The Wednesday before ‘Event Weekend’ was to be the last fine day for a while. Easy to remember as we had scrambled up Sphinx Ridge and Westmorland Crag onto Gable in glorious sunshine before skinny dipping at Stockley Bridge! Less than 24 hours later two of us put the self clip on Branstree in high wind, driving rain and zilch visibility. Even then the Lowther stepping stones were standing proud and dry.
It all changed again on Friday when an inch and a half of rain fell at Wet Sleddale, the Lowther burst its banks and the Memorial Hall at Shap was opened and prepared to welcome this year’s influx. By then it was obvious that this was to be a very special Three Rings year.
Parking in the adjacent sports field was impossible if we wanted to retain any goodwill but luckily we were able to use the school, library and swimming pool facilities at short notice thanks to local co-operation. It was also clear that avoidance of river crossings would be a good idea if we wanted to maintain the current level of LDWA membership.
Work-arounds were hastily sought and the convenient bridge at Keld used to get Ring 1 starters west of the River Lowther. The bridge in Swindale was carried away last winter and timely replacement had always seemed unlikely. Paddling now no longer an option the alternative track and minor road from Swindale Head to Truss Gap was a godsend.
Little could be done, however, about all the minor streams and water courses that had ‘grown-up’ considerably overnight. On the plus side the waterfall scenery was of the highest order!
Entries were at record level at 170 of whom some 30 had elected to spend Friday night on the Hall floor. This would have made for a cosy night but fortunately only about 20 took up the offer. Come 07.00 the next morning when Registration opened and no-one else had arrived, the fear was that we would have to spend the day watching the rain. Of course the Hall soon filled up and the weather continued to do what it does best. Although the rain persisted on and off all day overhead conditions were bearable and considerably better than those underfoot.
A fair proportion was deterred but the final starting number was a more than adequate 124 of whom nearly all completed at least one Ring. Of the 78 who started with the intention of doing all Three Rings a record 34 were successful. This brings the total of completers since the Event’s inception to around 140.
As ever statistics only tell half the story and it was great to see the three 14 year old lads completing Ring 1 in good style. Phil Musson maintained his record of being the only person to have completed all eight Events – a fantastic achievement. Clare McKeown tootled round at the head of the field eventually finishing in a new ladies record time of 14 hours 36 minutes. A veteran of the Bob Graham Round she considered that this year’s Three Rings had been a tougher challenge!
With the final finisher arriving in just over 24 hours it was a relief to account for everyone and shut up shop for another year.
Thanks to the following for contributing the above photos -
Michelle Armour, Barrie Blenkinship, Robert Cullen, Sally Howarth, Rachel Lucas, Richard Morris
The LDWA organises many challenge and local group walks, as well as listing many more organised by other organisations. Challenge events are normally between 20 and 100 miles and must generally be completed within a defined time limit. Group walks are normally led walks of around 20 miles. Click here to go to the LDWA website.