on pitch 6

Richard on the top corner pitch

Richard on the top corner pitch

Deep respect to Bill Peascod who repeated the route for TV with Chris Bonington in 1984, 44 years after he made the first ascent. At the age of 64 Peascod led every pitch in damp conditions with a few nuts and slings, and with just socks on his feet!

Happy climbers!

Happy climbers!

(Chris Harle is Outside’s bookman and Richard Wheeldon, a former manager of the shop in Hathersage, now works for Cordee)

TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2013
By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
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FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2013

Jez Portman digs deep for a scorching summer fell race

After 7 months of planning and preparations, the weekend of Dig Deep 2013 had arrived, right in the middle of a heatwave. No one dared to complain about the weather but Phil and I knew that it was going to be hard work finishing a long race, never mind posting a good time. We watched the hardy souls leave on the 60-mile Mammut UTPD (Ultra Trail of the Peak District) at 8am and began to make final preparations for our departure on the 30-mile OMM Intro Ultra at 10am.

Outside's store the Dig Deep event

Outside's store at the Dig Deep event

I was helping set up our Outside bargain store at the event and suddenly it was 9.50am and we were being summoned to the start line. All my preparations suddenly seemed very inadequate, especially as a ‘tweaky’ knee had reduced my mileage in the last couple of weeks (get your excuses in early).  As no-one wanted to start at the front, Phil and I stepped up; and then we were off in a cloud of dust.

The start of the Berghaus 12.12 race at Dig Deep

The start of the Berghaus 12.12 race at Dig Deep

The first couple of miles saw us down in the Porter Clough valley and as the more experienced were already walking on the uphills, I gladly took my cue from them and concentrated on sipping water and keeping my pace steady. By the time we emerged onto the moors above Ringinglow I was hot, wet from sweat and seriously wondering if I could finish.  Running past the Ox Stones, over Houndkirk Moor and up the Green Drive past Burbage North helped me get into a slower, more sustainable pace and I thought about the streams where I could pour the cool water over my head.

Running over Stanage to the Causeway made me re-focus on the ground under my feet and I lost a few more places. The long road section under Bamford Edge went quickly and allowed me to eat for the first time (not enough though) and I gratefully refilled my water bottles at Yorkshire Bridge.

The infamous 300m climb up Parkin Clough was even harder than I’d expected and I crept up it, feeling rather dispirited at the summit, while the next 4 miles through Hope and the cement works to the feed station in Bradwell were slow to say the least. I ate and drank ‘properly’ and took 15 minutes until I felt slightly more normal.  This paid dividends immediately, as my pace on the short steep climb to Bradwell Edge was much better and I ran more comfortably to Shatton.

Feeling the heat (with thanks to Summit Fever)

I slowed again along the river to Hathersage – it must have been 30 degrees in the sun, and I took 10 minutes to drink and stuff a Clif Bar in my mouth before the steep ascent from the river up to Millstone Edge. Other runners were suffering a lot by this point and I passed 2 who were close to calling it a day. A welcome breeze at Carl Wark made me stop there longer than I should have, but i least I felt fairly sure now that I would finish.

The final climb from Burbage Brook over to the Houndkirk Road was bearable and I started to feel able to run again. The last 3 miles were almost pleasurable and I passed 7 other runners before the finish. My time of 7 hrs 25 mins was of little consequence (mid table mediocrity and 30 mins behind Phil) but I was really pleased to finish and finish reasonably strongly. 

Jez cruising the final 10 yards to the finish line

Jez cruising the final 10 yards to the finish line

The next day, I did give some thought to the kit I’d been using. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any problems but, as your feet are the potential weak link in these events, my choices worked particularly well this time. My Inov-8 Trailroc 255’s were superb – they had enough room for my hot feet, gripped well, gave enough cushioning for road sections and left my feet as perfect as they could be after 30 hot miles. I suspect that my Injinji Performance 2.0 Run Original Weight socks contributed to my lack of foot issues and kept my feet dry and free from rubs and blisters. Both products highly recommended!

