Tag Archives: skyrunning

From sea to sky in the Arctic Circle

As I look out over the beautiful Tromsdalstinden mountain on my last day in Norway, I reflect on what an adventure it has been!


Tromsdalstind in sunshine – it didn’t look like this on race day!

I can’t remember when I decided I wanted run “Tromsø”, but on the day entries opened way back in February I was franticly entering all 3 races – the Blamann Vertical, the Tromsdalstind Skyrace and the Hamperokken Skyrace (part of the new Extreme Skyrunner World Series). It would be perfect back on back training for the Transalpine run in September, right?

Unfortunately the Tromsdalstind and Hamperokken races were scheduled for the same day so I choose Hamperrokken!


Nervously waiting for the Balmann Vertical to start!

Fast forward to 2.45pm on Friday 5th August and I’m warming up (i.e. everyone else is jogging up and down the road so I thought I should join in!) in anticipation of the Blamann Vertical – 1044m ascent over 2.7km!

Everyone I spoke to seemed to gasp when I said I was running the Hamperokken Skyrace in the morning. I pretended not to be surprised whilst wondering what I have let myself in for!


The fast start to the VK!

The VK (vertical kilometre) started with soft grassy trail (similar to British fell race terrain), straight into an abyss of cloud. I power hiked and got a bit of rhythm but I find this terrain really hard and the shock of setting off so fast had given me stomach ache!


Reaching the sky! Photo: Simon Ellis

Then after about 500m of ascent the rocky trail started and I really started to enjoy it. By about 700m we were though the cloud into the sunshine. At 45 minutes I was at about 750 metres, so I pushed a little more in the hope of reaching the summit in under an hour.

With 50 metres to go, I got a cheer from Emelie Forsberg and Yngvild Kaspersen as I pushed the final few metres – I made it in 58 minutes (14th Lady, not bad for my first VK!) and was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding mountains peeking out the cloud for miles around!


Nearly at the top! Photo: Zoltan Tot

Here is a video of the race https://www.facebook.com/tromsoskyrace/?fref=ts

Saturday 6th August and time for the Hamperokken Skyrace – nearly 60km and 4,650m of ascent, taking in  the summits of Hamperokken 1404m and Tromsdalstinden 1238m (twice!).

In the week leading up I’d been ridiculously excited at the thought of heading out to Tromso. On the morning of a race I’m normally really nervous but also super excited. I didn’t feel either of these. The race is part of the Skyrunner World Series so I think I wasn’t nervous as I really felt no pressure to “do well”, given the calibre of the field.  I think the lack of it being a real race for me probably also took a bit of the excitement away. By the time Race Director Emelie called “5 minutes to start” I didn’t even want to start!


Smile and it will be fun, right?

The race starts along the Tromsø Promenade and then over the iconic Tromsø bridge before joining a steep woodland path and trail to the summit of Bøntuva. The trail up through the wood was a pretty slow single file queue and I felt like I should be going faster, but overtaking was near impossible. One guy (together with his very uncontrollable poles!) tried to overtake, resulting in an unintentional back flip. I decided it was best to just stay in the line!

The first checkpoint surprised me at 5km and I wasn’t prepared. I grabbed a handful of mini Pomegranate and Chia Cliff bars (this was exciting as they are not yet available in the UK!). Then continued running into the clag. You couldn’t see more than 20 metres ahead – it was a case of follow the yellow flags. The field was spreading out now. The grassy trail quite soon became rocky and eventually big boulders – my favourite terrain! I hopped and scrambled over them until I heard the cow bells. I’d reached the first proper summit of Tromsdalstinden!


The summit of Tromsdalstind. Photo: Daniel Lilleeng

The route from here is a very steep decent off the back of Tromsdalstinden. Being similar to a lot of Lake District descents I felt pretty comfortable. The snow chutes were hilarious. For a moment i attempted the foot glide (like i’d seen Kilian and friends do!), but this appears to require skill. I took both snow chutes on my bum!

