The carpark at Kirkstone Pass was covered in darkness when we arrived, and I parked up beside Lee Shimwell’s car. Lee was getting some sleep with Olly, and they did make a lovely couple in the front of Lee’s car. Jo and me decided to have a nap ourselves before everyone arrived so we were ready for them.
The runners were due in around 5:30am so I woke an hour before and set about getting everything setup and ready for Dougie and the others. The sun was rising in the north above Place Fell far away down the valley. It was like a scene from Lord of the Rings with the surrounding fells and moors in darkness and the sun shining on Place Fell in the distance, lighting it up as if this was nirvana and I had to walk Kirkstone Pass to get to it.
Lee and Olly emerged from their slumber and Dominic Camponi came over from the other side of the carpark. I hadn’t noticed him asleep in his car. We all started getting everything ready and then our attention turned towards Red Screes where the runners would be coming down. We kept looking for headtorches bobbing in the darkness to signal that the runners were on their way down while Lee kept checking the tracker for their progress.
Soon the light of headtorches emerged at the top of Red Screes and began weaving their way down Kilnshaw Chimney and towards us. I took this opportunity to go and do what I had to do and then get some photos of the runners coming in. I just about managed to do both before the headtorches came running over the moor towards me.
Soon we were all in the carpark. Jo was tending to Dougie’s feet and Lee was all serious ready for the next leg. This was the first time I’ve ever seen Lee serious, and I wondered if he ever gets as serious with Carolyn… One of the support runners, Louise Greenwood had to set off straight away as she was in work as a firefighter at 7am! It was amazing to think that she had run through the night and was now going straight to work! I can only assume that Louise gave the other support runner a lift back too as I can’t remember them! Sorry!
Dougie and the others were soon on their way disappearing into the clag that was lying on St Raven’s Edge. Jo and me packed up and then Jo asked me if I’d be alright on my own getting to the next road stop if I dropped her at Coniston. I replied, ‘yes’, ‘no problem’, and made a mental note of the next stop as we went past it. I drove to Coniston, dropped Jo at her van and turned back towards Troutbeck, my next stop.
Or so I should have…
Things get a bit confusing here, but I remember driving back to the inn at Kirkstone Pass probably looking for a place to turn round safely and then going back down the same road before going back up it and turning round halfway. I had a dropped pin for my next stop but for whatever reason I decided I knew best so instead of stopping at Troutbeck I headed for Kentmere a village in the bowl of the Kentmere Horseshoe that has nothing there not even a public toilet. Dougie had told everyone not to leave me on my own and his words were proving prophetic as I drove along a dual carriageway before turning off and heading down 4 miles of country lane to get where I shouldn’t be.
I arrived at Kentmere and parked up alongside Kentmere Institute, basically a stone hut opposite the church. Apart from the hall and the church there was a phone box and around 20 houses and that was Kentmere. It was like an upmarket, village of the damned. There was nothing else here. No shops, no pub and hardly any people. I setup and set about waiting for Dougie and the others to arrive. I waited and waited and waited and waited. I couldn’t get a phone signal, there’s not many places you can in the Lakes, so I couldn’t ring anyone or look at the tracker.
A few hikers came and looked at me as if I was some madman having setup for what looked like a picnic with no guests. One walker started reeling off the names of fells that Dougie and the others would be coming down and I kept looking up in anticipation of seeing them running down towards me. A couple of times I thought I saw someone coming down the fell only to realise it was my eyes playing tricks on me. Then someone said there was a café on the other side of Kentmere, basically where the houses were, so I setoff to find the café and see if everyone was there waiting for me.
All I succeeded in doing was walking up hills between houses. There was nothing there at all. If you liked food and alcohol, you were out of luck here as you either had to travel miles to find a shop or spend a fortune getting stuff delivered. I ran back to the van and decided to pack up and go and see if I could find anyone. Back down the country lane, through Staveley, onto the dual carriageway turn off onto the same road I’d been on at least twice already.
At the end of this road, I spot a white van and pull up. Sure, enough it’s the other guy on road support, Tom Bamforth, who luckily was able to make the stop and give Dougie everything he needed so he could carry on. Luckily Steven Cavell came to the rescue too and took up some chocolate and coffee for Dougie which gave him a big boost.
I jump out of the van and before I can say anything my phone rings,
‘is that Andrew Smith’?
‘this is Cumbria Police’
What the f**k have done now I think
‘we’ve had a report from Dan Biggs that you’re missing, and we are calling to make sure you’re alright’?
‘erm yes, I’m fine. I got lost and went to the wrong place’
I can hear the operator struggle to contain her laughter
‘as long as you’re ok Mr Smith’
‘I am, thanks’
The operator hangs up and I know that she is going to burst out laughing and who can blame her! What sort of muppet gets lost in the Lakes? This sort of muppet!
I ask where I can get some food and Tom says I should head back towards Staveley and there’ll be a shop there. I’ve got a good 7 or 8 hours before my next stop so I jump in the van and head back where I have come from. I drive into Staveley and look for a shop. I see a couple of corner shops with nowhere to park or parking with no shops. This is one of the oddities I found about the Lakes, there are hardly any shops beyond the big towns. I can’t remember seeing one single supermarket just small shops dotted here and there. Maybe I missed them or maybe the people in the Lakes eat out all the time, but the lack of shops was weird.
I can’t find anything so head back towards Windermere when I see a petrol station with a shop up ahead and pull in. This place is desolate. I’ve found the only place in the Lakes that is flat and featureless with nothing around. All I can see is fields, no fells, or lakes. I could be anywhere in the country…
For the first time since Sunday, I’m on my own, no other road support with me and Dougie and his support are somewhere running over the fells. And then it hits me. Wave after wave of drowsiness sweeps over me and my eyes begin to close, and it becomes a battle to keep them open. I wonder how I’m going to carry on to the next stop.
I’m overtired now. In fact, I’m totally f**king exhausted. I’ve hardly slept since Sunday morning, and I’ve been driving on some of the toughest roads in England that demand total focus and concentration and take more out of you than you realise and combined with the mornings cock up I’m totally worn out and I have nothing left. I sit in the van and begin to nod off. I don’t even have the energy to get out and get something to eat, but I have to carry on. I have no choice. I stumble out of the van and wander over to the shop to get something to eat because I have to make the next stop whatever it takes.
In the shop I get some sandwiches and a couple of cans of energy drink. I don’t usually drink energy drinks, but I have no choice now or I won’t make it to the next stop. Back in the van I eat and drink a can of energy drink. I’m feeling slightly more awake so set off to my next stop at Martindale. Someone has sent me the dropped pin and this time I know I have to follow it rather than go on another magical mystery tour of the Lakes!