From the off it was clear that finishing this monster would be an achievement. The rain was coming down in rods and with it gusting winds. 2014 Tromso winner, Eirik Haugsnes had flown in from Norway to participate in this race. An old hand at Skyrunning races, Eirik was without doubt the favourite for the win but V3K winner Gareth Hughes had different ideas. Over the early sections of the course the two marked each other as they travelled through Low Pike, High Pike, Dove Crag and then Fairfield. When they reached Nethermost Pike the LSU course came into its own and as the runners made a loop of Red Tarn via Helvellyn it was on the route back from Birkhouse Moor via Striding Edge where key and decisive moments would be made. The rain had been continually pouring and as time passed the wind had increased. As Eirik and Gareth entered the traverse via the arête of Striding Edge, the wind came through in gusts making 3-points of contact essential at times.
It was an impressive site as shadows appeared through dense mist, arms outstretched looking to balance as the 50-mph winds jostled them from left to right. Rock underfoot was slick; dried moss now made wet from the continual rain was like glass.
Behind in the ladies’ race Sarah Ridgeway, winner of the V3K and 3rd place ladies’ finisher at the Glen Coe Skyline made her presence felt ahead of The Spine winner and Dragons Back Race 2nd placed lady, Beth Pascall. Both ladies experienced in tough mountain challenges looked in their element as they traversed the challenging arête and down climbed the stone chimney before continuing on and around the course back to Nethermost Pike and then heading to St Sunday Crag and the demanding an intimidating Pinnacle Ridge.
The radio crackled, ‘Pinnacle Ridge has been removed from the course!’ It was the correct call. In principal, the bulk of the scramble on the ridge is moderate, however, the ridge does require a grade 3 maneuver and in the winds with slick rock it would have been wreckless to allow the runners to take on this challenge. Race directors, Charlie Sproson and Andrew Burton had allowed the on-hand safety officer, Joe Faulkner to make that call and make it he did!
Of course it’s easy to feel a little deprived to have such a key section of the course removed but post race nobody complained. Quite the contrary, Lakeland 100 winner Paul Tierney said, ‘If it had been left in I would have done it but I am not sure I would have been too happy about it. It amounts to a couple of minutes in a 7-hour plus race. Let’s be clear, this course was brutal with or without Pinnacle Ridge.’
Descending down to Patterdale, Eirik Haugsnes and Sarah Ridgeway had taken a firm hold of the race but plenty of racing remained and in the harsh and brutal conditions anything could happen. It was one of those days when hypothermia was just waiting around any corner.
Heading back to Ambleside runners made the long and arduous journey up towards the road crossing at Kirkstone Pass via the Coast-to-Coast path that included Angletarn Pikes, the Knott a traverse of Blea Water and then Thornthwaite Crag and Caudale Moor preceded a decent to the road and then the final leg home via Red Scree to the warm and welcoming finish at the University of Cumbria.
Eirik Haugsnes and Sarah Ridgeway took respective victories in 7:16:44 and 9:13:04. Gareth Hughes (7:31:22) held off a charging final leg from Dragons Back winner Jim Mann (7:32:38) who in the process took 2 primes for climbing and descending.
Beth Pascall ran a strong 2nd place finishing just over 5-minutes behind Sarah Ridgeway and Zoe Salt rounded out the ladies’ podium after a hard fought battle with the conditions and the course.
It’s rare that first edition races get such praise and acclaim as the LSU has received, especially when conditions are so hard. Eirik Haugsness post race said, ‘It was brutal, maybe even tougher than Tromso but that is possible due to such harsh conditions for the race. But the repeated climbing and technical aspects make this a must do race.’
Attention now turns to the 3×3 80km race which takes place in early October and then the Mourne Skyline MTR in Ireland on October 24th and 25th.
- Sarah Ridgway 9:13:04
- Beth Pascall 9:19:42
- Zoe Salt 11:15:27
- Eirik Haugsnes 7:16:50
- Gareth Hughes 7:31:22
- Jim Mann 7:32:38
Live Tracking Results HERE
Skyrunning UK HERE
Lakes Sky Ultra HERE