The SF Mountain Challenge • Summit and Beyond
SF Mountain Challenge by Summit and Beyond and Sim Fit 100. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet like minded people and challenge your self safely in the mountain environment.
Mountain Challenge
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The SF Mountain Challenge

SF Mountain Challenge

The SF Mountain Challenge

Welcome to this blog post about the SF Mountain Challenge. Before we get started remember to come here to buy your maps. The banner below takes you straight to the Ordnance Survey site where you can purchase your map on line and I take a percentage. Thanks for all your support and enjoy your next adventure.

SF Mountain Challenge

It felt like I had finally made it. I had bookings to see me through summer and I had established a good process to start out with. April was almost completely dedicated to guided mountain walks in the Scottish Highlands and then May brought the launch of a collaboration with a good friend from the ARMY.

SF Mountain Challenge

Why the SF Mountain Challenge Happened

Kingsley, from Sim Fit 100, and I have been trying to link up for years now. We have tried a couple of different collaborations but we finally succumbed to the fact that we are best suited to serving people through movement and the outdoors. Kingsley had contacted with me and suggested we team up, he wanted to link his physical / personal training instruction (PTI) with my Mountain Leading (ML).

This got me really excited and I also felt humbled. Kingsley is very successful in his pursuit to support people to change their lives through physical training, he has a huge following and he was asking me to stand next to him and lead. Needless to say I saw this as a huge boost for Summit and Beyond.

We planned to launch our collaboration mid way through May. This time of year usually brings high pressure weather and blue skys. I had dived head first into promoting my service, Summit and Beyond, and now I was working on the ‘SF Mountain Challenge’ too. It felt good to feel momentum. This time the ‘SF Mountain Challenge’ consisted of two challenges. The beginners and advanced challenge. The beginners challenge was due to take place on the 4th July and the advanced on the 5th, and then it all changed with COVID-19!

Sim Fit 100

The only way I could rationalise what was happening was to think of it like a fiction book. The story of Ben Yates working hard to live his dream life, Guiding people in the mountains and supporting them to lead a more wholesome life. The dream is unfolding just as planned, end of chapter one. Chapter two ‘LOCK DOWN’. You can probably guess the rest of the story because it echoes many of your own.

I was fortunate enough to continue working at my 9 to 5, nevertheless, I was more than ready to have a break from that intense youth work role. My partner had been furloughed and was at home looking after our daughter. Life became a cycle of go to work, come home stressed, see my partner slowly going mental because she was stuck at home with a boxed in 5 year old, stay at home, go for a walk at home, go to work and so on.

As April came to a close and May was approaching the sound of lock down ending started to creep in. Then it came, July 4th, campsites will reopen, groups can start to meet again. I contacted Kingsley and we pushed that ball as hard as we could to try and make the ‘SF Mountain Challenge’ happen.

4th July.

The plan had always been to camp and the 4th July marked the opening of the sites. Nevertheless, the rules of camping had changed in a big way. Some sites would only take a booking for 5 or more nights, some sites were open for tents but only if you took your own toilet, because the facilities were closed due to covid-19.

It turned out that I had to offer the group my back garden. Thankfully the weather was going to be very poor and they declined our small patch of garden. On the other hand, unfortunately I had spent the previous weeks in lock down sticking to the rules and hadn’t been out navigating at all, therefore I was feeling nervous about getting it right in the poor weather. We only had one person book onto the beginners challenge, Emma. Emma wanted to treat her self to a weekend of adventure, she booked onto both days and took up the offer of camping in the garden.

We took our time on the morning of the 4th because Emma was already here camping in the garden and I only had one person to guide which makes the whole process much easier. The original plan was to summit Blencathra via Halls Fell ridge however I asked Emma what she would like to do. We settled on a big loop starting in the Langdale valley, up to Angle tarn round on to Bowfell and then over onto Crinkle Crags before descending back down the steep descent under Pike of Blisco.

Lake District

The cloud base was very low, the wind was fairly strong and it was raining. For Emma it was a day of navigating cold, miserable weather and very slippery descents and for me it was a day of following features and bearings to keep us moving in the right direction. We met a few unlikely bad weather walkers up on the tops which was frightening because each one of them seemed to be wearing the wrong clothing and none of them had a map as far as I could see.

I helped direct then as best I could and then we continued on our on our route but the worrying thoughts of seeing people with early onset of hypothermia stuck with me for the rest of the day. I have met people like this, and in these conditions before and the best thing they can do is keep moving and get off the mountain back to warmth safety. It makes me feel responsible because if I direct hem off the mountain and then they get lost I have been apart of their path of destruction. My focus has to be on the people I am leading because their safety comes first. Nevertheless, I wish people would respect the reality and brutality the mountains can deliver. May be then they would learn to navigate and dress properly.

