Adventure Racing: Lake District provides stern test

Click to follow

A fisherman on the shore of Lake Windermere, in the Lake District, must have been surprised when 50 Canadian canoes raced past him, battling the wind, late on Saturday afternoon. He must have been even more surprised, however, when next morning, 18 hours later, he saw them come back the other way. By then the teams he was watching had been racing non-stop through 13 hours of darkness at the Winter XX, the first round of the 2004 British Adventure Racing Championships.

A fisherman on the shore of Lake Windermere, in the Lake District, must have been surprised when 50 Canadian canoes raced past him, battling the wind, late on Saturday afternoon. He must have been even more surprised, however, when next morning, 18 hours later, he saw them come back the other way. By then the teams he was watching had been racing non-stop through 13 hours of darkness at the Winter XX, the first round of the 2004 British Adventure Racing Championships.

The six endurance races in the series all include mountain biking, and running, paddling and climbing, and among the 24 teams of four taking part at the weekend were such world-class teams as Team Spie, from France, and the current British champions, Team Saab Salomon. Even by adventure racing standards this race was extreme. On the first hour-long paddle one team capsized due to the cross winds, and was helped ashore by another, and this was followed by a mountain bike ride to Hodge Close Quarry, reached by a roped ascent of an exposed ridge. Stung by hailstones driven horizontally on the wind, competitors were soon launching themselves over the edge of the quarry, sliding across to the far side on a zip-wire suspended 80m above the pool below.

That was their next destination, reached by wading through a flooded tunnel, so they could climb around the pool. By this stage is was dark and the beams from their headlamps could be seen traversing the cliff side.

The teams emerged from the quarry into a full scale blizzard, abseiled into nearby Cathedral Quarry and collected mountain bikes from their support crews to ride to Grizedale Forest. Their next challenge was to complete a tree-top traverse of a specially floodlit climbing course. As the teams crossed rope ladders and wire traverses 20m up the tree tops, the snow continued more heavily, and the wind shook the trees they were in.

Then came a three-hour mountain bike orienteering course, where the teams had to look for checkpoints in the forest marked by three-inch square electronic boxes which recorded the team's presence. "A few were underneath the snow so we couldn't see them," Team Saab Salomon's Steve Birkinshaw said. "That ride was the worst as we were soaked and the wind froze us to the core." By now his team were establishing a lead, which was stretched on the following five-hour mountain run. They rode back to the shores of Windermere at daylight, then retraced their canoe route of the previous day, back past the astonished fisherman.

A final ride and a mountain run across Garburn Pass took the teams to the finish in Staveley. Of the 24 starters, eight withdrew and Team Saab Salomon members Tom Gibbs, Helen Jackson, Morgan Donnelly and Birkinshaw, who were unbeaten last year in the UK, were comfortable winners in 21hr 8min 35sec.

Comments