Anniversary Waltz – report

Anniversary Waltz – Newlands Valley Horseshoe, Lake District – 19 April.
report by Tony Heron.

Fantastic spring conditions for the first of the big Lakeland fell races of the year – the Anniversary Waltz (11.5m/3,500ft) and Teenager with Altitude (15m/7600ft).

Having done the Teenager the last two years, I opted for the Waltz this year with one eye on the Three Peaks at the weekend. The Waltz has the virtue of not only being shorter, but involves less than half the amount of climbing and, crucially, avoids the leg-shredding descent from Whiteless Pike to Newlands Hause. Instead, the route stays in the valley for the first couple of miles as far as the base of Robinson, after the ascent of which it converges with the Teenager to trace a high-level route first east and then north back toward the start, taking in the summits of Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells, before the short plummet to the finish.

This year, the race started not from the usual field (which was unavailable due to lambing) but from the actual track above Skelgill Farm – and was delayed by 20 minutes to allow latecomers who were delayed by a nasty accident on the A66 (which apparently accounted for a lower number of runners than in previous years).
Once under way, I decided to try to hang onto the race leaders, at least as far as the climb up Robinson. At this point, various lines of ascent were taken so I decided to follow the purple Borrowdale vest of Paul Cornforth up the valley a bit more, before striking a direct line to the summit ridge.

This proved a wise move, but my legs were totally throbbing by the time I reached the summit in about 6th place about 20 seconds after Paul. I then conceded several places on the grassy descent to Hindscarth to quicker runners who had taken poor lines on Robinson, before attempting to regroup on the long, steady climb to the summit.
This next bit for me is the absolute highlight of the race, where you follow a fantastic raking path down from Hindscarth before climbing an exposed, rocky ridge up to the summit of Dale Head with a stunning view down into Buttermere valley.

The steep descent from Dale Head offers the last chance to make up significant time on the runners in front before the route reaches the more straightforward terrain of Cat Bells ridge. Having encountered this in numerous other races, I was fairly confident that the best line was to drop off the summit directly through initially rocky ground before picking up a spit of grass that leads around the right side of Dale Head Tarn and hence back to the standard path. But when I got to the tarn, I was shocked to discover that not only had the runner immediately in front of me – Rob Salter of NFR – gained a significant lead by going left around the tarn, I had also been outflanked by two other runners – Rick Stuart of Helm Hill and Scott Keough of Ellenborough – who had seemingly come from nowhere.

Although I quickly got passed Scott on the climb to the summit of High Spy, Rick began to pull away. At this point, I figured my best chance was to tail him along the plateau before attacking on the short descent prior to the final pull up to the summit of Cat Bells. Initially, this seemed to work as I was able to overtake Rick but as soon as we starting going uphill again, he was able to cruise away towards the finish. However, all was not lost as I caught a couple of other runners – first Ross Langley of Tring who seemed to bonk completely on the top of the descent, and then Rob on the run-in to the finish. The men’s race was won by Will Neill of Mercia in 1.40.53 and the women’s by Sharon Taylor of Helm Hill in 1.57.17, while I finished a slightly flattering 10th in 1.50.37 and also picked up a prize for 2nd V40.

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