: The Wainwright Triathlon
21st - Thursday
23rd September 2010
2004 I was lucky enough to be offered early
retirement. I grabbed it with both hands
and headed for the hills – literally in
my case. Within a week of finishing I was
walking across Corsica with 3 friends, and
a year later I was cycling from Lands End
to John O’ Groats.
though, retirement left me free to spend
much more time wandering the Lakeland Fells.
To provide a bit of focus to my travels
I decided to start another round of the
214 summits in Wainwright’s seven guide
books, so on a lovely sunny day on the 20th
May 2004 I climbed Blencathra via Sharp
Edge and the first tick went on the list.
that day I pondered on which hill I should leave until
the last – a bit premature I know, but once the brain
doesn’t have to think about budgets, headcounts and
system failures, it’s free to contemplate such trivialities!
decided that I would leave one hill from each of the
seven guides then do them in one big round, cycling
between each one. Back then I had it in mind to do it
all in the one day; Now, 6 years on – No Chance! It
would have to be a multi-day trip.
steadily ticked off hills over the subsequent years
until finally in August last year I reached the top
of Whin Rigg and had just the seven to do.
wanted to complete the round in nice sunny weather and
outside school holidays (quieter roads; easier to get
accommodation etc) so I waited; and waited; and waited…...
Autumn; winter; spring and summer all came and went.
Finally the MWIS weather forecast suggested a 3 day
window was possible so I booked the accommodation and
on Tuesday 21st at 8:30 I left home and headed off towards
Vickers had kindly agreed to join me for the cycling
part of the trip which, apart from providing support
and good company, also meant I didn’t have to worry
about finding somewhere to secure the bike while I was
up the hill.
was cloudy but mild as we turned off the
main road at Ings and headed for Troutbeck.
there the first big climb of the day began
to the top of the Kirkstone Pass. The higher
we got the thicker the cloud became and
on reaching the Inn at the summit visibility
was pretty poor.
a pleasant trip down the lake we set off
towards the foot of Hallin Fell.
a short discussion we decided that cycling
up the 1-in-5 climb to the Hause was possible
so set off. It went well and I reached the
church in good condition.
then undertook what was to become a routine
– take off the bike shoes and socks and
put on the running shoes; put the camera,
GPS and map in the bumbag and set off.
as so often happens when heading from the
south lakes to the north, when we dropped
down the other side the sun came out. At
the foot of the pass Steve picked up the
pace along the road to Glenridding and we
pulled into the pier at 10:30 just in time
to board the steamer to Howtown.
off for Hallin Fell
Steve’s (and my own) surprise I set off running up the
hill. Once out of sight though I slowed down! The 600
feet of climb was pretty easy and I was soon jogging
down again. Then it’s change the shoes and back on the
bike. It was a pleasant ride in the sun by the side
of Ullswater to Pooley Bridge where we sat outside a
café with bacon baps and tea.
began to cloud in again as we set off down
the other side of the lake before turning
west and heading for Little Mell Fell.
I had not really looked too closely at the
map for this section but had it in
mind that it was a bit undulating, so we
got quite a shock as the road started climbing
steeply upwards and didn’t relent for the
next 2 miles – the hardest cycling stretch
so far. We reached the Hause eventually
and after swapping shoes I set off on the
boggy 400 feet of climb to the top of Little
waits on the Hause below Little Mell Fell
from Little Mell Fell
minutes saw me up and down the second W of the day and
then it was downhill for a while before climbing to
reach to A66 Keswick road. There is a good cycle track
alongside this road and we made good time to Threlkeld.
had decided to use the old railway track to the foot
of Latrigg and climb the hill from there, rather
than use the shorter walking (but longer cycling) route
from the Skiddaw car park. Definitely a good decision
as it turned out.
had brought a small stove with me so I left Steve with
it to get a brew on for when I got back.
cycling towards Blencathra
the brew on
climb to Latrigg and back was a long and steady 3.4
miles and 800 feet of climb. The cloud was gradually
closing in, but the views from the top were still pretty
from Latrigg summit
was back in under the hour to find Steve
had mastered the stove and a warm cup of
coffee was waiting.
this and half a dozen jelly babies for the
sugar boost, we retraced our route down
the old railway before re-crossing the A66
and cycling down St John’s in the Vale to
reach our lodgings for the night – the King’s
Head at Thirlspot.