The descent continues before a very steep forest decent and along to the first proper aid station. I felt really good. I was eating, drinking, and having an awesome time. I’d overtaken quite a few girls since the first check point and another 2 on the descent from Tromsdalstinden but I’d no idea on my position.

The climb up Hamperokken started with a muddy forest track, before grassy fell and turning into boulders. I knew i felt good but when I started to overtake at least 10 people on the climb I wondered if I was going too fast too soon. Just before the ridge started, I caught up with Niall McAlinden.

Another guy let us past commenting on our tough Scottishness (I am English, Niall is Irish!).


Haperrokken Ridge. Photo: Kilian Jornet!

The ridge along Haperrokken was really fun and I lead a group of 3 along most of the way. It was awesome to get cheered by Kilian Jornet and Yngvild Kaspersen! The summit arrived really quickly. I was told i was 6th lady – i was shocked! I grabbed a few pieces of Freia Melkesjokolade chocolate (the Norwegian Milka, only better!) and wondered if I could catch/keep up with 5th Lady who I could see was just a few minutes ahead.

The skies were beginning to clear as I began the descent to reveal a perfectly turquoise tarn many metres below – the first view of the day and it was so beautiful! The ascent was a super steep and super fast scree slide! There was a lot of “rock!” as we all tried not to take each other out!


Haperrokken Ridge – you can just see the beautiful turquoise pool to the left!  Photo: Kilian Jornet!

Back down to the aid station and I still felt really strong. Maybe it was time to start pushing. The ascent back up to Tromsdalstinden was tough but I continued to overtake more guys and before long I was collecting more chocolate from the summit. My watch had clocked 4,200m. I assumed that was it and gave it my all on what I thought was the final descent back into Tromsø.

I was wrong. I knew it was 3.3miles back to Tromsø from the final checkpoint so I was expecting to get to the final checkpoint at about 31.5 miles. 31.5 miles came and went, as did 32, 33 and 34 as I continued to ascent another hill. Just before reaching the final checkpoint (at 35 miles and 4,600m) Niall caught me up. I knew this really was the last descent and so gave a last push.

I arrived at the finish to be greeted by a wonderful crowd. 10 hours 14 minutes and 5th Lady! What an epic day!

Whilst I was running the Hamperokken Skyrace my 61 year old mum was running the Tromsdalstinden 30km route. This is my mum’s 2nd SkyRace this year. I am so proud of my fearless supermum and the adventures we have together!

Thank you Emilie and Kilian for creating such a wonderful race!

Thanks also to MountainFuel for the my Extreme Energy Fuel and post VK Chocolate Ultimate Recovery Fuel that helped get me ready for Hamperokken!

Here is a video of the race https://www.facebook.com/tromsoskyrace/?fref=nf

See http://www.skyrunnerworldseries.com/britons-storm-the-tromso-skyrace-podiums-led-by-owens-and-paris/ and https://iancorless.org/2016/08/06/tromso-skyrace-2016-summary-and-images-skyrunner-extreme-series/


The Salewa Lakes Sky Ultra

Saturday 23rd July 2016.

What a mega race! After marshalling the Lakes Sky Ultra last year I knew I’d be back to run it. The race is 56km with 4500m ascent, with some fun scrambling on Striding Edge, Eagle Crag and Pinnacle Ridge too!



The race profile!

I felt really ready to run when race day eventually came – I was worried I was maybe a bit too ready. I’d reccied most of the route twice and some bits 3 times and I was feeling pretty strong.

At the race briefing race director Charlie showed the competitors the video of last year’s race – this made me really excited! I was even more excited the next morning. Nervous, excited, nervous, excited  – I just needed to start running!


Race briefing

I hung out near the back of the starting crowd, expecting there to be quite a stampede for the first few miles. Running all the way up Fairfield is quite possible – but it is also a good way to destroy yourself an hour into what what I expected to be an 11+ hour race!  Starting really slow in my previous Skyrace, the V3K, had worked well and I’d felt strong all the way so this was my plan. Finding myself running along beside Carol (my pacing idle!) about a mile in I thought was probably a good place to be.