After a couple of day’s reflection, I think that this is a great race and ideal for those like myself, who are wanting to dip their toe in the Ultra ‘water’. I’ve got the ‘Lakes 50’ in 8 days time; I’m almost looking forward to it.....

Jez is a buyer for Outside

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2013
By Jez Portman
Footwear and Equipment Buyer

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Jez Portman
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Confessions of a First Time Fell Racer

Ben, Jill, Simon,Ben & Ernie - Pre Hathersage Fell Race

Ben T, Ben P, Simon, Jill and Ernie - Pre Hathersage Gala Fell Race

Work is done for the day. I’m trying to rustle up a climbing partner for the evening but the heat and the midges are putting off even my most reliable partners. I sit on the wall outside our shop, munch my way through four pretty much raw samosas and roll a fag.

The phone rings. It’s Jill.

“Hi Si, we’re all doing the Hathersage Gala Fell Race tonight, you should come too. It’ll be fun!”

“What?! Are you mental? It’s about 29 degrees.  I’d probably die from dehydration”

“Yeah, but it’s too hot for climbing too.”

“I couldn’t, I haven’t run for years, I’m so unfit right now. What if I come last? That would be so embarrassing.”

“Oh come on, there’ll be grannies and fatties running it too, it’s just a bit of fun. Five pounds entry, meet at the Pool, see you soon!”

“But I haven’t got any kit with me…” I continue my protest but she’s already gone. So that’s it, she’s just bullied me into it. I start hydrating and make my way over to the school to register.

I’ve never entered a race before. Time spent in the Lake District plagued by awful weather and debilitating shoulder injuries led me to running as a way to pass the time but that was years ago. It was enjoyable, nowhere near as fun as climbing but a good way to cover some ground. Steep descents, running at night and in poor visibility added some kind of technical interest to distract from the pounding monotony. But I never raced. Why would anyone pay money to run across the hills, why feel the need to prove that you’re the best? I didn’t get it, but hey, here I am, feeling the most unfit I’ve ever been, on a seriously hot day, about to run my first ever fell race.

This is gonna be horrendous.

I’m greeted at the school-grounds by Jill, Ben, Ben and Ernie, alongside hundreds of runners, all looking keen, lean and mean in the shortest of short-shorts and skimpy vests. Not a fatty in sight. Sure there are some grannies, but they look fit and lithe. Facing the very real prospect of coming last, I commit an abominable act of cowardice and enter under an assumed name.

My five pound note is exchanged for 4 safety pins and a number and I half-heartedly start warming up. A single lap of the school field leaves me breathless, so I switch to stretching instead. Pretty soon we’re all assembled at the start line. We position ourselves firmly in the middle of the throng, not wanting to obstruct the hardcore, yet reluctant to be tailing from the off. I feel incredibly self-conscious. A couple of old boys comment sarcastically on my appearance – fresh out the office, I’m dressed in cotton cargos and a bright striped shirt. No proper fell shoes either, a battered pair of ZX500s with the soles peeling off will have to do. At least the ground is dry.

Inappropriate Footwear

Appropriate footwear for a fell race?

For your average fell-runner 7.2 km counts as a sprint, and the pack starts to spread right from the start as the really fit ones leg it towards Millstone. Mere mortals seem to be taking it easy, a wise move given the 1000ft ascent in the first half of the race, and I drop my pace. I’m encouraged to find that by walking with a strange, lolloping stride straight out of Monty Python I can hold my position fairly well. The path is narrow, and stiles, gates and fallen trees create bottlenecks which give me a welcome excuse to rest. The hill steepens and my chest wheezes as we approach Over Owler Tor. A brief rocky descent allows me to overtake a few and then it’s flat across the moor towards Higgar Tor and the final climb. Attempts to engage in conversation are met with dirty looks, never mind, I’m seriously flagging by now and decide to save my breath.

