8th July 2000 07:19
Tim Forster 23 hours 7 minutes 4 seconds
The side door of the van was flung open and Fred Smith’s voice bellowed through: “Haway Forster – time to do it”. It was 11.15pm on Friday 7th July. Having failed to get some sleep in a Keswick car park, indeed my time had come. The butterflies which had been floating around in my stomach since Monday finally began flapping like nobodies business, itching for the midnight chimes from the Moot Hall clock that would send me on my journey.
Standing with one foot against the Moot Hall door, in the Lakeland drizzle, with Phil Bellamy, who was to pace the first leg with me, I can remember saying “At least it’s not windy”, words that would come back to haunt me. Five, four, three, two, one, we were off leaving behind the rest of my support team who would be greatly needed as the day wore on. Head torches were switched on almost immediately as we sped through Fitz Park. Half way up Skiddaw we made a quick stop to put our ‘windproof’ pertex tops on. Off we went straight into cloud. We were greeted at the top of Skiddaw by Peter Mullarky and Kenny More who had hot drinks and food, 1 down, 41 to go. Descending Skiddaw we had decided to keep to the right of Hare Crag and hug the stream, a bit longer, but a lot easier running, as neither of us fancied heather-hopping in the dark. The torch of Dave Gilthorpe welcomed us through the cloud to the top of Glen Calva. Pete Wilkinson, who had brought the kids for a night’s camping on Calva, was also there to offer good wishes and food (what the kids had done to upset Pete, I’ve yet to find out).
The dark of the night was slowly giving way as we ascended Blencathra but, as for much of the day, as I would discover, we were still in cloud. A hearty “Wey Hey” was heard from Fintan Clarke and Phil James who were waiting on Blencathra, they had obviously seen our headtorches. Threlkeld was reached ½ hour early at 4 o’clock; good time was being made.
Walking through the checkpoint, a sandwich and hot tea was grabbed and off we went with new pacers, Phil Pearson and John ‘The Camel’ Finnagan (I’ve never seen a bloke carry so much water). We ascended Clough Head in 54 minutes and were soon striding out along the Dodds, still in cloud, but no chance of being thirsty with John around. By the time we got to Grisedale Tarn John was either getting fatigued or he thought he needed to replenish the stocks, either way, he decided not to go up Fairfield, but to wait at the foot of Seat Sandal for Phil and myself. A wise decision. On the descent of Fairfield I experienced my first bout of cramp. “Oh no, not this early on”, I thought. It went, and so did I straight over Seat Sandal and into sunny Dunmail Raise (about the only bit sun I saw all day).
Pasta, tea, jam sandwiches, biscuits and a banana were managed to be consumed before we were off again, this time accompanied by Fred Smith, Keith Wood and Dick Hill. Everything hurt on this section, it must have shown, for the support and encouragement I was receiving was tremendous. But the support didn’t stretch as far as to the use of a stretcher, which I suggested, seriously though, I was suffering. Fred told me the pain would not get any worse and that I would grow accustomed to it. ‘Thanks Fred’. Coming along the Langdales the cloud cleared and I could see what lay before me, Bowfell, Scafell Pike, Scafell. Come back cloud!!! By this time I was being force-fed Jelly Babies, Fudge, Fruitinies and all that energy-giving crap. Satch and Dave Millen had done a great job at Broadstand arriving some 1½ hours
previous. They had prepared a rope to give me assistance up this perilous part of the round, and boy, was it needed!
Arriving at Wasdale at 14.28 the transit support team had a very welcome meal of hot soup, bread, tea, cake and jam sandwiches ready. Keith Wood’s fingers began to work their way into my, by now, very tired and rock hard calves. I swear he had a masochistic look on his face, he certainly had a big grin.
Twenty minutes later I was off with new pacers, Fintan Clarke, Bob Johnson, Richard Townsend and Jed Conway (1 for each corner of the stretcher). Leaving behind the road support crew, Ian Johnson, Paul Smith and my Dad, to clear up. If I never see Yewbarrow again it will be soon enough. We were greeted at the summit by a gale force wind, rain and cloud, which seemed to get worse as this leg progressed. By now I was flagging dramatically, until Jed pulled out a sachet of what I can only describe as ‘strawberry flavoured gunk’, boy was it horrid, but it certainly worked its way to the right places. I was between Richard and Fintan in front, and Bob and Jed in the rear. Can I now take this opportunity to apologise to Fintan for telling him where he could stick his Jelly Babies, after offering me yet another one.
My spirits were really lifted at Blacksail Pass where 6 members of Wreckenton Methodist Church were waiting in the howling wind and rain to greet me. They had been waiting nearly 2 hours, 3 of these were young lads under 14, who deserve a medal themselves. Honister was a very welcome sight at 8.00 p.m. A quick stop, warm, dry clothes quick cuppa and off with Phil James, Peter Mullarky, Phil Bellamy, Keith Wood, Fred Smith and Dick Hill, everyone chatting away trying to keep me focused. Finally, peak 42, Robinson, reached at 21.10. The only trouble now was descending it. The legs moaned and groaned, but the enjoyment was beginning to flood back. A quick change into road shoes in the Newlands Valley, we were now joined by Louise, who had been urging me on at every checkpoint, and we were off, albeit very gingerly for myself.
I’ve never been so grateful to see the Moot Hall door, but then again, so sad that my day with such friends was drawing to a close. The memories of the day, the patter the jokes and encouragement will be with me forever.
Thank you to everyone who helped, not only on the fells, but with the preparation from when I first decided to go for it, sitting in Mr and Mrs Wood’s dining room, back in January, full of red wine.
Tim Forster, with thanks to;
Marina Forster (Mam)
John Forster (Dad)
Steve Millen (Satch)