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    A new challenge on the Lake District fells

    15th September 2020

    A new long distance challenge route for runners and walkers has been established in the Lake District, centred on Elterwater.

    It’s called 23 before tea, and covers more than 36 miles, taking in 23 fell tops around the Elterwater Independent Hostel. The aim is to run the whole circuit, or walk it in sections, and get back in time for tea.

    It’s been run for the first time, in 14 hours and 50 minutes, by Dave Cumins, known in the fell-running world as Little Dave, and Ambleside AC’s James Harris. Dave devised the optimum route based on suggestions from the owners of the hostel, the Thomas family.

    Christine Thomas was fascinated last year by Paul Tierney’s record-breaking run around all the Wainwrights, and especially the map of the route he took. She counted the number of fells within a certain radius of the hostel and found there were 23.

    Adrian planning an early version of the route

    But when her son Adrian tested a circuit based on those fells, he found there was too much descending and re-ascending to make a one-day challenge possible. In stepped Little Dave, one of Paul Tierney’s support runners, who spent the winter studying maps at home near Brighton. He planned to come to the Lakes and test the route in the spring, but Covid19 restrictions halted those plans.

    “I came up with a list of 23 that were all in the Elterwater catchment,” said Dave. “It’s got some classic fell lines, and follow’s Paul Tierney’s route for a lot of it. I think following Paul’s route is important for it is a celebration of what Paul achieved.” He and James were running on a 12-hour schedule but were affected by the heat on one of the hottest September days on record. They believe a good runner could complete the route in around ten hours.

    An early start in fancy dress for the Kings of the Mountain duo

    Now it’s been done for the first time, Christine hopes that others will take up the challenge “though it’s likely that most will want to wait until next year when the days start lengthening”.

    She had hoped to have a challenge board in the hostel foyer where runners could record their dates and times, but for the time being, that record will have to be kept on the hostel’s facebook page. It’s not a race, but a recommended personal challenge, says Christine. “Anyone aiming to do all the Wainwrights can tick off 23, staying here and doing the route in two or three stages.”


    Enjoying the sun on Silver How

    Dave and James said the day out had been “massively enjoyable” and that it had been a bonus to see both sunrise and sunset on such a beautiful day.

    The name of the challenge, 23 before tea, (or 23B4T) came from Abingdon runner Andy Phelps who had been in the Lakes last summer while supporting friends on a Bob Graham round.


    • At the end of the day….

      The 23 summits are:

    Black Fell, Holme Fell, Wetherlam, Swirl How, Great Carrs (rest point at Three Shires Stones). Cold Pike, Pike o’Blisco, Lingmoor (rest point at Old Dungeon Ghyll). Loft Crag, Pike o’Stickle, Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark, Thunacar Knott, Sergeant Man, Blea Rigg , Silver How (rest point Grasmere). Seat Sandal, Fairfield, Great Rigg, Stone Arthur, Heron Pike, Nab Scar (rest point Rydal). Loughrigg.


    Here is the 12-hour schedule for the first attempt.

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