The ascent of Fairfield was really claggy but the summit came soon enough and I got to enjoy the super fast scree decent into Grizedale Tarn – looking rather more pleasant than it did when I was marshalling here last year! After the big effort up to Dollywagon Pike the undulating run up to Helvellyn was lovely, as I chatted away to other runners.

It was great to be greeted by LittleDave and his beating drum on top of Catstycam. Striding Edge was really dry so the ascent was great and I was soon greeted by Bob and Karen Nash at their checkpoint. It felt like a bit of a sociable gathering up on the hills!


Reaching the first summit – Dove Crag

I hadn’t reccied the decent off Eagle Crag. Most of the way it was a nice grassy descent, with a small section of scrabbling and a horrid scree slope at the end. Then came the fun part; the grassy ascent to the start of St Sunday Crag was a crawl – literally on all fours for about 20 minutes! I couldn’t wait to start the scrambling. Pinnacle Ridge had a daisy chain rope on it so it was pretty quick getting up – I was kind of disappointed when it was over.


The best part  – Pinnacle Ridge!

After a really slow few miles it was great to stretch my legs out on the long decent into Patterdale. It was lovely to see a cow bell ringing Casper here and I moved into 3rd place just before the check point. I spotted the vegan energy balls – I munched on one as I left and had another one straight after on the climb out of Patterdale. With Mountain Fuel Extreme, together with Pura Beetroot Bites taking on calories was super easy  – it was awesome!

The second part of race after Patterdale is pretty tame in comparison  – for those who had saved the energy to run! I saw very few people along here and the time just flew by. At the top of Mardale Ill Bell  I couldn’t believe I was only just over 7 hours in. If I kept at this pace I’ll be back in under 10 hours – which was faster than the sum of my reccied parts!

I got to the top of the hill just before the decent to Kirkstone pass in about 8 hours 20 minutes where Casper was there with his cow bell again. I felt pretty emotional as I saw Casper, I just couldn’t believe I’d made such good time – but managed not to cry!


Pushing hard on the final ascent up Red Screes.

The final ascent up Red Screes (straight up the face!) was tough but I knowing it was the last ascent I just kept pushing. Then for the wonderful 3 mile descent to the finish – I really did feel like I was flying!

I couldn’t believe I had finished in 9 hours 20 minutes  – about 2 hours faster than I had predicted! I managed to keep hold of 3rd lady too! What an awesome day!

Thank you so much to race director Charlie from Mountain Run for creating such a mega route and race. The organisation was fantastic! Thanks also to the guys at Nav4 Adventure for keeping us all safe and all course all the lovely marshals and helpers!

Thanks also to Mountain Fuel for keeping me full of energy all the way round!

MOViE iT have made a create video of the day too here!

The offical UK Skynning race report are images are here and the Race Director’s report is here.


The V3K in Welsh Wales

Its Friday 5th August, nearly 7 weeks after the V3K and I’m excitedly waiting for the start of the Tromso VK  – which starts in just a few hours! I’ve a back log race stories to write and if I don’t get writing, by tomorrow afternoon it will be 4! So time to start with my first Skyrunning race – the V3K!

The V3K is the first race of the UK Skyrunning national series and was my first ever Skyrunning race.  It follows a classic route across all 15 (or to some say 14!) peaks over 3000ft in Wales (35 miles and 4100m). Its hilly, much hiller than what I’m used it, but would be perfect training for my 2016 focus – the Transalpine in September, which I’ll run as a pair with Casper.

The V3K is a vegan race and participants are asked to be vegan – but just on race day. This meant Casper and I could still have have some standard pre race meat for dinner before we arrived for registration!


Pre registration steak pie

After a short race briefing and most probably more than my fair share of yummy vegan chocolate cake it was an early night in the tent ready for a 3am alarm before being bussed to the start at Nant Gwynant.


