The Helvellyn Triathlon run route is tough at the best of times.
Add strong winds, low cloud, heavy rain, sleet and patches of lying snow and you’re in for a real challenge.
Tough conditions on Helvellyn
Mark and Scott were booked on to the triathlon in September and were keen to see what the route had in store and Mark wanted some advice and the opportunity to try out some kit.
Rain was falling as we left Gillside Farm on the steep, stepped path. I was already wearing full waterproof cover; Kamleika smock and trousers whilst Mark chose inov8 Mistlite trousers and an old goretex top, saving his Raceshell waterproofs for later. Mark opted to try a rucksack rather than bumbag and used the inov8 Race Pac 4 whilst I used the larger Race Pro 12 to carry some emergency kit. Scott chose the bumbag option with an Osprey Talon although didn’t include water bottles as there was more chance of drowning than dehydrating!
Taking in the view of Ullswater
Conditions worsened as we ascended Birkhouse Moor with the wind picking up and the rain turning to sleet and so the stop to admire the view of Ullswater was a brief one. Although it was the last week of April the long winter had get to relinquish its icy hold and Red Tarn still had a covering of ice.
An icy Red Tarn
The route is firm and rocky underfoot and both Mark and I wore inov8 Roclites; 315 and 285 respectively which performed well both up and down. Scott wore Newton Momentum trail shoes, an American brand I hadn’t come across they brightened up the day!
We ascended Swirral Edge into the cloud and thankfully gained some respite, sheltered from the wind although wet snow was now falling. High on the edge a large patch of compacted snow forced a slight detour requiring an exciting bit of hands on rock scrambling.
Scrambling on Swirral Edge
As we emerged onto the summit we left the lee and were met by strong, gusting winds. This was no place to linger so turning Northwest we made haste towards Lower Man. Visibility was around 50 metres and I was conscious not to miss the path to White Side, easily done in these conditions.
Knowing that there is a “sting in the tail” with the climb of White Side is important for race preparation and Mark and Scott were glad to see it if not glad to have to run up it!
Descending White Side
Running off White Side we swung East and used the zig zags to practise downhill running; important to try to flow rather than put on the brakes and use up valuable energy – the legs are going to be tired by this point on race day.
Dropping to the Youth Hostel the wind eased although the rain continued to fall heavily as we discussed race nutrition; gels, energy bars and sweets and Mark told me his recipe for making Spirulina palatable! Safe now, we scoffed my emergency Jaffa Cakes as we trotted down the track back to the farm.
Mark and Scott were happy with the outing, it’s given them a chance to test the kit they need and now know what the route has in store. It was a grotty day but it’s sometimes more rewarding to put yourself through testing conditions and it gives you an idea of how hostile the mountains can be.
A quote from Mark “Was brilliant today Dave – thanks so much for safe and expert guidance and advice. Looking forward to the triathlon even more now.”
If you are considering running the Helvellyn Triathlon and would like a guided run prior to the race, contact me. Next recce date;