With winds reaching 65kmph on the tops, the runners headed up the long ridgeline of Low Pike, High Pike & Dove Crag to receive a royal battering across the tops of Hart Crag, Fairfield & the Helvellyn Massif.
Eirik Haugsnes from Norway (Winner of the 2014 Tromso Skyrace) fought steadily with Paul Tierney (Lakeland 100 winner 2015) ,Gareth Hughes (V3K Sky Race 2015) and Jim Mann (Dragons Back Race winner 2015). As the runners crested Helvellyn & started the rocky descent of Swirral Edge they chivied for 1st place to the summit of CatstyCam.
The grueling descent of CatstyCam saw Gareth Hughes take the lead, but not for long as Eirik was hot on his heals with Paul in close pursuit.
The Ladies race was dominated from very early on by Sarah Ridgeway (ladies Snowdon Horseshoe recored holder) with Beth Pascal (2nd lady in the Dragons’ Back Race 2015 & 4th overall) keeping close on her tail.
Joe Faulkner & his Nav4Adventure Safety team were out on the course early, with instructions to make the on the spot decisions about the course. With high winds and plenty of rain it was pretty audacious for the race RD’s Andrew Burton & Charles Sproson to keep to the full course, but with such a strong & experienced field of runners, both of them agreed with the fell top safety team, that the race should stand as is. With the risk of injury on Pinnacle Ridge, the crux climb of the course, the Nav4 safety team made the call to remove this section from the race, completely backed by Andrew & Charles.
This allowed a faster ascent of St Sunday Crag, bringing the runners to the col between Birks & St Sunday slightly quicker.
It was through this section that Haugsnes made his break & started to really put the pressure on. Watching Open Tracking was really exciting as Eirik literally streaked away from Gareth & Paul to put in an amazingly fast 2nd half of the race, but with no-one chasing him hard, he slacked slightly on the ascent & descent to and from Red Screes, missing the Super Stages 1st place prize.
Jim Mann now started to put the pressure on & moved from 4th place into 3rd. chasing Gareth Hughes down as fast as he could. With Gareth only making it through the Kirkstone Pass checkpoint 5 minutes before Jim gave him an extra boost (he had made 15 minutes up on Gareth over the 2nd half of the race). Really flying now, like his shorts were on fire, Jim Mann put in the most amazing effort up Red Screes to win the uphill ‘Super Stage’ and continued this effort to make 3.5 minutes on Gareth & win the downhill ‘Super Stage’ & come in a close 3rd place.
In the ladies race Sarah Ridgeway continued to stay in front of Pascal to scoop the 1st place in the ‘Ladies Open’, Beth coming in 2nd & Zoe Salt came in later in the race to take the ladies 3rd place.
In the Male Vet’s 45 Mike Robinson, Dark Peak Club member, put in possibly the best effort of all the competitors to cross the line in 1st place (5th overall), looking completely battered, but very happy indeed. He claimed the course to be 2nd to none. 2nd place went to Little Dave Cumins, a Dragon’s Back Race 2015 finisher, and is quoted with saying “its been my best birthday yet’! 3rd place went to Phil Clayton, a Black Combe fell runner.
Steph Scott (Northumberland Fell Runner & Ultra-Runner.com Trail Team member) took the Ladies Vet’s 45 1st place. No other lady vet finished the race to claim second place.
Eirik Haugsnes claimed the course to be hard, very hard, as hard as the European equivalents like Tromso Sky Race (Norway) & Trofeo Kima in Italy. He commented on the extremely technical nature of the course and found the ascents very steep, saying “it was not possible to run the hills, I had to walk”
Sarah Ridgeway was blown away by the route & organization of the whole event, commenting it was one of the best courses out there. She was extremely please to take the 2nd of two 1st position podium places it the series of 6 Sky Races now available in the UK.
As the dust settles or should we say the course dries out, all attention now turns to the 3 x 3000 Sky Running Trail Ultra due to run on the 3rd of October. There are still places available.
Gareth Hughes – V3K Sky Race male winner: ‘Quite easily the hardest race I’ve done so far, an audacious undertaking for the race organisers. Classic fell running combined with technical ridgelines made for a daring concept when faced with severe rain and gales on the day. As a climber I felt at ease on Swirling Edge and Striding Edge and felt the greatest challenge had to be the technical descents such as that off Nethermost Pike, with the added thrill of river crossings and steep grassy slopes that could only be ascended with large clumps of grass in hand it made for a truly unique experience’
Sarah Ridgeway, Ladies Snowdon Horseshoe Record holder: ‘A race that lures you in then spits you out. You have to look deep into yourself to just finish! The initial gentle climb lulled me into a false sense of security. I was in my element encased in cloud and lashed by driving rain... then the course really showed it's teeth! The scrambling proved a welcome distraction from what really made it so tough: the merging of traditional fell running terrain. Tussock, bog, and steep vegetated climbs that could only be attacked on all fours. Your fight almost exhausts but you reach the aid station at half-way and the atmosphere, support and coffee enliven you to battle on to finally be rewarded with, dare I say, a kind descent to the finish. I'll not forget this race - the hardest in the UK Sky Running calendar so far and a fantastic experience!’
Jim Mann, Dragon’s Back Winner 2015: ‘This course has it all, steep climbs, fun scrambling ridges, technical terrain and fast runnable descents - I will be back for sure’