Surreal Landscape Over Owler Tor

Surreal landscape Over Owler Tor

Approaching Higgar Tor

I know my strengths. Jumping off boulders and slacklines has honed the ‘controlled falling’ technique necessary for a rocky descent and I know that all I need to do is get the top of the hill with a just a little in reserve and I’ll be laughing all the way to the pub. But Higgar Tor ruins me. I reach the top a sweaty mess, lungs screaming, a stressful, yearlong relapse into smoking and general lethargy has taken its toll. I feel chunks of samosa rising up my gullet but manage to suppress the urge to puke. Tired legs seem incapable of propelling me in the right direction. An old bath re-assigned as a sheep trough is tempting to jump in, but I have to finish. More and more people stream past on the descent, some old enough to be my granddad. The final tiny rise into the school field almost has me crawling as I stagger to the finish line. Jill is there to greet me with a hug but I ignore her and make a beeline for the wall, where I come close to vomiting again.

Midges force everyone into the pub, where ale and crisps make a perfect post-workout recovery. As I greedily lick the salt from the crisp packet I notice the clusters of dead insects massed on my chest. Splatted like flies on a windscreen? Nah, I don’t think I was running fast enough for that, they probably just drowned. I don’t think I’ve ever tried so hard on a run, the collective buzz just drives you on. The endorphin rush is immense, and it all becomes clear. I think I get it now.

Drenched in sweat, tired and happy

Drenched in sweat, tired and happy


Simon works in the Web Department at Outside. And he didn’t come last.

By Simon Kimber
Web Editor

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Simon Kimber
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Glen Coe

Mike and I headed up to Scotland for a few days climbing in June to be greeted by the locals in Taynuilt saying the usual "oh you should have been here last week" as they had just come to the end of two weeks of fantastic weather. Despite the mixed forecast we got up (relatively) early and made our way to the Buachaille in Glen Coe and worked our way up to Rannoch Wall.

January Jigsaw Pitch 1

Mike setting off on January Jigsaw

We were pleased to see that Agag's Groove and January Jigsaw were both free and promptly set off on Agag's Groove. I had been on the Buachaille before on Curved Ridge and The North Butress (in winter) but am always blown away by the fantastic vista and feeling of exposure that you get looking over Rannoch Moor. The climbing was excellent as you would expect from a Ken Wilson "Classic Rock" route. We soon topped out, had lunch and scrambled back down Curved Ridge to the base of January Jigsaw. This again was an excellent route that shares a belay with Agag's Groove but crosses the face from left to right. Once at the top we worked our way up behind Crowberry Tower and went to the summit of the mountain. We then headed back down and made it home in time for a trip to Oban for shopping and a beer.

Unknown climber high on January Jigsaw

Unknown climber high on January Jigsaw

The next morning with the threat of rain at lunch time we jumped on the boat in Taynuilt and headed down Loch Etive to the slabs. We tied up to the logging pier and walked up to the Slabs.

Approaching the Etive Slabs by boat

Mike Pickwell approaching the Etive Slabs

The best way to approach a crag

Despite our early (ish) start there were a few teams up there already and the Classic VS Spartan Slab had 3 parties on it already! We chatted to a couple of guys (who we had bumped into the day before on the Buachaille) and they recommended a shorter route we could do with no teams on called Vein Rouge. We set off on the first pitch which is shared with Raspberry Ripple and I then went slightly off route on the second pitch. By the time Mike joined me at the second belay it was obvious we were off route and Mike had a bold traverse with no gear for 40 meters to take us to the top of the slab. As I set off it started raining which was interesting to say the least!

Mike Pickwell on Vein Rouge, Etive Slabs

Mike on Vein Rouge

I managed to top out and we walked off for an afternoons fishing on the loch as we watched the parties on Spartan Slab set up abseils to get off the slippery slabs. The rain then set in and that was the end of our climbing but we felt happy that we had made the most of it and got some climbing done, both days in fantastic locations.

Rob is the Shop Manager at Outside

By Rob Turnbull
Managing Director

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Rob Turnbull
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