5th July change of plan

After a successful 4th July I was feeling beaten up by the weather and my legs were aching with all the steep slippery descents. We arrived back at the house after 21:00 and it was a quick burst of energy to get some food down and start the process of drying out the kit we had been using. Emma went to her tent and curled up to enjoy a much deserved rest.

Lake District Guided Walks

I went to bed and looked on the OS map app to consider tomorrows route. The weather looked to be getting worse and I barely got any sleep because the wind started battering the house in the middle of the night.

As we prepared to leave the next morning I felt nervous about the weather and managing a group through it. We had originally planned for the 5th July to be a 10 peak challenge starting at Seathwaite farm up onto Grey Knotts, Brandreth, Green Gable, Great Gable, Scafell Pike, Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End, Allen Crags, Glaramara then descent the brutal Hind Gill completeing the loop.

SF Mountain Challenge

The weather forecast for the higher tops looked dangerous. 50 to 60 MPH winds, hail and the potential for thunder. I was not willing to head up onto the tops putting the group in danger so I plotted a different route. I also asked Jayne and Jules, two trainee mountain leaders, to join us and be prepared to take some of the group back into the valley if we found some to be struggling when we reached the stretcher box at Sty Head Tarn.

The Challenge

We met at 07:30 at Seathwaite farm had a short brief about social distancing and the change of route before setting off. We walked up to Sty Head Tarn where the force of the wind started to reveal its self, but the clouds were remaining quite high in the sky. It was tempting to head up on to the summits of the smaller mountains but the cluster of mountains around Scafell Pike were covered in dark angry looking, fast moving cloud. I felt it would be a bad idea to head up towards the summit of Great Gable moving towards the bad weather.

Summit and Beyond guided walks

As we approached the wooden bridge that crosses the river just before Sty Head tarn the group was separated. I checked in with Kingsley and we agreed that he would go forward and lead the front group and I would run back and lead the rear group to the tarn with Jayne. Kingsley asked which feature he should head for and I replied “the tarn”, I should have said “cross the wooden bridge and then stop at the tarn” because 5 minutes later we were performing a river crossing. This defiantly could have been avoided by heading back to the bridge but the group were locked in and determined to cross that river so we made it happen safely.

Sf Mountain Challenge

By the time we reached the stretcher box at Sty Head, Kingsley, Jayne and I checked in with one another and decided to push on up to Sprinkling tarn before giving the group a choice to keep going or head back into the valley. By this point we knew who the stronger members of the group were and it was now easier to manage the group. I say easier, however the group was a mixture of abilities so keeping everyone together without too much waiting in the cold wind was a challenge. Nevertheless, between Kingsley, Jayne, Jules and I we managed to keep everyone moving at a good pace and the gaps never became unmanageable.

SF Mountain Challenge

On arriving at Sprinkleing Tarn I had been watching the weather closely and could clearly see the higher peaks were keeping hold of the dangerous looking weather. Therefore we made the decision to head up onto Allen Crags where the weather had not been throughout the morning. My thinking was that as long as we remained on the smaller tops and we were moving north and away from the weather we would be safe. We gave the group the option to ether head back or follow us up on to Allen Crags. They were all pumped and decided to continue with the challenge.  Once we reached the summit of Allen Crags we regrouped and realised that we had an opportunity to continue over onto Glaramara, so off we went. We had the opportunity to stop with shelter just before the summit of Glaramara for some food and a chat.

Summit and Beyond Guided Walks

After the summit of Glaramara we descended Thornythwaite Fell and then looped back contouring round the bottom of Thorythwaite to Seathwaite Farm. After another successful route, feeling accomplished I missed the trail leading round the base of Thorythwaite Fell and lead the group into a farm yard. Huge apologies to the farmer that was completely my fault. Luckily Jayne was on form and pointed us in the right direction and we had a nice comfortable walk back around to complete the loop.

A great day was had by all

The whole group did extremely well and I felt proud to be working with Kingsley, Jayne and Jules. I felt the communication between us was on point and we bounced off one another extremely well enabling us to provide the group a wholesome experience.

Kingsley and I have been talking abut the next challenge and we have some brilliant ideas. On that note keep your eyes peeled for the next ‘SF Mountain Challenge’ and if you are considering joining us be prepared to work hard and laugh lots.

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