Race Date: Saturday/Sunday 3rd/4th July 2021
The Saunders Mountain Marathon is a challenging self supporting orienteering event, always based in the Lakes and always the first weekend in July. Competitors are expected to carry everything they need to survive for the next 36 hours: tent, sleeping bag, food, navigational instruments, etc..This year it was based in Buttermere and it was as tough as they come. Ben and I travelled up on the Friday night. Jennie and Alison made the decision to leave Sheffield at 4am Saturday morning to travel up.
Ben and I had a very relaxing evening at base camp, drinking a few beers and chatting to ex-strider James Fletcher, whom it was really nice to bump into. The weather looked ‘interesting’ over the weekend, but Friday night was lovely as we sat and watched the sunset over the lake and fells round Buttermere.
We had an 8.30am start time on Saturday, similar to Jennie and Alison so we caught up with them on the camp ground and,pre event, nervously chatted away. They were doing the Harter fell course, Ben and I had chosen the slightly longer Carrock fell course. We had about 8 controls to find en-route to our over night camp. Anyone who knows Buttermere will know how steep the hills are round there and the route designers were particularly sadistic on day one with extremely steep climbs followed by equally steep descents, repeated several times.
The controls at first were not too difficult to find, especially as quite a few people congregated around them. However, the weather changed and in came the rain and the clag. Visibility was down to about 10 metres and I started to lose it and get particularly frustrated when unable to find control number 5. Unusually for me, I was having negative thoughts and thinking we’d never find the control and either ‘be here all night’ or have to take a DQ. Thankfully, Ben managed to keep calm and after about 40 minutes of aimslessly wandering around in the fog, we found our way to the control.
Day One finished with a cruel view of the overnight camp from the top of a very steep hill. We knew that as we had to go down there, there was only one way out the following morning – and so it turned out to be. Jennie found me wandering around the campsite looking for a pitch so she invited us to pitch next to them. They were in illustrious company having pitched next to Nicky Spinks. We managed to lower the tone somewhat 🙂
There was a desperate desire to watch/listen to the football as England were playing Ukraine that evening. The long hoped for big screen (un)surprisingly never materialised but we managed to find a guy with a dodgy car radio reception who advised us it was 1-0 to England at HT. 4 of us went for a walk (as you do) before returning to find a huge crowd gathered around said car but England now leading 4-0. No need to listen to the rest so we had a few beers, reflected on the day’s events and then turned in.
8am start the next day and more of the same big climbs and descents (but not quite as many). More clag and frustration also from me but it thankfully never lasted and once the clag had cleared I was much happier. Another 8 controls to get us back to our original starting point then the wekend was over.
If you’ve never tried one of these events but like orienteering/map reading they are great events and a great weekend away. I can’t recommend them highly enough. It is hard work but thoroughly rewarding. The views, the company, the companionship amongst competitors are all excellent and for £65 per person, I’d call in an absolute steal. Hopefully, more than 6 striders will be there next year. Go on, give it a go!
Carrock Fell Class
|47||Nick Burns/Ben Heller||M||14.12.00|
Harter Fell Class
|23||Jennie Stevens/Alison Barrett||F||11.11.50|
|82||Jane Huws/Jo Gleig||F||16.40.43|
Full Results: here