Running in an arctic spring

Longsleddale Round (Sadgill – Gatescarth Pass – Harter Fell – Kentmere Pike)

Tuesday evenings training session was to be fast run around the fells of Longsleddale, a great route offering a mix of fast tracks, steady and runnable inclines, high fell paths and fast soft trods taking in Gatescarth Pass, Harter Fell and Kentmere Pike.

A quick dash round to Longsleddale after finishing work brought me to the start at Sadgill at the road-head. There was no-one else around, just a few solitary sheep, the farmer and me. I quickly put on my running shoes, set the watch and set off at a brisk pace along the walled track that winds itself towards Gatescarth Pass.

Everything was pretty benign as I set off along the walled track towards Gatescarth Pass, my legs felt a little heavy but i managed to keep the tempo going as the incline increased and within 30 minutes I found myself on the exposed col that marks the high-point of the Pass. Light sleet had begun to fall by now and as I looked northwards towards a leaden sky with the unmistakeable outline of precipitation falling out from beneath there was an ominous increase in the wind-speed. This was to be no light shower.

I had gone barely another 50 metres higher when the full barrage of this wintry onslaught made its presence felt. Sleet had turned to a mixture of hail and graupel which was now being hurled downwards in a never-ending series of sorties. I stopped to pull my wind-shirt on, the only upper body protection I’d bought with me before carrying on up the steep series of switch-backs that were now disappearing into the cloud above.

I contemplated turning around as the visibility steadily reduced and the ferocity at which frozen platelets of ice were being whipped against my legs and for five minutes or so I ran on in a semi-blur, head down, focussed on my feet and little else. Strangely it was the increasing sense of muscle burn in my calfs that signalled an easing in the weather – i was able to and beginning to focus on other things, as the gradient eased, and I pulled onto the broad flattish ridge that makes up the bulk of Harter Fell.

Everything was eerily quiet as I passed by the tangled web of rusting fence posts that marks the top of Harter Fell. The pellets of hail and Graupel had given way to a steady fall of light but damp snow and with it the cloud level had risen a little, allowing me to catch fleeting glimpses across to Ill Bell and Froswick as I descended towards Kentmere Pike.


Just as soon as the weather showed signs of clearing, than another wave of cloud and snow would stream in from the North-East. And despite my forcing of the pace in descent, I had to stop once more to don gloves for any loss of height and theoretical gain in temperature was being masked by the effects of being slightly damp and a little tired.

Thankfully there was only a handful of miles left to go and I continued to push the pace as I descended through the increasingly soft and boggy ground, only giving way briefly for the short ascent to Kentmere Pike before dropping down and picking up the track running from Longsleddale to Kentmere. I turned East and raced down the last mile or so of fast track, watching the matchbox sized outline of my car gradually grow in size until, just a few minutes later I was back in the relative calm of the valley floor.

Distance: TBC Ascent: TBC: Time: 1 hour 22 minutes


About Richard Talbot

An accomplished fell-runner as well as being a keen climber and mountaineer. Since 2005 he has worked for the UK based manufacturer Mountain Equipment and is currently Director of Product. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years.
This entry was posted in Fell Running Diaries, Training and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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