the first day was finished:
50 miles / 6,400 feet cycling;
4.4 miles / 1,800 feet walking;
5 miles on the boat.
end of the day
and a few pints went down well that night!
second day started with what turned out
to be a mistake. Breakfast wasn’t until
8:30 and we decided to wait for it. We would
pay for this later in the day. It was a
grey overcast day as we cycled the 2 miles
to the foot of a very intimidating looking
a steep climb through the forest to the
top of Raven Crag (900 feet)
but the legs were beginning to lose the
stiffness from the previous days exertions
and I was on the summit in 20 minutes. The
mist was swirling around and the views down
Thirlmere were quite dramatic. I took a
few photos and headed down.
dam from Raven Crag
from Raven Crag
route then took us through Keswick and out to the Newlands
valley. The sun was trying to break out and the views
down the valley were excellent. Our next big climb,
Newlands Pass, looked worryingly steep in the distance.
Newlands Pass in the background
pressed on and eventually started the climb.
it was OK and we were able to smile as cars
passed us, but about 100 metres from the
top we turned a hairpin bend and came to
a sharp stop. It was just too steep so we
pushed. This proved to be a lot harder than
expected. All the weight is on the back
of the bike and you have to lean into the
bars to get it rolling. Doing this with
rigid soled cycling shoes is very difficult
and our feet slipped on a number of occasions,
almost losing control of the bike.
got there in the end but it set us both worrying for
what was to come – Hardknott Pass and it’s 1-in-3 hairpin
bends with steep drops at the side!
up Newlands pass
ride down to Buttermere from the Pass was
brilliant. Some braking was needed most
of the way but there were parts where I
could let it go and got up to 40mph at one
point. The weather was showing signs of
deteriorating so we opted not to stop for
a cuppa at Buttermere and instead pressed
on to reach the start point of the climb
of Rannerdale Knotts.
is another sharp little climb (800 feet)
but well worth while for the views. As I
reached the top I felt the first few spots
of rain so I hurried down
of Newlands Pass
the climb of Rannerdale Knotts
from Rannerdale Knotts
rain continued to hold off for the next 12 miles as
we cycled past Loweswater to Lamplugh and the quite
little villages of the west coast, sadly now best known
for the Derrick Bird massacre, before reaching Ennerdale
Bridge at 2:45 pm. We decided we needed a stop so went
into the pub. They had stopped doing food but we got
a pot of tea and a Mars bar.
fell into conversation with 2 Australian ladies who
were over here with a group of 6 people doing the Coast
to Coast walk. They wanted to know where to get gaiters
for their shoes, as they couldn’t source them in Australia
– no rain, so no demand!
we returned to the bikes we found the weather had caught
us up. It was pouring down. I knew what was to come
for the next 8 miles to Calder Bridge having driven
this way on quite a few occasions, but thought it best
not to tell Steve too much when he asked, except to
say we were going over Cold Fell and it was quite a
actual fact it climbs 600 feet in the first couple of
miles, then seems to undulate steeply for the next four.
It’s completely exposed to the elements – no trees or
walls just open moorland. It’s a minor road but is used
by the Sellafield workers as a shortcut and we were
on it when most of them were leaving! They drive along
it at 50+mph. Add to this pouring rain and a strong
headwind and you will see why we took no photos on this
a couple of miles Steve started to hear noises from
the back of his bike. It got steadily worse and so we
stopped to have a look. We quickly concluded it was
his rear wheel bearings. This could result in his wheel
collapsing at any moment, which on a steep descent could
be disastrous. But he had no choice than to risk it
for the next 7 miles to Nether Wasdale and work out
what to do once we got there.
and miserable at Nether Wasdaleg
Strands Hotel was our night’s lodgings –
reached after 2 Wainwright’s; 42 miles /
6,000 feet cycling and 2.5 miles / 1,700
had a chat to the man who showed us where
to put our bikes and explained Steve’s problem.
not local to the area he said the nearest
bike shop was at Cleator Moor.
dinner and a few pints from the Strands
Hotel micro-brewery we discussed our options.
eventual conclusion was that Steve would cycle over
to Eskdale Green next morning then take the Ratty (miniature
railway) to Ravenglass where he could catch the mainline
train to Grange / Arnside.
was up at 6:30am next morning, intending to walk across
the valley to climb Buckbarrow before breakfast.
