It’s always nice to spend a day out with friends. My Joss Naylor Traverse run last Saturday was that and much, much more -- a day of supreme challenge aided and abetted by a team of fully committed helpers whose enthusiasm was heart warming
As a journey it began at Pooley Bridge 10 years ago, inspired by JtE’s own successful run, and ended at the third attempt at Greendale Bridge on a wonderful sunny late spring Lakeland evening.
And so it was that a small group stood on the Bridge of Pooley at three o’clock on a breezy, cool morning. There was unfinished business to be done. We had driven up in good, though somewhat sleep deprived spirits, ready to take on the world, or at least the Lake District.
The scheduled start time came and went, delayed by misplaced spectacles and then by a missing camera (guess who). By five minutes past we were all ready, synchronised watches and with a wave to Julie, who was to take Ed’s car to Dunmail, it was off into the darkness. As we built up a bit of time in hand over the first few summits, things began to look good.
The breeze that had been no problem at Pooley Bridge had strengthened as we climbed and began to chill. By Red Crag mist was beginning to roll in and hindered navigation for a while and was with us as far as Thornthwaite Beacon. From here we decided on the grassy descent to the right of the wall, not wanting to repeat the experience of the previous attempt when a fall on the drop down the stony tourist route from the beacon was later to end the attempt at Rossett with an injured hip.
By Kirkstone we were exhilarated by the pale morning sunlight but the margin of improvement over the schedule was starting to dwindle and Ray and Edward were beginning to feel the effects of the climbs.
Fortified at Kirkstone by Julie’s excellent refuelling we set off up Red Screes, only to find at the top we had lost several minutes to the schedule. Never mind, there was still a long way to go and every opportunity to make up time. At least that was the plan. As we toiled slowly up to Dove Crag Ed suggested that I pressed on without him and Ray, an idea that at first I rejected. Several minutes of slow progress later it was obvious from the pace that I was going to lose a lot of time and I agreed to go it alone over Hart Crag, Fairfield and Seat Sandal to Dunmail Raise.
Once again the pace was upped and with a good line to the Dunmail descent, thanks to the recce two weeks earlier with Ian and Pauline, I felt there was chance of getting back on target. Once again, Julie’s excellent attention was fortifying and with the new team of Ian and Rachel on board we were off up the steep climb. As I looked back across to Seat Sandal, hoping to catch sight of Ed and Ray all I could see was an empty fell side. I hoped they were alright.
The first signs of tiredness were now beginning to show themselves and a couple a short pauses were needed to get me to the top. Rachel, who was working like a seasoned support runner, denied any previous experience so was obviously well briefed in her duties by Ian. Ian’s navigation was faultless as we made our way across the increasingly warm upland via High Raise and Rossett to begin the climb up the steep side of Bowfell. By now the Lake District was beginning to fill up with walkers and there was a steady procession making its way up the Ghyll to Angle Tarn. We soon lost sight of them as we climbed, pausing a couple of times or more for me to catch my breath and admire the view down the valley towards the Langdales. In that sunlight the Lakes can never have looked better.
And then it was onwards and upwards to the Bowfell summit where the strength of the wind was starting to be a problem, affecting balance on the many small boulder fields that make up the summits in that part of the Lakes. From there across to Great End we encountered many more walkers and a team reccying for a Bob Graham.
During the weeks and months leading up the this attempt I had wondered whether we would encounter any other teams attempting the “Joss” as it was bank holiday weekend and only four weeks before the longest day.
After a good grassy run round the back of Great End we got down to Sty head having lost only a short time on the section and in total only nine minutes to schedule since Dunmail - a tribute to the efficiency of the support team. A coupe of times on that leg cramp had threatened progress and I was worried that if it got any worse it might jeopardise the whole outcome. The last occurrence was on the run down from Great End but was fettled by stretching advice from Rachel and more salted peanuts from Ian. It never recurred from there until the end of the run.
At Sty Head there was the welcoming sight of the new team and also a first meeting with Monica Shone, administrator of the challenge, and her husband. Monica disclosed that I was the first person to attempt the traverse this year.
At this point Rachel was stepping down to make her way gamely back to Dunmail Raise, her task done and very much appreciated. Well, she did say she wanted a long day out!
Ian was continuing, also wanting a long day out and Pauline and Eden were taking over from Rachel. It was a long, slow climb up Gable and I was beginning to realise that the slow start had been a blessing in disguise. Too fast early on and the difficulty with the later hills would probably have set in sooner. The descent and the next climb to Kirk Fell passed without a problem and the tourist route down to Black Sail, never easy, was slow but without incident.
Welcome additions to the support at this point were Sally, John C., Julie (now without kettle and gas stove) and the man himself, Joss. I think most of us felt the honour of his presence and his local knowledge in the later stages, both for route and water finding was much appreciated. He was frequently recognised on the fells and I was happy to bathe, albeit temporarily, in his reflected glory. Everyone was most tolerant of my slow progress on the climbs and the encouragement of all kept me going through the bad moments, particularly the climbs up Haycock and Seatallan.
The last three summits had come into view as we topped Scoat. I was dreading Seatallan as I have never found it easy even when fresh. Once again the encouragements got me through, or rather up. And then it was just Middle Fell with the obligatory photographs at the summit, including a handshake from Joss.
His route down to Greendale Bridge was simplicity itself - straight down and cut the corners making the most of the soft running through the emerging bracken. The support team, again working impeccably, allowed me to go first on to the bridge in 17 hours 26 minutes, looking more of a runner than I felt, to be greeted by Ed, Ray and Mary. At last, after 10 years it was file closed, business completed, thanks to the encouragement and support of you all through the long training runs and especially on the day itself.
It was a day that I will long remember and cherish. Whatever can I do next?
PS ~ Thanks to all who took photos. I have seen the excellent ones on the blog and look forward to seeing the rest.
PPS On a lighter note a tale you may have missed during the climb up Seatallan was Joss’s account of running up Seatallan 123 times in recent years. “Did you have any rests?” I enquired thinking he must have spread it out over summer months. “I stopped once or twice,” he replied. “The first 23 dragged a bit, then they just flew by.” I hope he wasn’t late for his tea.