Saddleback Fred Whitton Challenge: Cumbria May 13 2012

Everything you’ve heard about the Fred Whitton is true. As a first timer, this was as sapping, painful and downright brutal as I expected.

Did I enjoy it? At the time, not a lot. Did I feel indecently self-satisfied at doing the job? You bet! Organisation was close to faultless. It was a picture perfect Lake District dawn, but with rain forecast for the afternoon, I opted for an early start. Given the parking queue at 6am, I was pleased to have registered the day before. First up; Kirkstone Pass, was long but steady with a blast of a descent. On turning West to Keswick along the A66, hello to my new constant companion for much of what followed – a howling headwind. The back to back passes of Honister, Newlands and Whinlatter took their toll on the legs, before the wind machine was turned on again for the drag south over Cold Fell. Approaching a hundred miles, I was suitably softened up for the brooding appearance of Hardknott; no one in their right mind would put tarmac over a mountain like this!  

Full respect to those who conquered this twisting 33 per cent torture by pedal power. I had to walk, as did many, but resolved to stay mounted for the final shorter, but still steep, climb over Wrynose. Mission accomplished? Not quite, the remaining undulations back to Coniston may not figure much on the profile, but present one last test. The rain held off and I’ve never been so proud to collect a certificate. Despite muttering: “Never again”, another day out with Fred and his friends is starting to appeal.    

Entrants: 1,700 sellout
Finishers: 1,370                                   
Distance 112 miles
Website: Fred Whitton Challenge
Terrain – Mountainous
Best – Crowds and cowbells at the top of the passes – without you etc, etc…!
Worst – My shame of the Hardknott hobble