There was one flaw to the plan – it was still dark at
6am and I had no torch! A quick look at the map gave
me a plan B – walk to the foot of the hill via the road
and hope it gets light by the time I get there. This
worked and I started the climb with sufficient light
to see the track.
weather was not good. Heavy cloud hung on the tops and
I was soon in the mist and drizzle as I climbed. Fortunately
I’d been near the top of Buckbarrow with Stan and Don
recently so was familiar with the terrain, which made
navigation much more assured and I soon reached the
light approaching Buckbarrow
cloud on Wastwater screes
summit of Buckbarrow
quick jog back through the fields and, after
1100 feet and 4 miles, I was back before
8am to join Steve for breakfast.
got talking to an Irish chap while we ate.
He was working at Sellafield and offered
to give Steve a lift, with bike, to Cleator
Moor if he was ready in the next 10 minutes.
accepted, wrapped half his bacon butty in
a tissue for later, and disappeared to pack.
8:30 he was gone.
had a slightly more leisurely start but was on the road
at 9am heading for Eskdale. It had stopped raining for
the first steep pull of the day over Irton Fell, but
pretty soon I was heading down into familiar territory.
Eskdale was the first Lakeland valley I’d visited over
30 years ago on a school trip from York, and in October
1970 it was where I spent 4 weeks at the Outward Bound
weather was making it a dramatic day, with
swirling mist covering the fells then parting
to give superb views.
was lots of standing water on the road as
I made my way down the valley but the rain
was holding off.
stopped for a drink and some jelly babies
and realized I was on the corner of the
side lane where Derrick Bird had finally
reached his end. There’s nothing there now
to show anything untoward happened, just
a peaceful lane leading to the river.
Fell through the mist
I got further down the valley I could see Hard Knott
pass rearing steeply up ahead of me, looking even more
intimidating with the rain water glistening off it
Knott Pass looms large
long after 10am I reached Brotherilkeld
at the foot of the pass. This was going
to be tough, but I’d had a brainwave. I
stopped to change into my running shoes,
reasoning that these would give me much
better grip when pushing the bike. It was
not long before I put this to the test After
about 600metres of pedaling I turned a hairpin
to be faced with the first bit of 1-in-3.
The front wheel lifted slightly and I knew
there was no way I could ride it so I had
to get off.
proved to be a real challenge. I was virtually at a
standstill but the bike most definitely wanted to go
backwards – straight over a drop! I had to jam both
brakes on and somehow dismount – I still don’t quite
know how I did it.
started to push and it started to rain heavily. The
next 300 yards took me over 10 minutes but the shoes
gripped OK and eventually the angle eased enough to
be able to get back on again and cycle the next half
mile. The first cars passed me and it was quite satisfying
to smile at them as they went past.
rain began to get even heavier as I reached the final
set of 1-in-3 bends that lead to the top. I pushed the
bike upwards, this time grimacing as the cars passed,
before eventually getting back on for the final 50 metres
to the top.
the next problem – where to leave the bike.
I wandered around for a while before spotting
some old fence posts. I could get the bike
to them round the back of a small knoll
but from the road it looked like you had
to cross a bog to get at it - hopefully
enough to deter the opportunist thief.
locked the bike to the post, waved at a
party of pensioners on a Mountain Goat minibus
(goodness knows what explanation the driver
gave them for what I was doing!), then set
off up the hill for the final Wainwright.
secured on Hard Knott
sun appeared again enticing me to get the camera out
for the view to Wrynose and the Duddon, but then immediately
closing in and starting to rain heavier that at any
time so far.
way up the climb the rain hammered down.
had forgotten to take my cycle helmet off
and the rain was drumming on it.
the sun came out.
it went in again.
stopped noticing and just plodded on through
the bogs, unable to get any wetter, until
at 11:44 I reached the top of Hard Knott
fell, the last of my 214 Wainwrights.
in the valley
made my way back to the bike, unlocked it and pushed
it out to the road. Water was absolutely pouring down
the pass. I got on the bike for a short stretch and
quickly realised that the brakes would not work with
this volume of water. I therefore had no choice but
to push the bike all the way down the pass. It was like
descending a fast flowing stream. I had to watch out
carefully for cars coming up because one or two clearly
didn’t see me – even with my bright yellow coat. Even
walking the brakes were not holding the bike and I had
to work hard to physically hold it back.
