The Cumbrian Challenge
A team of forecasters from the Met Office recently completed the Cumbrian Challenge, a sponsored walk to raise money for Walking with the Wounded.
There are three different courses to choose from:
- Peak (15km)
- Tough (23km)
- Tougher (30km)
All involve a good deal of walking up and down fells in the Lake District with the start and finish in Grasmere. Despite a slight lack of training we decided to enter the ‘Tougher’ route that also included 1800m of ascent and descent.
There was great interest in the weather forecast in the lead up to the event. Would there be a repeat of the low cloud, wind and rain of recent years or will the Met Office team bring good weather this year!? During the evening before the walk, John gave weather briefings to those taking part. The potential hazards would be strong sunlight and dehydration with no significant rain, wind or cloud expected. We predicted a UV index of 6 or 7 which was very high even for late May.
During the briefings, one of the veterans also stood up and told his story. Hearing his words really demonstrated how Walking with the Wounded can a have a positive impact on people’s lives and re-enforced our motivation to take on this tough challenge.
The day of the walk started calm and cool with bright sunshine streaming into the valley for the 7.30am start. We packed a portable thermometer and anemometer to compare how the temperature and wind speed at different heights on the fells would compare to our Met Office Mountain Forecast. After a short and steep climb, the first 10km were relatively flat with bluebell-carpeted forests and regular views of the Langdale Fells mirrored in the meres and tarns. We started steadily to conserve energy for the long climbs ahead and arrived at the first time check, around an hour ahead of the cut off time. We took some time to take photos, drink plenty of water and take on food including a piece of cake. However, we were then faced with the arduous climb up the steep and rocky ridge of Wetherlam and things became somewhat tougher. It was hard going, with the glare of the midday sun bouncing off the rocks but we slowly made it to the top.
A quick observation on Wetherlam summit (760m) – 10mph winds and 12 Celsius compared to 20 Celsius in the valleys as predicted. This stark contrast in conditions being due to the high lapse rate in the dry conditions. It felt pleasantly cool on the tops but rather oppressive down in the valleys. Near the top of the next summit, Blake Rigg, we stopped for a short rest. There were still many kilometres remaining but most of these would be flat through Langdale before a final climb and descent back into Grasmere. We finished, feeling slightly baked and battered after over 10 hours, and celebrated with a hog roast and a drink. The course had lived up to its name; it was tough but quite spectacular.
Walking with the Wounded provide support to vulnerable veterans by providing a pathway for them to re-integrate into society and find sustainable employment. For more information, or to make a donation visit the Walking with the Wounded website.