Pre race chocolate cake

Everyone seemed relieved to get away from the swarms of 5am midges and scaling straight to the summit of Snowdon. The first 9 miles from the start to Nant Peris was the only part I hadn’t reccied (I hate not knowing a route!) But it was fine, as there was a long snake of runners heading all the way up Snowdon. As I reached the summit there were hoards of people –  at first I thought wow I cant believe so many people have turned out to cheer us on – then I realised they were actually all taking part in their own challenge, the national 3 peaks, with most not the slight bit of interest in us!

Then came Crib Goch. I was really excited about this! There was quite a traffic jam of runners and I managed to do a bit of overtaking to get a bit of a free run, I loved it! Flying down the scree decent I saw Casper up ahead, to whom I flew past – I knew I’d see him again on the climb up Elidir Fawr.


Crib Goch. Photo from UK Skyrunning race report.

It was good to arrive into Nant Peris as I knew the route from here. I didn’t hang around here as I knew there was a big climb up Elidir Fawr where there would be plenty of opportunity to eat. I’d passed one lady at the checkpoint and could see another a little ahead but I’d no idea how many more were in front – it was far too early to care anyway.


Me arriving into Nant Peris…


Followed by Casper a few minutes later 😉

I felt really strong climbing Elidir Fawr and as predicted Casper sailed on past about half way up – I wondered if I’d pass him again on the decent on Tryfan. Dibbing in with the marshal at the top, he told me as I was 3rd lady, much to my surprise!

The part over Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, and Glyder Fach is rather runnable and knowing the route I settled into a good rhythm and was having a ball. I met Chris Morgan with his friend Nathan Montague on this stretch, who I learnt was a V3K veteran. We chatted and ran along at a similar pace. The top of Glyder Fach was covered in Clag, as we searched for the checkpoint a group of about 15 congregated looking for the next red flag  – until eventually we found the way and were very relieved to find the marshall.

Skirting down to the col before the decent of Tryfan, I saw Casper up ahead – so knew I must be moving at a good pace. The marshal on top of Tryfan told me I was 26th overall. I wondered if maybe I could sneak into the top 20 overall.


Descending Tryfan

The check point at Glen Dena Farm in the Ogwen Valley was awesome. Someone asked for a glass of coconut milk, which set off a bit of a craze and I had one too, followed by 2 glasses of almond milk. I set off up Pen yr Ole Wen (just as Casper arrived in) armed with 2 mighty vegan energy balls I’d picked up in the checkpoint. This was the last big ascent so I knew I could start to push. I felt strong and overtook about 5 people before the top (although did get overtaken by Casper – again!).

On the out and back to Yr Elen I dropped too low and ended up having to climb back up to the check point – I think a lot of people did this!  On the final and second out and back to Foel Fras I saw Casper again. He was 20 minutes ahead – would I catch him before the end?

The last 5 miles is a wonderful decent to the finish where you can really stretch your legs out and fly!


A few hundred metres from the finish

I over took one last guy about a kilometre from the end – which just snuck me into 20th position overall! I finished 2nd lady in 10.06, 42 minutes after 1st lady Beth Pascal in 9.24, and 20 minutes after Casper! I was absolutely over the moon!

The V3K is a fantastic race and I had a super super time!


A hug from Forest at the prize giving

Thank you to the Race Director, Kirsch, all the lovely marshals and helpers and whoever made the delicious post race food and cake!

Thanks also to Mountain Fuel for keeping me full of energy! https://www.mountainfuel.co.uk

The official race report are images are here: https://skyrunninguk.com/2016/06/20/v3k-2016-race-report-and-images/

Marshalling at the inaugural Lakes Sky Ultra

It’s all too easy to run the same races year after year. I’d become a bit of a stickler for this – so in my quest for new races I stumbled across the True Mountain Lakes Sky Ultra, part of the UK Skyrunning series. I’d heard about Skyrunning – another branded trail race series right? Wrong. Skyrunning is not trail running – it’s mountain running.

This looked like a true adventure and I wanted to see what it was all about. So I signed up as a marshal.

I arrived in Ambleside the night before the race – five hours after plan, but with just enough light to pitch my tent before a starlit dinner for one with a beautiful mountain view.