I got down in the end and had an enjoyable ride along
Wrynose Bottom to the foot of the next pass. Wrynose
proved to be more rideable and I got as far as the last
50 metres before having to push. As I reached the top
the sun came out.
of Wrynose Pass
of Wrynose Pass to Little Langdale
brakes had dried out now and worked well on the descent
down the pass to Little Langdale. From there I made
my way to Ambleside where the rain started again. The
next stretch to Windermere had lots of standing water
on the road and some of the motorists seemed to take
pleasure in passing me at these points, soaking me as
they did so. By this time I couldn’t have cared less
and certainly couldn’t get any wetter!
at 3:30pm I arrived home - after 2 final Wainwright’s;
37 miles / 4,600 feet cycling and 5.5 miles / 1,750
3 days of the Wainwright Triathalon covered 129 miles
and 17,000 feet of uphill on the bike; and 12.4 miles
with 5,250 feet of uphill on foot. The third leg of
a triathalon is usually swimming. In this case I was
originally going to count the boat trip down Ullswater
as the water based leg, but by the end I’d decided that
I had qualified by virtually swimming down Hardknott
had hoped for 3 sunny days but in the event I didn’t
mind that this didn’t happen. What I got was a mixture
of everything the Lakes can deliver; a selection of
the conditions I’ve encountered when doing the other
207 tops. It seems quite a fitting way to end.
you will perhaps be wondering what happened to Steve.
the Irish lad gave him a lift. Unfortunately he had
confused Cleator Moor (20 miles away) with Holmrook
(3 miles away)! But he was still kind enough to take
him there even though he was going to be pretty late
tracked down the bike shop and after a bit of a debate
about when he could do it (Steve – “I need it now” –
Bike shop “Come back tomorrow”) he looked at it and
decided the bearings needed replacing, which he then
what next? Steve decides to cycle 14 miles to Ravenglass
and catch the train home. He just missed it, so rather
than wait for the next one he decides to cycle a bit
further. In the end he cycled the entire 65+ miles back
to Kendal. I thought I’d had a hard day!
27th September 2010
climbed in feet:
Little Mell Fell
& Stan: 2 (unchanged)
Steve (bike only)
on the map for an enlargement.
you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow
the route in detail by downloading BB1035-1, BB1035-2,
see which Wainwright top was visited on which BB outing
For the latest totals of the mileages and heights see: BB Log.
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This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature
years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as
often as possible!
As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that
our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.
As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an
item of footwear but is in memory of Big
Josie, the erstwhile landlady of
the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day
1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!
If you want to contact us, click on
If you want to join
let us know and
of new BOOTboys reports.
Thursday 14th January
A Snowy Equipment Test
Thursday 21st January
Leave It To The Professionals
Thursday 28th January
That's A Lyth Record
Reasons To Be Cheerful
One, Two, Three
Thursday 11th February
Can You See Clearly Now?
Thursday 18th February
In Memory Of
Almost a Mountaineer!
The Beginning Of The End
Thursday 11th March
The Free Men on Tuesday
We'll Get Them In Singles,
The Fools on the Hill
The Windmills on the Moor
By Lake, Ridge and Wainwright
The Ten Lake Tour (+5Ws)
The Kentmere Challenge
Saturday 24th April
Winter in Springtime
Thursday 14th May
Red Screes and Sausages
The Mile High Club
What A Difference A Day Makes
Rendezvous on Haycock
The Men of Gragareth
The Smardale Round
Don't Shun The Shunner!
All Around the Edge
The Return of
Nick by Haggis
And Then There
A Surplus of Sheepfolds
A Good One For
The Wainwright Triathlon
21st - Thursday
The Nine Standards
or The Battle Of Birkett Hills
Saturday 30th January
Click on the photos
for an enlargement
or related large
see which Wainwright top was visited on which
outing see Which
download a log of heights and miles and which Wainwrights have
been done by which BOOTboy
in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent
anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know
and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!