By Graham Robinson
Outdoor retailer George Fisher has put together a 50km challenge called The Tea Round. This starts and finishes outside their Keswick shop and visits all of the summits visible from their top floor cafe window. Overall, this accumulates an overall height gain of 3,500m (more than 3 X Snowdon)!
Steve and I headed up north on Friday evening, pitching up at the very nice Thornwaite campsite. We were going into this with plenty of unknowns having never run this far, this high and not knowing the route – none of that pre-reccy nonsense! This made it very difficult to estimate our expected duration, but we settled on an ambitious 8hrs. Factoring in a bit of leeway, we booked a table at the pub for 7:30pm
With the weather forecast giving a mixed bag of conditions, but improving throughout the day, an 8:30am start was agreed appropriate. Spirits and pace were high as we left the sealed pavements and headed into the hills with Catbells our first target.
We enjoyed the following exposed scramble approach to Robinson which deposited us in cloud and low visibility. This was in stark contrast to the much less enjoyable and very steep, loose descent. Approaching the top of High Stile brought us back into the clouds as we entered the most difficult section to navigate. Struggling to see through constantly wet glasses, I was very grateful for Steve’s excellent Mountain Leader skills, as I tucked in behind him.
Descending Red Pike, we dropped out of the cloud for the last time as the weather improved. Stopping by Bleaberry tarn to empty the deposits from the scree slope descent out of our trainers, Buttermere made a welcome appearance through the clouds.
Supplies were purchased and consumed in Buttermere, together with the dangerous proposition of a sit down. Would we get up again, at this, the last real opportunity to bail out?! With energy levels somewhat restored, the overall realisation of how long this was actually going to take begin to sink in. Climbing up the very pleasant Whiteless Pike, with now perfect visibility, our route ahead was plain to see.
Powered by mini pork-pies (getting increasingly warm over the day) and poles which really helped with the technical terrain which was much less runnable than expected, I felt pretty good energy-wise, with my main complaint being my knee. Obviously, all that undulation had given us a proper battering!
Needing to top out on all visible peaks couldn’t quite be achieved in a smooth complete lap, therefore two out and back sections were required. Repeating any section felt quite disheartening, and especially the first which picked up Grisedale Pike whose true top was obscured by a very cheeky false summit. The second took a bit of heather bashing after reaching Rowling End. Soon we were descending the final peak of Barrow and dropping back along the shoulder towards Keswick. All that remained was a final flat 4km. Never had such a distance felt such a challenge and our poles stayed out, helping propel us through the streets.
Our run concluded at the, by now, closed George Fisher shop, in under 12 hours in total. We’d just have to return the next day to collect our free goodies (buff, technical T-Shirt and badge)! Luckily the adjacent Wainwright Pub was open so pints of water, coke and beer were purchased!
Having had to cancel our pub table, refuelling consisted of an awesome wood fired pizza and booze from the co-op, taken back to the campsite. Sitting outside the tent we made sure we rehydrated properly as we contemplated our achievement.