Race HQ was the University of Cumbria campus in Ambleside, where the marshals convened for their briefing. I met race directors Andrew and Charlie for the first time and team of Marshalls.

There was a sense of concern at Race HQ. Not panic, there was never panic, just concern. The weather forecast was dire. Usually you can find one forecast with a little optimism. Not this evening. They all said wind and rain and lots of it.

After the safety briefing I was paired with another Katie (who I’ll call Katie 2). We were allocated Grisedale Tarn/CP1. I was given a radio, a dipper box and sent on my way to get some sleep. It was 11.30pm, meaning 5 hours until my 4.30am alarm. 

Like Christmas morning I woke before my alarm with the very familiar gushing of Lakeland rain fighting to get inside my tent. After the 5.30am marshal breakfast at Patterdale (with fresh coffee!) Katie 2 and I headed up the hill for the few mile walk to CP1.

It was wet. Really wet. This really made me realise the importance of decent kit. My Arc’teryx waterproof trousers and Halglofs waterproof trousers performed so well. They had never properly been put through the wet test. They passed.

Grisedale Hause was wet AND windy. Just as we arrived so did a guy from sponsors True Mountain with his flag and camera.

Taking charge at CP1 Photo courtesy True Mountain

Taking charge at CP1
Photo courtesy True Mountain

We didn’t have long to wait before out of the clag on the top of Fairfield came a distant flash of red. That flash of red dropped off Fairfield like a whippet into our checkpoint. It was Jim Mann in shorts and T-shirt, which just made me feel cold.

Next came Erik (the ultimate winner) and Gareth (2nd) – neither of whom I knew of at the time.

Erik and Gareth speeding through CP1 Photo courtesy True Mountain

Erik and Gareth speeding through CP1
Photo courtesy True Mountain

Sarah Ridgeway got an extra loud ring of my cowbell – just because she was the leading lady and was looking so happy!

A happy Sarah Ridgeway bouncing through CP1 Photo courtesy True Mountain

A happy Sarah Ridgeway bouncing through CP1
Photo courtesy True Mountain

Katie 2 and her dog headed back down to Patterdale – a very sensible idea given the amount they were both shaking. I even hugged the dog. I have a ridiculous and irrational fear of dogs. Hugging a dog is a big deal (for me).

All the runners were though within about an hour. I waited and waited for the sweeper, Howard. I took shelter in a perfectly placed sheep fold for what seemed like an age. Turns out it was only 30 minutes, until Howard, with a LOT of flags appeared out the clag.

I was so happy to get moving. I collected the flags and signage from Grisedale Tarn, up “the wall” to Dollywaggon Pike, Helvellyn and Nethermost. This was probably my favourite part of the day. The perfectly placed flags guided me so I could just enjoy having what seemed like (visibility was less than 10 meters) the hills all to myself.

Before descending Swirral Edge I tagged Colin, who would finish the sweeping to CP2. Swirral Edge was so slippery. I wondered how treacherous the ascent up Striding Edge would be.

Arriving back down into Patterdale felt a bit like an oasis in a dessert. The lovely cooking ladies greeted me with suspiciously looking pale green yet deliciously tasting soup.

Many of the runners looked a little bewildered. They stocked up on Trek Bars and Striptsnacks before heading back out to the unknown.

RD Andrew was control central command here. I eagerly awaited my next assignment. This was to be at the finish – to dip the runners in as they completed this mammoth run.

The winner, Erik came through the finish just after 2.15pm to the great echo of Cowbells and cheers!

One by one each of the runners were greeted by the finishing cowbells. With the exception of a 10 minute re-fuelling break I stood on the finish line for nearly 7 hours – each minute of which I loved. As a runner to have the opportunity to see the emotion of each finisher was just so wonderful.

The sponsors were all great too. They were ever present all weekend. On the hills, at the check points and at the finish – an element of sponsorship that is often missing.

The event organisation and spirit was spot on. When I run the Lakes Sky Ultra I will be reassured in the knowledge that I am in very safe hands.