BB1035 : The Wainwright Triathlon

Tuesday 21st - Thursday 23rd September 2010

In 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.

Primarily, 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.

Crossing Corsica

During 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!

I 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.

I 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.


Day 1

I 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 Staveley.

Steve 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.

It was cloudy but mild as we turned off the main road at Ings and headed for Troutbeck.

From 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.

Steamer leaves Glenridding

After a pleasant trip down the lake we set off towards the foot of Hallin Fell.

After 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.

I 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.

Kirkstone Pass summit

But, 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.

Setting off for Hallin Fell

To 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.

It 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 Mell Fell

Steve waits on the Hause below Little Mell Fell

View from Little Mell Fell

20 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.

I 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.

I had brought a small stove with me so I left Steve with it to get a brew on for when I got back.

Steve cycling towards Blencathra

Getting the brew on

The 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 impressive.

View from Latrigg summit

I was back in under the hour to find Steve had mastered the stove and a warm cup of coffee was waiting.

After 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.

So the first day was finished:
3 Wainwright’s;
50 miles / 6,400 feet cycling;
plus 4.4 miles / 1,800 feet walking;
and 5 miles on the boat.

The end of the day


Dinner and a few pints went down well that night!


Day 2

The 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 Raven Crag.

It’s 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.

Approaching Raven Crag

Thirlmere dam from Raven Crag

Descending from Raven Crag

Our 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 valley with
Newlands Pass in the background

We pressed on and eventually started the climb.

Initially 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.

We 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!

Pushing up Newlands pass

The 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.

This 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

Comitibus: Top of Newlands Pass

Starting the climb of Rannerdale Knotts

 View from Rannerdale Knotts

The 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.

We 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!

When 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 big climb.

In 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 section!

After 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.

Cold,wet, and miserable at Nether Wasdaleg

The Strands Hotel was our night’s lodgings – reached after 2 Wainwright’s; 42 miles / 6,000 feet cycling and 2.5 miles / 1,700 feet walking.  

We had a chat to the man who showed us where to put our bikes and explained Steve’s problem.

Although not local to the area he said the nearest bike shop was at Cleator Moor.

Over dinner and a few pints from the Strands Hotel micro-brewery we discussed our options.

The 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.


Day 3

I 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.

The 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 top

 First light approaching Buckbarrow

Low cloud on Wastwater screes

The summit of Buckbarrow

A quick jog back through the fields and, after 1100 feet and 4 miles, I was back before 8am to join Steve for breakfast.

We 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.  

Steve accepted, wrapped half his bacon butty in a tissue for later, and disappeared to pack.

At 8:30 he was gone.

I 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 School.

The weather was making it a dramatic day, with swirling mist covering the fells then parting to give superb views.

There was lots of standing water on the road as I made my way down the valley but the rain was holding off.

I 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.

Harter Fell through the mist

As 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

Hard Knott Pass looms large

Not 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.

This 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.

I 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.

The 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.

Now 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.

I 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.

Bike secured on Hard Knott

The 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.

The last Wainwright

Part way up the climb the rain hammered down.

I had forgotten to take my cycle helmet off and the rain was drumming on it.

Then the sun came out.

Then it went in again.

Then it rained.

Then it stopped.

I 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.

Sunshine in the valley

I 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.

But 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.

Top of Wrynose Pass

Descent of Wrynose Pass to Little Langdale

The 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!

Finally at 3:30pm I arrived home - after 2 final  Wainwright’s; 37 miles / 4,600 feet cycling and 5.5 miles / 1,750 feet walking.

The 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 pass!

I 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.

Finally you will perhaps be wondering what happened to Steve.

Well 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 for work.

Steve 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 did.

So 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!    

Bryan, 27th September 2010    








Distance in miles:





Height climbed in feet:






Hallin Fell
Little Mell Fell

Raven Crag
Rannerdale Knotts 

Hard Knott


Wainwright Countdown:

Don & Stan: 2 (unchanged)



Bryan, Steve (bike only)


Click on the map for an enlargement.

If you have Memory Map on your computer, you can follow the route in detail by downloading BB1035-1BB1035-2, BB1035-3, and BB1035-4.

To see which Wainwright top was visited on which BB outing see
Which Wainwright When?

For the latest totals of the mileages and heights see: BB Log.



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BOOT boys

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!

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2010 Outings

BB1001 :
The Most Perfect
 Winter Day
Thursday 7th January

BB1002 :
 Potter Fell
Thursday 14th January

BB1003 :
A Snowy Equipment Test

Thursday 21st January

BB1004 :
Leave It To The Professionals

Thursday 28th January

BB1005 :
That's A Lyth Record
Sunday 31st January 

BB1006 :
Reasons To Be Cheerful
One, Two, Three
Thursday 11th February

BB1007 :
Can You See Clearly Now?
Thursday 18th February

BB1008 :
In Memory Of
Thomas Williamson
Thursday 25th February

BB1009 :
Almost a Mountaineer!
Wednessday 3rd March

BB1010 :
The Beginning Of The End
Thursday 11th March

BB1011 :
The Free Men on Tuesday
Tuesday 16th March

BB1012 :
We'll Get Them In Singles,
Thursday 25th March

BB1013 :
The Fools on the Hill
Thursday 1st April

BB1014 :
The Windmills on the Moor
Wednesday 7th April

BB1015 :
By Lake, Ridge and Wainwright
Sunday 11th April

BB1016 :
The Ten Lake Tour (+5Ws)
Thursday 15th April

BB1017 :
The BessyBOOT
Thursday 22nd April

BB1018 :
The Kentmere Challenge
Saturday 24th April

BB1019 :
Winter in Springtime
Thursday 14th May

BB1020 :
Red Screes and Sausages
Thursday 20th May

BB1021 :
The Mile High Club
Thursday 27th May

BB1022 :
What A Difference A Day Makes
Thursday 3rd June

BB1023 :
Something Brutal
Thursday 10th June

BB1024 :
Rendezvous on Haycock
Thursday 17th June

BB1025 :
The Men of Gragareth
Thursday 24th June

BB1026 :
The Smardale Round
Thursday 1st July

BB1027 :
Don't Shun The Shunner!
Thursday 8th July

BB1028 :
All Around the Edge
Thursday 29th July

BB1029 :
The Return of Uncle Jamie
Thursday 5th August

BB1030 :
The Examination Results
Thursday 12h August

BB1031 :
Nick by Haggis
Thursday 19th August

BB1032 :
And Then There Were Two
Thursday 26th August

BB1033 :
A Surplus of Sheepfolds
Thursday 2nd September

BB1034 :
A Good One For Tony
Thursday 23rd September

BB1035 :
The Wainwright Triathlon
Tuesday 21st - Thursday 23rd

BB1036 :
The Nine Standards
or The Battle Of Birkett Hills
Thursday 30th September



BSB2010 :
boys in Zillertal
Saturday 30th January
to Saturday 6th February

 Click on the photos
for an enlargement
or related large picture.




To see which Wainwright top was visited on which
BB outing see
Which Wainwright When?.

To 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 of BOOTboys
click on BB Log.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!