After a beautiful drive along the A65 from Leeds to the Lake District, my friend and I arrived in Ambleside, eager to look at the weather report for the weekend as I would be taking part in the famous Borrowdale Fell Race; a 17 mile course over some of the toughest terrain in England, taking in the summit of Scafell Pike, Great Gable and Dale Head, totalling 2000m of ascent.
The weather forecast which was pretty terrible; torrential rain, getting worse during the day! I was also reminded of the well known phrase in the Lake District which basically says that if you can see the mountains, its going to rain and if you cant, its already raining!
After making our beds we took a look around the facilities. The hostel actually had a very well equipped kitchen with all you could ask for which is a rare find in the UK but since we hadn’t stopped off in the supermarket we decided it would be easier to eat out. A short walk took us into the town centre where there were plenty of reasonably priced pubs to fill up with hearty food in preparation for the race.
Back at the hostel we made ourselves a mint tea (free hot drinks for guests), relaxed in the cosy lounge area and pondered over our maps, reviewing my race route and discussing where I would meet my friend along the way to pick up a drink. We soon became distracted by a friendly group of Norwegian girls who asked us for advice on finding hotels in Liverpool for the next section of their trip. After some intensive searching on the internet (free access to guests) we managed to find somewhere affordable at Hatters Hostel and my friend was even able to give them some tips on places to visit, having lived there himself.
Borrowdale Fell Race
The following morning I made the most of the free breakfast which included a vast array of jams, cereals and bread in addition to the free tea and coffee. We drove through torrential rain out to Rossthwaite in Borrowdale to the start of the race. I had visited the area the week before to try and find my way around the race route which had proved to be very difficult and I was extremely nervous about making the 4:30 hour cut-off time at Honister Slate mine (a local visitor attraction). Unexpectedly, the rain cleared up, the race started and I held a comfortable pace, chatting to other runners as I went and keeping my focus on the ground to tackle the tricky terrain.
The race was strangely enjoyable despite the long tough climbs and it was great feeling to be at the highest point of England on top of Scafell Pike. We were even cheered on by a famous local fell runner, Joss Naylor (refer to Feet in the Clouds book if you want to know more), as we climbed up to the summit of Great Gable. I made the cut off at Honister, finished the race back in Rossthwaite after 5:08 hours and felt a great sense of achievement having completed one of the toughest races in the fell running calendar. It was a well-organised event and the support from the marshals and local people was great, in addition to the free post-race cup of tea, sandwiches and sports massage.
Back at the hostel I was pleasantly surprised to find that the showers were hot enough and powerful enough to get rid of all the mud caked on my legs and there was also an outside laundry room with a bucket and brush for me to clean my muddy sodden fell shoes. There is a drying room available but it is coin-operated.
My friend had left to go back to Leeds so I decided to visit the local Coop and cook for myself (and treated myself to the famous local sticky toffee pudding). It was nice to put my feet up, relax and chat with some of the other guests before getting a good nights sleep.
After checking out I spent a relaxing day in Ambleside which is a mecca of outdoor gear and gift shops, cute cafes and art galleries. Ambleside even has its own indoor climbing centre but I decided I had done enough activity for the weekend and treated myself to a bath bun and big ice-cream whilst wishing I had a bigger bank balance to buy all of the amazing outdoor clothing and equipment on offer in the numerous shops.
There are lots of hostels and bunkhouses in the around Ambleside offering very good value for money.